Many of you loyal Bootleggers came of age during the incredible stretch of 1977 to 1982, when heart-stopping finishes in this rivalry were as constant as Terry Donahue's tan. Five of those games, three won by Stanford, were decided four points or less.
This Week in Stanford History features a pair of more recent Cardinal-Bruin clashes that each set the tone for the upcoming campaign. Stanford captured one game, UCLA the other. One season Stanford season ended in the Rose Bowl, the other with the Cardinal tied for last in the Pac-10. You get the idea.
Sept. 25, 1999: Stanford 42, UCLA 32
"Where do you want to go today?" asked a Microsoft TV ad from the late-'90s. This week against UCLA in 1999, the Stanford offense went anywhere it wanted.
The 18th-ranked and two-time defending conference champs were the unwelcome guests for the Cardinal's second home game that year. Stanford's staggering production – 672 total yards, 465 of them passing, including 324 aerial yards and five touchdown throws from second-stringer Joe Borchard – cannot be overstated.
It remains the most passing yards given up a Bruin team, ever. The Cards averaged 17 yards per pass attempt.
The outcome featured a few early omens. Punter Sean Tolpinrud turned a bobbled snap from potential disaster to a 32-yard run. The game's fourth play from scrimmage saw Todd Husak connect with Troy Walters on a 42-yard flea-flicker.
And speaking of things to come, Stanford moved to 3-0 in conference. Not since the 1971 Rose Bowl season had that happened.
Tyrone Willingham did his best to downplay the game's significance. This was a low-calorie UCLA squad, where talents like Danny Farmer and Freddie Mitchell couldn't make up for inexperience on defense and quarterback. The Bruins were ranked as high as No. 14 in September before sinking to a 4-7 record.
"It means we're 3-0 and we won another Pac-10 game," the coach said afterward. "At the end of the year, could it be significant? Yes. Now, it just means we're 3-0. And that's not bad."
The superlatives instead went to Walters, who averaged over 30 yards per-reception. The diminutive senior went off for 278 receiving yards, grabbing three of the 14 touchdown catches he corralled in his consensus All-American season. His biggest catch of the day came early in the third quarter.
After UCLA downed a punt at the Stanford 2, Borchard play-faked. Streaking down the middle of the field was Walters, who hauled in the pass in stride before going a Pac-10 record 98 yards for the touchdown. The play broke the school record for longest pass play, besting the 96-yard Jim Plunkett-Randy Vataha connection against Washington State 29 years earlier. UCLA was now buried in a 28-3 hole.
While completing a 58-yard pass to Dave Davis in the second quarter, Husak sustained a rib-jarring hit from the Bruins' Kenyon Coleman and Micah Webb. Davis fumbled. UCLA recovered.
Enter Borchard, whom the Chicago White Sox took with their first pick in the following spring's Major League Baseball draft. The outfielder made quite a relief appearance. He tallied 15 completions in 19 attempts, while also embarking on a 56-yard scramble on third and two in the final quarter and the Bruins within 35-32. A touchdown pass to DeRonnie Pitts, who finished with 119 yards on nine catches, later cinched up that drive.
"Things are rolling for us now," Walters declared. How right he was.
Sept. 25, 1993: UCLA 28, Stanford 25
For years, the Cardinal made a habit of turning the anonymous into the extraordinary. This star-making ability revealed itself when No. 17 Stanford (2-1 coming in) hosted its first conference game of the season, and the Bruins started an injury-riddled backup tailback.
Sharmon Shah rushed 40 times for 187 yards to pace UCLA. If that name doesn't sound familiar, it's because he'd change it to Karim-Abdul Jabbar a year later. Between the two titles, 558 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his career against Stanford, he remains an all-time Cardinal nemesis.
Shah, nursing his own sore knees, was only inserted in the lineup due to Skip Hicks' ankle injury. The victory sparked the Bruins, winless in their first two games, to an eventual Rose Bowl trip.
The Cardinal lost three fumbles and had one pass intercepted. "Some of our younger players made some tragic mistakes," admitted Walsh, who'd soon become all too familiar with explaining away defeats. As I once wrote in The Bootleg magazine, this marked the beginning of the end for his second tenure. Winners in 19 of its previous 24 games, the Cardinal would only find victory four more times before Walsh's 1994 resignation.
The game turned midway through third quarter with Stanford facing a 16-10 deficit. Freshman Mike Mitchell took a toss sweep around left end but was stripped by Donnie Edwards. Marvin Goodwin picked up the loose pigskin and ran 32 yards to the house.
From a fan's standpoint, nothing was more maddening in 1993-‘94 than watching Steve Stenstrom pile up acres of passing yards while his defense failed to stop anybody. Here was a case in point. Coming into his own as one of the conference's best quarterbacks, Stenstrom threw touchdown passes to three different receivers: Justin Armour, Brian Manning and Ellery Roberts. It was his third straight 300-yard passing game.
Two years later, the tailback then known as Abdul-Jabbar further burnished his skills, carrying 42 times for 261 yards. The Cardinal managed a Liberty Bowl berth in spite of the 42-28 Bruin triumph. Every rule has a few exceptions (with 1935 and 1978 the others).
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