Bill-Bashing Reprise

We can't help ourselves, it may be Monday, but we want one more glorious day of enjoying the Cardinal's bowl eligibility-enabling win over Oregon. The team is already focused on the USC game on Saturday, but fans can relish this one for a bit longer. Scott Cooley reports further on Saturday's explosive offensive assault on the Pac-10-leading webfoots.

Bill-Bashing Reprise
 

Stanford Football stepped into a college football time machine this weekend. The year was set to 2001 and the "opponent" dial was positioned on the Ducks of Oregon.

 

Much as was the case eight seasons ago, Stanford found itself in a back-and-forth shoot-out with a Top 10-ranked Oregon squad on Saturday. And just like that memorable "Miracle at Autzen" game in 2001, the Cardinal triumphed as underdogs to knock off a confident Duck squad that was creating noise on the national scene.

 

Now, Stanford is the team receiving added attention from across the country.

 

"This was the best opportunity that Stanford football has had in the last ten years to express who this team is," said head coach Jim Harbaugh. "I couldn't be more proud of the guys. It was a great win."

 

The 51-42 victory has Stanford (6-3, 5-2) bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2001 campaign.

 

The Cardinal are ranked No. 25 in the AP poll, also a first since 2001, and what makes the appearance even sweeter is that Cal simultaneously dropped out of the rankings.

 

Stanford players, coaches and fans have labeled the win over Oregon (7-2, 5-1) as the program's biggest in recent memory – even more monumental (if not quite as shocking) than beating #1 USC at the Coliseum in 2007.

 

"At this point I think this is the biggest game in all of our careers," said star running back Toby Gerhart, who did not trip to Los Angeles in 2007 due to injury. "I'm excited – it's my senior year and I finally get to go to a bowl game."

 

Gerhart gashed the Ducks defense and steamrolled to a school-record 223 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. The game marked the second time this season "The Juggernaut" eclipsed the 200-yard barrier and the third time he has cashed in at least three scores.

 

Gerhart also set the Stanford single-season rushing record with 1,217 yards through the first nine games of 2009. That impressive yardage total now ranks second in the country behind only Fresno's Ryan Mathews (1,459) and Gerhart's touchdown total of 16 is also good for the No. 2 spot among national leaders.

 

"It's great blocking for [Gerhart] – I've just got to get a head on somebody and he'll run through the rest," said fullback Owen Marecic. "I think his performance speaks for itself. He carried the team today."

 

Another scintillating Stanford performance came from the man under center. Save for a couple of throws, the accuracy displayed by Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck was impeccable, borderline jaw-dropping.

 

Luck completed 12-of-21 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. He distributed the ball efficiently to five different receivers with his primary target being sophomore speedster Chris Owusu who caught four passes for 111 yards and a score.

 

On one throw down the middle of the field, Luck nailed Owusu in stride with a laser, but the receiver never saw the ball until the last second.

 

"On the post play, I wasn't even looking and the ball was right there," said Owusu of the perfectly thrown pass. "I think we have a great quarterback who is a great leader and has great accuracy."

 

Through three-quarters of his first collegiate season, Luck has posted a 153.1 quarterback rating which leads the Pac-10 and ranks No. 9 in the nation.

 

Coach Harbaugh surfaced in the national media last week after claiming his young gunslinger was the best in NCAA ranks. After a career-establishing game against Oregon, analysts may need to think twice before routinely casting off Harbaugh's hyperbolic convictions of Luck.

 

"It was just an unbelievable performance by Andrew," Harbaugh stated. "How do you play better as a quarterback? I really think it was his best game of the season."

 

The play-calling from Harbaugh & Co. during the game was perhaps the most creative since the current staff's tenure began on The Farm in 2007.

 

Stanford's offense is beginning to resemble that of an arena football team. The unit has scored more than 30 points six times this season and is averaging 40.7 ppg during the last three games. The Cardinal boast the No. 14-ranked total offense in college football, compiling 443.0 yards per outing.

 

Unfortunately, the Cardinal defense has looked like an arena football unit as well at times this season. Oregon rolled up 570 yards of offense Saturday and had four scoring plays of more than 20 yards.

 

Getting into too many "whichever team has the ball last wins" games is not a trend Stanford needs to fall into.

 

Senior linebacker Clinton Snyder missed the game against Oregon after sustaining a season-ending injury in practice last week.

 

"[Snyder] is a leader that's been a rock on our defense," said Gerhart. "But at the same time we knew we had to step up and play for him. There's definitely sadness (for his loss), but I'm sure our defense played for him today."

 

Players like Owen Marecic, Nick Macaluso and Michael Thomas contributed in the linebacking corps. Thomas came up with a big stop at end of third quarter when he took down quarterback Jeremiah Masoli on a fourth-down run.

 

Other lineup changes were at left tackle where Jonathan Martin, aka "Moose", started in place of the injured Allen Smith and at left cornerback where Richard Sherman started instead of injured Quinn Evans.

 

Stanford heads south to play the always formidable USC Trojans (7-2, 4-2) who have looked somewhat less than mighty in recent weeks. The Cardinal trail Oregon and Arizona by one game in the Pac-10 conference standings.

Three to play. Correction....four!

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