Sports

Lord of the defense gets his own nickname

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

It all started as a rallying cry for the linebackers during the dog days of summer training camp, something to snicker about among friends.

The double secret nickname given to Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, "Lord Fangio," was the brainchild of senior linebacker Thomas Keiser and sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov.

"I'll take some creative rights to it but I'm not taking official credit for it," Skov said. "I want to play Saturday."

Neither Skov nor Keiser need worry about sitting out Stanford's game at Arizona State on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (PST) Skov missed two games this season and still leads the team with 55 tackles. Keiser leads the team (with Chase Thomas) in tackles for loss with seven.

Fangio, who spent the past 24 years coaching defense in the NFL, may not appear to be good-natured, but he's likely been called a lot worse in his day. Besides, Skov and Keiser gave him the nickname with the best possible intentions in mind.

"It was almost like he's an evil genius," Skov said. "He has the maniacal voice. It seemed fitting at the time. It fits his personality with all the havoc he was wreaking during camp."

Fangio has engineered a defense that swarms to the ball, takes the game to the opponent and can be darn right nasty (in a good way) if they see a fraction of an opening.

Stanford has already thrown a pair of shutouts on the season and ranks third in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, allowing 20.78 points a game. The Cardinal recorded two shutouts in the same season for the first time since 1972.

Stanford became miserly against Washington, allowing the Huskies a mere 107 yards of total offense. That was Stanford's second-best defensive effort ever.

Skov and Keiser didn't mean for the nickname to get outside of the linebacker corps, but what the heck. Nicknames always seem to reach the forefront.

Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh has also added a few to the mix. His latest creation is "MT3," a moniker for Michael Thomas, who wears the number three.

"You can put him anywhere on the field and he can play," Cardinal safety Delano Howell said. "He's a great team player and has a great personality. He's a good fit with the defensive backs."

Sign of the Times

It doesn't get any better than the sign made for Stanford's nationally televised game against Arizona last Saturday, and the characters who dressed the part.

Owen Marecic, who plays fullback and middle linebacker for the Cardinal, has long, flowing blonde hair that he's worn in a variety of ways.

The sign, strategically placed in viewing distance of the south end zone, read: "Marecic Man-iacs: Go Both Ways," and those sitting with the sign wore blonde wigs.

"I don't know what the national media though of it," Skov said, "but we thought it was hilarious. It was quite creative."

Say hey catch

Harbaugh called Chris Owusu's fourth-quarter over-the shoulder catch a "Willie Mays-like catch from the '54 World Series. That was one of the best catches I've seen. I'd like to see that catch side-by-side with the Mays catch. They looked identical."

Owusu wouldn't go that far.

"It was a big play, a third-down play," Owusu said. "I ran a simple corner but the defensive back was on the outside. Andrew (Luck) did a great job adjusting inside. I was expecting it outside and I had to adjust. It was like a slow motion play. I saw the ball and knew I would catch it."

Luck said he was just trying to give Owusu a chance to get to the ball and not commit a turnover.

"When I released the ball I thought 'dang, punt again,'" he said. "I was very impressed."

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