Stanford running out of time to reach its goal
Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 30, 1996

Stanford running out of time to reach its goal

Cardinal must win four straight to have any chance of earning a football bowl bid

by Pete Borello

One more loss and it's all over. Stanford's hope for a 12th football game, that is. And it doesn't look good. The Cardinal needs to defeat UCLA, USC, Washington State and California to finish 6-5--the required number of victories to qualify for a bowl game.

That, of course, is easier said than done. Stanford is 1-3 in the Pacific-10 Conference (2-5 overall) and doing things that successful teams just don't do. Just ask linebacker Chris Draft.

Draft came into last Saturday's game against nationally fourth-ranked Arizona State hoping he wouldn't have to make a lot of tackles.

It's not that the junior standout doesn't like to tackle--that's his job. But Draft wanted the Cardinal to keep the dangerous Sun Devils' offense on the sideline long enough to make this a part-time job. That didn't happen, and Draft finished the day with a game-high 12 tackles.

"I made too many tackles," Draft said. "That means I was on the field too long."

Thus, it turned out to be a long day for Stanford, as well. Arizona State trounced the Cardinal, 41-9, in front of a sparse crowd of 32,550 in Stanford Stadium. The win keeps the Sun Devils atop the Pac-10 at 5-0 (8-0 overall) and Stanford searching for a method to end its two-game losing streak.

If Stanford hopes to salvage the season, it will need to play considerably better than it did against ASU. The Cardinal allowed the Sun Devils 498 yards of offense in 82 plays, a healthy average of 6.1 yards per down. Arizona State did it on the ground--rushing for 175 yards--and through the air--passing for 323 yards.

Most of the damage was caused by quarterback Jake Plummer, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 316 yards. The Heisman Trophy candidate threw for two touchdowns and ran for another before retiring to the bench with 9:38 remaining in the game.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks we've faced," said Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham. "He makes things happen."

And the Cardinal defense watched things happen. Players missed tackles and blew coverages on a regular basis.

"We're making a lot of mistakes and paying for them," said Draft, who has a team-leading 70 tackles on the year.

And the woeful Cardinal offense made matters even worse for its defense by turning the ball over. The offense committed four turnovers--all on the Stanford side of the field--that resulted in 24 Sun Devil points.

Quarterback Chad Hutchinson accounted for two of these turnovers, throwing an interception and losing a fumble in the first quarter. Hutchinson added injury to insult when he sprained his right thumb during the scramble for the loose ball.

This forced Todd Husak into action, a freshman who had only five pass attempts coming into the game. Husak got off to a good start, throwing a 45-yard touchdown to tight end Greg Clark on his second series. And just before the half, he engineered a 38-yard drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Kevin Miller. This narrowed the Arizona State lead to 21-9.

But the Sun Devils got to Husak in the second half, picking off his first two passes of the third quarter. These mistakes led to 10 points for the Sun Devils, officially turning the game into a blowout. Husak wound up completing 17 of 34 passes for 173 yards.

Stanford's most consistent offensive player turned out to be halfback Mike Mitchell. He carried 17 times for 81 yards and caught two passes for 21 more. The senior leads the Cardinal with 443 rushing yards on the season and 338 of those yards have come in the last four games.

Another bright spot for Stanford was the return of starting nose tackle Pete Swanson, who had missed the past three games due to a dislocated left shoulder. Swanson finished with four tackles (one for a loss) and was just happy to be playing again. 

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