Friday, October 08, 2004

Stanford Game

Stanford Game –
It was 2 weeks ago, but SC hasn’t played since, so my thoughts:
I loved it.
I can tell you honestly that not at a single moment was I worried. Trailing 31-17 at the half, I WOULD have been worried if Stanford had come out and planted another 7. THAT would have made me nervous.
But I felt at the half there were strange things afoot that couldn’t possibly hold up for another 30 minutes. Consider: Stanford came in prepared, astronomically motivated and – let’s give them credit – relatively well-armed. That wasn’t Indiana out there. The QB, Trent Edwards, is clearly a terrific leader, and the rest of that team could have trounced any SC team of the 90s, Keyshawn-era excepted. If you give a team like that a reason to play hard, they’re liable to get loose. And talk about reasons… let’s see: in-state/in-conference and the only private schools in the league, which – take my word for it – means something. And all that’s true every year, which this wasn’t – this year, SC’s #1 ranking would have been, by far, enough motivation for any team, but Edwards and the rest had spent the year hearing how SC’s only real test was going to be – yuck – Cal.
All that, at home.
I don’t know what the line was, but anything more than 6 would have been ignorance.
I write off both of the first 2 Tds, and part of the 3rd to all that. Edwards came out firing, the O-line and the entire defense (the knees that SC usually takes out first in opponents) sold out on every play and suddenly Stanford had 14. On their third real drive, they started to run out of steam and, sensing this, Stanford’s obviously switched-on coach called a fake field goal.
Which went for a TD.
Honestly, how often does that work out so well? Once a season?
So now they had a 21-17 lead and got the ball back with less than a minute left. Smartly, the coach told them to run into the line and take it to the locker room. His team had just played as well as they possibly could against a groggy SC. And to show for it, he had a 4-point lead. Better than losing, but not much.
“Get to the locker room,” you could hear him thinking, “Then I’ll think of something.”
And to get there, he sent his fullback on a dive into the line… from which he emerged and went untouched 70 yards to the endzone. The clock expired while he was 30 yards out.
Like they said in Mean Girls, “Shut. Up.”
How often does something like THAT happen? Once a decade?
I was a little shocked, but then I smiled. Cuz if you add it up, in a span of four minutes, Stanford had just cashed in 11 years of good luck. And it had bought them less than a two-score lead. And now they had to make it stand up for 30 minutes against the best 2nd-half team in the country.
I liked our chances.
What I didn’t expect – and which makes me almost detestably smug about our chances with Cal – was the level of Hurt SC came back with after halftime. Pure savagery. By the fourth quarter, Edwards and the rest of his offense was visibly dreading each snap.
At the half, I thought – on momentum and emotion - Stanford had, maybe, 10 more points left in them. In their first three drives after the half, they gained a total of 8 yards.
On their final drive, at that point trailing, they strung together a few passes for 20 or so, but Edwards never saw a single one, clobbered by the Wave. SC hit every ball carrier high and low, knocked blockers to their elbows and clipped receivers in the sternum. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any defense punish an offense like that. Well, actually, Miami does it Florida State pretty regularly, and Oklahoma can, too. But it’s not often.
The score was close – which Stanford wholly earned – but SC took two knees inside the Stanford 15 to finish the game.
Again Reggie Bush stole the show with a playstation punt return where he ran about 150 yards for a 40 yard return, but as ever, it was the defense and Leinhart.
By the way, Leinhart - upstaged not just by Bush but by the drama of Edwards effort - only threw for 308 yards. Yawn. Just another lazy day minding the switch.
So SC was challenged about as stiffly as Stanford’s collection of talent could challenge them – atmosphere, momentum, preperation, want-to and (perhaps most important) outrageous luck.
And SC rolled them up like the rebels on Hoth.
As for Cal, I am wholly out of the prediction business, but that game was – as ol’ Darth put it – “impressive.”

As I sit here typing this, Clemson and Virginia are throwing Thursday Punches. Every time I turn around, somebody is going for 30 yards and then getting knocked out of their cleats. Clemson just went for it on 4th down in the 1st quarter. Get some.

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