Shayne Skov felt helpless at home watching Stanford stumble to a season-opening 20-17 win over San Jose State while he served a one-game suspension for a DUI arrest.
What figured to be a quiet night for Skov sitting alone in front of the television turned into a horror show. The same San Jose State team Stanford beat 57-3 behind NFL No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck last season carved up the Cardinal defense, and all Skov could do was wait to see what happened.
``The first half, I was pretty quiet,'' Skov said. ``The second half, I started getting pretty frustrated.''
Couple that with a left knee injury in the third game at Arizona that sidelined Skov all of last season, and the middle linebacker and unquestioned leader of the Cardinal defense has seen enough.
The team's 2010 leading tackler finally returns when No. 25 Stanford (1-0) hosts Duke (1-0) on Saturday night. And it's not a moment too soon for Stanford to get back the Mohawk-wearing, loud-mouthed linebacker famous for his liberal display of eye black, emotional energy and soaring speed.
The up-and-coming Blue Devils present a more difficult challenge than the Spartans, and Heisman Trophy hopeful Matt Barkley and No. 2 Southern California's prolific passing offense loom next week.
``It's had me ready to jump out of my skin,'' Skov said. ``I love football, and the way I play I think resonates that. So to not be able to play it for 12 months has been tough, but it has also been an incredibly humbling experience.''
A year ago, the senior thought he'd be preparing for his first NFL game right now. Instead, his life and career took a major detour in a victory at Arizona on Sept. 17 and so did Stanford's shot at a national championship.
Moving in to make a tackle in the second quarter, Skov had his left knee buckle when Wildcats wide receiver Juron Criner now with the Oakland Raiders barreled into him. Skov had separate operations to repair tore ligaments in his knee, taking the go-hard-all-the-time linebacker off the field and into a rigorous rehab program.
``It was nasty,'' Skov said of the play. ``I remember seeing it up on the Jumbotron at Arizona while I was lying down. But you just have to move on. If you play football worrying about getting hurt or wondering about `What ifs,' you're going to miss out on the opportunities you have right in front of you.''
Skov had another setback of his own making when he was arrested for a DUI on campus in January. He has repeatedly apologized for what he calls a ``mistake'' and said he learned a ``level of responsibility and the gravity of one's actions.'' Skov also was not allowed to participate in any team workouts during the spring.
Stanford could sure use its defensive leader now.
San Jose State outgained Stanford 288 to 280 yards for the game and outscored the Cardinal 14-3 in the second half. If not for two late turnovers by the Spartans, Skov could be returning to a losing team.
Skov led the Cardinal with 84 tackles and had 7 1/2 sacks two years ago. And by all accounts, he has been perhaps the most impressive player in practice.
New quarterback Josh Nunes recalled one short-yardage play in training camp where Skov crept up to the line of scrimmage and outfoxed the offense.
``As I was snapping the ball, he was flying over the line at me,'' Nunes said. ``Shayne's still Shayne.''
Stanford coach David Shaw admits his middle linebacker is not back to his old self yet. He said Skov's knee is not an issue, but preached patience when it comes to Skov finding his game-day prowess.
``I'm hoping by midseason that he gets back to his true form,'' Shaw said. ``The bottom line is that he's still fast, he's still physical. We've had a tough time blocking him all training camp.''
Skov's absence certainly hurt Stanford in losses to Oregon and Oklahoma State last year. Whether Skov could have made the difference will never be known.
The other side of the injury is that Jarek Lancaster, A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters received more playing time in his absence and Skov learned more about every player's role on defense while working with coaches on the sideline. He also is 11 pounds lighter _ ``I was a little chubbier back then,'' he joked _ and more muscular at 243 pounds now, in part because of all the time spent working out his upper body while his knee recovered.
Nickel cornerback Usua Amanam, who lived next door to Skov last year and has watched his teammate throughout the rehab process, has no doubts about what to expect from Skov this season.
``Shayne has always been a step ahead of everyone in terms of what he has up (in his head), the physical ability and his instincts,'' Amanam said. ``He's a fighter, and not much more to say.''
One thing Skov knows he will have to do is control his emotions.
He missed two games with an undisclosed injury in 2010 and returned for a home win against Wake Forest. Early in that game, officials called a late hit on Skov for a brutal blow on quarterback Tanner Price.
``I drilled him 2-3 seconds late,'' Skov said, laughing. ``Hopefully, I'll be able to gain a little bit more control of my emotions and my game this time.''
NOTES: FB Ryan Hewitt, a key cog in Stanford's offense, sat out the season opener with an ankle injury and is questionable against Duke. Shaw said he will make a decision later this week. ``I'm leaning toward not playing him,'' Shaw said, ``he's leaning toward playing.'' .... Freshman RB Barry J. Sanders, the son of the Detroit Lions' Hall of Famer, did not play against San Jose State and is ``most likely'' going to redshirt this season, Shaw said.