STANFORD -- Tavita Pritchard's magical fourth quarter in Saturday's monumental 23-24 upset of then-No. 2 USC has earned the Stanford quarterback a starting job, coach Jim Harbaugh said after practice Tuesday. The Cardinal plays host to TCU on Saturday.

"Three drives in the last three possessions for scores was very impressive," Harbaugh said. "And the way he handled himself and led his ballclub, I feel good about that decision."

The decision was not easy because fifth-year senior T.C. Ostrander, who would have started Saturday had he not suffered a seizure six days earlier, was medically cleared to play Monday. Harbaugh informed both quarterbacks of his decision Monday night.

The coach said he had a "good conversation" with Ostrander and can relate to what the quarterback is going through. During his 15 years as an NFL quarterback, Harbaugh said he has been in Ostrander's shoes "more times than I care to remember."

Pritchard had attempted only three college passes before Saturday. But after a slow start, the redshirt sophomore rallied the 40-point underdog Cardinal to two touchdowns and a field goal in the final quarter, capping the comeback with a 10-yard TD pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds left.

Still, Pritchard had mixed emotions Tuesday.

"I hate to see T.C. go down like he did," he said. "You want to see everybody succeed, all your friends.


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But at the same time, you work to get where you are to play at this level. I prepared my whole life for this. It's hitting me in the face right now."

Ostrander, who had spent three years as Trent Edwards' backup, described the demotion as rough.

"I want to be out on the field; I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed," Ostrander said. "But it's Coach's decision. If that's his decision, I'll go along with it and just do the things I need to do to get better."

Chosen by his teammates as offensive captain before the season, Ostrander had averaged 266 yards passing per game while completing 54 percent of his throws. But the Cardinal was 1-3 with the senior behind center, its only victory coming against San Jose State.

Pritchard on Saturday completed just 11 of 30 passes for 149 yards in his first start since high school. But he will always be remembered as the guy who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

"He played well," Ostrander said. "That was a big win for us. We have some momentum right now, and we're going to try to roll with that. That's the mind-set."

Ostrander said he would be behind Pritchard on Saturday.

"If he has any questions, I'll try to help him out," Ostrander said. "I've got to be tuned into the game, and we'll see what happens."

Receiver Evan Moore, a fifth-year senior, marveled at how poised and confident Pritchard was late in the game Saturday. Before the winning drive, Pritchard told Moore and Bradford, another senior, that one of them would have to make a play.

"I looked at Mark and said, 'He's telling us this?' This kid was telling us that we had to make a play," Moore said. "Obviously, we knew that. But, still, when you're quarterback shows that he really, really believes that -- that you can see it in his eye -- then it doesn't matter how old he is or how many snaps he has, you have a lot more confidence in your own ability."

Notes: Running back Toby Gerhart (knee) might not be ready to play until Oct. 27 against Oregon State, Harbaugh said. ... Nose tackle Ekom Udofia, who hasn't played since injuring an ankle Sept. 22 against Oregon, is expected to play Saturday.

Contact Darren Sabedra at dsabedra@mercurynews.com.