Aug. 25, 2006
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -Trent Edwards walked into the new Stanford Stadium on the first day of fall practice and was taken aback by all the changes.
"I got goosebumps," the senior quarterback said. "I think every guy on the team probably did. It will be a different energy in there."
The stadium - which was rich in history but low on atmosphere - has been torn down and rebuilt into a smaller, more intimate facility in the nine months since last season ended.
The track that surrounded the field and left fans so far away that coach Walt Harris said he couldn't see or hear them during some games is gone. The last row of the lower deck is as close to the field as the first row was in the old stadium.
The number of seats has been decreased from 85,500 to 50,000 to make for a more intimate setting. The double-deck structure and metal bleachers in the corners of the stadium are expected to increase the crowd noise and finally give Cardinal opponents something to worry about.
"I don't think we ever really had a home-field advantage," receiver Evan Moore said. "Sometimes we played better on the road because we were a little more excited to play and there was a little more of an atmosphere. Sometimes when we played here and would run out for warmups and there wasn't really anyone in the stadium, it was kind of a downer."
Stanford has always had some of the best facilities and winningest programs in college athletics - except in football. The old stadium was out-of-date, rarely filled and usually quiet.
It was quite the contrast from Maples Pavilion, where Moore played for parts of two seasons with the Cardinal basketball team. Maples, which was renovated in 2004, is known for the crazed fans and deafening noise that make it one of the tougher arenas for visitors in the Pac-10.
"I think this could be a football version of Maples," Moore said. "A lot of students here might not know much about basketball, but they go because it's fun. I think that's the way Stanford Stadium will be. The same fans from (Maples) will be there. Why can't they be loud there? Hopefully we can perform for them and make it fun."
The $90 million renovation project began last Nov. 26, immediately after the team's 38-31 loss to Notre Dame in the season finale. That was one of three home losses last season in games Stanford led in the final minute - comebacks the Cardinal hope will be more difficult to mount in a louder stadium.
A win in any of those games would have sent the Cardinal to a bowl in Harris' first season as coach. Instead the 5-6 record offered only a slight improvement from the 10 wins in Buddy Teevens' three-year tenure.
The continuity of a second year in Harris' system, the return of Edwards and nine other offensive starters, and the new stadium provide optimism on The Farm this season.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Darrin Nelson, a former star running back for the Cardinal who played 11 seasons in the NFL, is a sign that the school is committed to putting together a winning football team that can eventually compete for a national championship.
"With this stadium our university is telling us go for it," Nelson said. "We can do this. We've been good to great in almost every sport we've had here. We've gone up and down in football. Now it's our turn to focus on football a little more and try to turn things around."
Stanford hasn't been to a bowl since Tyrone Willingham's last season in 2001 and has played in just one Rose Bowl since the 1971 season.
Harris is trying to build a program that can do those things consistently. The two biggest keys for Stanford this season are replacing 10 defensive starters and keeping Edwards healthy.
Edwards has been injured in each of his three seasons and was knocked out of four games last season when the Cardinal allowed 42 sacks.
"I refer to Trent as the best quarterback nobody has heard of," Harris said. "He's one of the most talented guys I've had the opportunity to work with. He makes some great throws that make me shake my head. We just have to keep him healthy."
Edwards was very effective when healthy, completing 62.7 percent of his passes and throwing for 17 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He feels even more comfortable this year in his second season under Harris.
The Cardinal also have another motivating factor this year.
"We don't want to see them throw that big stadium up there and sell all these season tickets and put our pictures on the sides of trains and then go out and not perform," Moore said.