This Date in Cardinal Football: 10-27-01
"If you build it... They will come." The now famous line from 1989's "Field of Dreams" has become a bit cliché over the years. Considering what happened on this date seven years ago in Stanford football history, there exists a more appropriate line from the classic baseball movie.
"We just don't realize," says Burt Lancaster's memorable "Moonlight Graham" character, "the most significant events in our lives as they are happening."
Little did we realize it at the time, but the convincing 38-28 victory against the then-fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins turned out to be Stanford's last truly meaningful moment at the "old" Stanford Stadium.
The pre-game hype that afternoon involved the national championship-minded Bruins, led by Heisman Trophy front-runner DeShaun Foster (today a San Francisco 49er running behind Stanford's 2001 guard Eric Heitmann), facing No. 20 Stanford. The Cardinal was hoping to defeat a top-five club for the second time in as many weeks. It would be a heavenly effort for the home side, whose ability to stop the run - and score 31 unanswered points - would come in front of over 64,000 mostly happy fans and a Keith Jackson-led ABC telecast.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Lewis completed 12 straight passes and led touchdown drives of 91 and 97 yards to earn his first win as a starter for Stanford, which moved to 5-1, 4-1 in the Pac-10. A relief appearance in place of injured starter Randy Fasani had come a week earlier at Autzen Stadium, where Lewis had engineered a thrilling 49-42 comeback against the mighty Ducks.
Teyo Johnson made a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab that later graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, while running back Kerry Carter caught one score and ran for another. The Cardinal moved way up in the BCS standings after winning the first matchup of ranked teams at Stanford Stadium in eight years.
The remaining home wins in 2001, against 0-9 Cal and a Notre Dame side in no mood to save Bob Davie's job, proved rather anti-climactic. This was the signature win of a 9-2 campaign, Stanford's most wins in a regular season since 1951.
After Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham left for supposedly "greener" pastures, everything would change.
Willingham's warriors were a Seattle Bowl win away from a 10-win season in 2001, but Eugene "Buddy" Teevens would need the next three seasons on The Farm to win 10 games. With Lewis in charge of the Pac-10's least-productive passing offense (and Johnson's production falling off markedly before he declared early for the NFL Draft), Stanford would struggle to a miserable 2-9 finish the following season. Head coach Ty Willingham's bolt for Notre Dame set in motion a mess of events that Stanford and the Harbaugh staff are still cleaning up. The Cardinal would average fewer than two home wins per-year over the next five painful losing seasons, exiling itself into the college football version of Hades alongside the likes of Duke, Baylor, Army and San Diego State.
But for one overcast afternoon at the Old Lady, it was heavenly. The Cardinal was ready to rumble that day. UCLA head coach Bob Toledo (today the head coach of the Green Wave of Tulane) had run his mouth, likening the stale atmosphere of Stanford Stadium to that of a "Safeway parking lot." (Actually a pretty good analogy, but only if we had made it). His Bruin team backed up the pregame trash talk on the opening series, taking a 7-0 lead on a defensive touchdown. Ryan Nece scooped up Lewis' backward swing pass and returned it 39 yards to the house.
Stanford answered in quick fashion. The Card held the ball for over 21 minutes of the first half, gaining 353 yards and scoring 28 points (11 more than UCLA had allowed in any single game previously). The avalanche began when Lewis went up top and found wide receiver Luke Powell for a 20-yard touchdown.
Three more touchdowns came in a five-minute span of the second quarter.
Johnson, looking for position in the end zone near the Stanford Band and student section, snared Lewis' lob pass with one hand. The Cardinal had moved 91 yards in 13 plays.
One play later, Foster, who had only 77 yards on 21 carries after gaining 301 two weeks previously against Washington, fumbled and the Cardinal recovered. Now it was Brian Allen's turn. The senior tailback doubled his team's lead by going 35 yards to paydirt.
The next scoring drive began at the Cardinal three-yard-line. It climaxed when Carter turned a short dump-off into a 26-yard sprint for a touchdown, pending the penalty flags. Holding, UCLA. Make it 28-7 in favor of the Cardinal with 4:33 left in the second quarter. The score stood until halftime, with Stanford holding a 31-7 advantage after Mike Biselli's short field goal.
"I think you saw what can happen when we put it all together," Johnson said. "That is what we're capable of doing when everything is working for us."
Cory Paus, the UCLA quarterback who had thrown 198 consecutive passes without an interception, wasn't able to play in the second half after injuring his throwing hand. Backup Scott McEwan led the Bruin comeback effort, pulling to within 31-28 after hitting Bryan Fletcher for 29 yards with 4:49 remaining in regulation. Lewis threw his third interception of the game to begin the Cardinal's ensuing series and Matt Ware's snare had the Bruins on their own 39.
But Stanford held firm. Albrecht sacked McEwan on second & six. His long pass on fourth down sailed incomplete. Carter's 27-yard touchdown jaunt capped the scoring with two minutes left, and an upset claimed yet another victim from the country's top five. That same day, Nebraska stifled #2 Oklahoma, and Syracuse (remember them?) outlasted previously fifth-ranked Virginia Tech.
"We knew they were going to come after us and try to get back into the game, " Stanford free safety Tank Williams said. "It's about what you do to respond." Indeed.
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