By Jacob Jaffe
Every week this football season, I’ve delved into the numbers related to Stanford football and tried to use statistics to gain greater insight into the team and the games themselves. I could do this same thing about last week’s Fiesta Bowl.
Except I can’t.
I’ve looked at the numbers. I’ve seen how much Stanford outgained Oklahoma State. I know the Cardinal had over 200 more yards than the Cowboys. I know Stanford didn’t trail until that final field goal went through the uprights. I know painfully well what Andrew Luck’s stats were, what Stepfan Taylor’s were, what Ty Montgomery’s were.
The thing is, sometimes the stats don’t give you any more information. If you saw that game, or if, like me, you were at University of Phoenix Stadium (yep, that’s really its name) that day, you know what happened. You saw Stanford dominate virtually every facet of the game, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion.
I’m not here to point the finger of blame. There are dozens and dozens of other columns out there ridiculing Jordan Williamson for his three missed kicks. Many others bash David Shaw for his conservative play-calling. For lots of pained Stanford fans, anger and blame are the only means of coping. I understand that.
But that’s just not me. Not because I’m noble or above that or anything. I just don’t have the energy. The Fiesta Bowl took so much out of me that I just can’t bring myself to rant and throw people under the bus.
Instead, I’m just deflated. As my colleague Jack Blanchat so accurately put it, the Fiesta Bowl was going absolutely perfectly for Stanford, and then in the span of a moment, it all fell apart. I’ve gone over this game so many times in my head that I can see a football sailing to the left of an upright every time I blink. I’ve already compared it to the other worst moment in Stanford football history, a comparison that is too fitting for my liking.
Many other people have moved on, but one week has not been enough for me to get past the pain of the Fiesta Bowl. Losing at the last second is tough, but for me, this game was even more than a rough loss. This was the end.
In my time at Stanford, I’ve had the great fortune to broadcast football games for KZSU. I’ve been at all three bowl games and traveled to almost every road game for the past two years. It’s been an unbelievable experience, but as I am a senior, the Fiesta Bowl marked the end for me. The end of anything great is difficult, and seeing such an incredible four years end as heart-wrenchingly as possible was almost unbearable.
But I’m just a broadcaster and a fan. I didn’t play a down, and I can take no credit for a single success of Stanford football.
Think about the players. Think about the guys that have been there for four, five or even six years working their tails off every day to make Stanford into a contender.
It’s easy to get caught up in the abysmal ending, but as I sat in the booth watching Oklahoma State fans celebrate a game Stanford should have won, I couldn’t help but go over the last four years in my head.
I wasn’t on the Farm yet when the Cardinal went through that infamous 1-11 season, but I’ve been a fan since far before then. I remember my sister telling me frantically that Stanford had somehow beaten USC in the Biggest Upset Ever. I remember the roughly 20 people in the stands with me at the end of a rainy Stanford blowout of Washington State my freshman year. I remember being in the distinct minority as a Stanford fan in our own stadium when the Trojans came to town.
I remember when a five-win season was a success. And I know many of you do too.
Just think about that for a second, and think about what Stanford football has just accomplished. An 11-win season is a disappointment. Let that sink in. Eleven wins. Before 2010, Stanford had never gotten 11 wins in a season. Now it’s not enough. This year, Stanford Stadium was sold out for every home game but one. Yep, the same stadium that caused Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian to prepare his players for a lack of crowd noise because of attendance issues.
The 2012 football schedule was just announced, and I’m already hearing complaints from people that had never even been to a game three years ago. Casual fans are scouting out the 2012 football season. In January.
To say that the seniors on the team have changed the culture here is as big an understatement as saying that Luck is a decent quarterback. Stanford football is unrecognizable compared to what it was a few years ago, and it’s only getting better.
I know the Fiesta Bowl hurt. It’s still hurting. But think about the big picture. Think about where Stanford football has been, and think about where it’s going now.
And think about those seniors. This is it for them too. Do you want to remember one bad minute or four years of unbelievable achievement?
Even as pessimistic as I am, I’ll take Option B.
So thank you, seniors. You may not all make millions in the NFL, but you’ve all done incredible things for Stanford, and you’ve made the last four years an absolute pleasure.
Jacob Jaffe wanted to take Option A, even going so far as to tattoo “this one hurts—Fiesta Bowl ‘12” on his chest. But he ended up choosing Option B, meaning he has long hours of laser tattoo-removal sessions ahead. For live blog updates of his plight, email him at jwjaffe “at” stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Jaffe.