So Lars, Mike, and the crew have decided to give me a little corner of The Bootleg's cyberhome. While I'm not quite sure if those guys know what they're in for, I'm definitely honored, especially as a long-time fan of The Bootleg and as a former semi-collaborator (remember The Final Word?).
Each week, I'll be giving you my thoughts and perspectives on a subject I know we all hold close to our hearts: Stanford football. And while I'll spend most of these weekly columns living in the present, I'd like to start by looking back. This Saturday will mark the beginning of my tenth season of following Stanford football, and to celebrate I thought I'd share my "top 10" list (not that I'm big into these, but what the hey) of the most memorable Cardinal games I've ever seen in person. Your list may vary (and if it does, e-mail me…your choices will appear in next week's column!).
- Stanford 27, Oregon 24 (OT); 10/12/96 – Hard to top this game on the fun scale. After not having scored a touchdown in their previous 10 quarters, Mike Mitchell scored two by himself, including a fourth-quarter 42-yard dash that set off a fast and furious finish. Oregon returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to take a 24-14 lead, but Stanford responded with a touchdown toss to Damon Dunn. Down by three with inside two minutes to go, Stanford faced a fourth-and-12 from their own 35. Chad Hutchinson dropped back, stepped left, and heaved one to Gilroy (I remember thinking to myself, "Chad, you only need 13 yards, buddy…what the hell are you doing?"). But out of nowhere, licensed Duck killer Andre Kirwan fought off two Ducks to make the leaping 49-yard catch and save the day. Kevin Miller sent the game to overtime with a field goal, Kailee Wong flicked the ball out of Tony Graziani's hand on Oregon's first play in OT, and Miller nailed it home to give Stanford a much-needed win that would give them some big-time momentum heading into Corvallis the next week. Or so we thought…
- Stanford 38, UCLA 28; 10/27/01 – What a first half…Chris Lewis completed 12 straight, the offensive line was working UCLA on its way to racking up a game total of 214 yards rushing, Teyo Johnson added to his personal highlight reel with a one-handed touchdown grab (the catch of the century so far), and Stanford led the fourth-ranked Bruins, 28-7. All this against what was probably the nation's best defense at the time. How amazing was it? At the half, I made my way to the luxurious Stanford Stadium press box rest room, and who should be standing at the trough but Keith Jackson himself, who was calling the game for ABC. Whoa Nellie! So I stand next to Keith at the trough and start, ummm, well, you know, and I turn to him and ask, "Geez, Keith, did you think we'd see anything like this today?" And Keith just drawls out in that oh-so-college-football-cool voice, "No way. Noooo way." Stanford certainly was number one that day, and UCLA ended up whizzing away a great season.
- U$C 31, Stanford 30; 11/4/95 –
- Stanford 46, Washington 28; 11/5/94 – Although this game is tainted by Steve Stenstrom's injury that subsequently ended his Stanford career, this 46-28 win over the Dawgs was a major bright spot in a painfully dark year. In a monsoon, the Stanford offense drowned the Huskies, as Stenstrom threw at will in the first half (his final play was a touchdown run) and Scott Frost ran at will in the second half. I don't remember any lightning that day, but I'm sure Napoleon Kaufman heard some thunder as LB Mike Hall planted him with a vicious tackle that proved to be the hit of the year. The Huskies were on probation that year, but who cared? Stanford was singing in the rain. They had beaten Washington, and for one day in that horrible 1994 season, all seemed right with the world.
- Stanford 49, Oregon 42; 10/20/01 – OK, so I wasn't actually at this game (the only game on this list that I didn't see in person). But sometimes you gotta break the rules, especially for an exceptional game like this. When I talked with new cal head coach (and former Oregon offensive coordinator) Jeff Tedford a few weeks ago, we ended up talking about this game for about ten minutes. Where do you start when you talk about this one? The endzone-to-endzone track meet that was the first half? The Keenan Howry one-man circus? Randy Fasani giving way to Chris Lewis? Teyo Johnson's superb grab over Rashad Bauman? The blocked punts? The heroic comeback? The missed extra point that would have tied the game? Marcus Hoover's interception on third-and-one? Kerry Carter's fourth touchdown to give Stanford the lead with 1:10 to go? Joey Harrington's last gasp pass floating out of the end zone? Poor Ted Robinson losing his voice during the game's closing minutes? I don't know where you start, but I'll make sure I end it by saying this was one of the most incredible Stanford football games of all time.
- Stanford 36, cal 30 (OT); 11/18/00 – This is what Big Game is supposed to be: a tough, hard-fought, dramatic contest that Stanford comes away with in the end. As has been Big Game custom, the Cardinal made the big plays that the Bears didn't. With inside five minutes remaining in regulation, cal kicked a field goal to tie the game at 23. On first down from his own 25, Randy Fasani fired a quick-out to Luke Powell, who was shoved toward the sideline but kept his balance and stayed inbounds. However, two cal defenders thought Powell had gone out, so they held up and let Powell run right past them. By the time they figured it out, it was too late. The Bears were competitive in a Big Game for the first time in a while, but Powell's 75-yard tightrope touchdown was the major setback they couldn't quite recover from. Joe Igber finished a brilliant day with a game-tying touchdown run that sent the game to overtime, but after cal missed a field goal on their possession, Fasani sucked in the cal defense with a play fake and found a wide-open Casey Moore for the touchdown. Game, set, match, Cardinal. This was one of those games where you walked out of the stadium feeling bad that someone had to lose, but since that "someone" was cal, you didn't feel too bad for too long!
- Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9; 1/1/00 – The day Stanford fans had waited 28 years for: a return to the Rose Bowl. No one gave the Cardinal a chance to beat the big, bad Badgers on that cloudy, chilly New Year's Day. But at halftime, there Stanford was with a 9-3 lead. The Cardinal were taking it to Wisconsin, stuffing Ron Dayne and confusing Brooks Bollinger. With each defensive stop, the Stanford fans across the way were making more noise than I thought possible. Then Dayne broke free for his only big run, a 64-yarder to start the second half, and later took it in for the Wisconsin lead. Stanford hung in there, and had one final shot for the miracle win, but when Husak slipped on fourth down with inside two minutes to go, it was over. Wisconsin's defense was just too much down the stretch, although the Trench Dogs nearly matched them blow for blow. But as proud as I was of Stanford football that day, I was equally (if not more so) disappointed that the Card didn't come away with a game they could have won. It was still a great day, but it could have been so much better (by the way, I'm sick of walking out of the Rose Bowl stadium feeling like Stanford came up short. Three straight times. Can this please change on October 26? Please? Sorry…let's get back to the column…).
- Stanford 50, Arizona 22; 9/18/99 – Out of the 81 games Tyrone Willingham coached on The Farm, there were only two that I was convinced Stanford had absolutely no shot at winning. This was one of them. Could you blame me at the time? Arizona was not only the runaway Pac-10 favorite, but also a national championship contender. Stanford was coming off a 3-8 season in 1998 and had been gored by the Longhorns, 69-17, two weeks before. So what happens? Tim Smith picks off three first-half passes, Kerry Carter racks up three scores, Todd Husak throws for a season-high 364 yards, and the Stanford running backs gallop all over the Wildcats. Amazing. At one point in the second quarter (probably after Stanford had stonewalled UA on fourth-and-goal inside the Cardinal one, then breezed through the Wildcats for a 99-yard touchdown drive), Ted Robinson, Bob Murphy, Stanford sports information director Gary Migdol, the broadcast engineer, the statistician, and I were all looking at each other in stunned silence. None of us could believe it. Half a hundred points? On Desert Swarm? What an eye-opening game that was, and it ended up setting the tone for the rest of Stanford's magic carpet ride to Pasadena.
- Stanford 28, Oregon 21; 9/23/95 – This was the other game I thought Stanford had zero chance of winning. The Ducks were the defending Pac-10 champs, with a devastating offense led by Tony Graziani and licensed Cardinal killer Cristin McLemore, a mean Gang Green defense, and 45,000 of their closest friends on hand at Autzen. When I visualized the game, I saw McLemore exploding, Oregon killing Stanford with their wicked screen game, and Mark Butterfield struggling against the defense and the crowd. As it turned out, McLemore did explode (12 catches, 176 yards and the game's opening TD), but the defense played one of its best games of the season (picking off Graziani three times in the first half), and Butterfield was cool and collected. But two plays will always stand out from this game. Oregon had tied it at 14 late in the third quarter, and everyone in green and yellow was going bonkers. Then Marlon Evans took the ensuing kickoff back 96 yards for the Stanford touchdown, and everyone in cardinal and white was going bonkers. Huge momentum switch back to the Card. Then, after converting three third-down passes on a fourth-quarter drive, Butterfield floated one to the endzone for Andre Kirwan, who had All-Pac 10 corner Alex Molden draped all over him. Didn't matter. Kirwan earned his Duck-killer license by making the horizontal stretch grab for the 28-yard score, giving Stanford a 28-14 lead and icing the game. It was all smiles on the flight back from Eugene. A few months ago, I talked with Graziani (now with the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League), and although he wouldn't come out and say it, I could tell this game still haunts him a little bit.
- Stanford 42, UCLA 32; 9/25/99 –
So there you have it, the ten most amazing Stanford football games I've ever seen. Time will tell if any games from the 2002 season will break into the list, but I certainly wouldn't mind having to clear some space for this Saturday's game against Boston College!
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
Although I was hoping the Huskies would win, I gotta admit that it's good to see Lady Luck finally dis Rick Neuheisel at the altar for a change…
The Huskies have always said their 12th man has always impacted games, but I don't quite think that's what they had in mind…
Three words for cal fans: take it easy. Who do you think you are, Florida State? I felt so dirty watching that game that I had to take a shower. At halftime. Yuck…
I don't know if they'll drop 70 points on everyone they face, but cal will spoil somebody's season this year. Just hope it isn't Stanford's…
I know this is the "Random Pac-10 thoughts" section of the column, but be sure to mark your calendars for October 5 and the Big XII game of the year: Kansas at Baylor. Set your TiVos for stun!
The numbers from OSU QB Derek Anderson's debut: 15 of 26 for 345 yards and three scores. Not bad. We'll see if he's pulling similar numbers when the Beavers stop fattening up on the likes of Eastern Kentucky…
A sloppy win, but U$C got the hard fought one over Auburn. Although Carson Palmer looked good, he still threw two senseless picks. When is he going to put together a flawless game?
And when will that damn band quit playing those same damn songs over and over again?
Troy Clardy hosts Stanford football postgame call-in shows, as well as Stanford football road pregame shows, Stanford basketball pregame shows, the Buddy Teevens Show, and the Mike Montgomery Show on Stanford radio network flagship station KTCT ("The Ticket 1050") in San Francisco.