We have a long way to go before we can beat legit teams when they aren’t having a bad day.
A quintet of soul-crushing losses torpedoed Stanford’s chances of a prestigious bowl game and a return to the New Year’s spotlight. And while the dim glare of Santa Clara paled in comparison to the shine of Miami or Pasadena, the Cardinal can take solace in one glaring accomplishment from Tuesday’s 45-21 triumph in the Foster Farms Bowl.
It didn’t just beat the Terps. The Cardinal mugged a postseason opponent, rendering Maryland helpless while sending their fans into a state of winter gloom.
Opposing teams rarely leave a bowl game against the Cardinal feeling that way. Normally, it’s the other way around.
Stanford fans should applaud, and not thumb their noses, at the 2014 season’s curtain-call. Cardinal football history features too many losing seasons – 21 in the 28 campaigns between John Elway’s and Toby Gerhart’s junior years – to scoff at any bowl victory, regardless of stature or poultry relation.
The Cardinal now has three bowl victories this decade, equaling the haul from 1978 through 2009.
In one half (one half!), Remound Wright tied Jackie Brown for the career lead in bowl-game touchdowns by a Stanford player.
For just the 15th time in 112 seasons, Stanford won at least eight games in a season.
The 2011 Orange Bowl will, until further notice, remain the standard of Cardinal excellence in a bowl. The second half against the Hokies remains the most perfect display by a Stanford team, ever. The Foster Farms Bowl offered glimpses of what took place four years ago in South Florida.
I swear I saw Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener running seam routes at Levi’s Stadium. Oh, wait, that was Austin Hooper and Greg Taboada. Kevin Hogan’s first 35 minutes –13 completions in 18 attempts for 168 yards and two touchdowns, helping Stanford hold a 35-7 lead by the 10:18 mark of the third quarter – was as dominating as any Cardinal passing effort since Andrew Luck, James Vaughters played like Shayne Skov without the Mohawk and facepaint.
I can relate to the raw views expressed by Terp fans. I’m not old enough to have seen the comeback over Georgia in the Astrodome, the smothering of Charles Alexander and LSU in El Paso, or the consecutive Rose Bowl wins over Woody and Bo.
No, the Stanford world I know, when it comes to bowl games, is mostly a sad one. I know to be a Stanford fan in December and January – when there’s a postseason trip of any kind – is to expect the worst luck possible: Tony Leiker and John Zentner getting suspended from the Gator Bowl for steroids, a separated shoulder cutting short Tommy Vardell’s Aloha Bowl, a Biblical plague of injuries – can you imagine a healthy Mike McLaughlin, Willie Howard and Troy Walters against Wisconsin? – costing the Cardinal a 2000 Rose Bowl victory.
Then there was that other time Stanford accepted a lower-tier bowl bid.
The 2001 Seattle Bowl will forever rank as one the all-time low moments for Cardinal football. Instead of winning a 10th game and affirming their No. 9 BCS standing, Stanford collapsed. Only later did we find out the head coach had one foot out the door. “You need to hire me. You know you have to hire me,” Tyrone Willingham told Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, after the Irish hired George O’Leary in December of that year.
Stanford fans should enjoy their historic levels of stability and high standards. While not all bowl victories are created equal, a lot of fan bases – especially the one in College Park – would trade places in a heartbeat.
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