T.C. Ostrander's season officially began just before halftime of Stanford's 45-17 season-opening loss to UCLA. Forget about those early drives on Saturday, when the Cardinal offense continued to sputter.
Ostrander completed four of his six passes for 45 of his 94 first-half yards on that drive. He looked poised, comfortable and confident, even running for a first down when he found all his receivers covered, giving the 38,860 who were on hand in Stanford Stadium some reason for hope.
Overall he set career highs for attempts (59), completions (27) and passing yards (331). He also matched his career high with two touchdowns passes.
"I felt I started a little shaky," said Ostrander, a Menlo-Atherton grad. "It took awhile to get my rhythm. Yeah, I was better than I've been."
Ostrander showed his potential, and also showed the potential of coach Jim Harbaugh's version of the West Coast offense. Given some time, the Cardinal will be entertaining.
"I see what's there," Ostrander said. "Even the stuff we didn't do, we see the potential. It's all in our control and we have two weeks of practice to fine tune it. I could have played better, and been a little more accurate on a couple of passes. Timing is important in this offense and the timing wasn't there."
There was good news in the setback, as in 397 offensive yards and 17 points being Stanford bests in its new digs. The Cardinal produced only one game with more yards, 418 at San Jose State, last year.
The Spartans visit Stanford Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. Until then, Stanford will be busy patching the holes in the system.
"Losing the football game is pretty disappointing to us but the score is not indicative of how we played," Harbaugh said of his Cardinal coaching debut. "I believe we have a football team now. Things that weren't good, we can improve. We had too many missed tackles. We'll tackle better."
UCLA took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. Stanford was meandering around the field and produced just 69 yards of offense to the Bruins' 163.
"T.C. was gutty," Harbaugh said. "Some of his throws weren't just good, they were great. I was impressed with the way he played. He played at a high level. The timing and explosiveness of the passing game is not there right now."
Evan Moore led all receivers with six catches for 87 yards, while Richard Sherman caught four passes for 100 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown that made it 31-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Sherman and Ostrander have combined for long completions before. They connected for a 74-yard scoring toss last year against Washington.
"There is great chemistry between T.C. and I," Sherman said. "Almost 400 yards of offense shows what we can do. Our team is still strong and capable of great things."
The defense will need to tighten up a bit. UCLA lit up the Cardinal for 624 yards, the seventh-highest total against Stanford in school history (UCLA has three of the top seven).
"They broke some big plays," said Stanford linebacker Clinton Snyder, who had Stanford's only sack of the day. "We need to tackle better. We still have a young defense out there but we kept playing hard. It's a good thing this is a bye week because we have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball."
Sophomore free safety Bo McNally, who missed most of training camp with an injury, led the team with 15 tackles, including 10 solo. Linebacker Pat Maynor had 10 tackles.
Ostrander was sacked four times, including the final play of the afternoon.
"Our line is much improved over last year," offensive tackle Allen Smith said. "We worked hard all camp and it showed. We still have a few areas to clean up but we can build from this."
Stanford played without sophomore running back Toby Gerhart, who is recovering from a hamstring pull. Anthony Kimble gained 69 yards on 14 carries to lead the Cardinal.
"We need to improve our running game," Harbaugh said. "We had AK in there but we really missed Toby's presence. He would have definitely helped us."
Senior Derek Belch, who won the kicking job this fall, recorded his first career field goal, hitting a 37-yarder with 5:46 remaining in the third quarter.
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