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.
19. What's Your Deal?
USC Faithful Boo Stanford for Running Up The Score in the Coliseum
November 14, 2009. The afternoon began with Pete Carroll's
unbreakable USC aura still intact. It ended with the Trojans
broken, devastated, and humiliated on their own hallowed Coliseum
This was Stanford's first return to Troy after their unfathomable
24-23 2007 win (look for "Greatest Upset Ever" later in this
series). USC had already administered a 41-24 revenge beatdown the
year before at Stanford Stadium, but 2009 was their opportunity to
truly put the retaliatory hurt on the upstart Cardinal in the home
One problem: Stanford was anything but "upstart." They blasted
right out of the gate and brutalized USC behind Toby Gerhart and
his "Tunnel Workers Union" offensive line. The Cardinal never
trailed, the Trojans were exhausted by the second quarter, and
matters quickly unraveled. The final: Stanford 55, USC 21. Troy's
worst home defeat ever, and the most points scored by a visiting
team in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Jim Harbaugh's squad
had sure come a long way since its miraculous upset just two
Some of the Stanford highlights: running power on every single
play of a late touchdown drive, a beautiful Luck-to-Fleener
touchdown connection, Toby Gerhart pad-popping destruction, and a
game-sealing Richard Sherman pick six that sent fans to the exits
with a quarter left to play.
The 2009 beatdown, though, will be remembered more for what
happened after the final whistle, half an hour after most USC fans
had already bolted to the parking lot as if free Mercedes were
being given out. When both coaches met at midfield for their
postgame handshake, a visibly shaken Carroll challenged Harbaugh
with three words: "what's your deal?"
This was an apparent response to the Cardinal's decision to go
for two despite leading 48-21 late in the fourth in quarter (for
the record, although Stanford failed the conversion, they did
drive down the field and score again
before it was all said and done). Harbaugh retorted
succintly with his blank stare: "I don't know, what's your deal?"
In the midst of the Carson Palmer-Matt Leinart-Reggie Bush days,
who would have ever thought that Pete Carroll would be whining
about having the score jacked up
against USC at home? That's how surreal the scene was on
November 14, 2009. But it was true. Stanford had steamrolled Troy
on the road behind Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck a week after
shocking Oregon at home.
They had begun the USC collapse in 2007 with the Upset, and they
finished the toppling in 2009 with "What's Your Deal?" Stanford
football had truly arrived.
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 UW
37. Opening act - 2009 win over Ducks launches a November to remember
36. Going bowling - Loss to Sooners 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 Cattouse for a 50-yard run
28. 0 for 3 - Card post three shutouts in 2010 campaign
27. Laying the wood - Luck lays out Wright
26. Concussed - Owusu is knocked out of four games
25. Jumping ahead - A 21-3 lead vanishes in Autzen in 2010
24. So close, yet so far - Luck's worst game costs Card 2009 Big Game
23. Run, Toby, run - Gerhart takes over against the Irish
22. Xs and Os… and Ys and Zs - Stanford toys with defensive coordinators
21. "The perfect football player" - Marecic makes purists weep
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