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November doesn’t have much, besides Thanksgiving, to endear itself to
Americans. The weather starts to worsen, work piles up, the flu starts
spreading, and department stores advertise for Christmas well before they
should. There are few things as disconcerting as trying to get a Snickers bar on
November 4th and only being able to buy red- and green-colored ones with the
likeness of Santa Claus imprinted onto the top.
And then there is Cal, which is a nuisance all year round.
Cal, that institution which last year snapped Stanford’s seven-contest Big
Game win streak like a feeble twig, shellacking the Stanford football team by
the lopsided tally of 30-7. Cal, that school which yearly upbraids Stanford’s
ragtag band with a stoic and measured performance of jazz and marching classics.
Cal, neighbors of the Farm from up the Bay who battle the Cardinal in all sorts
of competitions, but none with as much import as the Big Game.
But, quite frankly, enough has been said about why Stanford students dislike
the Bears. In an age of tolerance and political correctness, the time has come
for a quick list of reasons why Stanford football is deserving of admiration,
especially the 2003 edition. As the Card head into their most important game of
the year to win back the Axe and keep their bowl hopes alive, we present the
five reasons why everyone should love 2003 Stanford football:
Stanford’s senior quarterback has handled the somewhat subdued (but still
present) controversy surrounding his status in a calm and professional manner
all year. Never blaming other people, but only emphasizing his desire to get
better and show the country what he can do on the field when he is at his best,
Lewis waited patiently on the Stanford sideline as Trent Edwards started
early-season games against BYU, Washington, USC, and Washington State. Upon his
reinstatement in the first string, Lewis overcame a scoreless hurdle at Oregon
to lead Stanford to two straight wins against UCLA and Arizona State, keeping
the Card’s bowl hopes alive and, despite last week’s showing against Oregon State, giving Stanford fans reason to believe that the Axe can be reclaimed this
Lewis deserves praise for the dutiful way he has fought through his
up-and-down career here at Stanford, battling injuries and the doubts of fans
and overwhelming expectations. With a win over the Bears on Saturday, C-Lew will
help to vindicate the billing he received when he first came to the Farm as the
top high school quarterback in the land. Plus, who can forget his late-game
heroics against both Texas and USC in the same year (2000)? Memories of the fade
pass he threw at the conclusion of that SC game should give any
Cardinalmaniac™ the chills.
Anyone who thanks his wife and daughter on the JumboTron at Stanford Stadium
deserves to be applauded. Heck, most Stanford dudes are happy if they can GET a
woman to be a wife, let alone to bear one of his children. And thanking them on
a JumboTrons, that’s just completely out of the question.
Seriously, though, Chambers has anchored an offensive line which has
experienced a lot of flux in recent seasons, with Kwame Harris leaving Stanford
early to play for the San Francisco 49ers on the professional circuit, and with
the season-ending injury to center Brian Head. Chambers has been solid on nearly
every snap for the 43 straight games he has started for Stanford, and has held
the offensive line unit together remarkably well in a season when they have been
Plus, anyone who saw Kirk at Safeway (as this particular author may or may
not have early last week) with his baby girl knows that he is the embodiment of
a good dad. Advice to potential suitors to Ms. Chambers - don’t anger her 6’7",
310-pound daddy. You might find yourself the victim of a Mormon Mauling. Let’s
hope some Cal guys experience it first.
The Fight of the Freshmen
Stanford has 94 players. 47 of the them are freshmen. Yikes. And yet, this
year’s crop of youngsters has performed remarkably well this year considering
their age - guys like Mark Bradford (25 catches for 387 yards), Evan Moore (8
catches for 150 yards), and redshirt offensive lineman Ismail Simpson have risen
to the considerable challenge that comes with the territory of playing Division
1-A football so early out of high school.
These guys, and many of their peers, have made an immediate impact on
Stanford’s program, and also give all Cardinalmaniacs™ reason to look to a
bright future for Stanford football. These frosh who have spent a lot of time on
the field this year will be seasoned better than a porterhouse at Ruth’s Chris
come 2005 and 2006, and oh will it be fun to watch.
The Draw Play
What? What is this doing here? The draw up the middle where J.R. Lemon or
Kenneth Tolon line up parallel to the quarterback and take the quick handoff to
rush up the middle for -1 yard on seemingly every first down has actually become
a bit like an old pal by now.
That is, if all your old pals overfill your garbage can, pee all over your
toilet seat, and break your house’s windows with errant shots off their driver
which they were "just practicing with" in your backyard. In an article
extolling the virtues of the Stanford football team, it is a testament to the
predictability and ineffectiveness of this play that it is mentioned at all.
Strike it from the playbook, Buddy. No need to give your team absolutely zero
chance of gaining anything on first down every time the defense makes a great
stop and gets the ball back to the offense.
Don’t waste your time scouring the roster looking for Tom Williams’s
name. It isn’t there unless you’re looking at rosters from 1989-1992, when
this fiery dude played linebacker for Bill Walsh, Dennis Green, and Jack Elway.
Williams, now the linebackers coach for the Card, is by far the most
entertaining man on the Stanford sideline game in and game out. While most teams’
defensive coaches stay glued to their headsets and show little emotion during
play, Williams is most definitely the Stanford defense’s biggest cheerleader.
He chest-bumps players after they make big plays. He gets in his guys’ faces
on the sideline when the offense is out on the field, exhorting them to play
harder and with more intensity. Anytime a ball thrown by a Stanford opponent
could be even remotely interpreted as having touched the ground, Williams races
up the sideline, vehemently signaling that the pass was incomplete.
His arms get even more of a workout when Williams does his trademark windmill
celebration. After a big series when the Stanford D has stopped the other team
from driving for a score, Williams gets so riled up that he just starts flailing
his arms over his head like a windmill on andro. Seriously, probably half the
reason most Stanford players wear their helmets while on the sideline is to
guard against being clubbed on the head during one of Williams’ zealous
So here’s the plan for Saturday. Stanford will reclaim that icon of
football superiority in the Bay Area from Berkeley, where it has been unfairly
and wrongly imprisoned for a year. Stanford’s students will rush the field,
gloriously reveling in the return of their football program to Peninsula
dominance, and secure in the fact that the Cardinal has built the nucleus for a
competitive and solid Pac-10 team in the coming years. Buddy Teevens will be
devising ways to foil his predecessor when that green sweater-wearing turncoat
returns to Stanford on the 29th. And if all goes perfectly, Oski will wander
cluelessly over to the Stanford side of that venerable house of football known
as Stanford Stadium, where Tom Williams will be waving his arms around like a
maniac. Oski will get whomped on the head and crumple like a wet tissue,
Williams will chest-bump Michael Craven, and the celebration will continue, for
all will be right in the football world once more.
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