Ten Little Indian Boys

In football, you are supposed to field eleven men on offense and defense. However, the Stanford Cardinal formerly known as the Indians, seem to be like the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians, one man short of a complete team.

Early in the season, they lost playmaker Evan Moore. Then this last week, already perilously thin at wide receiver, Mark Bradford went down. Bradford, the one-time LA Fremont star, is averaging 14.9 yards per reception with five touchdowns. This leaves the Cardinal with the water boy and a couple other guys who somehow got scholarships. They desperately need help. So, the question becomes…

Will Bradford play? Not a simple answer, it appears, for Stanford Head Coach Walt Harris.

Harris and Trojan Chief, Pete Carroll, have some history. Once upon a time, one was the teacher, the other the student. What has kept them close through the years is mutual respect and a love for competition. It's been well publicized that one of the ways the two men like to wage war on one another is on the basketball court. And it appears Coach Harris has carried their tradition of one-up-man-ship to the papers.

So the question gets repeated, Will Bradford play? Coach Harris says, "Honestly, this isn't the NFL so we don't have to talk about injuries, so I would rather not talk about injuries."

Okay, coach. Let the games begin.

If a tree were to fall in the forest but there was no one near to hear it fall, would it make any noise?

For Stanford this might be how they'd raise the question of attendance problems during their football season – in a sort of philosophical way. At present, the Cardinal is averaging one third the attendees as their Pac Ten counterpart, the USC Trojans and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

Home field advantage is something the Trojans, despite being a leader with attendance through the years, have not had until this season. As much as visiting teams try to downplay the frenzied environment created by Pete Carroll within the marbled walls of the Coliseum, it must take a young player's breath away when he comes down the tunnel to see the sea of Cardinal and Gold, the sounds of the trumpets and the roar of the crowd. It truly has become, as the Trojan players themselves have dubbed it, "War Time."

As the last visiting coach, the affable Bill Doba of Washington State University found out, one must quickly "circle the wagons" with the hopes the women and children will be spared for surely every opponent has been left to die on the field of battle.

And a battle is has become – a sort of us versus them, mentality, for the Trojans. With off-field problems that began prior to the season even launching, a near national media campaign focused on the repeating National Champion's failure and every opponent playing the game of their lives, it's no wonder no other team in modern college football history has ever run the gauntlet three consecutive times.

USC is close and this weekend, despite the level of opponent, will be yet another stiff test. Walt Harris is no slouch when it comes to coaching. Although his performance in the final quarter last week against the Bruins might counter that statement, he is still respected amongst his peers.

Carroll has no choice but respect the man who brought him into the world of college football and has remained his friend and sometimes co-worker since those halcyon days.

Carroll credits Harris with showing the level of discipline it takes to be a successful college coach. And Harris, with equal hubris, gives Pete the credit for taking whatever skills he mentored to his young apprentice, to heights few can follow.

What both share with their students now, the players on their teams, is discipline and it's all about the ball. Stanford has taken giant steps toward leading the Pac Ten in both categories. The Trojans have struggled a bit, as of late, on both fronts but they too seemed to return to form during last weekend's destruction of the WSU Cougars.

What USC has failed to do, this season, that they seemed to nearly master last, is pitch a defensive shutout. After giving up a first quarter score last week, the Trojans held their opponent Cougars scoreless until deep into the fourth quarter, when following a turnover, WSU was able to add one last touchdown, putting a total of 13 on the final score board.

That long awaited shutout could be attained this weekend against the Cardinal and I think there is nothing Pete Carroll would like better for his old friend, Walt. That competitive edge that cuts all the sharp corners of Pete Carroll's jaw will be jutted out and ready for battle, perhaps more than ever, for his good friend. Competition is what makes being a Pete Carroll peer so much fun. And you know Pete's gonna have a ball come Saturday.

There will be no war chants or hollers from the former Indian, then Tree, now Cardinal as they come down the tunnel onto the killing floor. In fact, we might see the whites of their eyes, as they go wide taking in the spectacle that is Trojan football.

What might happen then, is a huddle, some prayers and an esoteric, philosophical question on the meaning of life and that surely this day can't define it. Dear God, this can't be it… That's when they'll hear a low rumble, the sound of a thousand hooves clapping against the pavement. And as the ground begins to shake the chant will reverberate off the hallowed walls, into the main arena, over and over… "War Time. War Time…" It'll send a chill down their collective spine and the crowd will erupt to greet the conquerors – their heroes, the USC Trojans. That's when they'll know, it's game time. No room for fear, no place to hide. This is life and it begins today, on the coliseum floor. A tidal wave of Cardinal and Gold will crash down upon them and with the last seconds ticking away, Ten Indians, one short of a full team will be no more.

Final Score: USC 49 Stanford 0

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