Gerhart pumped for matchup with Oklahoma | NevadaAppeal.com

Gerhart pumped for matchup with Oklahoma

TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – Stanford running back Toby Gerhart has looked at film, analyzed the matchups and gone over the game plan.

Thursday’s Sun Bowl against Oklahoma can’t get here quick enough for the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

“It will be entertaining for everybody,” said Gerhart, who finished second to Alabama’s Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman vote ever. “We have a power offense, statistically ranked pretty high, and they have the great defense that’s ranked in the top 10 in basically every category.”

That matchup got a little spicier Wednesday when Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said freshman quarterback Andrew Luck got the pins removed from his broken right index finger and might play.

“He is progressing nicely. We’ve been hopeful up to this point,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to give ourselves another 24 hours to make that decision.”

Luck set Stanford’s freshman passing record with 2,575 yards but hasn’t thrown since undergoing surgery after the regular-season finale against Notre Dame. The first freshman to start at QB for Stanford since 2002, he was among the Pac-10 leaders in total offense and passing efficiency.

Senior Tavita Pritchard, who led the Cardinal to a thrilling 24-23 upset at Southern California two years ago in the first of his 19 career starts, has been directing the offense in practice.

“Even though he hasn’t taken a lot of snaps this year, Tavita has shown constant improvement in his preparation for this game,” Harbaugh said.

Gerhart has carried the No. 19 Cardinal (8-4) to its best season and first bowl appearance since 2001, while Oklahoma’s national title aspirations were dashed by a series of key injuries – starting with quarterback Sam Bradford in an opening loss to BYU.

The Sooners’ injured list is so long All-American tackle Trent Williams will play center against Stanford, becoming the fourth player to snap the ball for Oklahoma (7-5) this season.

“He’s doing a nice job,” said Bob Stoops, whose team lost five regular-season games for the first time in his 11 years as coach. “He’s a talented, strong player. If anyone can handle it well, it’s him, and he has looked good in there.”

Still, the outcome likely will hinge on what the Sooners do to slow Gerhart, a hard-charging back who led the nation with 1,736 yards rushing and 26 rushing touchdowns. Oklahoma ranked seventh nationally against the run, allowing 88.6 yards per game.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge of it,” Stoops said. “We recognize Stanford as an excellent, excellent football team.”

The Cardinal was 11th nationally with 224.3 yards rushing per game behind Gerhart’s powerful style and a talented offensive line that has been dubbed “The Tunnel Workers Union.”

Gerhart said he’s eager to show off his never-quit approach.

“Whatever it takes to win – 40 carries, 30 carries – as long as I can keep running, we’ll keep going, and if they keep calling my name, they keep calling my name,” he said.

This will be Gerhart’s final college football game, and the senior said he is proud of his part in the Cardinal’s revival in Harbaugh’s third season.

“I think the program’s finally on the right path, and to be a part of the class that re-established Stanford football is something I want to be a part of and something I’ll always take pride in,” said Gerhart, who played on a 1-11 team as a freshman.

Harbaugh called Gerhart “the shining star, the shimmer and shine of Stanford football.” Even Stoops is excited to watch one of the nation’s top players.

“What I see is a great athlete, a guy with great physical skills and strength,” Stoops said before checking off Gerhart’s skills: “His quickness and speed, his patience as he approaches the line of scrimmage, then just how physical and tough he is as he runs. He’s a talented individual.”