TWISH: Card down ASU in '78 and '99

Steve Dils powered the Card to a 21-14 victory over ASU in 1978, as Mark DeVaughn highlights at This Week in Stanford History. But first, a maligned defense provided a much-needed boost. The usual suspects on the offensive side made things happen. All that made for pretty highlight material, but the significance of Stanford's 50-30 win at Arizona State 11 years ago this week began in Pasadena.

Nov. 13, 1999: Stanford 50, Arizona State 30

The Cardinal (6-3, 6-1 in the Pac-10) moved back into the Pac-10's first place slot only after host UCLA won a 23-20 overtime decision over previous leader Washington. The Bruins (1-5 conference coming into the day) picked off Marques Tuiasaspo on the extra period's first possession, then sealed the upset a few plays later with Chris Griffith's 22-yard field goal.

In handing the Huskies their second conference loss, UCLA played the game with a fourth-string center, a third-string quarterback and three other back-ups on the offensive line.

"First of all, I'd like to thank UCLA," praised Troy Walters from the Sun Devil Stadium interview room after Stanford prevailed.

As Stanford's 2010 edition brings an 8-1 overall record into Saturday afternoon's tussle against Dennis Erickson's side, a game that occurred 11 years to the day is worth noting. Todd Husak's 311 passing yards were expected, but credit the defense for moving the Card closer to a Pac-10 title they'd clinch the following week.

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer's group, ranked dead last in the nation coming in, produced five sacks. Defensive tackle Andrew Currie corralled an interception that set up a touchdown, while fellow Trenchdog Willie Howard picked up a fumble and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.

"Today might have been the hypest game we've played," commented Howard, who played his high school ball locally at Los Altos High. "It began when we got off the bus."

Arizona State made for a worthy foe, but only considering the historical ineptitude of the Cardinal in Tempe. (Stanford still hasn't won at Sun Devil Stadium since 1999!) Even with tailback J.R. Redmond and tight end Todd Heap, the '99 Sun Devils only managed a disappointing Aloha Bowl berth. The late great Bruce Snyder's tenure would end with his 2000 resignation. He was never forgiven once his 1998 club failed to reach the postseason after much preseason hype.

The Cardinal led 14-3 midway through the first quarter once word of the Bruins' upset reached the Stanford sideline. The advantage grew to 26-10, with the help of a safety – a bad punt snap by Arizona State led to that gift – and a 27-yard field goal from Mike Biselli.

The Devils however responded, once Davaren Hightower eluded a lunging Randy Fasani (playing on special teams, a year away from his debut as a starting quarterback). The ASU sprinter's 78-yard punt return for a touchdown cut his team's halftime deficit to 26-17.

But in the end, coach Tyrone Willingham stood on the sideline, drenched with a celebratory bucket of Gatorade. The 1999 Cardinal reached Pasadena with a modest 8-3 record, though it followed each of those defeats with a resounding victory. The decision against ASU came two weeks from a 35-30 loss at Washington.

"It makes the Big Game something special," Willingham said. "That…it could decide who goes to the Rose Bowl makes it extra special."

The Big Game victory gave a Stanford a 7-1 Pac-10 mark, with Washington's earlier win over Oregon providing the tiebreaker in earning the Huskies the Holiday Bowl that went to the league's runner-up. Both finished 6-2. The Ducks, who didn't play Stanford, would have claimed a share of the championship, had they not lost to UCLA.

Nov. 11, 1978: Stanford 21, Arizona State 14

It's hard bringing up Steve Dils' 1978 season without mentioning some record he broke during his fifth-year senior campaign. A month after setting both school and conference records for passing yards in a game against Washington State, his two touchdown throws gave him 21 for the season – another conference mark at the time.

Visiting Stanford (6-4) bounced back from an emotional 13-7 loss to USC, getting over 100 yards on the ground from Jim Brown – the Cardinal's tailback of the famous name also wore No. 32 – and surviving a torrential rain storm that hit the desert. There were over 20,000 no-shows for the first all-time meeting between the two teams.

The Sun Devils finished 9-3 overall on the season, their first in the newly expanded Pac-10 conference. Mark Malone led the offense under center, while the legendary Frank Kush patrolled the sidelines. It's worth noting that Stanford won both of its first road dates at the Arizona schools, only to lose all but seven meetings since in Tuscon and Tempe.

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