The Wow Boys substituted guile and flair for brute strength en route to finish 10-0. Often the smaller of the two teams on the field, the Indians' largest victory came in a 27-0 victory over USF. They used the T-formation – the forerunner to today's quarterback-based offenses – to win their remaining games by an average of just nine points.
And after breaking a tie with two late touchdowns against the two-time defending conference champ Trojans, they'd face the nation's most electrifying player.
In 1940, Jackie Robinson (383 rushing, 444 passing yards) led the Pacific Coast Conference in total offense, just months after leading the conference in scoring in basketball. He'd finish his two-year career averaging 18.8 yards per punt return, still among the best in NCAA history. Ironically, he batted just .097 in baseball, his ultimate sport of choice.
No. 6 Stanford never trailed in front of over 55,000 at the L.A. Coliseum. Hugh Gallarneau, who'd become an All-Pro with the Chicago Bears, scored on two short touchdown runs. Frankie Albert found Clem Tomerlin for a 16-yard touchdown pass early in the game, giving the Tribe a 14-0 lead.
Stanford enjoyed a 410-169 total yardage edge. The Indians gained 372 of their yards on the ground.
Credit coach Clark Shaughnessy for keeping his team focused. The Bruins came in 0-5. Stanford and USC had battled to the bitter end the previous week, with Albert leading a fourth-quarter touchdown drive keyed by a 25-yard completion on third-and-long. Albert, who in the second half had thrown three interceptions and missed a field goal, wasn't done yet. He returned an interception for a touchdown to cap a 21-7 effort. Fans didn't just pack Stanford Stadium, they stormed the field afterwards.
The Bruins listed African Americans on their roster. Woody Strode and Kenny Washington also remain pioneers, as no other PCC team had blacks on their roster. In September of 1940, The Stanford Daily actually ran a headline to advise that "Kenny Washington Sho' Do Travel." Yikes.
Robinson, who returned both a punt and an interception for a touchdown when the teams tied a year earlier, enjoyed some highlights. He tallied punt returns of 40 and 43 yards, the latter coming after he scooped the pigskin at his own 16 yard-line between three stunned Stanford players. He also added a 19-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to make the game appear a bit closer.
Nov. 1, 1986: Stanford 42, Washington State 12
The previous weekend, I joined my family following a particularly draining home loss to USC. (Aren't they all?) My godfather became quite uncomfortable during dinner, but not because of MacArthur Park's undercooked chicken. Turns out he had a lot of money riding on the New York Mets' ability – very much in doubt at the time – to win Game 6 of the World Series.
The Cardinal fared no better than Calvin Schiraldi that weekend, dropping a 10-0 decision to a Trojan team coming off a 20-point spanking to Washington State.
Stanford rebounded this week though, flashing the brilliance that allowed for a Gator Bowl berth at season's end. Brad Muster was unstoppable and Jack Elway brilliant as the Cardinal moved to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the very tough Pac-10, clinching the program's first winning season since 1980.
On the first drive of the game, Stanford faced a fourth and inches at its own 35. Stanford went for it, converted, and later capped the drive with a touchdown.
"I thought, 'The hell with it. Let's keep the offense on the field,'" the head coach said in classic fashion. "It was important to have success right then."
The Muster odometer kept going, with the junior carrying the ball 36 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He added six receptions for 93 yards. It's a shame only 35,000 showed up for John Paye and Dave Wyman's final home games.
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