Field Goal Shootout Decides Cardinal and White Spring Game

April 17, 2010

Safe to say the last time Stanford took the field at historic Kezar Stadium back in 1942, the term 'field goal shootout' wasn't part of the pregame discussion as a possible tiebreaker following overtime.

For that matter, it's doubtful anyone ever heard the words 'tiebreaker' or 'overtime' come from the lips of Marchmont Schwartz, the last head coach to a Stanford team through the Kezar Stadium tunnel prior to this afternoon's Cardinal and White Spring Game at the historic field in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Following the mantra of 'It's our Spring Game and we'll make our own rules,' the White defeated the Cardinal in a field goal shootout between brothers Nate and Eric Whitaker before an estimated crowd of 4,000 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.

After the teams were tied at 3-3 at the end of regulation, each squad received one opportunity to score from the 25-yard line. The Cardinal took a 6-3 lead when Eric Whitaker nailed a 35 yard field goal, only to see older brother Nate provide the equalizer for the White team in the next possession.

Now what?

With the John Ralston Spring Game trophy handing in the balance, head coach Jim Harbaugh decided the game would be decided by a 'field goal shootout' between the brothers Whitaker.

It seemed fitting enough, considering the Whitaker brothers had provided all of the scoring in Cardinal and White Game, anyway.

Eric got the Cardinal on the board first at the 7:33 mark of the first quarter with a 45 yard field goal that split the uprights in the south end zone.

Nate answered with a 54-yarder on the last play of the third quarter, tying the game at 3-3.

'We're comfortable hitting long kicks,' said Nate. 'It was a good day for kicking. Long isn't a problem.'

Both brothers also misfired on tries from 45 (Nate) and 35 (Eric) yards.

After the brothers exchanged field goal in the overtime period, it was onto a shootout, with Eric getting the first crack from the 33 yard line. No problem.

Nate answered from the same spot, turning things back over to little brother.

The Whitaker's alternated field on four more field goals from 43 yards before the ball was moved back 10 yards to the 43, raising the stakes from 53 yards out.

Eric was up to the task on his first attempt and was quickly answered by Nate from the same distance.

After making five straight attempts in the shootout, Eric misfired from 53 yards, leaving the door open for Nate, who calmly delivered the game winner for the White team.

The final score is open for discussion. Call it a 6-6 overtime tie, with the White team claiming the win in a shootout; or White 21, Cardinal 18. Take your pick.

On the day, Nate Whitaker was 7-for-8 in field goal tries, while brother Eric was 6-for-8.

Somewhere new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who switched Stanford from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 this spring, had to be smiling with the defensive effort showed by both teams.

'I was really impressed how tight our coverage was,' said Harbaugh. 'We haven't seen that until now. And the tackling was impressive. Defensively, I was really pleased with the way we played.'

'We had a few mistakes here and there, but I thin overall, everyone was in the right place at the right time,' said senior nose guard Sione Fua. 'The defense looks pretty good so far. We just have to keep working hard this summer.'

While neither team found the end zone on a mostly sunny but blustery afternoon at Kezar, positive signs came from the offensive side of the ball.

Andrew Luck, quarterbacking the Cardinal squad, completed 23 of 34 passes for 173 yards and showed no lingering effects from a broken finger that sidelined him during the Sun Bowl.

Luck completed passes of 20 and 28 yards to senior-to-be Doug Baldwin, who caught five passes for 66 yards.

Running back Jeremy Stewart, trying to earn a spot in the backfield after battling injuries each of the last two seasons, rushed for 48 yards on 16 carries for the Cardinal squad. He also caught four passes for 16 yards out of the backfield.

Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 303 yards as a freshman last season, carried 16 times for 61 yards for the White squad.

'The defense played great today, both teams,' said Taylor. 'With Toby (Gerhart) gone, the running backs are trying to find our own identity. We all have our own running style but I think we all ran pretty good today. The o-line clicked.'

Redshirt freshmen Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo took turns quarterbacking the White offense. Nunes completed 7 of 12 passes for 61 yards, including a 26-yarder to Usua Amanan.

Picazo was 7 for 9 on the day for 78 yards and also hooked up with Amanan for a 25-yard completion.

Some of the defensive highlights included Alex Debniak forcing Nunes' fumble in the first quarter which set up Eric Whitaker's first field goal on the day.Linebacker Shayne Skov stopped Taylor for a two-yard loss in the second quarter.

Defensive lineman Terrence Stephens led a host of Cardinal tacklers that snuffed Taylor on a fourth-and-two play at the 7:03 mark of the third quarter.

Ben Gardner and Thomas Keiser also recorded sacks.

Owen Marecic, who has made the transition to fullback this spring, was credited with four tackles for the Cardinal squad, tying for team-high honors with Max Bergen.

Jarek Lancaster had six tackles for the White team while Chike Amajoyi had five.

The star of the day not named Whitaker had to be Kezar Stadium. The old girl at the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park is a shell of her former self, but still provided for a fantastic backdrop for this entertaining spring game.

'I'd like to make this an annual thing,' said Harbaugh, leaving the door open to a return to the field once roamed by Stanford greats such as Frankie Albert, Hugh Gallarneau and Norm Standlee, to name a few.

'Everything was just perfect. It feels perfect, from the field, the locker rooms, the tunnel the crowd and the tradition.'

Chad Hutchinson, John Lynch, Todd Husak and Leigh Torrence of the Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints were some of the Stanford football alums in attendance.

John Ralston, who coached Stanford to back-to-back Rose Bowl victories in 1970 and '71, was also on hand to present the trophy named in his honor to winning coach Tim Drevno, who headed up the White squad.

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