It’s typically at Stanford booster events, with Cardinal alumni and donors present and eager to reminisce, when, inevitably, Tavita Pritchard is asked about the night he helped slay a college football giant.
Pritchard made his starting debut at quarterback for Stanford on Oct. 6, 2007, when the Cardinal traveled to Los Angeles for what appeared to be a mismatch against No. 2-ranked USC. The Trojans were 41-point favorites, winners of 35 consecutive home games, and Stanford was coming off a 1-11 season.
Anyway, you likely know the rest: Pritchard connected with Mark Bradford on a 10-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds to lift the Cardinal to a 24-23 victory and one of the most improbable upsets in college football history.
He is also asked every now and then if he tires of discussing it.
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“The answer is no,” Pritchard said via telephone this week. “You don’t get tired of that. Guys on that team take a tremendous amount of pride for having been part of that.”
If that were Pritchard’s final contribution to Stanford’s football program, it would be a fine one. But the former Clover Park High School star has accomplished plenty since graduating in 2009 with a degree in communication.
Pritchard is now Stanford’s quarterbacks and receivers coach, a position to which he was promoted after coaching running backs in 2013. The Cardinal visits Washington on Saturday for a 1:15 p.m. game at Husky Stadium.
Returning to the Seattle area is still a thrill for Pritchard, who grew up in Centralia before moving to Lakewood and starring at quarterback for Clover Park.
“I’m extremely grateful for having grown up there,” he said. “My family’s still there. That area holds a special place in my heart. I try to make it back up there at least once or twice a year. I’ll be nostalgic flying into Boeing Field and rolling around Seattle.”
The 27-year-old’s ascent as a coach has been gradual, but speedy. After backing up Andrew Luck the final year of his Stanford career, he joined the Cardinal’s coaching staff as a volunteer assistant – no pay – in 2010 under then-coach Jim Harbaugh.
“I pretty much lived on nothing,” Pritchard said, “and I loved it.”
So he stayed on as a defensive assistant when David Shaw was promoted to coach in 2011 after Harbaugh left to coach the San Francisco 49ers, spending two seasons in that role before being promoted to his first full-time position coaching position in 2013.
“I’ve always known he was a superstar in the making as a coach,” Shaw told the San Jose Mercury-News after promoting Pritchard to quarterbacks coach, referring to the way he conducted himself as a backup quarterback in 2009.
It seems to be going well enough. Prtichard is appreciative of his players’ attitude — not just from the starter, Kevin Hogan, but the rest of the room, too.
“They want to pick up our offense, and master our offense,” Pritchard said. “They follow suit right along with Kevin. He’s doing such a nice job of not having any ego, with all the games he’s won, all the success he’s had. He’s just been great in terms of just absorbing the coaching I’m trying to give him.”
Pritchard comes from a coaching background. His father, David, played center at Washington State and is a former assistant at Clover Park. Tavita has seven brothers and sisters, including a younger brother, Tana, who also starred in football and basketball at Clover Park and is now a linebacker at WSU.
The Cougars play at Stanford on Oct. 10.
“I have to admit, it’s a little weird when we play them,” Tavita said. “Two things I take a lot of pride in is my family and being competitive, and those two things kind of clash in that situation. But it’s good fun to see him. We’re rooting for them every game that we don’t play them.”
Nostalgia aside, he’s focused on Washington this week.
“We’re expecting a fistfight,” Pritchard said. “We’re going to have to come in and make less mistakes and play more sound football, because that’s what it’s going to come down to in this game.”
Huskies coach Chris Petersen said he expects receiver John Ross to “suit up and play” against Stanford after he sat out last week’s game against Georgia State with a leg injury. … Senior right tackle Ben Riva also practiced all week and is expected to suit up. He’s missed three of UW’s four games this season. … Sophomore defensive end Joe Mathis returned to practice this week after missing each of the Huskies’ last two games while taking “personal time,” Petersen said.