TWISH: Alphabet Soup

You've suffered before, but so have they. Before This Week in Stanford History gets too carried away describing the exploits of Cardinal killers (Eric Bienemy, that UCLA running back with two names), let's spotlight the opposing standouts who've found nothing but frustration against Stanford.

Exhibit A (as in Albert, Seyon): Drew Bledsoe. The rifle-armed former No.1 pick never beat Stanford in three career starts, averaging an ordinary 153 yards through the air. His teams lost by an average of 30 points to the Cardinal, who surrendered just one of his 46 career touchdowns. In a related story, Danny O'Neil, Todd Santos and Brady Quinn threw 46 career scores between them against Stanford (or so it seemed).

Exhibit B (as in Barnes, Benny): Sonny Sixkiller, the talented Vietnam-era QB who went 0-for-3 during his career against the Card. Stanford's Barnes made three interceptions this week in 1971 against Sixkiller's Huskies. Sixkiller was slowed by the flu when his team lost at Stanford a year earlier, then injured a knee in 1972 during his team's 24-0 defeat.

Exhibit C (as in class, cruelty): Willie Tuitama. Before evolving into the fearsome bunch they are today, Stanford could only mete out punishment to a few select opponents. Arizona's all-time leading passer lost twice over a two-year run (2007-2008) when nobody – save for San Jose State – dropped two games to the up-and-coming Cardinal.

This week in 1971, the defending Rose Bowl champions visited the Huskies in a key Pac-8 game. How did Stanford keep a stranglehold on conference supremacy? The key word begins with the letter "D."

Oct. 9, 1971: Stanford 17, Washington 6

Husky head coach Jim Owens predicted victory at a pep rally the night before. Sixkiller and teammates entered a packed stadium in front a record crowd of over 60,000, some of whom dropped $40 for a ticket from scalpers. Seattle's skies were sunny and postcard-perfect, and the Huskies looked to put on a show for the home fans.

"We knew coming in they throw the ball around a lot," said Barnes, who played cornerback for the Tribe in 1970 before switching to safety. "That's what we prepared for. But Sixkiller isn't the biggest guy around. We made a point to harass him and make him uneasy, and that's when things went our way."

The lines blur when discussing Stanford's Rose Bowl teams of 1970 and 1971. Frustration mixes with exhilaration. The same group that lost home games to Duke, San Jose State and Washington State possessed the innate talent to rise up in the biggest contests. Sure enough, the Indians were 3-1 coming in, fresh off a 9-3 loss to the Blue Devils.

A transfer from Contra Costa College (where, fast-forwarding 40 years, he just retired after 14 years as a coach and administrator), Barnes spent many afternoons humbled in practice by Jim Plunkett and Randy Vataha, but the defensive back would go on to a fine career at corner with the Dallas Cowboys. He switched to safety in 1971, when Don Bunce replaced Plunkett under center and defense ruled for Stanford.

In respective victories over Washington, UCLA, Cal and Michigan, Stanford scored 17, 20, 14 and 12 points. "We weren't the most talented defense, but we the most determined defense," Barnes said. The Thunderchicken pass rush perfectly complimented a talented secondary, and that duet showed little mercy to players like Washington's standout quarterback.

Sixkiller led the nation in 1970 with 18 completions per game. By halftime against Stanford, he'd completed only 5-of-15 passes. The Husky running game had produced minus-26 rushing yards. Sixkiller finished with just 12 completions in 46 attempts, a paltry 26 percent clip.

When he wasn't having fun blitzing into the Washington backfield, Barnes enjoyed the first three-interception game of his career. He nearly made it four picks, only to let one slip out of his grasp in the third quarter. Assistant coach Jack Christiansen wasn't going to let him forget it.

"Oh he was screaming at me after game saying I could have had four," Barnes remembered. "I should have had it too. That game was a big statement for us. We lost some weird games to some weird teams, but we know how to focus when we had to."


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