Matchup of turnaround teams in Orange Bowl

By Steven Wine

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Jan. 1 2011 12:11 p.m. MST

While Tech brings plenty of momentum into the Orange Bowl, so does Stanford. The Cardinal blew an early 18-point lead in a loss to unbeaten Oregon in early October, then swept the final seven games to earn their first BCS bowl berth. Quarterback Andrew Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy race, and the defense posted three shutouts.

Now Stanford seeks its first bowl win since the 1996 season. A victory would cap the four-year climb from the Pac-10 cellar to the sport's elite level.

"I was here during the dark days when the team was 1-11," says nose tackle Sione Fua, part of a senior class that led the turnaround. "To be where we are now has been great. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but it has paid off.

"We tell the freshmen and sophomores all the time, 'Man, you guys are here during the good times. When we were freshmen, football stunk, and we didn't want to be here. You guys are spoiled, going to a BCS game and staying at the Fountainbleau.'"

Stanford won four games in 2007, five in 2008 and eight in 2009, when the Cardinal earned a berth in the Sun Bowl, their first postseason game since 2001. This season's 11 wins overall and eight in the Pac-10 are school records.

Such success dispelled the notion Stanford's academic standards are too high to field a winning team.

"You do have that reputation — 'It's smart kids, can we play football?'" Keiser says. "This year we showed we can."

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