Sunday, November 7, 2010
Stanford fans missing a great show
By Ted Miller
STANFORD, Calif. -- The Stanford football revolution will be televised, which is good because not a lot of people are bothering to see it live. The Cardinal may be able to win the nation over to the idea that it is the nation's best one-loss team and deserving of an at-large BCS bowl berth if it can't qualify for the Rose Bowl. But it remains mostly a secret in Palo Alto, where an announced -- wink, wink -- crowd of just 43,506 showed up on a beautiful day in a beautiful stadium to see a battle of top-15 teams in the thick of the Pac-10 race.
Those who did show up in red, though -- oh, boy -- did they get to see an impressive show.
Andrew Luck and Stanford pushed Arizona around on Saturday. Luck completed 23 of 32 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 25 yards on three carries.
Just ask Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who saw his 15th-ranked team get pushed around in a 42-17 defeat.
"They out-executed us, out-played us, out-physicaled us, out-coached us," Stoops said. "We just got beat by a better team today."
Stanford rolled up 510 yards against a defense that ranked 10th in the nation, entering the contest surrendering just 287. Stanford rushed for 217 yards against a team that entered the contest surrendering just 88 yards on the ground (sixth in the nation). A defense that averaged 3.38 sacks per game got none.
As for the Stanford defense, it held a Wildcats offense to about half the 32.6 points it averaged in its first eight games.
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, when asked if his team made a statement, skipped around the question a bit, saying his team "did what it needed to do." But he relented on the coach-speak, because in our current system, there is a political element. And if an insanely obsessive fan base isn't going to flood the airwaves with demands for respect, well, maybe a coach has to step up to lobby just a little.
"I'm not a guy who concerns himself with polls," Harbaugh began. "But speaking on behalf of my guys and Stanford football, this is a one-loss team that's only lost to the No. 1-ranked team in the country [Oregon]. It's probably about time they got some recognition."
Quarterback Andrew Luck, has gotten plenty of recognition and figures to get some more. His numbers alone don't show how good he is. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 293 yards with two touchdowns with no interceptions and rushed three times for 25 yards.
While his offensive line -- one of the best units in the nation -- deserves most of the credit for not giving up any sacks, Luck's instincts in the pocket are uncanny. As was his 45-yard touchdown pass to Chris Owusu on the Cardinal's first possession of the game. It was one of many of what Harbaugh called "big-boy throws."
"He was Peyton Manning-like," Harbaugh said.
Luck is not nearly as colorful as Harbaugh when he was asked who might be the top pick in the NFL draft. During a postgame news conference a couple of teammates, unhappy with Luck's humility, interrupted to talk about his skills, leadership and general cool-dude-ness.
"I've never really played with a teammate like Andrew Luck in my life," safety Delano Howell said.
Stanford's situation is confusing. Its chances of ending up in the Rose Bowl are remote. To earn a Rose Bowl berth, Stanford needs Oregon to lose twice. Or it needs a non-AQ team -- Boise State or TCU -- to play Oregon for the national title, which would satisfy the BCS requirement that the Rose Bowl take a non-AQ team if it loses a Pac-10 or Big Ten team to the national title game. If it finishes 11-1, it likely would be ranked among the top-five, but that doesn't guarantee it an at-large berth in a BCS bowl game. It's possible that Stanford could be 11-1, ranked fifth and end up in the Alamo Bowl.
It's clear the players are aware the situation is complicated.
"I'm not sure," Luck said. "We understand this has the opportunity to be a very special season for Stanford. I know there are many different situations about bowl games and what not. But we all know it doesn't matter unless we win."
And if the Cardinal keeps winning in its impressive way, will fans start to fill up the 50,000 seats in Stanford Stadium? What's a team got to do to get some love from the locals?
Harbaugh briefly groused about poor attendance at homecoming on Oct. 23 -- 36,679 against Washington State -- and it's clear the empty seats bother him. But he opted to take the high road. Or really no road when asked if anything could be done to fill the stadium.
"As [defensive coordinator] Vic Fangio says ... no, I'm not going to go there," Harbaugh said. "No, there's nothing I can do."
What Harbaugh, Luck and Stanford can do is to keep getting impressive wins. That figures to get Luck to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Stanford made a statement against Arizona. It likely was heard in many areas of the country that appreciates good football. Perhaps the Bay Area will come around in time to convince a BCS bowl game that the Cardinal football revolution is quite a show.