Stanford football: I was wrong
Stanford lost Jim Harbaugh and stayed great. Stanford lost Andrew Luck, and no way did I think the Cardinal could stay great. Not just the loss of Luck, but the loss of Harbaugh AND Luck.
I was wrong. Stanford still is playing championship-level football, and all of college football is grateful. Stanford knocked off Southern Cal 21-14 Saturday and did it the same way the Cardinal went to back-to-back major bowl games. With old-fashioned power football.
Stanford lines up and runs at you, then throws some passes. It’s 1976 all over again. Stanford plays football the way it once was played — physical. Stanford tries to push you back, not spread you out. It’s delightfully charming to eyes that now are accustomed to the 21st-century gizmo formations, with four wide receivers and men in motion and quarterbacks who never put their hands against their center’s butt.
Against USC, Stanford rushed for 202 yards and passed for 215. And by the way, Stanford plays a little tough on defense, too. Southern Cal rushed for 25 yards.
We saw some of that physicality in the Fiesta Bowl last January, where OSU survived the Cardinal 41-38 in overtime. The Cowboy spread won that night, but it wasn’t. Stanford assaulted the Cowboys, and only a special night from Justin Blackmon — who played a little physical himself — lifted State to victory.
Stanford is a thoroughly charming football program. Lose Harbaugh, making a case for the best football coach on the planet, and the unassuming David Shaw replaces him quite well. Lose Luck, and the underwhelming Josh Nunes makes enough plays to take down the Trojans. Get this: In the age of 70-percent completions, Nunes completed 15 of 32, with two interceptions, and Stanford still won. And you didn’t come away thinking the Cardinal won despite its quarterback.
That’s just the way Stanford plays. The Cardinal turns back the clock and plays football the way it once was played. Sort of like Kansas State turns back the clock with its 21st-century single wing under quarterback Collin Klein.
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