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Fisher: Confidence in Cardiac Cardinal at an all-time high

For 50 minutes, the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal was the best football team in the country, and there really wasn’t anyone who could come close.

And then, in classic Cardiac Cardinal fashion, Stanford almost let Oregon steal the game away. Thankfully, senior wide receiver Jeff Trojan didn’t allow that to happen by recovering the last onside kick attempt.

I don’t know how to fully describe the range of emotions I felt throughout this game. For 50 minutes I was stunned; nobody does to Oregon what Stanford did. Then, for the final 10 minutes I lingered on the verge of heart attack.

Only now, with a little bit of time between the end of the game and sitting down to write, can I begin to fully appreciate what we saw: near perfection against one of the best teams in all of college football. And the key to the game was the Stanford offense — I have to say I told you so.

It starts with the coaching staff. We’ve complained about the offensive play calling for weeks now, and then head coach David Shaw put together a game plan that is literally exactly what we asked for. Shaw leaned on the run — Tyler Gaffney set a Stanford single-game record with 45 carries — and wasn’t afraid to get creative in the running game either.

We asked for junior quarterback Kevin Hogan to take back the read-option “Lloyd Package” with senior running back Ricky Seale, and that’s exactly what we got. Seale can be a game-changer, yet he has been one of the most underutilized players on the Cardinal roster. Today those read-option plays with Seale and the powerful running of Hogan were huge on third down.

We asked for Stanford to run the ball on third-and-short — and that includes third-and-3 — and Shaw agreed. Stanford bullied the Ducks all game long on the offensive line, and it was beautiful to watch. I’ve never been more confident in anything in my life than I was in Stanford’s ability to convert on third-and-1 all night long.

And most of all, we asked for Hogan to use his feet more, and he came through in a performance reminiscent of last year’s win at Autzen Stadium. Hogan wasn’t perfect throwing the ball, but that’s not entirely in his control. What is in Hogan’s control is his decision making, and Hogan was about as good as we could ask for. He made great reads, and most importantly he knew when to bail and run.

While we’re talking about Hogan’s decisions to run the football, how awesome was his toughness on those running plays? The play where Hogan, while stumbling, beat three defenders for a first down was nothing short of epic. He may have struggled for the past few weeks, but Hogan redeemed himself in the biggest way Thursday night.

While today is for celebrating, I’d be remiss to leave out what comes next. Stanford football has a 24-hour rule — you have 24 hours to enjoy a win or wallow in sorrow after a loss before you need to move on. I have a two-hour rule, so I’m already thinking about the USC Trojans.

I must admit, I’m a bit nervous about that game in the Coliseum, because I know how much a loss would hurt. Also, USC looks a lot better since the unfortunate departure of Stanford hero Lane Kiffin. But what I will say is, for the first time in a really long time, I wholeheartedly believe in Stanford football, and that is a great thing to feel.

So as I get ready to sleep, I can’t help but think back to Bill Plaschke’s post-Rose Bowl column and a quote from my interview with Alex Fletcher ’08 for “Rags to Roses.” Though Fletcher was describing a full movement and not a specific game, this quote rings true for last night’s win: “Those Stanford kids f***ing kicked the shit out of the Pac-12. On toughness.”

And now, after working until 3 a.m. or later every night this week in the lead-up to the game, I can go to bed with a smile on my face.

Sam Fisher can only smile when he remembers telling his dad four years ago that he hoped to go to one BCS game in his four years at Stanford. Share your joys with Sam at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu, and follow him on Twitter @SamFisher908.

About Sam Fisher

Sam Fisher is the managing editor of sports for The Stanford Daily's Vol. 244. Sam also does play-by-play for KZSU's coverage of Stanford football, Stanford baseball and Stanford women's basketball. In 2013, Sam co-authored "Rags to Roses: The Rise of Stanford Football," with Joseph Beyda and George Chen.
  • Alum

    The Daily’s coverage of the football season has been outstanding. Good, fair writing like the editorial here makes me proud to be an alum rooting for Stanford all year long. Well done! And I agree that USC won’t be a pushover next week. They’ve got a bone to pick with us after going 0-4 in the last four games.