Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stanford @ OSU

The 12:30pm kick off made my Saturday morning Southwest flight a little too close for comfort. It also elicited some choice words in the middle of a crowded employment center when I first found out. Luckily no one knew me and I had also booked a Friday night flight – my standard practice when faced with a TBD kickoff on the road. It did mean that I had to find accommodation for an extra night but Albert took care of it as usual and once again, we were staying at the Ramada. Albert would join me the next morning since he managed to get an Alaskan flight from SFO that got in at 9am. There was a 45 minute delay due to our flight crew arriving late because of rain in Las Vegas but I was in no particular hurry and didn’t mind too much. Upon arriving in Portland, I was greeted by the lovely Ducks and Beavers logos at the airport. I don’t have particularly fond memories of the Portland airport where I had quite a bit of time to kill after last year’s game. The same can be said of the Eugene airport where I lamented our basketball team’s loss to the Ducks in the Pit. I guess unlike Los Angeles or more specifically the Coliseum, Oregon hasn’t been too kind to me over the years.

With the weather forecast predicting rain all day Saturday and memories of being soaking wet in Husky stadium last year which were mitigated in part by our absolutely dominant performance, staying as dry as possible was a point of emphasis this week and so I travelled a little less light than usual. While it didn’t rain nearly as hard as the previous year and even stopped midway in the second quarter, the extra clothing sure came in handy. It also made me appreciate how fortunate we’ve been with the weather at Stanford. The last time I remember it raining was when we played Washington State in 2008. Boy did it rain hard that day. The drive to Corvallis went smoothly and the scenery a little more appealing than the journey from Spokane to Pullman. We got to the stadium an hour before kickoff and seeing as there wasn’t too much to do and the rain was already starting, just headed inside and ordered some hot chocolate. The stadium had a small intimate field and our seats behind the goal but at the left most edge were great - probably the best away seats all year. We talked to some the Stanford fans sitting close to us and a group had driven up from San Jose the day before. There was also a former football player living in Portland who had his 6 and 8 year old sons in tow.

It was yet another slow start on offense with Luck having an off day. Granted there were a few drops but he could definitely have thrown some better balls. Luckily the defense was solid, as it has been all year on the road. It’s frightening how easily we could have fallen behind in all of our road games if the other team had been able to put some points on the board. Unlike Albert who felt pretty confident that we would pull away, I definitely entertained the notion that we might trip up when the score was close in the third – not because it was a trap game but because we were just having an off day. Eerily similar to the last time we were in Oregon was the hit on Owusu. Can’t help but wonder what would have happened last year if there had been a flag or this year if there hadn’t. Albert believes that it would have just delayed the inevitable and we would have pulled away anyway. I’m not as convinced. The crowd reaction as the Stanford player’s themselves even commented was disappointing. The refrain I heard repeatedly from the Stanford fans around us was “They [Oregon State fans] were so nice before the game”. I attribute it to a mob mentality and it probably doesn’t help that your coach is going ballistic on the sidelines either.

Thankfully we pulled away and even covered the 21 point spread without any further injuries after losing Levine earlier. After the game, Albert and I had wasted no time in getting out of Corvallis as we wanted to catch as much of the Alabama-LSU game as possible, or so we thought. We listened to it on the radio and shortly after we got back to our hotel to dry off, the first half had ended. We located a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant nearby and were in heaven albeit somewhat exhausted. They had every game of interest on, solid food and a cute waitress. The Kansas State-OK State ended up being much more interesting than the LSU-Bama game for multiple reasons and gave us a glimmer of home that it could be a truly special day. If only Kansas State had run the ball at the 5 yard line with 11 seconds left and 1 time out instead of throwing it 3 times. It’s hard to say if they would have gone for 2 points if they had scored. It would clearly have been the right play but since when do coaches make the right play anyway? The Oregon-Washington game was interesting for a while but then Oregon started pulling away and we headed back to our hotel to get some sleep before our 8am flights. It wasn’t even 11pm but we were absolutely exhausted.

Fortunately we are done with road games and hopefully that means no more slow starts for the offense. We definitely can’t afford one against Oregon. Our kickoff coverage team also needs to get its act together. Williamson’s ability to directionally kick it on kick offs has spoiled them and it feels like Skov may have been a bigger part of kickoff coverage than we realize. On the injury front, fingers crossed that Fleming and Williamson can play but I’d say we’re doing as well as we could have hoped for given the past few weeks with Ertz and Owusu being the main casualties. There are bound to be injuries and player’s playing hurt by this time of the season anyway. This is it. The game that everyone’s had circled in their calendar for months. Saturday can’t come sooner enough.

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