Editor's Note: The following article appeared more than a
half-century ago in 1952's Great
Moments in Stanford Sports. The mighty fine compilation of
outstanding essays has been out of print for more than 60 years, but as heated
debate recently raged on about the biggest wins in school history and we
approach another high-stakes battle with the Dirty Trojans, The Bootleg feels compelled to call attention to the 1951 varsity's epic
In 1951, Pete Grothe
was serving as sports desk editor of the Stanford
Daily and Stanford sports
correspondent for the San Francisco
Chronicle. He also wrote for
Advance for three years. Grothe was a member of the
Stanford Athletic Board and served as president of Sigma Delta Chi, the
professional journalism fraternity. At the time, even the oldest of old-timers
say that Stanford's 1951 27-to-20 victory over undefeated
LOS ANGELES COLISEUM, Nov. 10, 1951 - I'm up in the Coliseum press box now. Sports scribes from all parts of the country are beginning to piece together the lead paragraphs to stories on one of the most spectacular games they've ever seen. And in the gathering dusk down on the field a completely exhausted but deliriously happy Stanford team is carrying Chuck Taylor and "Dutch" Fehring on its shoulders. There can be no doubt that the red-and-white-clad squad just now going through the tunnel had a distinct touch of greatness in it today.
Stanford can win or lose the next two games and the Rose Bowl. Right now, it doesn't make any difference to the thousands of rooters who are swarming to the USC side of the field. The game which the electric scoreboard at the end of the stadium says Stanford won, 27 to 20, was the alpha and omega of grid thrills. The 96,000 who sat in this massive coliseum saw one of the great football games of all time, and even the Big Game will be anti-climactic.
It's supposed to be my job to throw together the best possible combination of words to describe something, but for the first time in my life, I find myself virtually speechless. I'm limp. What is there you can say about a gang like that? Throw the dictionary at them, and you still couldn't do that Herculean come-through effort justice.
The real drama of today's game was crammed into the fourth quarter, in which 33 points were scored, but Chuck Taylor's crew set the stage for things to come by tallying first. USC's All-American halfback, Frank Gifford, fumbled the ball on his own 17, and Card linebacker Ted Tanner was there to pounce on it. Two running plays netted three yards. Then quarterback Gary Kerkorian wheeled back, spotted Bill McColl in a cluster of three defenders, and threw. It was a typical McColl catch. He threw his six-foot, four-inch, 225-pound frame skyward and came down with six points securely nestled in his hands. Kerkorian, who completed 18 passes, more than anyone else ever has against the Trojans, added the conversion from Harry Hugasian's hold.
The first half saw no further scoring, although the Indians threatened twice. The first half ended with Stanford on the USC eight-yard line.
Coach Jess Hill's
team evened the count in the third quarter as the snake-hipped Gifford twisted
his way 18 yards goalward and converted from Johnny Williams' fingertips.
Twenty seconds later,
the USC rooters' thunderous elation was deadened as Bob Mathias, a trackman who
thought he'd give football a try, gobbled up Gifford's ensuing kickoff on the
Stanford four and never stopped until he reached the
A few minutes later,
not one of the 4,000 Farm students would have given you a cup of Cellar coffee
for the Indians' chances to win. Kerkorian faded back from his own 15, was
hit by end Bill Hattig, and fumbled in the end zone. USC's gargantuan tackle,
Charley Ane, draped his 250 pounds all over the ball, and the Trojans led, 20 to
13, 21 to 13, as Gifford converted. But here was a break.
And so here was the
situation: Nine minutes remained, and Stanford would have to score a
touchdown against the white-hot Trojans to tie, two touchdowns to win. Not an
easy chore. In the fabled 1924 Big Game, Stanford scored 14 points in the last
quarter to tie
Seven minutes remained as Kerkorian, from the USC 41, rifled a long floater to sophomore end Sam Morley on the 14.
It's dark now in the coliseum. Only the clicking of typewriter keys break the silence, but as long as I live I'll always remember this most prodigious come-through effort performed by a Cinderella team that wouldn't and couldn't be denied on the field below.
Do you have a "premium" subscription to The Bootleg? If not, then you are seriously missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest, broadest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!