Much as was the case eight
seasons ago, Stanford found itself in a back-and-forth shoot-out with a Top
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
"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
"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.
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
"[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
Three to play. Correction....four!
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