Stanford failed to tie the game on the subsequent two-point conversion, and prematurely giddy Golden Bear fans rushed the field with seconds still left on the clock. That incurred a 15-yard penalty. Naturally, the Cardinal recovered the onside kick, and the free yardage set kicker John Hopkins up for the winning 37-yard field goal as time expired.
Stanford 27, Cal 25. The Farm Boys had exacted sweet revenge eight years after the disastrous play of 1982. For a program still steamed about that controversial defeat, it was a win so important that Shaw still glows about McCaffrey's pivotal contribution almost a quarter century later.
"That sequence to me is still unmatched in my lifetime as far as games that I've witnessed with my own eyes," he remembered leading up to 2012's Big Game.
And now, through recruiting news that has connected generations, Shaw will coach Ed's son at the very same university where he and the senior McCaffrey were teammates 23 years ago.
Four-star running back Christian McCaffrey (Valor Christian HS, Highlands Ranch, Colo.) verbally committed to Stanford Thursday morning, marking Stanford's second pledge of the 2014 class. He follows Texas safety Brandon Simmons, who decided on The Farm three weeks ago and is already actively helping recruit other marquee players. With the program in the hands of strength and conditioning guru Shannon Turley after the conclusion of spring practice, Stanford coaches are currently logging heavy frequent flyer miles to generate recruiting momentum. McCaffrey's commitment indicates that these efforts are producing results.
"My heart really just led me [to Stanford]," he told 9News, a Denver-area TV station. "When I visited there, it felt like home."
His bloodline directed him toward Palo Alto, too. While Ed McCaffrey was spectacular on the football field, Christian's mother, Lisa, was a soccer player on The Farm.
"That's why Ed and I got together," she told Sports Illustrated in 1998. "So we could breed fast white guys."
The plan worked. Christian has been clocked at 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and believes he can run even faster -- think sub-4.4 territory. At 5-feet-11 inches and 195 pounds, McCaffrey already complements his speed with physicality, creating just the type of versatility that Stanford is searching for in the quest to replenish the recruiting pipleline that has flowed so richly into its backfield over the past seven years. The Arizona Cardinals recently drafted Stepfan Taylor, while Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney are each currently atop the depth chart with only one year of eligibility remaining.
"He's got a gift," Todd Miller, a rival high school coach, said of McCaffrey to the Denver Post. "God's given him great vision and speed. When he gets his shoulders square, he's about as good a football player as there is."
McCaffrey's own high school coach echoed that praise to the Post.
"He's so unique," Brent Vieselmeyer said. "He can do so many things: catch the ball, block punts, run returns. He can be a power back. He's not a normal type of player, that's for sure."
There's now a strong chance that Stanford's head man will be the next coach to deliver similar compliments. After all, there's potential here to make David Shaw reminisce about 2016 in the same way that he glows about 1990. He already coaches Kodi Whitfield, son of his former teammate and NFL All-Pro lineman Bob Whitfield. This McCaffrey connection is another chance at generational déjà vu.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com. and follow him on Twitter: @DavidMLombardi.
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