No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though we've since assumed all the trappings of a football powerhouse – the three straight runner-up finishes in Heisman voting, the two straight BCS bowl berths and top-10 finishes, the top-ten 2012 recruiting class, and the eminent graduation of the top pro prospect of the last decade – it wasn't that long ago that Stanford football was an afterthought.
On December 19, 2006, new athletic director Bob Bowlsby hired Jim Harbaugh, a former star quarterback, but an unproven coach who had never worked at the FBS level. The rest, as they say, was history.
We are pleased present Stanford football's 40 most memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.
Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of Washington
Stanford was No. 8 in the country and 6-0, but it was a weak 6-0, as the Cardinal had yet to face a ranked team. A night visit from No. 25 Washington on Oct. 22, 2011 changed that. The Huskies were paper tigers -- they would go just 2-5 down the stretch and many around these parts predicted such a collapse before it began – but still, ranked is ranked, and a primetime ABC timeslot meant that much of the nation would be seeing Heisman frontrunner Andrew Luck for the first time.
If the fans tuned in for Luck, they left disappointed. He would throw for only 169 yards on the day, though he was efficient in his limited action, going 16-of-21 with two touchdowns. The reason? Stanford ran for 446 yards, topping the 1981 school record of 439 rushing yards. Highlights.
"We were very aware of it when we broke it," Luck said of the record. "What a testament to the o-line, to the coaches, to the tight ends, to the receivers. It was a total team effort on the ground, and most of all to the backs making it happen."
In front of a Homecoming crowd, Stepfan Taylor ran for 138 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Gaffney ran for 117 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Wilkerson ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Old man Jeremy Stewart added in 20 yards and, naturally, yet another touchdown. Chris Owusu, Luck and Geoff Meinken combined for the remaining 78 yards. To boot, the defense forced three turnovers, including a Michael Thomas pick-six, while the offense didn't cough it up at all. It was a night in which the only disappointment was that Stanford couldn't quite hit the 500-yard rushing mark.
They came close though. Stanford averaged 10.1 yards per carry and converted eight of 12 third downs. They were almost too good for some of the stats to catch up, as they made such Swiss cheese of the Huskies' defense that the marches up and down the field were Oregon-quick. Stanford only needed 26 first downs and 33:10 of possession to rack up its 615 total yards.
Stanford's rushing prowess mattered more in closer games, such as Toby running for 205 yards to salt away Notre Dame in 2009. Players had more impressive runs in other games too – see Toby trucking Gary Gray or Luck pinballing off Sean Cattouse. Still, for a demonstration of Stanford's power running attack, its bread and butter these past five seasons, you'd do well to find a game more beautiful than this one.
50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, a lot of Luck, and a phantom clipping call
40. Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests
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