Sunday, October 7, 2007
My Pride Is Soaring...
Though I attend Northwestern University, I have always been and always will be a fan of the Stanford Cardinal. I was raised a Stanford fan; I’ve gone to every football, basketball, and soccer game I could since I was about five. I remember watching Brevin Knight, Tim Young, Ryan Mendez, the Collins twins, Casey Jacobsen, Curtis Borchard, Julius Barnes, Chris Hernandez, Nick Robinson, and all the other now graduated basketball players with an awestruck expression on my face. I watch the Lopez twins now and see almost the same things I saw when I watched Jason and Jarron Collins out on the court.
I’d like to say I remember Stanford football the same way I was in love with the basketball, but I wasn’t. I kept track of some players, like Teyo Johnson, Troy Walters, Trent Edwards, Mark Bradford, and others, but I always went to the games and loved them.
I remember a while back when Sports Illustrated did a cover story on whether Stanford or Texas was the best sports university in the country. They gave Texas the edge, but in my opinion that was complete bullshit. Stanford has won the Director’s Cup, given to the university with the overall top athletic program in the nation, every single year except for the first year it was given out about 15 years ago. That is athletic dominance, regardless of their finishes in football and basketball, which at the time were not up to par with Texas but still fantastic. They went to the Rose Bowl in 2000 after winning the Pac-10, went to the Final Four and were one of the top basketball programs in the nation during that time, so they deserved a little respect.
About seven years ago, Stanford hired a new admissions director away from a small liberal arts college, where athletics had never been a priority and academic ability was subject to a stricter standard. Stanford University is a peculiar beast in that it is an academic institution that competes with the Ivy League, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, and other big time universities while competing on an athletic plain with the major athletic players in the country. This admissions director changed all of that, heightening standards for athletes so that recruits for basketball were getting into schools like Duke, but were getting denied at Stanford. Head coach Mike Montgomery became so infuriated by this trend that he left the school and went to the Golden State Warriors. Whereas basketball has managed in some ways to still compete, nowhere has this trend been more apparent than in the football team. When Tyrone Willingham was on the sideline, he had a fantastic set of football players around him and out on the field. Now, Jim Harbaugh has T.C. Ostrander, a quarterback from Menlo-Atherton High School about 15 minutes away from Palo Alto, and a handful of other players who could’ve played D-I ball in other places. Aside from that, Stanford football has essentially become a I-AA team (I’m using the old division notations, because why the hell would someone change those?) They haven’t competed in the Pac-10 in years, they’ve gone through three coaches since Willingham left, and it will take a few years to get new recruits coming through the ranks now that the University has hired away Yale’s admissions director.
What does all of this add up to? Pretty much the greatest day of my college life so far.
Northwestern isn’t the strongest football program in the nation either, and yet they managed to survive a terrible defensive day to beat Michigan State in OT 48-41 yesterday. Granted, they blocked an extra point and a punt, missed a field goal as time expired, and couldn’t tackled either of the Spartan’s backs the entire day, but C.J. Bachet threw for 5 touchdowns and over 500 yards to keep them afloat.
During the game, the people I was watching the game with and I talked about the Stanford-USC game that was to happen later that night. It was in Memorial Stadium, where USC is almost unbeatable. Stanford’s only true football player on the team, T.C. Ostrander, was out of the game with a head injury. He was sacked 7 times against Arizona State, and a few days later had a seizure in a restaurant while eating with his family. In his place was backup Tavita Pritchard who had only completed one pass in his career, and the only thing I knew about him was that he was the nephew of Washington State’s quarterback who is known as the “Throwin’ Samoan.” Stanford’s defense has always been terrible, and John David Booty combined with a rotation of running backs was sure to rip apart the Cardinal. All the signs pointed to a complete blowout, but then again, all of those things describe some of the greatest upsets in college football history. I jokingly predicted a Stanford win, fully expecting be wrong and having to suffer through watching Stanford get pummeled again by the nation’s top team.
What occurred that night can be described as nothing short of a miracle. Booty threw four picks, including one with less than a minute to go to clinch a 24-23 victory. The offense didn’t play fantastic, nobody had racked up a ton of yards, but they didn’t give the ball away. One interception got returned for a TD, and Stanford somehow managed to come from behind and score 17 points in the fourth quarter to win the game. I’ve seen some pretty amazing football games, and many more fantastic basketball games (I saw Nick Robinson hit a shot from half court to beat Arizona a few years ago when Stanford almost went undefeated for the season, it was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen), but this game topped any Big Game victory, any bowl game my parents saw, and just about cemented Harbaugh as the coach of the future for the Cardinal. They’ve now gone from losing to UC Davis one year to beating the #2 team in the nation in ONE YEAR. I don’t expect anything else good out of the team this year, but at this moment, after two fantastic wins for my two teams on college football Saturday, I am finding it very easy to survive the crappy workload that I’ve managed to leave for myself today…