Notes and quotes: Washington week

Stepfan Taylor may have some fellow RBs back

Our weekly notebook from the Tuesday has the info you need to get up to speed by kickoff Saturday. How is Stanford preparing for the rain? What happened to Jim Harbaugh's baseball game? What's the No. 1 attribute needed to get a quarterback into the NFL? And, of course, what's the latest with Stanford injuries? He's been working through some things, but he's good to go now... here's Scott Cooley!

Infirmary Report

Jeremy Stewart returned to the field last Saturday against Washington State, but there were two surprising absences from the Cardinal lineup.

Chris Owusu was dressed and on the sideline but did not play in the game. Some have speculated he has a hand or finger injury as a result of being tackled during a kickoff return.

Delano Howell did not play and he was seen with a cast on his left wrist/hand. When asked if there was a chance Stanford's top tackler in the secondary would be out for an extended period, head coach Jim Harbaugh said, "There's a chance. He's day-to-day."

Tyler Gaffney did not suit up against Washington State but said last week he was healthy enough to play if a necessity.

Defensive Debacle

Through three quarters of play against Wazzu, the Stanford defense looked as if it had found its footing again. The Cougars were held to a lone touchdown, nine first downs and 143 yards of offense. Then the fourth quarter came along and the wheels fell off.

The Cougs scored 21 points on touchdown drives of 80-, 80- and 85-yards. Harbaugh said the Stanford performance was "atrocious" at times. There were more than a few reserves on the field during the fourth-quarter collapse, but Harbaugh wasn't about to throw anyone under the bus.

"The long pass was just not being where we are supposed to be," he said. "Those youngsters hear it from us; they don't need to read about it in the paper."

Michael Thomas admitted that he was shocked at the way the defense folded in the final stanza.

"I would say right now we have an idea of where we want to be [defensively], but we're not there yet," he said. "There were guys just not doing their job. This coming week, everybody will be doing what they need to be doing. We just have to keep working."

College to the NFL

Jim Harbaugh knows quarterbacks. After playing for Michigan for three seasons and leading them to the 1987 Rose Bowl, he enjoyed a 13-year NFL career.

So given his knowledge of the position, a media member asked Harbaugh Tuesday what the best predictor was of a college quarterback's skill set that translates to success at the next level.

"You're basically asking what's more important to a carpenter—the saw, the hammer or the ruler," he said. "They need them all. But if I had to pick one, I would say his instincts. If you're watching tape on a guy you can tell if he has good football instincts: spatial awareness and being able to find people.

"Then you would go to accuracy and bunch that in with timing and decision-making. Arm strength is past that, but it's still very important. If you don't have the arm strength to make every throw necessary, then you can't play in that league."

Liquid Sunshine

The weather forecast in Seattle on Saturday calls for a high of 54 degrees and a 60 percent chance of rain. Harbaugh said the team is anticipating playing in less than ideal conditions but that the game against Washington State served as a good precursor.

"I think it really helps that we had this game this past week and got some rain. Because that was the first rain we really had in quite some time," he said. "I think it was good for us to experience some rain in a ball game."

Ryan Whalen said that the team has soaked balls in practices leading up to a game where rain was expected. He anticipated they might do the same thing this week.

"I think rain is a challenge for everyone," said Whalen. "They have turf up there which provides for more of a sure footing. I think the rain actually makes you focus more on the ball and really concentrate on bringing it in."

Pulling Rank

Stanford is ranked No. 13 in both the BCS and Associated Press polls this week. For some reason, the USA Today Coaches' Poll has Nebraska positioned ahead of the Cardinal, so Stanford is No. 14 in that ranking. Perhaps if Stanford beats Washington this week 66-21 (10 better than the Huskers), that might sway the voters.

Some players claim they don't keep up with the rankings, but Andrew Luck admitted he takes a peek every Sunday night.

"I'll look. I like to see how teams shuffle," he said. "But the team knows that it doesn't really matter what you're ranked any given week. It's all about where you are ranked that last week."

Ho-hum Homecoming

The announced attendance for the annual Reunion Homecoming Game at Stanford last week was 36,679. Fans that actually braved the weather and the less-than-marquee opponent said there might have been half that number in the stands.

"Our fans didn't even bother coming to the game today," Harbaugh said after the game.

"We would like to see more fans out there, but it doesn't determine how we play," said Stepfan Taylor, who's rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games. "We should be prepared to play if there's nobody in the stands or everybody. So it doesn't really affect us that much."

Lost Career?

You've heard about Harbaugh's glory days on the hardwood, but in light of the World Series this week, Harbaugh began reminiscing about his time on the diamond at Palo Alto High School.

He played for Paly and the local American Legion team. He claims that he was a .417 hitter until one day during his senior year his dad came home with a novel concept.

"Dad said that Dean Stotz had showed him the greatest hitting theory of all time—the Charley Lau theory," Harbaugh said. "The rest of the season I could not get the ball out of the infield. There was a complete power outage. The only way I could get on base was to bunt my way on."

Jettisoning off to play football at Michigan, Harbaugh never donned a baseball uniform again. He said he had been haunted since 1982 as to why his hitting production declined. And then one day a couple of years ago he ran into his old American Legion coach in the parking lot outside of the Sunken Diamond.

"I told him the Charley Lau baseball theory completely ruined my hitting career," he said. "So I'm replicating what my dad had told me, hit down on the ball—the "chopping wood" theory. And he said, "Yeah, your swing looks good, but you gotta follow through." I never got that part of the coaching book. I was a victim of over-coaching."

Growing up, Harbaugh said he was a fan of the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. He didn't seem to care who won this year's Fall Classic.

About the Author: Bootleg Senior Writer Scott Cooley has worked in the sports media industry throughout his professional career, including serving as a writer for an ESPN production house and a professional football franchise. His work has been published in multiple print and online platforms including ESPN.com. He currently writes for yours truly, as well as Bookmaker, Covers and Red Hott Locks. Cooley specializes in football, baseball and basketball with an emphasis on sports betting. Cooley and his wife reside in California, contact him at scottwcooley@gmail.com.


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