Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty ImagesStanford will play Oregon on Saturday without several key players because of injuries, wide receiver Chris Owusu among them.
No. 3 Stanford plays No. 6 Oregon Saturday night in Palo Alto, Calif. This week, the Quad will feature fans’ views of a game that has national title implications. This post is by Dick Benster, a 1975 Stanford graduate. and as always, we want to hear what you think.
What the 2011 Stanford-Oregon football game means to a Stanford fan depends a great deal on one’s investment in the team and the resulting degree of suffering, which in our case is proportional to the time passed since admission. A member of the Stanford class of 1975, I began watching the 1970-71 team as a high school senior and Stanford wannabe and delighting in the (then) Indians’ defeat of No. 1 Ohio State in the 1971 Rose Bowl.
The next year, a ragtag yet formidable team filled with as many characters as the Stanford band endured incomprehensible loses to Duke, 9-3 and San Jose State, 13-12, but ended up defending its Rose Bowl bouquet over highly favored Michigan by the same 13-12 score as the San Jose game. the contest unfolded as a defensive slugfest with a thrilling last-minute field goal by the talented but unpredictable Rod Garcia, the same kicker who had missed five field goals earlier in the season in the Divine Intervention loss to San Jose State. there was quaking concern in the Stanford section before the Rose Bowl kick split the uprights, and we openly speculated on what kind of pregame rituals Garcia participated in.
In 1972, we became the Stanford Cardinal, and in 1975 the Board of Trustees overruled the student body’s ballot selection of the Robber Barons as our new mascot (now that’s a mascot, and an historically representative symbol of the original source of Stanford’s wealth). Subsequent, enduring student disdain and disinterest in this neutered nonmascot (a color) engendered the Stanford Tree, purely a Stanford band reactive creation, hence not an anointed representative of the university – regardless, the Tree gets way more air time than the respected and admired university president, John Hennessy.
In spite of its lack of an official mascot, after back-to-back Rose Bowl wins, Stanford had achieved national football stature and future glories awaited … and awaited. After two seasons as a fan and two Rose Bowl conquests, we wandered the desert for the next 28 years, sustained only by minor bowl visitations via bill Walsh- and Denny Green-led teams, until the overly injured and undermanned 2000 Rose Bowl team coached by Ty Willingham honorably lost another defensive struggle against Wisconsin, 17-9.
The John Ralston-led ’71 and ’72 Rose Bowl champion teams had been a different breed, with outstanding defenses, tough D and O lines, fine running backs and receivers and great quarterbacks: the ’71 champs by the Heisman winner Jim Plunkett and the ’72 victors by the plucky and now late Dr. Don Bunce, both beloved figures in the Stanford community for their roles on as well as beyond the football field. Those teams had physical players like linebacker Jeff Siemon, and the ultra-tough D-line Thunderchickens comprising Dave Tipton, Pete Lazetich, Greg Sampson, Larry Butler and Roger Cowan.
Years passed, and while many outstanding players expressed their talents on the Stanford gridiron, the teams slid into the Valley of Finesse; the most successful and entertaining results were usually produced during this era not by the football team but by the Incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. during the 1990 halftime show at Oregon, the band created a chainsaw formation that was accompanied by the narration “Oregon old-growth timber; a place where one can find peace, serenity and the dainty hoot-hoot of the spotted owl. Ah well, two out of three ain’t bad.” an additional formation began with the shape of OWL changing to AWOL. This led to an attempt to try to banish the band from the state. that was the highlight of the football season. (The Ducks won the game, 31-0, and Stanford finished the year a typical 5-6.)
It was not until the 2010-11 season, after being the most losing team in the Pac-10 for the preceding decade, that Stanford once again fully assembled quality coaching (Jim Harbaugh and staff), top-tier quarterbacking (Andrew Luck), outstanding defensive line (Thomas, Skov, Fua, Sherman, Howell) and pulverizing offensive line play (DeCastro, Martin, Beeler), which led to a 12-1 season punctuated by the emphatic Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. above all, the dominant characteristic of this team was physical toughness. we had rediscovered our ’71-72 roots. the sole blemish of that season was a crushing 52-31 defeat at Oregon, a game Stanford led, 21-3, at the end of the first quarter. the Trees were a much more mature, potent team come the Orange Bowl, and many of us believe that we would have defeated Auburn for the national championship had that earlier Oregon defeat not occurred.
A year later, the stakes are the same for Stanford – a win means a likely Rose Bowl appearance and even a shot at the national championship game.
Both teams are a little different from a year ago: Oregon has a very young and rapidly improving defense including a fine D-line and quality defensive backs. that group has grown significantly since the loss to L.S.U., where they played solidly. more worrisome, their offense has even more speed than last year’s squad and can hang 40 on any Pac-12 team if they keep their turnovers down. I believe this year’s Ducks team is on a path to be better than the 2010-11 group.
Stanford? While it has played only one game at a nearly flawless level in its destruction of my hometown Washington Huskies, the Trees are a fine team that has actualized this season. But it has faced significant injury losses with the all-universe linebacker Shayne Skov out for the season, safety Delano Howell hampered with a hand injury, as well as two top receivers, Chris Owusu and Zack Ertz, out for this game. I fear the combination of the Ducks’ speed and our not being at full strength will tip this game in Oregon’s favor. May I be wrong and forgiven (that’s a football prayer).
Coach David Shaw will not agree with this statement, but we will likely not see Stanford competing to play for a national championship again until the Stanford band apologizes for the Chainsaw Outburst of 1990.
Prediction: Oregon 41, Stanford 33.
Number of the day
That’s how much a bettor would have made by placing a $100 wager on Stanford‘s football team 15 games ago and letting the winnings ride on each game, according to RJ Bell, head of Pregame.com, a Las Vegas website. With Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck at quarterback, Stanford has beaten or tied oddsmakers’ point spreads in every game since Oct. 30, 2010. That’s made life hard on Las Vegas bookies. “They’ve been a thorn in our side all year,” said Jay Rood, the sports book director at the MGM Mirage.
“While e-commerce has been getting better, the stores have been getting worse.”
Ron Boire, CEO of retailer Brookstone, on how brick-and-mortar customer service hasn’t improved in recent years. Retailers are working to change that by engaging shoppers once they walk in the door. Old Navy, for instance, is using more greeters. Foot Locker trains associates to say, “What kind of shoe are you looking for?” rather than, “How may I help you?” (a subtle change designed to help start a conversation). Retailers also are reconfiguring stores to encourage browsing and rethinking window displays.
J.C. Penney will deliver quarterly earnings on Monday, giving investors an early glimpse of Ron Johnson at the helm. Johnson took the CEO job on Nov. 1 after more than a decade at Apple, where he built a retail empire and introduced the world to Genius Bars. while the financial results will precede his time at J.C. Penney, shareholders are hoping he can bring some of Apple’s style and cachet to the 109-year-old department-store chain.
This article appeared on page D – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle