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, or the eminent graduation of 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.
28. 0 for 3
Card post three shutouts in 2010 campaign
Ultimately, arguing whether Stanford's offense or defense was better would be a chicken-and-egg type of argument that, if your high school English teachers were anything like mine, would have earned you an A faster than you can say "Miles Muagututia". First few paragraphs are your thesis: Despite conventional wisdom, Stanford's defense led the turnaround. Next paragraph is your antithesis: However, one could argue Stanford's offense was primarily responsible for the turnaround. Final paragraph synthesizes the two arguments via a rhetorical waving of the white flag. Each unit made the other perform better, both in practice and in games, so really, you could argue, offense vs. defense is a false dichotomy, and even if there were a real distinction, the relative strength of offense versus defense would be impossible to judge, the football equivalent of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. (When all else fails, stump the teacher. … In other news, Stanford has announced the end of IHUM, the yearlong and widely disliked introduction to humanities course for freshman. Now, any way I can get those grades wiped from my transcript?)
Whew. Having lifted that psychological weight from my shoulders, let's regroup here. Exhibit A for the primacy of defensive dominance would be the 2010 season. Let's conveniently ignore the USC and Oregon games: no one was stopping those two offenses and so, like so many other teams, our strategy here was also to wave the white flag, hope to force a few turnovers, and pray our offense could keep us in it. Take out the Wake Forest and Washington State games: two contests we won easily enough that many of our opponents' points came against backups in the fourth quarter.
You're left with nine games, many in a conference known for its powerful offenses, two against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Stanford, however, didn't allow more than 17 in any of those contests. The home totals against: 17, 17 and 0. More impressively yet, the road/neutral totals against: 0, 14, 0, 13, 14, 12. Except for the game against eventual national runner-up Oregon, Stanford allowed no more than 14 on the road the entire 2010 season.
Highlighting a season of defensive dominance were three shutouts of conference foes, games that put an end to a lot of history.
- The Card hadn't shut out three opponents in a season since 1969, nor posted a road shutout since the 1970's.
- Stanford hadn't won in the Rose Bowl since 1996 , nor beat UCLA in two straight games since 1992. UCLA hadn't been shut out at home since 1999.
- Stanford hadn't won three straight against Washington since the ‘70s. Washington, meanwhile, hadn't gained 107 yards or fewer since 1973, and hadn't suffered a home shutout since 1976.
- There wasn't as much history to be broken against historically putrid Oregon State, but the Beavers hadn't been shut out in eight years either.
In Game 2, at UCLA, the Bruins committed four turnovers, possessed the ball for only 23:09, were 1- of-11 on third- and fourth-down conversions combined, and mustered only 233 total yards in a 35-0 blanking. After UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince botched a handoff, leading to Michael Thomas' third- quarter scoop and score, the Bruins subbed out Prince for Richard Brehaut. Brehaut would fare little better against the Cardinal D, however, throwing for all of 42 yards with an interception in his limited playing time.
"Tonight was an offensive disaster," then-UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told the AP. "There is no other way to say it."
Game 8 was in Seattle, and with a 41-0 whipping, the Cardinal excised some demons in what historically has been a city of horrors for Stanford Athletics. This game was likely Stanford's single most dominant performance in the five-year Harbaugh/Shaw era, as Stanford gained 470 yards on the game, while Washington had only 54 yards through three quarters. (The Huskies would finish with 107 yards on the day.) Stanford led 28-0 with 8:38 left in the second quarter, ran for 278 yards, converted 10-of-17 third downs, and held the rock for 37:30. Meanwhile, the much-hyped Jake Locker was 7-of-14 with two interceptions.
"That's definitely the worst offensive performance I've ever been associated with," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian told the AP. "…We obviously hit rock bottom tonight."
"I'm kind of with Coach... I don't know kind of where to begin," Locker said.
The final shutout came in the regular season finale against visiting Oregon State. Andrew Luck threw four touchdown strikes to pass John Elway and Steve Stetstrom for the single-season school record of 28. Oregon State's Ryan Katz, meanwhile, threw three picks, helping the Beavers on their way to five turnovers and a 38-0 defeat. The Cardinal held the dynamic Jacquizz Rodgers to 76 rushing yards, and no Beaver receiver had more than 53 yards on the afternoon.
"They did their thing and we didn't," Beaver defensive tackle Stephen Paea told the AP. "They outplayed us. There are no excuses for this game. Stanford played great."
50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, 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
38. Steamrolled - Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of Washington
37.Opening act - 2009 win over Oregon launches a November to remember
36.Going bowling - Loss to Oklahoma doesn't ruin first bowl game since 2001
35. "Shut up and play football" - Cal jaws pregame, falls behind 45-0 in 2010
34. Look ma, no legs - Luck throws a 52- yard dart while in free fall
33. Sit down - Burfict's head leads to go- ahead TD, Wilkerson's ices W at ASU
32. Injury bug - Despite multiple injuries, 2011 Card manage to rally
31. Whale watching - Stanford starts recruiting at an elite level
30. Suck for Luck - The media machine anoints the next football savior
29. Outta my way - Luck bounces off Sean Cattouse for a 50-yard run
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