On The Farm, both teams joined each other on the field during the Stanford Band's national anthem rendition. The skies overhead were empty, the result of a nationwide ban on blimps, helicopters and small planes above stadium airspace. Extra security was there to protect the crowd of just under 40,000 on hand for the Pac-10 opener.
The contest – one of the 58 across the country that were called off in the wake of 9/11 – turned out to be triumphant from the Cardinal perspective. Randy Fasani threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns during a most entertaining effort. Luke Powell caught six passes for 143 yards and returned a punt 51 yards. The Cardinal moved to 2-0 for just the second time in 15 years.
From a fan's standpoint, can serving up 504 yards of offense be in any way reassuring? On this night it was, given the circumstances. Stanford surrendered touchdown passes of 40, 58 and 68 yards courtesy of Sun Devil QB Jeff Krohn. But the Cardinal defense also forced three turnovers. It allowed just one first-half touchdown as the halftime scoreboard showed the home team leading 30-13.
In short, Stanford got busy like it was 1999 all over again. So began the comparisons that continue to this day, pitting the 2001 team, which went 9-2 and finished No. 11 in the final AP poll, against its Rose Bowl-playing counterpart from two years earlier.
"You look at '99, and we ran the ball better and we had a very good receiving corps," offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said in 2001. "But I don't know that we were as deep as we are this season."
The home team led 23-13 when it capitalized on another ASU miscue. After a drive stalled and Stanford had to punt, the Sun Devils were called for roughing the kicker. Fasani, the fifth-year senior who nearly quit football that summer, then set up shop at his own 21.
Powell hauled in a 47-yard reception. On the next play, Fasani channeled his inner Elway while rolling left. He back-pedaled to avoid the rush, then found himself way behind the line of scrimmage before finding a wide open Nick Sebes for a 32-yard touchdown.
But back came the Sun Devils behind the arm of Krohn, who tallied 366 yards on the night. He connected with Donnie O'Neal on a 58-yard strike to pull Arizona State within 10 points. Cornerback Ryan Fernandez was there for the coverage, only to take a bad angle on the ball.
The depth Diedrick referred provided Stanford's answer. Another touchdown toss came from Fasani to tight end Brett Pierece, a welcome sight given the Cardinal's neglect of the tight end throughout the Willingham years. Next came Teyo Johnson's second touchdown catch in as many games and a resulting 44-20 Stanford edge, only to be followed by Shaun McDonald's 68-yard scoring counterpoint.
All of this occurred in a wild third quarter, as neither team scored in the final period. The Cardinal running game provided some sanity, as Brian Allen finished with a career-best 134 yards, and capped the scoring with a 47-yard jaunt.
The college gridiron headlines on this weekend centered around a return to normalcy, though there were some exceptional scenes. At Syracuse's Carrier Dome, New York Gov. George Pataki addressed the crowd before the Orangemen's date with Auburn. A deafening roar followed his declaration that Americans "stand more unified than ever before."
The most shocking outcome occurred in Chapel Hill, N.C., where Julius Peppers and Ronald Curry keyed a 41-9 Tar Heel romp over Florida State. It marked just the third loss for the Seminoles in nine years of ACC play. The next year Bowden, with the eventual approval from a foundation representing victims of 9-11, used the "Let's Roll" catchphrase as his team's official slogan.
After beating USC the following week to move to 3-0, the Cardinal entered the Top 25.
"Anytime you score 50 points it's unusual," Tyrone Willingham said beating the Sun Devils. "We were fortunate tonight to have things go our way."