Sharp, quick-minded guy

SEATTLE — Tavita Pritchard insists nothing is different. That he’s still the same guy he was before Oct. 6.

Tavita Pritchard is lying.

So much changed for the Stanford sophomore on that day in Los Angeles. The day Stanford, which had for a while now been known almost exclusively as “Lowly Stanford,” somehow knocked off USC, ranked No. 1 in the nation in one poll and No. 2 in the other.

In the middle of the celebration was Pritchard, the quarterback from Tacoma who had just thrown a game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds remaining in the game. The toss, from a guy who until earlier that week was his team’s backup quarterback, gave the Cardinal a 24-23 victory..

Nothing has changed? OK, he concedes, a few things have. For example, he was all over ESPN the following week, something that doesn’t usually happen to the backup quarterback anywhere, let alone at Stanford. According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, USC fans applauded Pritchard as he ran through the tunnel after ending USC’s 35-game home winning streak. Again, something that doesn’t usually happen to the backup quarterback at Stanford. So maybe life changed a little since that USC game.

“I’m the starter now, but I like to think that I always prepared like the starter so not a whole lot has changed in football, except I’m on a conference call with some newspapers right now, which I wouldn’t have been otherwise,” said Pritchard, who in four starts has won twice as many games (two) as the Cardinal did all of last season. “As far as regular life, I guess it hasn’t changed too much. I get recognized a little bit more, but other than that it’s been pretty normal.”

Pritchard became the starter when T.C. Ostrander suffered a seizure during the week leading up to the USC game. Ostrander is fine now, but is backing up Pritchard.

Pritchard went into the USC game having attempted just three passes in his career. Yet in his team’s final three drives against the Trojans, which netted 17 points, he completed eight of 17 passes for 120 yards and a game-winning touchdown.

First-year Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh says a lot of the good things about his quarterback remain unchanged despite the attention that came with the USC win.

“He’s been very wide-eyed and enthusiastic, very optimistic, very locked in,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seen him grow mentally. He’s a very sharp, very quick-minded guy. But he’s still kept that kind of little-kid-playing-football-in-the-back-yard mentality. He has not been affected by the pressure of playing that position or the big stage. He’s grown in understanding the offense, and he’s grown in his personal preparation, but he’s really kept that kind of wide-eyed, little-kid optimism, which I love.”

One thing that has changed from his childhood, Pritchard says, is his outlook on the Huskies. The nephew of Washington State great Jack Thompson, Pritchard insists that playing Washington this week is “Just another Pac-10 game.” He held a slightly different view as a child.

“My Uncle Jack went to Washington State, as did my dad,” Pritchard said. “To make a long story short, I grew up hating the Huskies. I was a big Cougars fan. I made a lot of trips to Pullman. I remember when I was a kid my dad wouldn’t allow purple and gold in the house.”

Pritchard, who still talks to his uncle a few times a week, said the legendary WSU quarterback had some advice for him this week.

“He told me just to beat the Huskies,” Pritchard said. “Because he doesn’t like them much.”

Some things, unlike Tavita Pritchard’s life post Oct. 6, never change.

Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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