The Stanford Defense, The Field Rush, and Another Win over USC

With Stanford’s momentous upset over second-ranked USC on Saturday night, ripples were sent out through the ranks of college football. The Trojans, who have been touted by some media pundits as a national title contender, struggled, especially running the football. The Stanford defense held the trojans to only 26 yards on the ground. The one-dimensional nature of the game put a considerable amount of pressure on USC’s supposed heisman candidate Matt Barkley, who performed well short of any heisman expectations. Barkley threw 2 interceptions, and a large portion of his yardage was gained by short, easy passes to his talented group of receivers. In my opinion, this was by far the most impressive performance by the Stanford defense in the Harbaugh-Shaw era. The pass-rush from the defensive front-7 was giving Barkley fits, and the safeties were hidding hard to knock the football loose. Stanford shut down a powerful run game, handled Silas Redd, contained Robert Woods, and then embarassed USC’s golden boy quarterback all in one sitting. Delicious. Nunes showed both patience and poise in the pocket against USC. He knew when to scramble, and when not to. Nunes would probably tell you that he has a lot of things to work on the rest of the season, but I admire his poise and confidence. He certainly does have room to improve, especially on some of his longer throws and gauging the height at which he throws the ball. He is, however, not afraid to wait in the pocket and get hit immediately after making a throw. That is an admirable trait in a quarterback. That is something you cannot teach easily.

What about the fans rushing the field after the game? Did this win merit a field rush? Rushing the field is certainly a fun time, and this game was an upset according to both AP polls and the lines in Vegas, but I was skeptical of the field rush, for very good reasons however. Stanford has now beaten USC 4 times in a row. Our supposed nerdy, quirky, university has joined the ranks to be able to compete with the big boys of college football, and do it consistently. Gone are the days when USC would casuallybuzz up to Palo Alto to soundly beat the Cardinal in a mostly-empty Stanford bowl-stadium. Routing Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl was not a fluke. Hammering USC in the Colliseum with Toby Gerhart play after play was not a fluke. Beating USC on a last minute field goal was not a fluke. Beating USC in an overtime thriller was not a fluke. Saturday night at Stanford Stadium was, you guessed it, not a fluke. I think Stanford fans should come to realize this. Stanford football is not a flash in the pan, but rather a consistent force to be reckoned with. Jim Harbaugh layed a strong foundation for Stanford football to prosper under old school smash mouth football, and sound game-calling. David Shaw has continued that trend, and is doing a superb job. Stanford did not dissapear into oblivion when Gerhart left for the NFL. Stanford has not layed down since Andrew Luck was drafted. The hardcore Stanford run game still churns on without Decastro and Martin. The Stanford tight ends still make game-changing plays without Fleener. Nothing is a fluke these days for Stanford Football.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the enthusiasm and pure energy the Stanford fans displayed Saturday night during and after the game. I personally loved the atmosphere of the field-rush and the ensuing madness that followed, but I do think Stanford fans and the rest of college football should know that Stanford Football is not a fluke. Beating USC in 2007 was just the beginning of something special. If I had to choose one word to describe Stanford Football, it would be resilient.

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