No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though we've since assumed all the trappings of a football powerhouse – the three straight runner-up finishes in Heisman voting, the two straight BCS bowl berths and top-10 finishes, the top-ten 2012 recruiting class, or the eminent graduation of top pro prospect of the last decade – it wasn't that long ago that Stanford football was an afterthought.
On December 19, 2006, new athletic director Bob Bowlsby hired Jim Harbaugh, a former star quarterback, but an unproven coach who had never worked at the FBS level. The rest, as they say, was history.
We are pleased present Stanford football's 40 most memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.
35. "Shut up and play football."
After pregame jawing, Cal finds itself in a 45-0 hole in 2010
California almost slayed Goliath the week previous, falling 15-13 to Oregon. This week, there would be no such drama, at least not after the opening kick, as Stanford would lead the host Bears 31-0 at the half, 45-0 after three, and 48-14 when it was all said and done.
If the on-field contest was not nearly as dramatic as expected, how about the pregame shenanigans? (Link.) While we weren't headed for a brawl of Miami/Florida International proportions (link), I was expecting someone to flare up and do something stupid, at least on the level of LeGarrette Blount against Boise State (link). Instead, there was some jawing back and forth (and Jamal-Rashad Patterson would be ejected from the contest for his role in it), but that really was about it – the teams then went back to their sidelines, the ball was teed up and the rout was on.
Sly fox that he is, Jim Harbaugh saved his yapping for after the game.
"Our guys really kept their cool and I think that was a big difference today," he told the AP. "They kept their poise. I don't like that kind of football where you try and talk and intimidate. ... Just play football. Shut up and play football." Cal, meanwhile, allowed God to show his ironic side, for it was none other than safety Sean Cattouse who explained the rationale for the hullabaloo, which started when Cal's whole team came out in masse in a show of solidarity before the pregame coin toss.
"We wanted to show we were emotional, we were here and we were ready to play this game," Cattouse said. "We wanted to let them know we were here."
The irony, of course, came come game time, when Andrew Luck paused during a 58-yard scramble to cross-check Cattouse into oblivion, in what would arguably become his most famous play as a Cardinal. (Game highlights, including that hit.) In retrospect, it turns out it was Luck and the Cardinal who were emotional, there, and ready to play that game.
Frankly, the game itself was so lopsided as to be emotionally underwhelming. The 2010 Big Game lacked the ups and downs of a nailbiter, required no emotional rollercoaster ride that would sear the contest indelibly into our memories for years to come.
Instead, Stanford was near-perfect in every phase: Luck finished 16-of-20 with two touchdowns. The Cardinal would score every possession Luck was under center and finish with nary a turnover and a balanced 235 rushing yards and 232 passing yards. The defense, meanwhile, would harry quarterback Brock Mansion into three turnovers, hold every Cal rusher under 70 yards, and hold every Bear receiver under 60 yards, all while pitching a shutout through the first three quarters.
Cal dropped to 5-6 with the loss, while No. 6 Stanford improved to 10-1 with its then-second Big Game victory of the last nine years. After a season-ending 38-0 blanking of Oregon State, the Cardinal would find itself in the Orange Bowl, where they would rout Virginia Tech 40-12, extending a streak of wins by at least 25 points that would grow to NCAA-record 10 games long.
50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, a lot of Luck, and a phantom clipping call
40. Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests
38. Steamrolled - Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of Washington
37. Opening act - 2009 win over Oregon launches a November to remember
36. Going bowling - Loss to Oklahoma doesn't ruin first bowl game since 2001
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