TWISH: Stanford downs Texas, Mizzou

Ask a longtime fan of BYU or Utah what that 16-team WAC was like. Ask the Germans what they think about bailing out the Spanish and Greeks. Ask Ted Turner about his poor choices in marriage (as in pairing CNN with AOL, not himself with Hanoi Jane). Too often, bigger turns out to be the opposite of better.

This notion has crossed my mind a lot lately, with college football on the brink of unprecedented realignment. This Week in Stanford History is naturally fond of tradition. Therefore, the idea of Oklahoma and Texas schools playing in the Pac-12 – the bastion of uniquely West Coast football – has us feeling like the waiter just offered dessert after a steak dinner.

No thanks, I'm full.

Lacking an appetite for misguided superconferences, TWISH combed the archives for games where Stanford faced teams with whom it may soon be partnering up. The research got us thinking. Instead of joining a conference with teams found in these far-flung locales, how about just playing them more often?

Sept. 16, 2000: Stanford 27, Texas 24

The Cardinal suffered 14 losses in 18 games between the middle of 1997 to the start of the 1999 season. Out of all those lost afternoons and evenings, no one game is remembered more by its final score:

Texas 69, Stanford 17. A season that ended in Pasadena couldn't erase the shame of the team's '99 debut.

"It seemed like before you could blink, they were up by 30," Eric Heitmann said a year after the shellacking. He wasn't far off. Texas led 48-10 at halftime.

The rematch pitted the No. 5-ranked visitors against a 1-1 Stanford team looking to find itself. The Cardinal had amassed over 600 yards of offense the prior week against San Jose State, only to lose its third straight to the Spartans. Seniors like Willie Howard and DeRonnie Pitts still meant the Cardinal were dangerous. Randy Fasani had already far exceeded expectations at quarterback

On the other side, Mack Brown ruled over a roster of NFL-ready talent by his third season, including Roy Williams and quarterback Chris Simms. The Simms-vs.-Major Applewhite QB controversy that defined the early part of Brown's tenure would play out under the lights at the Old Stadium.

Simms and Williams struck early for a 38-yard touchdown connection and a 9-7 lead. The Cardinal countered with 13 unanswered points: By the time Emory Brock returned a blocked punt 20 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, Stanford held a 20-9 advantage. The program was closing in on its first win over a top-10 team in seven years.

But Applewhite struck back in a hurry. On a night Stanford intercepted him twice and limited him to 18 completions in 40 attempts, his TD strikes of 71 and 38 yards combined with a two-point conversion to put Texas back on top, 24-20

Stanford had its own quarterback drama unfold when Fasani went down with a knee injury in the first quarter. He'd miss the next three games, each of which Stanford lost en route to a 5-6 record. Chris Lewis would rather remember one final drive, however.

The fateful play occurred from the 15-yard-line. Lewis zipped one over the middle to Pitts, who found daylight on a crossing pattern. He motored up the sideline before leaping over a defender and into paydirt, sending the Cardinal crowd into delirium and the cocky Longhorns into denial.

"We didn't lose this game," tailback Hodges Mitchell said. "We just ran out of time."

Sept. 11, 1971: Stanford 19, Missouri 0

The Who unleashed the classic "Who's Next" on the rock 'n roll airwaves in 1971. For Stanford football, Don Bunce was next. Game 1 of the post-Jim Plunkett era began on a sizzling hot day in Tiger Country, where the Indians pitching an emphatic shutout.

The senior from Woodside showed off both his running and passing skills against the Tigers. Bunce tallied 52 yards on the ground while completing 12 passes for 149 yards. His was not the only stud with a promising debut for the defending Pac-8 champs. Starting in place of another NFL-bound great in the departed Randy Vataha, John Winesberry caught a 26-yard touchdown pass at wide receiver.

"I liked the way (Bunce) scooted for good yards when he wasn't throwing," Coach John Ralston said postgame. "This wasn't a bad opener for us."

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