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10/30/2011

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Harley

I am not yet a believer in the "Sequoia" formation for the very reason you mention. With the exception of some fancy, long-developing trick play (like the one last night), you are telegraphing run. For a team with Andrew Luck as its QB, this tactic seems pretty unnecessary.

I guess it's okay used sparingly and in certain circumstances. But last night Stanford used it down 27-24 with just over seven minutes left in the game, on a 3rd and 8 from the USC 13. That play call shocked me, frankly. It stood out to me as the biggest coaching / game management gaffe of the game (including USCs clock mismanagement at the end of regulation).

Memomoment

I woke up this morning thinking that last night’s game may have been the most exciting one *ever* played by the Stanford football team. These two teams might have entered the contest winless, yet the back-and-forth nature of the scoring — and of the triple overtime finish! — would have been riveting to any viewer.

Stanford has played in plenty of exciting games — the Screw of ’82, the Revenge of the Play in 1990, the USC game on the Farm in 2010, Wake Forest in 2009 and the 1991 Aloha Bowl spring to mind. But never before had so much been on the line.

Of course, the teams battling Saturday night in the Coliseum were not winless. Far from it; both were ranked, with Stanford in the top 10. And lots of things — a school-record and nation-leading active win streak, national title hopes and a Heisman campaign — were riding on the outcome. So not only was the game action intense, it involved arguably the highest stakes ever in the history of the Cardinal football program.

(The stakes were just as high against Oregon last year, but since that devolved into a Duck blowout, of course, that can’t qualify as the most exciting game in the annals of the team.)

Some other quick notes. I know I am in a very small minority here, but I don’t think using the Sequoia on third and 8 at the USC 13-yard line was a terrible play call. It was merely a very conservative one.

Stanford has done enough with the Sequoia (a.k.a. wildcat) to make defenses think that a running play is not 100 percent certain. And the imperative in that situation, with the Cardinal trailing 27-24, was not to score a touchdown. The team needed a tie right there; a touchdown would have been gravy.

Remember who was playing on special teams. Stanford was relying on a novice place-kicker. Moving the ball just a little closer to the goal posts was arguably more important than a first down or a touchdown in that situation.

The end result, of course: a Whitaker 29-yard field goal, a tie ball game, and the stage being set for a Cardinal victory with more than five minutes remaining in the game.

The defense held the Trojans on the ensuing possession, and Stanford got the ball back with nearly four minutes remaining. Had Luck not thrown that pick six, the Cardinal could very well have scored the go-ahead touchdown and forced USC to make a desperate attempt to tie the game with time expiring.

Ralph

Having gone to most home games and followed the rest since 1966, it's hard to remember anything more exciting. I liked Shaw's post game description of it as the "best and worst." The defense against speed is very scary with Oregon coming up. But all in all, the comeback and perfection in overtime truly made this one of the best games ever. Much more credit should be given to Gardner for knocking the ball out for the fumble.

Hank

I was also surprised when they ran Sequoia at the point Harley mentions. My exact thought at the time: "They're really going to take the ball out of his hands right here?" And with Luck, it's not just that he's the best player on the team, he's the also the player best qualified to analyze the defense and be sure the correct play has been called.

But I like Memo's explanation. They needed a field goal; they got a field goal.

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