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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

In Jim we trust

In Jim we trust

Stanford football — football? They can’t be that good, that’s a book-school, right?

That’s certainly been the conception of Cardinal gridiron-squads over the years. Sure, they can out-think opponents and probably out game-plan them too, but they’re slow and not nearly as athletic as most Pacific 10 Conference teams.

Times they-are-a-changing, though. Stanford (4-2, 3-1 Pac-10) under head coach Jim Harbaugh, has been a revelation in recent years, none more so than this season after starting 3-0 in Pac-10 play before falling to Oregon State.

And while they still aren’t as athletic as most teams, Harbaugh has done a tremendous job of recruiting players that fit his idea of a football player.

“”When the play is over there’s no fanfare, no ‘Look at me,'”” Harbaugh said. “”They go right to the sideline and get ready for the next play. Just a real love of the game and focus and intensity.””

No players epitomize Harbaugh’s philosophy more than running mates Toby Gerhart and Owen Marecic, a tailback and fullback respectively.

Stanford’s hot start this season was a hot topic in the national media. The program had become one of the darling’s of the nation — a team and coach you could root for regardless of your favorite team.

But the run to glory took a major hit last week after the Cardinal got blasted by Oregon State.

“”We got out butts beaten offensively, defensively and on special teams, that’s the bad news,”” Harbaugh said. “”The good news is that it only counts as one game and the other good news is that we have another week to get it fixed and play again.””

Harbaugh, a former-NFL quarterback, has been using that same upbeat attitude to put Stanford football back on the map with relatively unknown players. Do names like Gerhart or Andrew Luck not ring a bell?

Didn’t think so.

 

Know the opponent

Stanford plays tough, physical and inspired ball in every aspect of the game. They’re as well-coached as any team in the nation, and because of that they make very few mistakes. They also do a tremendous job of playing within themselves. They know where they excel on the football field, and they know their limitations.

 

Players to watch

Toby Gerhart, senior running back — The offense and team will go as far as Gerhart goes. If he piles up yards, Stanford will win. If he doesn’t, Stanford will lose.

Ryan Whalen, junior wide receiver — Another Harbaugh-type. The junior is averaging an impressive 17.1 yards per catch this season and can help take the pressure off of Gerhart if he has a big game.

Clinton Snyder, senior line backer — The big senior linebacker has imposing size and strength and is a constant presence on the field. He leads the Pac-10 with 51 total tackles.

Keys to the game

Get ahead early — The only way Stanford can win a game is if they either jump out to an early lead or stay competitive until the fourth quarter. They’re a run-first offense and they’re fantastic at it, but that means they are a slow-paced and methodical bunch. If they fall behind early, they don’t have the firepower on offense to make big plays in a short amount of time to make a comeback. Case and point: last week’s loss to Oregon State.

Get Gerhart Goin’ — The big back is one of the most efficient running backs in the nation. He leads the Pac-10 with 124.3 rushing yards per game and is the heart and soul of his team. He’s had success on all types of runs this year and he’s a wrecking ball of a runner who will run over defenders. And he’s much faster this year and can beat defenses to the edge.

Get Lucky — Freshman quarterback Andrew Luck is the exact quarterback that Harbaugh was hoping to bring in when he took over the program. He’s smart and savvy, but also has the physical tools to eventually make him one of the best quarterback’s in the nation. He’s also an athlete and second on his team this season in rushing yards.

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