Clardy's Corner - 11/9

Clardy's Corner - 11/9

There comes a time each year when Troy is so overtaken by the goings-on in the conference that he just has to unload. This is that week, with an overpowering parcel of Pac-10 pontifications. From Walt Harris to Mike Stoops. From Justin McCullum to Reggie Bush. From kickers to quarterbacks. From Stanford Stadium to Reser Stadium. It's all inside... Also, this week's E-Mailbag and Pac-10 Picks.

A couple weeks ago, I dubbed November 12 "Judgement Day" in the Pac-10.  With so many important games this weekend, and so many important things happening last weekend, I couldn't decide on one single topic for this week's Corner.  Therefore, you know them, you love them, and I tend to do it once a year, it's a whole Corner's worth of…

RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

Before kickoff, TBS sideline reporter Craig Sager rehashed the whole "Reggie Bush could have been at Stanford" subplot.  But instead of merely reporting the story (which sideline reporters are paid to do), Sager decided to editorialize (which sideline reporters are not paid to do), even going as far as to assert - heck, guarantee - that "Reggie could have succeeded at Stanford."  Perhaps he could have.  But how is Stanford the bad guy in all this when the facts are that Reggie didn't have the grades, didn't have the test scores, and didn't have the interest in the program after Tyrone Willingham left for Notre Dame?

Here's a fun question: if Reggie Bush had indeed come to Stanford and played for the previous coaching regime, does anything that happened to this team from 2002 to 2004 indicate that he would have had anywhere near the career he's put together down in South Central?

Bottom line: at one point, it may have been Reggie Bush's dream to come to Stanford, but something tells me that his reality right now is far, far better than any dream he may have had…

So what was Stanford's initial game plan on offense against the Trojans?  Sadly, I don't think we'll ever know.  The ill-fated lateral to Gerren Crochet and the subsequent 14-0 hole to which it led prevented us from seeing Walt Harris's plan to try to stand toe-to-toe with the Trojans.  I do think that despite the poor execution, that playcall gave me a hint of some of the things Stanford may have had up their sleeves.  Too bad that fumble probably forced the coaches to throw their more imaginative plays out the window…

Need proof that Trent Edwards had a physically punishing evening?  I could have sworn that even Trent's helmet had grass stains…

I really think that Trent gained a lot of fans and a lot of respect nationwide for his gutsy performance against U$C.  I also don't think that anyone could have summed it up any better than Evan Moore, who told Craig Sager during the second half, "I get choked up just watching [Trent] play."…

I'll say this: based on his courageous efforts week after week, I know for a fact that Trent will never be mistaken for a recent Stanford quarterback I can think of who step out of bounds way short of the marker while scrambling on a critical third down…

Good to see Justin McCullum step up to the plate with his best game yet.  Obviously with Mark Bradford and Evan Moore unavailable, the Card need all the receiving help they can get.  Hopefully McCullum continues that outstanding play even after Bradford returns to the lineup…

The last time Stanford played in South Central, the Card got killed.  After that 2003 meeting at U$C, I remember being stunned by how little emotion the players showed in the postgame interviews I heard.  I remember thinking that the players were handling themselves a little bit too well.  Maybe things were different behind closed doors, but no one seemed particularly upset at the outcome that day two years ago.  I wrote in my Corner the following week: "Losing with dignity is one thing, but there's something to be said for losing with passion, too."  I didn't hear any of the postgame interviews with Stanford coaches and players last Saturday, and I know Stanford lost with dignity last week, but I'm curious to know whether Stanford lost to U$C with passion this time around...

So 25 years ago yesterday was the anniversary of "The Throw."  You know, the play where King John Elway scrambled to and fro through the U$C pass rush before finally unleashing a rocket to Kenny Margerum in the endzone 60 yards downfield.  November 8, 1980.  25 years ago yesterday.  I celebrated the anniversary by scrambling through the ESPN Radio studios before launching a stack of post-its across the room to former Stanford tight end (and current ESPN Radio producer) Steve Coughlin…

For those of you making the trip up to Corvallis, one, I'm jealous, and two, I'd love to get your thoughts on the Reser expansion and renovation.  I'd love to get your thoughts on how you think it might compare to what we might end up with on The Farm next season.  So some of you have homework for next week's Corner…

Not long ago, I mentioned that if I had to put together a team of the best Pac-10 players I've seen since I started following the conference three Stanford head coaches ago, that my three-receiver set would be Keyshawn Johnson, Troy Walters, and Oregon State's Mike Hass.  On the BootBoard Plus, someone asked, "What about Mike Williams?"  I thought about it, but I think Williams was greatly aided by the presence of the often underappreciated Keary Colbert.  Hass and Keyshawn have/had nowhere near the same caliber supporting casts.  OK, some of you may be saying, but Troy Walters had DeRonnie Pitts and Dave Davis (remember him?), and they were no slouches either.  True, but Walters was a bigger factor in more games than Mike Williams was.  That's why he goes on my list…

If you missed the Beavers' 18-10 win over the Huskies, be glad.  That was one of the uglier games I've seen in a while.  But big ups to Alexis Serna, who has rebounded from that nightmare last year at LSU to become the Pac-10's most reliable kicker.  Making six field goals while two of every animal are making their way down Montlake Boulevard is no small feat…

Speaking of kickers, I think cal's Tom Schneider did a fine job on his 54-yard attempt at the end of regulation, considering the circumstances.  With the clock running and with no timeouts, cal had to rush their field goal unit onto the field.  They just got the snap off with one second remaining on the clock, if that.  Schneider had literally no time to get set before he had to kick.  So a rushed kick from a high snap in poor weather conditions, and his 54-yard kick hooks inches to the left.  He missed the kick, to be sure, but under the circumstances, I thought Schneider did a whale of a job just to get the ball even close to the uprights…

If I were to compare Joe Ayoob to another recent juco quarterback who started at cal, unfortunately it wouldn't be Aaron Rodgers.  As of right now, Ayoob is veering dangerously into Justin Vedder territory…

Of course, Justin—er, I mean, Joe's receivers didn't help him out much against the Ducks.  Whether it was because of the rainy conditions at Autzen Stadium or not, the cal receivers dropped way too many critical passes…

So the White Sox have won the World Series, Rutgers is bowl-eligible, and the Raiders have made peace with Alameda County and the city of Oakland.  What's next, the Wildcats actually winning a Pac-10 home game?  Oh wait… they did…

With the Wildcats humiliating UCLA 52-14 and three minutes remaining in the game, Arizona starting quarterback Willie Tuitama was throwing into the end zone on fourth down.  Given those facts, some are accusing Mike Stoops of trying to run up the score.  Obviously the folks who are making those accusations didn't watch the previous games when other teams didn't try to run up the score against UCLA and they paid the price…

If you had told me at the start of the season that Mike Stoops would beat UCLA and Bob Stoops wouldn't, I would have called for the men in white coats to come and take you away…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Fisher DeBerry and Joe Paterno got into a little hot water recently for saying that Black athletes tend to have more speed and that they have changed college football.  And this is controversial… how?

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… methinks Bill Callahan may be looking for work soon.  What a disaster that has been in Lincoln…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… why do I have a feeling that Terrell Owens will be playing for the Miami Dolphins next year?


E-MAILBAG

Lots of e-mails to catch up on from last week's Corner!  Here we go…

Two e-mailers had thoughts on the play against UCLA that almost led to a Jon Alston fumble recovery near the Bruin goal line.  First, longtime UCLA fan Howard from parts unknown wrote: "I just wanted to agree with you on the fumble recovered by [Maurice] Drew.  However, I thought it was an incomplete pass!  His arm was going forward when it was hit. PAC-10 Officials are the pits!"

And this one, from Matt from Santa Barbara: "I enjoy your column.  Good luck back East!  As for the UCLA game, I must disagree with your statement about Alston's failure to recover the fumble being so important.  It was important, but the Card went up 24-3 anyway, and there's no real likelihood (in my mind) that they would have been up more if Alston recovers the ball and scores.  What keeps going through MY mind is the Stanford defense being shredded on three straight drives and those penalties... one of them (it was either a false start or illegal motion, I forget) was a crucial drive-killer when the boys needed a first down to run the clock.

Anyway, I've been a Stanford fan for 30 years, and for some reason that was the toughest loss I've felt, with the possible exception of old Marques Tuiasosopo and his shenanigans (and I was at the 1982 Big Game to witness "that which shall not be named").  What made it so tough was that the game should have been in the bag, and that the Card might need that win for a bowl."

Howard, I gotta take a look at that play again to figure out whether Olson's arm was going forward, but I don't think it's any secret that many times Pac-10 officiating leaves some things to be desired, especially in basketball.  Basketball.  Gosh, is it that time of year already?

Matt, good points on all counts.  At the time of Olson's fumble, Stanford led 14-3 late in the third quarter.  Does UCLA throw in the towel if they're down 21-3 at that stage in the game?  Or does it just give the Bruins more time for the comeback?  At this point, we'll never know.  But a surefire way to devastate a team is to score a defensive touchdown, and I really think that game would have been over if Stanford had been able to cash in on that loose ball.

U$C graduate Paul from parts unknown had thoughts on my gameplan to beat the Trojans: "Good read.  I like that you're staying optimistic about your team, despite obvious reasons you might not.  And I think you're absolutely right that imaginative play-calling will be the key to keeping Stanford in the game against USC.  [The Trojans'] coaching staff is the best in the business at spotting trends and tendencies on film and taking advantage of them on the field.  If you can show us something we haven't seen yet, you'll have an excellent shot at ‘shocking the world' -- at least until half-time."

And, of course, we all know how that turned out.  Stanford showed the Trojans something they'd seen plenty of times: turnovers.  No need to adjust when the other team is constantly handing you the ball!

A couple of celebrities even checked in on this week's E-mailbag.  Not only is Doug Kelly from Sacramento the analyst on UC Davis radio broadcasts, but he also received mention in Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column not too long ago!  So you know I was psyched to hear what he had to say: "Having watched—and called—Stanford against UC Davis, I've read your keys to how Stanford might upset U$C.  Now a lot of stars would have to align all at the same time... but isn't that what happened on The Farm on September 17???"

Geez, you had to bring that up, didn't you?  But I do get your point.  Although the creativity and imagination that I was calling for last week wasn't there for UC Davis back in September (and quite frankly, they didn't need it that night), they went in there and executed enough plays on both sides of the ball to get the win.  Stanford didn't execute anywhere near enough plays against U$C to win.  Or you could blame the planetary alignments too…

And one of the most popular Bootleg celebrities had a thought or two before last Saturday's events: MizzouCard! "I think our guys have played quite well this year (with that one exception, of course), especially considering the critical injuries.  Thus, I am silly enough to have some hope for tonight's game.  I cannot quite get myself to the point where I think we could win, because I cannot see that happening without a bit of luck (getting on some loose balls, for example).  But I do not think it is absolutely beyond the realm of possibility.

(Also, I must admit that if this nice string of no turnovers ends today, we are probably in for trouble.)

Regardless of how things turn out tonight, I think Walt and the guys deserve a lot of credit.  It would have been easy to fold the tent after ‘you know what' happened, and they haven't.  Thus, I hope that we will all hang in there with them, even if things go badly tonight."

Ah yes, that "no turnovers" thing again.  That went out the window quickly, didn't it?

But the way this team performed in the second half—making plays, hitting people, and playing with pride—I think most folks will still hang in there with this team. Moral victories are still for losers, but I don't think there's much shame in taking any kind of victory you can get against U$C!

Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or on anything else that's on your mind, drop me a line at troyc@thebootleg.com!  The best e-mails I get will end up in next week's Corner…


PAC-10 PICKS

Yuck.  Last weekend was my worst weekend yet, maybe ever.  Never try to pick more than one upset per week…

Washington @ Arizona.  Johnny DuRocher is out with a broken bone in his wrist.  Linebacker Joe Lobendahn suffered a knee injury and is done for the year.  The Huskies' lineup already had more questions than Ken Jennings… now they head to suddenly dangerous Arizona Stadium?  "Bear Down" beats "Bow Down" handily here.  I like Arizona by 23.

U$C @ cal.  I think cal has a shot to dent U$C's defense with steady doses of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett.  But can Joe Ayoob and cal's young receivers be consistent against the Trojans' weak-link secondary?  Can the Bears' makeshift offensive line withstand U$C's front wall?  Can the Bears' defense get to Matt Leinart and force turnovers?  Can the Bears hand the Trojans another stunning loss, much like they did two years ago at Raspberry Ravine?  No, no, no, and… no.  I like U$C by 39.

Arizona State @ UCLA.  The Sun Devils got away with one in Pullman and they know it.  The Bruins had gotten away with four before being run out of Tucson last week, and they know it.  With ASU's offensive line problems, this game will hinge on whether the Bruins can get to the quarterback or not.  If they can, they win.  If not, they lose.  Either way, I think this is a close one.  I like UCLA by 4.

Oregon @ Washington State.  Washington State just has to beat someone, don't they?  Don't they?  Yes, they do.  And they will.  Just not this week.  Oregon's defense will provide the heat on a chilly Palouse night.  I like Oregon by 10.

Last week: 1-3 (straight-up), 1-3 (ATS).
This year: 16-8 (straight-up), 12-12 (ATS).

Troy Clardy is a host and reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, airing Saturdays on FSN Bay Area.


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