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Stanford football 2015: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the O'

A Parable by Way of Historical Perspective

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the 2009 football season, Stanford's head coach was a guy named Jim Harbaugh. You may have heard of him. His offensive coordinator was David Shaw. Shaw had played WR at Stanford under HC Bill Walsh, and by his own account, he was an avid listener and learner of the reputed Jedi-master; that is, of the ex-49er Head Coach, multiple Super Bowl winner, and his so-called West Coast Offense.

Shaw was not as well-known to the public as Harbaugh, but was certainly very well-liked by the players. Back then, the Stanford football team was coming off it's 7th straight losing season, and its 2nd under Harbaugh, altho with the Harba-Shaw combo at the helm, the team seemed to be improving, having gone 4-8, then 5-7 in the previous two years. The team's offensive production, under OC Shaw, was on the rise. From scoring a pre-HarbaShaw average of just 10.6 ppg in '06, those numbers improved to 19.6 in '07, to 26.3 in '08, and ultimately to 35.5 at the end of '09.

Stanford's defense, the key to winning 'ships, was improving too, albeit at a slower pace. However, fan expectations were not particularly high back then either. So when the team travelled clear across the country and several time zones, to play the second game of the season, against a somewhat weak Wake Forest team *in the heat and humidity of North Carolina*, the fan base would not rise up in arms and outrage at the prospect of a loss.

And guess what, Stanford ultimately did lose 17-24, putting in a very, very sluggish performance, having a net -2 in turnovers, barely gaining 100 yards rushing while giving up 251 yards rushing to a team that averaged just 132 ypg on the season ! ..also giving up a sack while recording none. Basically, Stanford, despite having more talent *on paper*, lost the battle for control of the all-important Line of Scrimmage *on the grid-iron*.

Sound familiar? Was that loss attributable to an early start time after a long trip across multiple time zones? Was the team so unaccustomed to the sweltering heat and humidity it just couldn't get untracked? -- Legs feeling heavy, body weary, mind sluggish. Still, for whatever the causes, the losing performance did not give birth to a fire-storm of fan and media consternation and condemnation, demanding that "changes need to be made", or that "Harbaugh is too conservative and needs to open up the playbook", etc etc.

I don't recall if Luck's receivers dropped many passes in that game, but *IF* Hogan's receivers had caught the four passes they dropped, his completion percentage would have been almost identical to Luck's :
Hogan : 24 pc, 35 pa, 68.6%
Luck : 23 pc, 34 pa, 67.6%

Wake Forest ultimately finished the '09 season 5-7 and never did have much of a defense, averaging 164 yds allowed on the ground, on 36 carries, for a 4.6ypc avg. But they held Stanford's rushing attack, and it's powerful, pounding RB, Toby Gerhart, to just 115 yards on the ground the lowest output of the whole season for the Cardinal ground attack. Note: Stanford's O-Line back then consisted of a mix of youth and experience and would go on to be, in 2010, the next year, one of the most dominating OLs in Stanford's history.

But back in 2009, even with Andrew Luck behind center for almost the entire season, the team finished 8-5 after suffering a frustrating loss to Oklahoma 27-31 in the Sun Bowl.

My! How the perceptions and expectations of Stanford fans, have changed since then.