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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Stanford revitalized by ‘Captain Comeback’

    As an NFL player and a college football coach, Jim Harbaugh has been known as a consistent winner.

    In 1995, he led the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC Championship Game and earned the Comeback Player of the Year award, while also earning Offensive Player of the Year honors and finishing second in Most Valuable Player voting.

    Harbaugh started his head coaching career in 2004 at San Diego and in three seasons led the Toreros to a 29-6 record, including two straight mid-major national championships.

    Despite all the success, it was time for the Palo Alto, Calif., native to go home and coach the Stanford football team, which last year finished 1-11.

    “”I think Jim’s done an unbelievable job in the time he’s been there,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”They have a very pro-oriented offense, and you can see that it’s a pro influence from him.

    “”He was a great player and has a great mind at quarterback. You can see he has a strong influence on those kids.””

    At the halfway point for the Cardinal (2-4, 1-3 Pacific 10 Conference), it’s too early to say whether Harbaugh has turned his new team around, but it is definitely on the upside, already winning two games, one at then-No. 2 USC.

    Picked by the media in July to finish dead last in the conference, instead Stanford sits in seventh place, tied with this week’s opponent, Arizona.

    “”It’s definitely a lot easier with him,”” said Cardinal wide receiver Richard Sherman, who has been Stanford’s leading receiver with 27 catches, 496 yards and three touchdowns.

    “”It just seems like the offense is flowing better, and he’s using everybody’s talents a lot more,”” Sherman said. “”The defense is also a lot better. There’s just a lot more happiness and joy playing football.””

    Harbaugh made an official quarterback switch after No. 2 quarterback Tavita Pritchard led Stanford to the upset at USC. A sophomore, Pritchard played in five games last season as a quarterback, wide receiver and special teams player.

    Pritchard came into the year inexperienced behind center, having thrown only one pass attempt.

    But this year, having usurped senior T.C. Ostrander’s role, he has thrown for three touchdowns and 330 yards, also adding 72 yards rushing.

    “”The offense is definitely better with him,”” Sherman said. “”He brings a different element to the offense with mobility. He’s a great leader, always calm under pressure. We’re very confident in him.””

    Sherman said the fact that Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, coaches the team benefits Pritchard.

    “”He definitely can relate to him a lot more and just help him out in key situations,”” Sherman said. “”He shows him certain types of techniques for certain coverages and things like that.””

    A week after pulling off the biggest upset in the Pac-10 this season, Stanford suffered a 38-36 loss to TCU on Homecoming last weekend, as the Horned Frogs came back to score 14 points in the final minutes of the game.

    “”I don’t like to lose, especially when you feel like you could have won a game or two along the way,”” Harbaugh said. “”I like the heart our team is playing with. I like the fact that we’ve been in games and won games and we really compete.””

    Sherman said the Harbaugh’s presence brings Stanford something “”really exciting.””

    “”It’s exactly how you want college football to be,”” Sherman said. “”We’re seeing everything start to come together.””

    And that may be just the opposite for the Wildcats, who enter with a worse record than the Cardinal.

    Arizona hasn’t beaten Stanford in Tucson in the last 10 years. The Cardinal won 50-22 in 1999, 51-37 in 2001 and 20-16 in 2005, scoring an average of more than 40 points per game.

    “”There’s no fear in what they do,”” Stoops said. “”They’re going to play aggressive and make you execute to beat them.””


    PREDICTION:

    So I’ll give every advantage to Arizona in each unit but one – running backs. That must mean it’s going to be a blowout. It won’t be a blowout, because despite the lack of statistics at every position, Stanford plays its opponent close, and hasn’t lost in Tucson in 10 years. This may be Arizona’s last gimme of the year.

    Arizona 34, Stanford 24


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