TWISH: Quarterbacking magic

This Week in Stanford History salutes Josh Nunes, who produced a legendary moment in Cardinal lore in just his third career start. That 37-yard dart to Zach Ertz sent TWISH into the vault determined. What we found for this week's entry involves, fittingly, a pair of quarterbacks making magic happen on The Farm.

Sept. 20, 1969: Stanford 63, San Jose State 21

The Stanford edition from college football's centennial season was a dynamo. The Indians started a season they'd finish 7-2-1 in style, routing the overmatched Spartans. Still, head coach John Ralston remained unimpressed.

"I'm not at all happy," he said. "I'd rather have half the score and no penalties, no fumbles, a lot sharper blocking and tackling. We made a lot of mistakes."

In contrast, Jim Plunkett compiled an effort that bordered on perfection. Before exiting late in the third quarter (substitutes Don Bunce, Ron Fujikawa and Tim Cordial each led the offense in the second half), the future Heisman winner completed 13 of 15 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Making his debut after transferring from junior college, Randy Vataha snagged five passes for 95 yards.

The Indians opened up a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, a bulge that was 28-7 by halftime. By day's end, 64 of the roster's 71 players had seen action. Stanford, doomed by close losses to USC and Purdue, finished No. 19 in the final AP poll. Some players from that team say it was superior to the 1970 version that reached the Rose Bowl.

Sept. 13, 1980: Stanford 19, Tulane 14

He did it in college, as evidenced by signature moments against Cal and Ohio State his senior year. He did in the NFL, mercilessly keeping the likes of Warren Moon and Bernie Kosar out of the Super Bowl. But when did John Elway first gain the ability to pull off a stunning fourth-quarter comeback? The answer: The Card's home opener in 1980.

Elway threw a 24-yard lob to Ken Margerum with 38 seconds to play for the final margin. The visiting Green Wave were shocked, as they had scored the presumptive game-winning touchdown with 1:58 remaining in the contest, erasing Stanford's 13-7 lead.

Tulane had just moved the ball 80 yards in three plays, the real estate covered entirely on passes from Nickie Hall to receiver Robert Griffin (no relation to last year's Heisman winner). The big crowd – over 54,000 saw new coach Paul Wiggin improve to 2-0, definitely not an omen of things to come over the next four seasons – was beginning to think the visitors from New Orleans owned a voodoo hex over the Cardinal. Stanford had dropped a 33-10 decision at the Superdome to start the 1979 season.

But Elway had other ideas. Andre Tyler hauled in a 38-yard reception to start the final drive. The game-winner was a high lob, which Margerum corralled about two yards from the back of the end zone. The two-point conversion run failed, but Stanford, 10-point favorites, was able to hang on.

Prior to Tulane's late touchdown drive, Stanford had led the entire way. Margerum caught two scores to become the Pac-10's all-time leader in touchdown receptions.

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