Not long ago, Mike Eubanks and I were having an unofficial Bootleg staff meeting at the Dutch Goose. Come to think of it, isn't the Dutch Goose the international headquarters of the "unofficial" staff meeting?
Anyway, Mike and I were talking about all sorts of things: world peace, the economy, Britney Spears' latest wedding, all sorts of things. Maybe we talked a little Stanford football. Just a little.
I don't know how the subject came up, but it seemed to both of us that Stanford has dealt some devastating losses to several teams over the years. The kind of losses that shattered bowl hopes, killed seasons, ended coaching careers, and quite possibly altered history.
Need examples? Okay. The 1998 Big Game had plenty riding on it. Well, for cal anyway. A Golden Bear win would have sent them bowling. Old Blues were fired up with the visions of Justin Vedder's passes fluttering to Dameane Douglas during Bowl Week.
Stanford, however, had other ideas. In one of the uglier Big Games in recent memory, Troy Walters caught a touchdown pass, Vedder threw a fourth-down desperation pass to no one in particular, and the Cardinal won, 10-3.
That Stanford win killed the Bears' 1998 season, but it also may have done much more damage to Golden Bear football than that. How different would history have been if cal had won that game and gone to a bowl? Would the Bears have been a contender? Would Kyle Boller have broken out sooner? Would Tom Holmoe have been the hottest coach in the Bay Area? Who knows?
Another team that has suffered some dream-killing losses at the hands of the Card is the Oregon Ducks. We all know about their 2001 loss to Stanford that, as it turned out, cost the Ducks a berth in the national championship game
But one oft-overlooked game is Stanford's 27-24 overtime victory in 1996. The Ducks entered that season fresh off of a Cotton Bowl appearance and was looking forward to proving its success was no two-year fluke. Things started off well (three straight wins), but quickly went sour (three straight losses).
The Ducks had a chance to reverse all that and get back on track with a win over Stanford, but Andre Kirwan's miracle catch, Tony Graziani's fumble, and Kevin Miller's game-winning kick put the Ducks at 3-4. They never recovered. Although they won their last two games and finished at 6-5, that Stanford loss cost them a bowl bid.
Stanford Stadium has become a graveyard for Bruin football. In their last two trips, UCLA has come to the 650 area code with high hopes of continuing stellar seasons, only to suffer demoralizing losses. The Bruins' 6-2 start last year was a fraud. I knew it. You knew it. Deep down, I think they knew it too. Someone had to put them out of their misery, and fortunately it was Stanford. Five losses later, the Bruins were right where they probably should have been all along: under .500.
Of course, that loss was nowhere near as damaging to the Bruins as their disastrous visit to The Farm in 2001. UCLA entered the game as the fourth-ranked team in the country, and they had the best defense in the country. Didn't matter. Stanford's offense shredded the Bruins' proud defense, and the UCLA offense was down to its third-string quarterback by the end of the game. UCLA lost, 38-28.
Again, that loss changed the course of history. By season's end, the Bruins were unranked and sitting at home during Bowl Week. U$C killed them, 27-0, signaling the beginning of the Trojans' return to prominence, and confirming the beginning of the end of UCLA's relevancy. I don't think many of those things happen without Stanford dominating the big, bad Bruins like they did that day.
My vote for the Stanford win that did the most damage has to be the 50-22 beatdown the Card dropped on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson in 1999. The Wildcats weren't just Rose Bowl contenders that preseason; many had them as potential national championship contenders. A 41-7 loss at Penn State to start the season hurt, and they needed a late touchdown to beat TCU. Still, many thought that the Wildcats would be able to right the ship and sail through the Pac-10, right? Right?
No. Todd Husak had one of his finest games, throwing for 364 yards. Tim Smith picked off three passes. Stanford's drove 99 yards through the "Desert Swarm" in the second quarter. Long touchdown runs by Coy Wire and Casey Moore put the frosting on the cake. It was all smiles on the plane flight home (at least until we landed at 3:00 Sunday morning).
No smiles for the Wildcats, though. Dick Tomey was shown the door after the following season, paving the way for the John Mackovic fiasco that put Arizona even deeper into the hole. That loss to Stanford was the death blow. When you think about it, the Wildcats still haven't gotten up off the mat. And it's been five years!
This week, Stanford has a chance to kill someone else's season. The Huskies are stumbling into Stanford Stadium with an 0-3 record. The fans up there are already giving up. The players and coaches are desperately searching for answers. If there ever was a program that was begging for Stanford to put the killshot right between their eyes, it's the Huskies. And given the recent history of this rivalry (two Stanford wins since 1977, the gut-wrenching losses in 1999 and 2000), I'd love nothing more than for the Card to oblige.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
I can only use one word to describe the first half of the U$C game: magic. The play on the field, the atmosphere in the stands… it was magic. Good to feel that again…
Except for the play that led to Trent Edwards' interception (why do empty backfields scare me with this team?), I thought the offensive playcalling was spot on in the first half. My favorite sequence was after U$C's turnover (which, upon further review, was later changed to an interception). On Stanford's next play, they sent all their receivers deep. Trent's pass was incomplete, but I loved the fact that the Card wanted to go for throat…
On that note, I don't think the playcalling got too conservative in the second half. If a couple of first-down passes had been completed in the third quarter, it would have been a different result. That's just my opinion… I'll ask offensive coordinator Bill Cubit for his thoughts on tonight's "Stanford Sports Weekly" (shameless plug alert! shameless plug alert!)…
That kid who wears number five for U$C is pretty damn good. He was clearly the difference. Even so, I gotta admit I was surprised they didn't move him around more than they did. By my count, he lined up at receiver only three times…
The other day I was watching Blazing Saddles, easily one of the funniest movies of all time. Think back to the scene when Mongo comes to town. Sheriff Bart goes to grab his guns so he can deal with Mongo, but Gene Wilder tells him, "No, no… don't do that. If you shoot him, you'll just make him angry." Well, in hindsight, that J.R. Lemon run at halftime was the shot that made the Trojans angry…
Casey Paus learned of his demotion to backup quarterback from the UW sports information staff, instead of from Keith Gilbertson himself. What is this, "Office Space"? That's got to be the Pac-10's most awkward dismissal since Mike Garrett left that voicemail on John Robinson's machine…
Shhhh… don't look now, but here come the Sun Devils…
What happened to the Pacific Northwest? Not long ago, they were the hottest region in the Pac-10. Now, Wazzu's offense can't get on track. Neither can Oregon's. Oregon State's paying the price for their "ambitious" scheduling. Washington is just all-around bad. Isn't it amazing how quickly things can change in four years?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… can you think of two people who have had more spectacular flameouts this year than Roy Jones, Jr. and Howard Dean?
Hey Mike Stoops… Joe Pisarchik on line 1…
Arizona State @ Oregon. Yes, I know the last time Andrew Walter was in Eugene, he was torching the Ducks' secondary to the tune of 536 yards passing. And yes, I know that unless the Ducks get to Walter (which could happen, thanks to their surprising defensive line), he could approach that number again. On paper, I don't think this is much of a contest. But with the clouds suddenly looming over A-State's program, the Ducks could very well find a way to take advantage. Then again, if Oregon can lose to Indiana at home, they can certainly drop one to the Sun Devils at home. I like Oregon by 9.
cal @ Oregon State. With a 1-3 record and a home game against the Pac-10's predetermined silver medallist, this will be the game that decides the Beavers' season. OSU's defense has been a bit of a disappointment so far, but much of that is due to the offense's problems. If you can't hang on to the ball, you're not going to win many ballgames. Meanwhile, it seems like cal hasn't taken the field for an actual game since 1973. They'll be rusty, and that's why this game will be interesting for a while, but I like cal by 11. By the way, Mike Hass is a bad, bad man.
Last week: 1-1 (straight up), 2-0 (ATS).
This year: 2-1 (straight up), 3-0 (ATS).
-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag.
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Clardy hosts "Stanford Sports Weekly", which airs Wednesday evenings at 8:00pm on KNTS (1220 AM) in San Francisco. He also hosts Cardinal men's basketball pregame shows on Stanford radio network flagship station KNEW in San Francisco, and "College Football Today" on KNBR 1050 in San Francisco.
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