Posts Tagged ‘stanford football’

Jordan Williamson — our long awaited hero rises from ashes

Friday, November 30th, 2012

November 16, 2012 – Source: Steve Dykes/Getty Images North America

As we get ready for today’s epic game against UCLA, I’m going to take a minute and time-warp a couple of weeks back to the epic game against the University of Oregon. Kevin Hogan played one of the best games of his life and Stepfan Taylor steamrolled through defender after defender. Our defense racked up sac after sac… but Oregon was damn good this year (as they were last year– remember the humiliation after waking up at 5:30am for College GameDay?!) and they gave us a run for our money. All our best efforts ended up with us going into a nail biting overtime, but thankfully we won the coin toss and chose 2nd possession. Basically this means that Oregon goes first, starts on our the 25 yard line, and has to score in one drive.

They get close and it’s 4th down. They send in their kicker. Solid snap and he kicks….. It hits the post and bounces off. No good.

Now’s our chance to make it happen. Surely between Talor and Hogan we can get this done.

4th down comes and we’re still 37 yards away. This can only one play left and everyone knows what’s going to happen. Shaw sends in Jordan Williamson.

Oh no…

Mind you, I’ve never met Jordan before and I’m confident that he’s been a solid kicker since his first day at Stanford, but this guy has gotten massively shafted during his time here. I won’t go into details on his Stanford playing career, but needless to say when he took the field on Saturday night to attempt to seal the deal for us, the sports-bar I was at in NYC (full of newly minted Stanford alumni) came to absolute silence. Jordan lined up, the snap was made, his kick connected and…


I know I’m not the only one who’s glad to see Williamson finally get the redemption he deserves.

See you at the game today. Oh! and also:


PAC-12 Network: Plus or Minus?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

It is my first real week of summer.  And yes, I am already bored.  My general routine for curing boredom involves 1) indulging in crappy TV 2) attempting to repair my sleep debt (impossible) and 3) keeping up with my sports teams like no one’s business.  Being that I’m not emotionally invested in basketball (read: I’ll-watch-it-but-eh), that leaves me Giant’s baseball and my football teams, the Niners and of course our Stanford football team.

Amidst my avid googling, I came across this SF Chronicle article.  It notes that our first football game of the season (at home v. San Jose State) has been moved from Saturday, Sept. 1st to the night before at 7pm.  That is right, ladies and gents, we will have a Friday season opener.  While this may not be that significant in and of itself, I think it gives us Stanford fans something to think about.

While Friday home opener is a little disappointing, the change itself is not the most significant part of the story, especially since not many students will be able to attend anyway (you can count me there).  It leaves me to question, how many more times/dates will be switched on us to satisfy the PAC-12 Network?  Looking at other team’s schedules, we aren’t the only ones to have Friday night games (which I’m not that opposed to. High school anyone?), but some teams even have Thursday games scheduled.

With late Thursday classes and sections, I wonder, if we do have a home game yanked to a Thursday, how many people will we lose?  How many season ticket holders won’t go because of work early the next morning? How many students will have a mandatory attendance section?

Our home game schedule already sucks, as noted by Kabir earlier this year (article here).  We have only three home games while school is in session.  USC happens before school starts.  Big Game was moved to… OCTOBER.  While I may be a tad (okay, REALLY) emotional about this since it will be my last football season as an undergrad, I still feel like any Stanford undergrad who attends home games probably feels like they got cheated…just a little bit.

The upswing to all of this, of course, is that every PAC-12 football game will be televised nation-wide, which is great for revenues and visibility and especially great for Stanford alums that live out of area.  This is an amazing perk and will be great for the conference and for our school.  I am personally hoping for a full season of hard-hitting football in which last year’s middling PAC-12 contenders really step up, and we give SEC fans something to think about.

Still is the weird schedule worth the perks?  I, for one, am on the fence.  Let me know what y’all think!

Do you think the PAC-12 Network brings more good than bad?

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Life After Luck: The Lowdown

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

As you may or may not have heard, Andrew Luck, our hero and savior of the Stanford football program, is off to the NFL. While he could have stayed one more year, he’s done with his degree and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Andrew Luck (artist's depiction)

Besides, I don’t exactly envy the guy. Though he’s going to get drafted first overall and make gigantic piles of money, he’s headed to the Indianapolis Colts. The team recently went 2-14, fired its head coach and general manager, and has a huge dilemma at a key position (I won’t tell you who’s in the middle of it, but I’ll give you a hint: it starts with a “P” and ends in “eyton Manning”).

Luck isn’t the only important name headed to the pros. Offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, two major cogs in the Cardinal’s success on offense, are both likely to be drafted in the first round. A bunch of other important contributors are gone too, like safety Delano Howell, tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Griff Whalen.

But never fear, dear readers! The Cardinal has a bunch of young playmakers eager to step into starting roles for next year’s (shamefully poorly scheduled) season. We caught flashes of these underclass dynamos last season, but an extended introduction will have to wait until spring practice. Head coach David Shaw and his staff is also hard at work assembling a top-25 recruiting class, quite a feat for a school with Stanford’s academic standards.

Will Stanford go 11-1 and make another BCS bowl? Probably not. Can we score a solid record, a trip to a decent non-BCS bowl, and an upset or two over some Pac-12 heavyweights? Sure, I definitely think so. The program isn’t quite at the point where it can just reload after players like Andrew Luck leave (and it probably never will be), but there’s no reason Stanford can’t return to the elite after a rebuilding year or two.

So who, you ask, are these mystery youngsters that form the next generation of Stanford football? To the breakdown! (more…)

Stanford Football’s Scheduling Travesty

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

If you’re anything like me (that is, a rabid follower of college football and our beloved Stanford Cardinal), then you’ve already gotten over our gut-wrenching, heart-stopping loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl and are looking eagerly forward to spring ball and the start of next season. Basketball? A silly game where unnaturally tall people run back and forth for no discernible reason. Baseball? Can’t keep me awake past the second inning. The NFL playoffs? OK, I’ll admit you got me on that one, but those only last until February.

I always knew Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott cared only about money and not at all about students, and this just confirms it. (Image courtesy of the Pac-12)

So that’s why I was appalled when I saw the full 2012 football schedule the Pac-12 Conference released earlier today. To summarize, here’s the Cardinal’s full 12-game schedule for next season:

Sept. 1: San Jose State
Sept. 8: Duke
Sept. 15: USC
Sept. 27: at Washington
Oct. 6: Arizona
Oct. 13: at Notre Dame
Oct. 20: at California
Oct. 27: Washington State
Nov. 3: at Colorado
Nov. 10: Oregon State
Nov. 17: at Oregon
Nov. 24: at UCLA

This schedule sucks and it’s extremely unfortunate that our athletic department didn’t try for something better. Let’s start with the fact that, out of Stanford’s six home games next season, three come before the start of fall quarter: San Jose State, Duke and USC. This is hugely unfortunate for two main reasons. Obviously, the vast majority of students won’t be able to attend any of these games; since next year will be my last on the Farm, I’m especially ticked off that I’ll get to see Stanford football in person a grand total of three times in a 12-game season. Nearly as important is the fact that USC is one of those games. Whenever the Trojans come to town, it’s always the biggest home game of the regular season and a guaranteed sellout, so it’s an incredible letdown that only a few of us will get to go to that one.

This year's Stanford-USC matchup was a triple-OT thriller. Too bad we won't get to see these teams play next year.

Next, let’s take a look at the three teams we will get to see at home: Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State. These three programs were at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 in 2011, and were three of the five conference teams that failed to earn bowl eligibility. Arizona and Washington State both ended up firing their coaches, and Oregon State’s top man enters the season on the conference’s hottest seat. While we’re probably not going to steamroll these teams the way we did this season, I’m not exactly excited to see games featuring some of the Pac-12’s cellar dwellers. As an addendum to all of this, five of our last seven games are on the road, meaning it’ll be tough for us to follow the team and put more pressure on the team to win road games late in the season.

Last but certainly not least, notice how the Big Game has been inexplicably moved up to mid-October, when it has traditionally taken place in late November (usually the Saturday before Thanksgiving). Big Game, and the week leading up to it, are among the most hallowed traditions both on the Farm and across the Bay at Cal; putting the game in mid-October messes everything up and makes Big Game highly anti-climactic.

The reason for all of these shenanigans is two letters: TV. The Pac-12’s scheduling priorities are dictated entirely by the conference’s television partners. The upshot is that every Pac-12 game will be available nationwide on television, which I guess is supposed to substitute for taking away our game day experience.


We Shouldn’t Have Won that Game

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I realize that what I’m about to say probably borders on heretical, but here it goes anyway: Stanford got thoroughly outplayed and outcoached by USC last night, and it’s fairly miraculous that our beloved Cardinal managed to leave the Coliseum with a victory. Of course, any team needs some luck (and no, I don’t mean Andrew Luck) to win a triple-overtime game, but Stanford got so many breaks that I have to wonder if the oft-cited “football gods” actually exist and are smiling on the Card.

Let’s start with the horrendous play of our defense, which sorely misses injured starters Shayne Skov and Delano Howell. It couldn’t stop the run—Curtis McNeal ran right over Stanford’s vaunted front seven for 145 yards on 20 carries. More than anything, though, the secondary blew so many coverages that I could have stayed at The Peninsula Beverly Hills if I had a dollar for each one. There were several plays where Stanford’s defensive backs got torched and then got lucky when the Trojans failed to execute, usually via a dropped pass or an overthrown ball from USC quarterback Matt Barkley. I vividly remember one instance where star USC receiver Robert Woods had nothing but green in front of him, only to see the pass bounce off his right hand harmlessly onto the turf. To top it all off, the pass rush was nonexistent; Barkley got hit a few times but didn’t take a single sack.

Then there was the miracle drive with three minutes remaining to tie the game at 34 each. Sure, Andrew Luck led a great drive down the field to tie the score with about 40 seconds remaining; however, the offense probably never would have scored that touchdown without a personal-foul penalty on USC’s T.J. McDonald to keep the drive alive after a third down incompletion.

Of course, there’s also the fact that USC probably would have had the chance to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired in regulation had it not been for a momentous screw-up. With nine seconds left to go, Barkley completed a pass to Woods to get into field goal range, but Woods ran to the side instead of going down and calling timeout; his run took the remaining seconds off the clock and sent the game to OT. “I was yelling at Robert to get down because I could see the clock,” Barkley said later. “That play never really goes that far across the field. It’s designed to turn upfield.”

Last but not least, let’s talk about the penalties. Stanford committed 11 penalties for 91 yards; USC got hit with three for 35 yards. You’re just not supposed to make that many mistakes against a team like USC and walk away with a win. Penalties killed a Cardinal drive or two and extended Trojan offensive drives as well. It’s not that the refs were homers, either—Stanford just played sloppy football.

As any football player or coach will tell you, a win is a win no matter how you got it, and it keeps Stanford undefeated and in the hunt for the national championship. On Saturday, the team that played better couldn’t close it out and win the game, and that happens all the time in football. Stanford fans had just better hope that the USC performance isn’t the best this team is capable of, because if it is, then the Nov. 12 showdown with Oregon is definitely not going to be a pleasant experience.

Is Stanford Now a Football School?

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal hoist Coach Jim Harbaugh in celebration after their victory over Virginia Tech.

In the past five years, Stanford football has fought its way from mediocrity to the top of college sports. Monday’s 40-12 romp over Virginia Tech culminated that remarkable run. Yet in the midst of this hard-earned Orange glory, however, I ran into a frightening number of students who neither watched the whole game nor even knew who we were playing. I might not be somebody whose group of friends and acquaintances constitutes an accurate cross section of the entire Stanford populace, but I was hardly the only Stanford fan who encountered this situation.

And it’s not necessarily going to improve. Coach Jim Harbaugh is very likely leaving for the NFL. QB Andrew Luck has many incentives to go pro. Owen Marecic, the Cardinal’s versatile linebacker/running back, is an outgoing senior. In sum, Stanford Football may lose some of the vital star power that has caused its fan base to grow, and even in these fruitful times the extent of that base’s support remains unclear. If next year is successful but slightly less glamorous, will Cardinal fans rise to the occasion?

Part of the problem is our size. With 6,887 undergraduates and 8,779 graduate students, Stanford has a substantial population compared to its academic rivals, but pales in comparison with giants like Alabama, Michigan, or Ohio State. The normally-packed Red Zone only constitutes a small portion of our relatively small 50,000-seat stadium, which we filled just once this past season in our game against USC. Stanford alumni doubtless love watching Cardinal games, and the Stanford Fund experiences major spikes in donations whenever the football team has a big win. But their loyalty does not necessarily manifest itself on campus.

As a result, Stanford runs the risk of joining a club where it does not belong. How can we be a Top 5 Football team, a truly envied position of power, and have no idea what to do with it or how to appreciate it? To the vast majority of America that does love college football, that fanatically lives and breathes it whenever fall season comes around, our condition seems like elitism at best and hypocrisy at worst. Nobody would debate our team’s skills. This is purely a debate about the school behind them, about how much we deserve our team and whether or not we have incorporated their achievements into part of our fundamental identity.

A cheeky poster in the Stanford section on Monday proclaimed, “Revenge of the Nerds!,” complete with a Stanford Tree as the “S.” The poster also hit a little close to home. Vehemently loyal Stanford fans can be found on campus and abroad, and hundreds of them showed up yesterday at Maples Pavilion to welcome back the victorious team. But the fact remains that much of Stanford has exhibited little more than casual interest in this week’s monumental triumph. If we are to embrace our football team the way they have so forcefully embraced the pursuit of success on the field, our school’s collective attitude needs to change. Otherwise, we will be no more than a stepping stone for the Harbaughs and Lucks of the sports world, who make good use of our fabulous facilities, draw on our extensive resources, bring tremendous honor to our athletic program, and leave behind a school that prefers to hit the books while our country’s favorite college game moves on.

Our Athletes Are Better Than Yours

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Our athletes have won more Director’s Cups than any other school in the nation.  There, I said it.  Article done, right?  But I feel like that’s a cop-out – everyone knows we have the number one athletics program in NCAA Division I.  What’s actually newsworthy, what actually matters, is that our athletes are quantitatively and qualitatively the best in the nation.  Here’s why.

For Andrew Luck, luck's got nothing to do with it.

Our athletes are held to a higher academic standard than those at other schools.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said it best: “We’re looking not for student athletes but scholar-athletes. No other school can carry this banner.”

Take Andrew Luck, for example.  Our star quarterback, who by all fair comparisons was robbed of the Heisman Trophy, was his high school valedictorian and is majoring in architectural design.  There’s no doubt, as Fox Sports put it, that Andrew “has the smarts to go with the impeccable athletic skills.”  Indeed, according to teammate Doug Baldwin, “The only thing Andrew can’t do very well is sing.”  Luck‘s likely to be the #1 NFL draft pick and, according to the Mercury News, “it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”  Our beloved scholar-athlete seems like a pretty stark contrast to this year’s Heisman winner Cam Newton and the NCAA controversy surrounding his dubious recruitment.

Yeah, our athletes cure diseases. No big deal.

Our athletes are changing the world.

Chemical engineer Jake Vandermeer is a busy guy.  A United States Presidential Scholar and former principal cellist for the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, Jake walked on to our #1 men’s volleyball team last year.  Just this September, Jake joined the team at the White House celebration of the 2009-10 NCAA championship teams.  But what really makes Jake stand out is how he’s radically improving the lives of others.  This summer he helped develop a potential cure for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease – a crippling disease that affects about 1,200 children a year.  That’s really something to cheer about.


Follow-up: Debating Harbaugh’s Salary

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled, “No, We Should Not Pay Jim Harbaugh More Money.” Not surprisingly, this generated a lively, and mostly fruitful, discussion that included a number of War and Peace-length comments. I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the points from the comments and also offer a few more rebuttals.

But first, two important items of business:
1. Congratulations to the football team–they’re going to the Orange Bowl in Miami to take on my cousin’s beloved Virginia Tech Hokies.
2. Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby has already offered to “sweeten” Jim Harbaugh’s contract to try and convince him to stay.

Now, back to business. One popular argument in favor of raising Harbaugh’s salary is that it he brings in more money for the school (or, more accurately, the Athletic department, since both his salary and the resulting benefits are essentially self-contained within Athletics). As Tkim writes:

Football has the chance to fund every other program in the athletic department (if Josh, you would actually come to the games). The ROI on the investment is much higher with Harbaugh.

This is true, but using this as reasoning creates a problem. If what matters is the amount of money brought in, there are a number of other obvious ways we can increase this quantity. The first is obvious: we can stop holding our student-athletes to high academic standards. Every year, our athletics program turns away thousands of talented athletes because of insufficient academics. Accepting these athletes would undoubtedly make our football program better and therefore more lucrative, but does that mean we should do it?

My guess is that most, if not all, Stanford supporters would be against lowering academic standards because considerations outside of football are important. Harbaugh himself has been vocal about the importance of putting the student in student-athlete. At other schools, football players are students in name only (see: Heisman-trophy winner Cam Newton of Auburn). But that’s not adequate reason to say that we should allow that.


No, Stanford Should Not Give Jim Harbaugh More Money

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Since Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh took the Cardinal from a lowly 1-11 to a bowl-bound, #4 ranked powerhouse, Stanford fans have been worried that he will take his coaching elsewhere. The NFL or other schools, such as his alma mater Michigan, are willing to pay him very large salaries to take the helm for another team. As such, supporters of Stanford football and pro-Harbaugh advocates have made clear the position that Stanford should do what it takes to keep Harbaugh as Stanford’s coach–or, in other words, give him more money with a big new contract.

This is the wrong thing to do. Harbaugh is an excellent football coach, but that does not mean Stanford should give him more money.

The most recent calls for paying Harbaugh more have come from Hoover Fellow Alvin Rabushka, as well as an online petition echoing similar claims. Rabushka claims:

Paying millions to a football coach, even one of the top three in the country, is not in keeping with Stanford’s educational values, even though Stanford football competes against top national programs. Don’t the players deserve the same first-rate instruction in football that students receive in the classroom?

While this argument certainly has merit, I believe it is founded on an assumption that is actually a misconception. Yes, Stanford tries to excel in everything it does. But giving a larger contract to Jim Harbaugh actually runs contrary to this aim.

If Stanford were to excel equally in all aspects, and adding more money to the football program–i.e. paying Harbaugh more than his current salary of $1.25 million per year, or nearly twice the salary of President Hennessy and 13 times as much as the average associate professor at Stanford–did not take away from any other piece of the University, then the argument rests on different grounds. But the university does not excel in all different aspects and there is already a huge disparity in the amount of attention, value, and funding given to some parts of the school over others. Giving more to Harbaugh would make the discrepancy even worse and reaffirm the idea that some students are more worthy than others.