Jan. 1, 2011
MIAMI SHORES, Fla. - The Stanford football team wrapped up its final practice of the season on New Year's Day with a 70-minute session at Barry University in preparation for Monday night's Orange Bowl showdown against Virginia Tech.
The Cardinal will get its first look at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, where the team will gather for a team photo, but cannot use the field because it is being painted. Instead, Stanford will conduct a walk-through in a ballroom of the team hotel, the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.
"I feel like our guys have put in the work," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "The big part of the plan now is to get them fresh."
That was the final message Harbaugh imparted Saturday.
"We're at the point where we want to get off our feet now and just get ready mentally for the game," cornerback Michael Thomas said. "We've done all the physical parts, so just keep preparing ourselves mentally up until game time."
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Harbaugh relaxed his 11 p.m. New Year's Eve player curfew to 12:30 a.m. Many of the players and staff celebrated with family and friends at a private party put on by the Orange Bowl Committee in the team's hospitality room.
As for Harbaugh, he said he didn't get much sleep. The hotel was a prime destination for New Year's Eve revelers, with many spending $500 for a techno concert on a huge outdoor stage for the D.J. Tiesto that lasted until 3 a.m.
"Thumping, thumping, all night long," Harbaugh said. "I was trying to get some rest."
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DESIGNATION MUST WAIT
This Stanford team rightly deserves to be considered as perhaps the greatest in school history, but fullback-linebacker Owen Marecic isn't quite ready to buy into the notion that this is a special team.
"We've really taken the approach that all that special talk really rests on this game," Marecic said. "This is a culmination of a body of work this season. How we perform in this game is really going to set the tone for how we look back on this season."
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NOT A ONE MAN TEAM
"A player of his ability has a lot to do with it," Roman said. "But last year it was Toby Gerhart. He was the reason. This year it's Andrew. I think those guys are very good players, but there's a wealth of other really good players too. So, to look at our program's success, you've got to look deeper.
"Our offensive line has given up five sacks, and maybe seven the year before. For a dropback passing team, can you really find anybody who's ever done that?
"Our running game has been very productive. Our defense this year has been very productive. Special teams the past couple of years have been very solid. So, it goes beyond one player."
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Sophomore defensive lineman Terrence Stephens, like many of Stanford's young reserves, is given additional chances to prove himself because of the extra practices over the past month.
"I think I've gotten better this month alone than I have all season," Stephens said. "With Sione Fua graduating, there's a lot of stress on me right now to step up to the plate, and this month has made me realize that that's exactly what needs to happen."
"I'm excited about what this month has given me confidence-wise, ability-wise, and just the opportunity to practice and further become a better athlete. This month has helped everybody."
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When Stephens and most of the players headed out to the beach after Tuesday's practice - a day after arrival in Miami - it marked the first time the Gaithersburg, Md., native had ever been to the ocean.
"I was just looking for something to do and dug a hole," he said. "Since I was a little kid, I always saw pictures of the beach and always wanted to get buried in a hole. I actually dug one deep enough to get buried in.
"I'm a big kid as they say. Sometimes you need to let go and that's exactly what I did at the beach that day. I was glad I was able to do that and enjoy myself. That's was great, quite an experience."
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TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
Roman estimates that Luck wears a wristband that contains codes to 350 plays. At that, a press conference moderator quipped, "How big are your wrists?"
Actually, Luck has two wristbands. He wears one on his left wrist, but feels the band is too uncomfortable to wear on this right, and throwing, arm. Instead, center Chase Beeler wears it, and displays it for Luck in the huddle.
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Both Stanford and Virginia Tech attended the Miami Heat's home basketball game against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
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In addition to walk-on freshman kicker Juan Castellano, from Miami, Stanford has another South Florida native on the roster, senior long snapper Zach Nolan. The Fort Lauderdale native started off his career at Pine Crest School as a quarterback before setting into duties on the offensive and defensive lines.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics