Stanford dropped some mighty heel stomps and took a baseball bat to the Trojans. In their own house. The result was unmitigated glee for Cardinalmaniacs worldwide.
I'll be honest. I wish that game could have gone on for 14 quarters. I also wish that instead of going for two, we could have gone for twenty. Then called an onside kick.
But what Stanford actually did to the Trojans was enjoyable enough. The defense confused and harassed Matt Barkley. Toby Gerhart bowling-balled off would-be tacklers. Andrew Luck fired pinpoint passes. The Card caught the Trojans with their pants down on the goal line. And it resulted in a major win for the program, one that everyone can take pride in.
That win was for Richard Sherman, a senior who has had many ups and downs in his Stanford Football career and his life. But, as he proudly told the TV audience and anyone else who would listen, he is undefeated at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He had a huge hand in making that happen. And I'm sure the Sherman contingent in the stands couldn't have been happier.
That win was for all the seniors who were there when the program was starting over from square one, the younger players who will be trusted to keep the fire burning, and for the potential recruits who are thinking about getting on board.
That win was for the longtime die-hard Stanford fans who sat through 49-0 at the Coliseum in 1977. Or even 26-24 in 1969.
That win was for the current Stanford students, who are supporting Cardinal Football like I've never seen before. They're being rewarded with a lot of awesome memories that will last them a lifetime.
That win was for every other fan base in the Pac-10. Let's face it, U$C hasn't made many friends outside of Los Angeles, so on the extremely rare occasions when they lose big, everyone else in the Pac-10 celebrates like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day, and New Year's all rolled into one.
That win was not for The Axe. Nor was it for a bid to an upper-tier Pac-10 bowl. Nor was it for unquestionably tilting the balance of power of Bay Area college football in its direction. That is what's on the table for the Cardinal this week.
Last week's win, if used correctly, could have potential positive long-term effects on this program for the foreseeable future. It could be a program-changer, like Oregon experienced with their win over Washington in 1994. With the game on the line, Kenny Wheaton jumped on a Damon Huard pass and took it back 97 yards to the house for the game-clinching score.
Without "The Pick", as it's called in Eugene, the Ducks probably don't go to the Rose Bowl that year. Without "The Pick", Oregon probably isn't a national football program with the facilities to match 15 years later. Then again, without "The Pick", the Ducks aren't assaulting our senses with uniforms that would make a skunk puke.
Modern Oregon football can be traced back to that very play. If Stanford responds correctly on and off the field, last week's win could serve as a similar springboard for the Cardinal program.
That response begins this week, with a Big Game that is all about the here and now. It's about preserving the Cardinal's perfect record inside the Eucalyptus Curtain. It's about returning The Stanford Axe to its rightful home. It's all about firmly re-establishing itself as Northern California's preeminent college football program.
Many people thought that this year's Big Game would feature a team with a possible shot at a Rose Bowl legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate at running back. As it turned out, they were right about the scenario...not so much about which team it would be.
The Cardinal, not the Bears, are the new "it" team in the Pac-10. Stanford, not cal, thrived in its tests against Oregon and U$C in back-to-back weeks. Even before he suffered the frightening injury that will unfortunately sideline him again for this week, Jahvid Best wasn't being touted as the Bay Area's best player. Toby Gerhart was.
The Bears are 7-3, ranked in this week's BCS standings, and are already bowl-bound. Still, this hasn't quite been the season Old Blues must have been dreaming about back in August. But Old Blues always live for beating Stanford.
After last year's Big Game, I suggested that the gap between Stanford and cal football wasn't as wide as the Weenies would like to believe. The Weenies responded by calling me delusional, among other things.
Fast forward 51 weeks. Right now, no one outside of Berkeley would argue that cal's football program is far and away superior to Stanford's program. Heck, some people inside Berkeley might even argue that the better football program right now resides in Palo Alto.
Which program is truly better? Right now, I think it's about even (although Stanford is clearly trending up). But the object that typically signifies the best Bay Area's best college football program is The Axe. And what happens within the next 72 hours will go a long way towards deciding that question for this year.
I wasn't there for the Screw of '82, and Berkeley's infamous trash-talkers from the early ‘90s were just before my time on The Farm. I've respected the cal athletic department and what they've been able to accomplish this decade. They seem to be doing things the right way. The players seem to be good kids overall. Their band is the best in the Pac-10 (and I don't think it's close). Hell, I'd actually like Berkeley a lot more if it weren't for two things: the city and the Weenies.
Even though there are actually some things that I begrudgingly like and respect about cal, that doesn't mean I'll have any pity for them if they lose this Saturday. Actually, I hope the Bears get a worse Harbaughtomy than the Trojans did. Last week's result set the bar, and hopefully the Cardinal meet and surpass the challenge. The stakes for this week (and the foreseeable future) are too high for Stanford not to respond.
All the momentum? All the attention? All the buzz? It can all go away fast. Remember when Washington was the new Flavor of the Week in the Pac-10? It only takes one bad game to undo a lot of great work. Ask the Trojans for their thoughts on this.
That's why, I think, Big Game just got a whole lot bigger for Stanford. And I don't think the Cardinal would want it any other way.
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RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
For the longest time, Stanford fans have had an unrequited hatred for U$C. Now, the feeling is mutual from South Central. This is a two-sided rivalry again, folks. And I like it…
The "Harbaugh going for two" subplot has been beaten to death by everyone, and many Trojan fans are calling what Harbaugh and Stanford did "classless". Instead of going the "pot-calling-the-kettle-black" route, I'll merely offer this: it's awfully hard to look classy while you're punching someone in the mouth. It just doesn't work like that…
Yes, it's exciting that Pasadena is still a possibility heading into Big Game week, but so much of that is out of Stanford's actual control. Instead of losing sleep trying to figure out every single Rose Bowl scenario, let's just win these final two games and see what happens. Even if Pasadena doesn't happen, would anyone complain about San Diego? I sure wouldn't…
Uh oh…is the real Arizona finally showing itself?
Is it me or does it seem like Syd'Quan Thompson has been at cal for at least nine years? Who does he think he is, Alfred Grigsby?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… no one has perfected the come-from-ahead loss this year like Indiana…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… wow. A Mayan calendar has a longer future than Eric Mangini does right now in Cleveland…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… oh, the things you find on YouTube: Weird Al Yankovic, the other Julie Brown, and LL Cool J squaring off as contestants in a celebrity edition of MTV's "Remote Control". 1989 never looked so good. Thanks for the memories, Ken Ober…
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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX
Agree with this Corner? Disagree? Got something else on your mind? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or e-mail me at email@example.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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Oregon @ Arizona. Even though I think Oregon is the better team, I'm having trouble definitively picking them here. Arizona's quick defense seems a little better suited to containing the Quack Attack, and the Ducks' beleaguered secondary faces the stat-compiling Nick Foles. Plus it's Senior Day in Tucson. Again, the Ducks are the better team. But I think the deck is stacked in the Wildcats favor here. I like Arizona by 9.
Arizona State @ UCLA. Who will start for the Sun Devils at QB? Can the Bruins run the ball against ASU's defense? Maybe the biggest question: does anyone actually care about this game? I like UCLA by 4.
Last week: 3-1 (straight-up), 2-2 (ATS).
This year: 19-8 (straight-up), 15-12 (ATS).
Last year: 30-6 (straight-up), 24-12 (ATS).
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Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:30p on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station XTRA Sports 860 in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at gostanford.com.
Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com.
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