Sports

Stanford shifts focus to Big Game after loss

Cardinal can't take advantage of golden opportunities in 21-14 loss to Notre Dame

Senior quarterback T.C. Ostrander put his arm around sophomore receiver Richard Sherman as they walked dolefully into the Stanford locker room after yet another frustrating loss and said a few words.

Sherman was unable to hang onto the Cardinal's last chance to grab a nonconference football game against visiting Notre Dame on Saturday.

"He's made a lot of big plays here and he'll make a lot more," Ostrander said. "I wanted to make sure he doesn't get down on himself for that."

He might want to have a chat with the rest of his teammates after the Cardinal (3-8) dropped a 21-14 decision to the Irish, extending its losing streak to four games.

"It was pretty obvious that was a winnable game," Stanford cornerback Nick Sanchez said. "We just made too many mistakes."

Stanford hopes to keep the mistakes to a minimum on Saturday when it hosts California at 4 p.m. in the 110th edition of The Big Game.

The Cardinal is still looking to make its mark on its home field. Stanford is 1-11 on its home turf and has lost all nine Pac-10 games played in the renovated stadium.

"We've had a lot of tough losses," Sanchez said. "But it shouldn't be a problem getting excited for that one."

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh didn't stick around very long, choosing to make a quick exit before taking any questions.

Stanford linebacker Clinton Snyder said Harbaugh didn't appear to be agitated when addressing the team.

"Coach wasn't mad or anything," Snyder said. "He was disappointed more than anything. He told us we all have to be on board and keep looking forward. It was a tough loss but we have to come back next week and show Cal we're not going to let down."

The Cardinal suffered a few more injuries; the most severe seemingly to quarterback Tavita Pritchard and center Tim Mattran.

Pritchard took a shot to the head during the third quarter and was glassy-eyed after the game despite returning briefly when Ostrander took a hit on his elbow and lost the feeling in his fingers for a few minutes.

Mattran needed crutches to get into the locker room and his left ankle was tightly wrapped.

"I got my bell rung a little bit," Pritchard said. "I have a little headache right now, but I saw T.C. go out so I ran to the doctor and got my helmet and asked him if I was OK and I ran in."

It might have been a mistake to send Pritchard back in for any length of time, although it didn't affect the game's outcome.

"The coach said it," Pritchard said. "We're not all making mistakes all the time. On any given play one guy will make a mistake, me included, and it kills you."

Kicker Derek Belch's mistakes were the most visible, but he wasn't alone. Belch, who missed all four field goals he attempted, has misfired on eight of his last 10 tries.

The senior has been struggling with a hip flexor the past six weeks.

"I'm just dumbfounded," Belch said later. "If you told me I'd go 0-for-4 I can't think of anything more embarrassing than that. I'd like to say it's the injury but I don't think so."

The Cardinal was unable to take advantage of four Notre Dame turnovers in a crazy game that also included a four-lateral interception return that was negated by a penalty, four reversals on plays that were reviewed and a variety of personal fouls.

"Notre Dame was basically saying, 'Here you try to take it' and we didn't take I," Stanford receiver Evan Moore said.

Moore also took the blame for a dropped pass in the end zone in the closing moments of the game which could have tied the game.

"It was a great pass," he said. "I didn't make the play when it mattered. It's disappointing but I'll bounce back."

Sherman dropped a pass in the end zone on a fourth down play, ending Stanford's hopes.

Ostrander, who passed for 50 yards on 5-of-9 passing in relief of Pritchard, said it was no one person's fault.

"We had so many opportunities but we're killing ourselves, whether it's a penalty, a bad throw, a dropped pass, a bad read, or a missed block," Ostrander said. "Both of those guys make that play 9 out of 10 times. We need to have that killer instinct when we get down there."

Anthony Kimble returned to the Stanford lineup, providing a lift to the Cardinal running game. He rushed for 80 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Senior receiver Mark Bradford caught seven passes for 111 yards, and the Stanford defense recorded five sacks, two by Pannel Egboh.

Senior defensive end Emmanuel Awofadeju found himself blocked to the ground on one play, but was able to recover and eventually picked off a pass.

"I just feel like we haven't been clicking on both sides of the ball," Snyder said.

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