Stanford's Wild Card Quarterbacks

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Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham plans to deal two Cards at quarterback tomorrow.

The first will be Randy Fasani, an athletic leader who has been dealt out as a wide receiver, tight end, linebacker, special teams player and quarterback.

The wildcard in the deck is Chris Lewis, a redshirt freshman who can come in at anytime and burn the defense with a deep ball that has touch and accuracy.

Fasani was the top prep quarterback in the nation in 1996, but since arriving at Stanford, he's had to wait for his chance to be the starting signal caller for the Cardinal.

Chad Hutchinson was the starter in 1997 while the freshman phenom redshirted.

The next two seasons, Todd Husak led Stanford's attack, including a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl appearance a year ago.

During this time, Fasani wasn't even the backup.

Joe Borchard who was also one of the Cardinal's best baseball players was No. 2, prompting the coaching staff to play musical positions with Fasani to get him on the field.

Heading into the 2000 campaign, Borchard had the inside track on the starting job, but after the Chicago White Sox made him the 12th overall pick in the Major League Draft, Borchard left Palo Alto and began a professional career on the diamond.

Finally, Fasani was the No. 1 man, and in his first two starts, he came out smoking throwing for 623 yards with six touchdowns against one interception.

In his third game against then-No. 5 Texas, Fasani was 3 of 4 passing for 41 yards when he went down with a knee injury, the first problem that would take Fasani off the field this season.

"It's been very disappointing," Fasani says. "I finally got my chance and then I've been plagued with injuries."

Enter the wildcard.

Lewis, the California state prep record holder with 107 touchdown passes came in to lead Stanford to an upset over the Longhorns throwing for 214 yards and two touchdown passes, including the game winner with 1:12 remaining.

For the next three games, Lewis would be the starter and as expected from a freshman, he struggled.

With Lewis at the helm, the offense struggled at home against Arizona, and against Oregon State and Notre Dame on the road.

Not exactly the opponents you would want to throw an inexperienced backup in against.

Lewis threw for 604 yards and two touchdowns, but he also recorded six interceptions.

But this year, Lewis has thrived in the role he had against Texas - the best reliever in the Pac-10.

"I've gone in first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter to relieve (Fasani) this year)," Lewis says. "So you never know when you'll go in."

In his relief appearances, Lewis has thrown for 575 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.

Lewis almost led the Cardinal to victory over UCLA after replacing Fasani in the second half, and broke the hearts of USC when he came in on the last series of the game to throw the winning touchdown pass on fourth down in the final seconds.

But don't be confused, there is no quarterback controversy on the Farm.

Willingham has made it clear that Fasani is his starter but his health - he's currently dealing with a bad case of turf toe - has made it where he's been unable to finish a whole game since returning against the Trojans.

"It's never pretty when you get hurt," Fasani says. "But we do have a good backup quarterback in Chris Lewis."

Nonetheless, Fasani has 1,158 passing yards this season with eight touchdowns, nearly identical to Lewis' 1,179 yards and eight scores. Both have five interceptions.

The key to Lewis' success is that he has the mindset of a cornerback.

Whether something good or bad happens, he goes on to the next play and puts the previous happenings behind him.

"He has a personality that is a delight for a coach," Willingham says. "He can have something great happen, but he can also have something negative happen and not let it stop him."

Coaches ask Fasani after every series how he feels and it's his call if he wants to come out.

It would be easy for a player who waited three years to assume the starter's role, to stay in and play knowing he's not at full strength. But for the team's best interest, Fasani pulls himself.

Then again, most players in his position would not still be at Stanford.

Just a year ago, Cal saw quarterbacks that weren't nearly as talented as Fasani transfer after not being named starters.

"That is the model of a leader and a true team player," Willingham says of Fasani's patience when a lot of today's players want to play right away.

"We're in an age where everything is instant," Willingham says. "You get instant oatmeal, you get instant coffee. When you have young men that are old schoolish in the way they think. . . it's a great situation."

The obvious question heading into the Big Game becomes, what Card tricks will Stanford play.

Will we see the double-pass with Lewis under center and Fasani flanked outside?

"We want to, but (offensive coordinator) coach Diedrick hasn't let us yet," Lewis says.

Either way, the Cardinal believes if their ace doesn't get you, there's the wildcard under its sleeve.


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