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Stanford's Rebirth; Oregon's Statement

Most Stanford fans and alums, including this one, hate USC.

The arrogance, the fight song, the horse, the whole phony LA vibe, the cheating, John McKay, O.J. Simpson, Lynn Swann, and so on.

That's why Saturday night's beat-down of the Trojans was so sweet.

It was also a little perplexing. The Stanford team that dominated SC 42-28 (and it wasn’t that close) bore little or no resemblance to the one that was embarrassed by Kansas State a week earlier.

We had suggested that a 1-5 start was a possibility for head coach David Shaw unless he found some offense. Well, he found it quickly with new starting quarterback Tanner McKee.

McKee, who alternated with the overmatched Jack West in the Cardinal's 24-7 loss to Kansas State, showed why he was rated one of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 prep recruiting class before heading out to Brazil on a two-year Mormon mission.

In his last two years of high school McKee passed for 5,905 yards and 62 touchdowns, with only 10 interceptions, and rushed for 1214 yards and 28 TDs. He completed 73% of his passes and once rushed for 209 yards in a game.

In his first Stanford start, on the road against a ranked team, McKee hit 16 of 23 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, and rushed for another score.

He has all the tools--good size (6-6), a strong arm, quick release, accuracy, ball placement, and the mobility to avoid the rush and extend plays. He showed good decision-making and the ability to find secondary receivers. (I’d like to see a slightly higher release point, but now I’m quibbling).

Speaking of receivers, the Cardinal has some good ones in Elijah Higgins, Brycen Tremaine, and John Humphreys, plus the injured Michael Wilson.

Running back Nathaniel Peat exploded for an 87-yard touchdown run that got Stanford going, leaving several 5-star Trojan defensive backs in his dust.

The other big star Saturday was defensive back Kyu Blu Kelly, who may be even better than the recently departed Paulson Adebo, who had a big interception for the New Orleans Saints yesterday in their rout of Green Bay. Kelly followed up on an acrobatic end zone interception in the opener against K State with a brilliant pick six against SC. He did yeoman work covering the Trojans' highly-touted receiver Drake London.

Shaw tied his motivational message to 9/11, preaching resilience and the power of the human spirit. His players were well-prepared, both mentally and physically, to take on the heavily favored Trojans.

SC, on the other hand, looked flat and poorly coached. The Trojans lost their kicker to a targeting call on the opening kickoff and went downhill from there, piling up 111 yards in penalties, including four pass interference calls. It was downright ugly.

Coach Clay Helton's seat just got much warmer. He may not finish the season.

But suddenly the future looks bright for Stanford, which -- barring a major letdown -- should handle Vanderbilt this week, then host two big games against UCLA and Oregon.

Ducks Restore Pac-12 Pride: In the Pac-12's biggest win in many years, two-touchdown underdog Oregon upset No. 3 ranked Ohio State 35-28. In Columbus.

Oregon was playing without its two best defensive players, Kayvon Thibodeaux, a projected No. 1 NFL pick, and Justin Flowe, but held the Buckeyes in check most of the day.

The Duck's inspired effort puts them squarely in the playoff picture and may finally have proven that head coach Mario Cristobal is more than just a good recruiter.

Buckeye Hyperbole: They insist on calling themselves "THE Ohio State University.” Fifty years ago they supposedly had the "team of the century," until Stanford disabused that notion in the 1971 Rose Bowl. And on Saturday morning, for some reason, play-by-play man Gus Johnson (who I normally like) kept referring to "world famous Ohio State University."

Seriously, Gus?

Fortunately, someone in the truck must've told him to cease and desist, because he stopped that nonsense after the first quarter.

Speaking of the broadcast, in my humble opinion, Joel Klatt has surpassed Kirk Herbstreit as the best analyst in the business. Knowledgeable, positive, non-intrusive, and full of key insights about the game.

Where Were the Masks? Most college stadiums encourage fans to wear masks, but those requests are falling on deaf ears. There were very few masks, if any, in evidence at the Oregon-Ohio State, Texas A&M-Colorado, Michigan-Washington, Cal-TCU and Utah-BYU games. Quite a few at Stanford-SC, but far from a majority.

Come Join the Band: Stanford is offering lots of free tickets to its home opener with UCLA. Four tickets, in fact, to any K-12 educator. And one free ticket for every kid who comes with an adult.

So the tickets aren’t exactly flying off the shelf in Palo Alto. Hopefully, Saturday’s pounding of USC will inspire Stanford fans to turn out on Sept. 25.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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