|COLLEGE FOOTBALL PACKAGE: Harbaugh challenged right at the start with UCLA|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 29 August 2007 13:32|
Stanford's new head coach gets a tough introduction Saturday in a season-opening conference game at home against No. 14 UCLA.
Harbaugh, a 15-year NFL quarterback, takes over a Cardinal team that went 1-11 last season, including a 31-0 loss to UCLA. The Cardinal have won only 16 games over the past five seasons.
``First game to the last, they all count,'' Harbaugh said. ``We know we're going to be in a fight for our lives every week.''
Harbaugh, who was 29-6 as coach at San Diego over the previous three years, is going about changing the culture at Stanford, which hasn't had a winning record since 2001 under Tyrone Willingham.
The good news for Harbaugh is that Stanford will be kind of a mystery to the veteran Bruins, who return 10 starters on each side of the ball.
``I would expect they're going to ready and excited,'' Bruins coach Karl Dorrell said, ``and you'll see a new and improved Stanford football team.''
Stanford's offense was second-to-last in the nation, scoring with 10.6 points per game. The team allowed 50 sacks, most in the nation, and averaged only 65.1 yards rushing per game.
The Cardinal lost all five of their home games, outscored 165-33. This season Stanford has eight home games, including four straight to open the season.
Harbaugh promises a changed Cardinal.
``I think it's a group that's tired of getting their butts kicked,'' he said.
NEW OFFENSE: The Arizona Wildcats will unveil their new - and much talked about - offense on Saturday when they visit Brigham Young.
The Wildcats are departing from their ground-oriented attack and using a spread offense. A change was needed: Last season Arizona averaged 16.5 points per game and ranked 115th nationally in total offense with 253 yards per game.
The Wildcats brought in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes at the end of last season from high-scoring, pass-happy Texas Tech.
While Dykes has said it may take a while, on Tuesday coach Mike Stoops said the team was ready.
``I think our kids have really grasped this system very well,'' Stoops said.
A key will be quarterback Willie Tuitama, who had trouble last season with repeated concussions.
``Quarterbacks have got to learn that they're not the ones that make the plays,'' Dykes said. ``They've just got to get the ball to guys who make the plays. That's been the biggest growth that Willie's had.''
STROUGHTER'S STATUS: Oregon State receiver Sammie Stroughter has made some surprise appearances at practice after announcing he was taking time off of football for personal reasons.
Stroughter showed up at practice on Saturday, in full pads, and went to meetings and the walk through on Sunday. The Beavers open the season Thursday night against Utah.
The top returning receiver in the Pac-10, Stroughter caught 79 passes for 1,293 yards last season. He scored eight touchdowns, three of them on punt returns.
He came to fall camp this season, but shortly thereafter disappeared. The team remained tightlipped about his status.
Last week, Stroughter issued a statement that he was grieving the deaths of three people close to him and that we was taking time away from football.
``These losses have taken my entire family by storm and the grief from these incidents has affected each one of us differently. It has been the decision of my immediate family and I that I take whatever time needed to get over what I am personally experiencing due to the sudden changes in my life,'' he said.
Riley said it was a surprise to see Stroughter at practice but there was nothing to indicate Stroughter would play anytime soon, or at all this season.
``I wouldn't read too much into it yet as far as playing time, I'm not,'' Riley said. ``I think he came out and had fun the other day. And I'm not going any further with it than that. This is all on his time and it will be his time and his family's decision. There are no parameters on his return.''
EXTRA POINTS: Top-ranked USC opens its season at home against Idaho on Saturday night. The Trojans have a 33-game winning streak at home. ... Oregon State is the only team in the conference that doesn't return a quarterback who has started. And the Beavers haven't yet named one: Sophomore Sean Canfield will play first when the team hosts Utah on Thursday night, and fellow sophomore Lyle Moevao will take over in the second quarter. The coaches will make the decision about further playing time at the half. ... Dennis Erickson on his first game as head coach at Arizona State, which opens at home against San Jose State on Saturday: ``We're all nervous, and I've always said when I'm not nervous before a game, I better get out of the business. So I've had that same feeling for 500 years now. Every year has got to be the same, and if you don't have that feeling, then you shouldn't be coaching.''