Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stanford vs Washington

I was grinding out a session of video poker at Green Valley Ranch on Friday night when I got a call from a friend. She had planned on dropping by the ticket office after attending the Reunion festivities to pick up a ticket to the Washington game but much to her chagrin, she had just found out that the game was sold out. Like me, she’s from the Class of 2008 and we are most definitely in a whole new world of Stanford football. Luckily for her, she called the right person and I was able to get her a free ticket thanks to the generosity of an alum who had a couple of extras. Upon returning to video poker, I hit a Royal Flush which occurs once every 45281 hands. The weekend was off to a good start. To be fair, I put in about 16000 hands over a two day period so it wasn’t a complete shot in the dark but perhaps it was an omen of the long shots to come.
I pretty much have my travel routine down to a science. Wake up 2 hours before my flight, drive to the bus terminal where they have a free park and ride, take the bus to the airport for $2, pick up a couple of magazines and hope that my flight isn’t delayed. Saturday morning went off without a hitch and I met a friend for brunch in San Carlos after which I headed over to Albert’s place where we (mostly Albert) prepped for the tailgate. We got to campus where it became a game of running around to meet people, deliver tickets, pick up tickets and drink some MT3 tea. My friend who thinks Fleener now knows who he is just because he took a picture with him at the kick off dinner saw him during the walk and yelled “Catch a touchdown today” to which Fleener answered “Ok”. I called the text message (“Just like I told him”) even before it came when Fleener scored. Oh yeah, we also ran into Mark Madsen and David Moseley who absolutely loved the Shayne Skov Tribute shirts and happily took a picture with the crew in the photo that I like to call Madsen, Moseley and the Misfits!

Two weeks ago, I would have told you that I wasn’t worried about Washington but as game time approaches, anxiety always starts to creep in especially with our penchant for slow starts. One of my theories is that in previous games Stanford has experimented to some extent. Putting different looks on film so that defenses have to prepare for them like throwing deep to Patterson to establish him as a credible threat even if we don’t really expect to throw deep to him much and the infuriating fades in the end zone that never work. We can’t always run screens or run the ball when Patterson and Terrell are our two receivers. To borrow from game theory, we need a mixed strategy even if they payoff from our lesser used options is small to enhance the payoff from our strong options. Against Washington, it felt like we stopped messing around. Before we started going vanilla, we ran tons of plays that looked exactly like plays we had run before but countered with a new twist. That’s been a hallmark of the offense these past few years and hopefully we have more wrinkles in our playbook in the upcoming games. On defense, it definitely felt like we missed Howell and Skov early on with the missed tackles that were reminiscent of the Harris era but we cleaned things up in the second half and MT3’s pick 6 felt like the game clincher.

In another sign of how far Stanford has come, the crowd around us which consisted of lots of young alumni was frantically checking the Wisconsin game and they even announced the final score over the loudspeakers to cheers from those who were still in the stadium. It brought to mind a scene I saw on youtube when it was announced at LSU or somewhere in the South that we had beaten SC in 2007 (minus the packed stadium). Speaking of long shots, that last hail mary after Michigan State managed to recover their own fumble earlier in the drive was pretty incredible but to be honest, I was more intrigued by the early rumblings out of Norman than Wisconsin who I’ve always felt that we would pass by the end of the season.

After the game, we decided to hit up The Counter on California Avenue because they had TVs and would be showing the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game, or so we thought. When we got in, it was filled with students but they only had some football highlights and a MLS game going on. Fortunately, the bartender accommodated my request and we got the game on one and later at the request of some others both TVs. By the end, Fleener was in the house and everyone was living and dying with every single play. Thank you Texas Tech for overcoming the 28 point spread and Tuberville for his gusty play calling – going for it twice on fourth and goal (TD on the first, turnover on downs on the second but I believe they got it back on a pick). I couldn’t even begrudge the fake punt which would have been successful if the guy held his block. Would the extra 30 yards a punt might have gained stopped Oklahoma from scoring that drive? Perhaps but I think it’s the better call in terms of maximizing win probability and love seeing coaches play to win and not be risk averse or worry what the so called experts think. Hopefully the Texas A&M coaches and their pathetic performance against Oklahoma State won’t come back to haunt us.

With SC’s win over Notre Dame which took me completely by surprise and College Game Day going down for the game, it’s going to be a huge one. As a friend commented to me, we’re not sneaking up on them this time. This is arguably their biggest home game this season (bigger than UCLA) and I think it’s going to come down to the wire. The real season is about to begin. Halloween can’t come any sooner.

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