Nov. 14, 1992: No. 15 Stanford 40, No. 22 Washington State 3
Bill Walsh avoided wasted words. Careful, measured and direct, he avoided anything resembling Lou Holtz-ian coachspeak in describing an opponent. He meant what he said.
“I can’t remember a better quarterback Stanford has faced in a long time,” he said of Drew Bledsoe this week in 1992, as Stanford readied for its final home game of the season.
There was no doubting the abilities of the cannon-armed Bledsoe, already the assumed No.1 pick of 1993 NFL Draft. But he never came close to beating Stanford. The decisive final score stands as the last in a series of punishing episodes the Cardinal D dished out to him. Call him the anti-Cristin McLemore.
Stanford went 3-0 versus Bledsoe, never winning by fewer than 18 points. Of his 46 career touchdown passes, only one occurred against the Cardinal. In 1990, the Card held Bledsoe to 64 passing yards at Stanford Stadium. He was sacked six times in a 49-14 mauling a year later in Pullman. This week 22 years ago, he threw for 145 yards on 16 completions in 26 attempts. Washington State entered the tilt leading the Pac-10 with 29 points and 414 total yards per game, quaint numbers by today’s standards.
“The key was to put pressure on him and cover well downfield,” Ron George explained afterwards. “That was a great combination. Our defensive secondary covered so well today – if anybody deserves applause, it’s them.”
Stanford (8-3) scored 37 unanswered points while holding Bledsoe without a touchdown pass for the only time that season. The senior defenders, playing in front of a spirited crowd of over 52,000 fans, emerged as stars of the show against the Cougars (7-3).
John Lynch collected his fourth interception of the season. Darrien Gordon forced a key Bledsoe fumble, leading to a 96-yard touchdown drive that gave the Cardinal a 10-3 edge. George delivered a punishing first-half sack. Defensive back Ron Redell, the former Crespi High quarterback, returned a fumble 48 yards to set up another touchdown. Estevan Avila sacked Bledsoe for a safety. One senior in particular found himself getting nostalgic as the beatdown ensued. “A couple of times I found myself looking out at the crowds,” Dave Garnett said.
“These guys just have great motivation and great feeling for each other,” Walsh beamed.
Victorious over a ranked opponent for the fourth time in their coach’s first year back on The Farm, the Cardinal were peaking at the right time. Glyn Milburn scored three touchdowns, with a 42-yard catch-and-run accompanying sprints of 31 and 21 yards. He finished his senior season second in the country in all-purpose yards per game (176). Its season at a crossroads after a thrashing at Husky Stadium, Stanford now awaited a Jan. 1 bowl.
Washington State pictured a much different outcome. The Cougars started 6-0 in 1992. They engineered a 19-point blowout over their Rose Bowl-bound archrivals in the Apple Cup. Mike Price’s club gained over 400 yards in a win over Arizona’s “Desert Swarm” defense, which allowed nine touchdowns all year (!).
Against Stanford, the outcome stood in doubt well into the first half, when Bledsoe called his own number on an audible from the Cardinal 31-yard-line. He took the quick snap and rambled deep into the Cardinal secondary, perilously close to the goal line and a 10-3 Stanford deficit.
But from behind swooped Gordon from his cornerback slot, chasing Bledsoe down and stripping the ball. “I knew I had to try to make a big play, because they had a lot of momentum at the time,” Gordon said.
Stanford’s ensuing march concluded with Milburn taking it to the house from 42 yards away. The highlight-worthy play saw the Santa Monica High alum shed two potential tacklers before darting down the sideline into the south end zone.
“We showed our fans a new era for Stanford football,” George proclaimed.
Not quite, alas. Unfortunately for Cardinal supporters, it would be years – until the present day – until Stanford would be known for such a brand of defense. May the efforts of the “G-Men,” who allowed opponents to compete only 45 percent of their passes in 1992, live on.
Bledsoe surely remembers. The next time he endured a beating like the one Stanford dished out, he lost his job to Tom Brady.
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Card wallop Bledsoe, WSU this week in 1992
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