Stanford's school record for points allowed in a football game was incorrect in Thursday's editions. The Cardinal gave up 72 points to UCLA in 1954. (Published 10/30/1999)
Stanford gave up a school-record 69 points to Texas in its season opener and suffered a 44-39 loss on Oct. 2 to San Jose State, a team that has scored seven points in its past two games and is now 3-4. The Cardinal has given up 1,120 yards in its past two games. Its defense, which had 10 starters returning, is allowing 473.3 yards per game--111th among the nation's 114 Division I-A teams.
But with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of offense, the Cardinal leads the Pacific-10 with a 5-0 conference record and is beginning to think it could make its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1972. Then again, Stanford easily could lose its last four games and finish ineligible for a bowl game at 5-6. It faces Washington this week in Seattle, where it hasn't won since 1975. After that, Stanford has Arizona State, California and Notre Dame.
"I think that any time that you're dealing with teenagers or young adults, there's a certain amount of unpredictability in their behavior and in their thought process and also in their actions," Coach Tyrone Willingham said. "It gives you the chance for unexpected things to happen. It allows for comebacks; it allows for strange wins; it allows for all kinds of things to happen in the course of a ballgame."
Strange wins have been Stanford's norm the past two weeks. On Oct. 16, the Cardinal defeated Oregon State, 21-17, despite four turnovers. Last week, Stanford fell behind Southern California 21-0 in the first quarter before coming back to win, 35-31, even though USC quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst passed for a school-record 415 yards.
"Hopefully, we have a defense that is improving week by week," Willingham said. "Sometimes, I think it's very difficult to see that in all the numbers. And because we can't see it always in the numbers, we label ourselves a timely defense because we have been able to make some plays at the right times to put ourselves in a position to win games."
Amazingly, Stanford's offense is more than compensating for the defense, ranking fifth in the nation at 482.3 yards per game and 11th in the nation in scoring at 36.9 points per game. Wide receiver Troy Walters became the school's all-time leader in receptions last week and needs four more to break Darrin Nelson's Pac-10 career record of 219. He is already the conference leader in career receiving yards with 3,455.
Although a Rose Bowl appearance still might seem hard to imagine, stranger things have happened at Stanford this season. For example, the "timely" defense is the one with a nickname harkening back to Stanford's 1971 and 1972 Rose Bowl champion teams, which were led by defensive linemen nicknamed the Thunderchickens. This year's defensive linemen, coached by former Thunderchicken Dave Tipton, call themselves the Trenchdogs. They eat every Thursday at a restaurant they call the Trenchdog Trough and celebrate victories by getting down on all fours and woofing at midfield while wearing giant chain-link necklaces.
In other strange developments, here are the Negative Pac-10 Notes of the Week: USC has given up second-half leads in all four of its losses this season, and has squandered 21-point advantages in the past two . . . Arizona has surrendered a safety on its first possession twice this season, including last week against Oregon.
Fresh Gag Order
Last season, Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder banned star quarterback Michael Bishop from talking to the media after Bishop made some brash comments before the Wildcats' game against Colorado on Oct. 10. This season, Snyder again has muzzled one of his more talkative players, 300-pound running back Joe Hall.
Hall stepped in for injured starters Frank Murphy and David Allen against Utah State on Oct. 16 and rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns. In his first game as a starter last week against Oklahoma State, Hall bulled to 118 rushing yards on 27 carries, but was not allowed to speak with the media after the game and was not made available this week, according to Kansas State sports information director Kent Brown.
Perhaps it was what Hall said after the Utah State game. "It's [Murphy and Allen's] turn to take [the starting spot] away from me now," Hall said. "I'm not going to give it up that easily. Now the shoe is on the other foot. It's my job to lose now."
Before the season started, Georgia Coach Jim Donnan called Charles Grant "one of the best players in 30 years that I've recruited." Last week against Kentucky, the freshman defensive end and running back matched Donnan's hyperbole on the field, recording three sacks as a defensive starter and rushing for two touchdowns. Grant has played on offense, defense and special teams this season and blocked a punt against Louisiana State. . . .
There must be something in the water at Eastern Washington. Last year, Bashir Levingston returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in one game, an NCAA record. This season, Lamont Brightful ranks third in Division I-AA in kickoff returns at 34.64 yards, with two returns for touchdowns.
Good Seats Available
Seventy-four-year-old Pitt Stadium will be torn down after this season, and you could own a piece of it. The University of Pittsburgh is selling and auctioning the stadium's more collectible parts, from vials of dirt ($10) to a hot dog/nacho stand ($500) to the scoreboard (which, at a minimum bid of $20,000, had not attracted any takers as of yesterday). The school has set up an Internet site, www.pittstadium.com, to handle the sale and auction.
The Panthers will play at Three Rivers Stadium next season before moving into the city's new, 65,000-seat football stadium when it is completed in 2001.
If Vanderbilt wins one more game, it will become eligible for its first bowl appearance since 1982 and potentially create an interesting quandary for organizers of the Music City Bowl, which is played two miles from Vanderbilt's campus in Nashville and has a tie-in with the Southeastern Conference. An appearance by Vanderbilt would almost guarantee a sellout, but it also would mean less money for the city, because fewer people would be spending money on hotel rooms. . . .
Poor Lou Holtz. His South Carolina team is 0-8, has been outscored 197-56 and still faces a season-ending stretch of games against No. 4 Tennessee, No. 5 Florida and Clemson.