Stanford's Pritchard poised for rematch with USC Print
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Friday, 14 November 2008 10:25
NCAAF Headline News

 STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -Tavita Pritchard knows that for as long as he plays football, it will be nearly impossible to top the feeling of his first collegiate start.
That's to be expected considering all that went on during that game last season. Pritchard orchestrated a comeback that led to one of the biggest upsets in college football history, a 24-23 victory by the 41-point underdog Cardinal against the mighty Southern California Trojans.
The Stanford players were greeted back home by an impromptu midnight rally, with thousands of students waiting to greet the victorious team and shake the bus on its arrival back home.
T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase ``Greatest Upset Ever'' are common sites on a campus not used to celebrating football successes. Wherever Pritchard goes, whether it's at school or back home in Washington, there's one topic that everyone wants to talk about.
k. ``I'm ready to put that game to bed. I'm ready to put it to rest. If we finish the year like we want to hopefully they'll be talking about the bowl game instead of the SC game last year.''
As much as last year's win was a program changer for the Cardinal, doing it again in Saturday's rematch would be even sweeter because of the stakes. Stanford (5-5, 4-3) goes into the game against No. 6 USC (8-1, 6-1) needing one win in its final two games to qualify for a bowl for the first time since 2001.
The Trojans have even more to play for, needing a win to keep their hopes alive for a berth in the BCS title game and in contention for at least a share of a seventh straight Pac-10 title.
``We don't talk about the revenge factor,'' safety Josh Pinkard said. ``It's another game on the way to a championship, that's it. We try to stay humble, stay focused. You don't think about payback. As players, we felt like we let everybody down, especially ourselves. Just try to get the win, that's all, stay on the path we're on right now.''
Last year's loss still stings for the Trojans. Coach Pete Carroll lamented again this week that he shouldn't have kept injured quarterback John David Booty in the game.
``I played a quarterback with a broken bone in his throwing hand, that's what went wrong,'' Carroll said.
es are a part of the game and that is just an excuse.
``They can do whatever they want to help themselves feel better about the loss,'' safety Bo McNally said.
Despite Booty's struggles, it still took a memorable comeback for the Cardinal to win. They trailed 9-0 at halftime and did not score on offense until the fourth quarter.
Pritchard led Stanford to 17 points in the fourth quarter, needing a fourth-and-20 conversion to Richard Sherman to keep the final drive alive.
Then on fourth-and-goal, Pritchard connected on a 10-yard pass to Mark Bradford for the winning score with 49 seconds remaining. McNally's interception sealed the victory.
``You have a little bit of the beginners ignorance that every game can be this great,'' Pritchard said.
Pritchard quickly learned that was not the case.
Pritchard struggled with inconsistency the rest of the way last year, winning only one more game in his final six starts and completing just 50 percent of his passes.
He won a three-way competition with Alex Loukas and Jason Forcier for the starting job this year, but shared time early in the season and was pushed in practice by heralded freshman Andrew Luck.
But Pritchard has completed 64 percent of his passes the past six games, with eight touchdowns and five interceptions, ending talk of a quarterback change.
er Alex Fletcher said. ``He's a competitor. That's the first thing I'd say about Tavita. He doesn't let any of that stuff bother him. He comes back and fights. Tavita is a fighter.''
Stanford snapped a 35-game home winning streak for USC and ultimately cost the Trojans a chance to play for the national title.
USC is sixth in the BCS standings this week, needing three more wins and some additional help to make it to the title game. The Trojans also need some help to make it back to the Rose Bowl, because Oregon State also only has one conference loss and beat USC in the head-to-head matchup.
While this USC team needs help to reach the level of past teams under Carroll, the defense might be the best he's had. The Trojans lead the nation in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense, while ranking third against the run.
They have allowed only 13 points over the last five games, overshadowing some offensive struggles.
``We're at the top of our game, we're getting better every game,'' linebacker Rey Maualuga said. ``I still think our best game is yet to come. We can't control what the computers do or what Oregon State does.''
AP Sports Writer John Nadel in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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