I am happy to report that all is well on both the academic and social fronts, but it's definitely been tougher to follow Stanford football on a weekly basis. First and foremost, the three-hour time difference makes watching games much more difficult. Our game against Washington, for example, started at 6:00 p.m. PST on a school night, which means it finished after midnight, East Coast time. The fact that this game was televised nationally on ESPN didn't make it any easier to watch, because Andover's strict lights-out rules call for me to be in bed by 11. [Ed: You turned it off at the right time, kid.] Even with earlier kickoff times on the weekend, I am still not guaranteed an opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy Stanford football. I live in a dorm with 35 other sports-crazed freshmen, and it seems like each and every one of them has a different favorite team. On Saturdays, I jostle for position in front of the lone TV in my dorm's common room, hoping that I can keep the diehard Boston College or bandwagon Alabama fan from changing the channel. Needless to say, big SEC matchups usually prevail, and most of the time I find myself trying to catch glimpses of the Cardinal through SportsCenter or online highlights. So it was in this unfortunate condition, chronically deprived of Stanford football, that I flew home for Thanksgiving vacation this past Friday.
While it was great to be greeted by my family at the airport, eat a home-cooked meal, and sleep in my own bed, the real value in returning home was evident when I woke up on Saturday morning just in time for College GameDay. I watched with my brothers Jacob (11) and Ross (7) as Corso donned the Oregon Duck outfit, so we were reduced to taking comfort in the fact that at least Lou Holtz was backing the Cardinal. And at 5 o'clock sharp, it was just like old times. My two brothers and I had taken our usual positions on the couch, my dad was sitting in his comfy side chair, and my mom and six-year-old sister were preparing snacks and drinks to keep us well-nourished and hydrated throughout what was going to be one of Stanford's most arduous tests of the season.
Our customary commentary began as we debated Coach Shaw's decision to receive The Opening kick. We soon settled into the flow of the game and very quickly knew that it was going to be a dogfight. Stanford held the Ducks to a scoreless first quarter, with an incredible show of effort and determination by Devon Carrington rallying the Cardinal defense to make a huge fourth-down stop deep in their own territory. Then, Kevin Hogan took charge and capped off a 93-yard systematic march down the field with a rushing touchdown. However, the Oregon offense was relentless, and after a fourth-down stop, Marcus Mariota took advantage of a short field to orchestrate a fast-paced, three-play scoring drive. The half ended 7-7, and as both teams jogged off the field, the Muchnick family remembered not-so-fondly Stanford's second-half nightmare from the last time they played at Autzen. With Oregon set to receive the ball to start the third quarter, I was sincerely hoping that we would not have to relive it.
Strong defensive play in the third quarter prevented Oregon from unleashing their typical second-half fury, and despite a pair of Stanford fumbles, the Ducks only led by one touchdown going into the fourth. Kevin Hogan once again rose to the occasion to engineer a remarkable five-minute drive, while Zach Ertz proved with his jaw-dropping touchdown catch that he is the best tight end in college football since Coby Fleener. After the Cardinal defense shut down another Oregon drive, the game was headed to overtime, where the Cardinal fended off Marcus Mariota one last time, and Oregon missed a tough field goal. And three downs later, Jordan Williamson found himself in a do-or-die situation. I'll admit that, having attended last year's Fiesta Bowl, I was nervous. But Jordan truly redeemed himself by making his 37-yarder to take down the AP's No. 1 team in the land, and his kick engulfed the Muchnick family living room in utter euphoria. My dad, my brothers, and I all engaged in the frenzy of hugs, cheers, and high-fives. Ahh, it's good to be home.
About the Author: Justin Muchnick is a ninth grade student-athlete at Philips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. In addition to being an avid Stanford sports fan, he is extremely passionate about soccer, wrestling, reading and history. He still remains our youngest Bootleg journalist.
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