What we learned about Stanford

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
4:30
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Here's five things we learned about the Stanford Cardinal in the wake of Monday's 41-38 overtime loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl.
  1. A rare glimpse: During the season, Stanford has a closed locker room policy. But the BCS mandates them to open the locker room for postgame interviews. There was a side of the players we don't get to see -- specifically Andrew Luck. After his media responsibilities, he went locker to locker hugging each of his teammates and thanking them for the season. It was wonderful moment between college teammates that those outside of the inner circle rarely get to witness. I share it, because we usually only see "game-day" Luck or "news conference" Luck. And while it was ultimately a bittersweet moment, it was a special one that was neat to see.
  2. Taylor can carry the load: With three of five starting offensive lineman returning next season and three of the four-headed rushing attack also back (though Jeremy Stewart's role was often understated but incredibly important) the Cardinal should continue to put up good numbers on the ground in the coming seasons. Stepfan Taylor showed he can be an almost-every-down back if he has to be -- carrying 35 times for a career-high 177 yards and two touchdowns. It was an off night for Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson, just five carries for three net yards between them, but with Stewart's 65 and Taylor's big night, all four weren't needed.
  3. Lancaster, stud: Linebacker Jarek Lancaster played, minute-for-minute, probably the best football game of his career. He was flying all over the field and was tied for the team lead with seven tackles. Critical, however, were three open-field tackles -- something that had plagued the Cardinal (and still did Monday night) throughout the season. Lancaster took the one-on-one challenge and was sensational. With him, A.J. Tarpley and Shayne Skov returning next season, the Cardinal have a very good problem at inside linebacker.
  4. Every decision has a consequence: David Shaw is paid an insane amount of money (it's not public record, but I guarantee it's more than a college football blogger) to make some extremely difficult decisions. If Jordan Williamson had nailed the 35-yarder at the end of regulation, no one would question his decision to kick the game-winner. Ah, but regular readers of this blog know I abhor "what-ifs." The fact is Shaw made the decision he thought was best. It turned out to be the wrong one, and he's going to endure the fallout that comes from that. I see both sides. But my gut says OSU was on its heels and with the best run-blocking lineman in the country in David DeCastro, I would have pulled that big haas aside in one of the timeouts and said "make a hole that I can tow a 737 through." You know DeCastro would of. Plenty of spots along the way where the Cardinal could have prevented it from coming down to the final play. But what-ifs are worthless, and Shaw & Co. will learn from this experience.
  5. Time heals all wounds. Well, most of them: A good friend of mine in sports radio once said that sports are the most important, unimportant thing in the world. That always stuck with me. This game will go down in Stanford lore as one of the best , and worst, in school history. But I think the players and coaches will tell you, and I'm sure most will agree, that it's the journey, not the destination, that makes it all worthwhile.

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