"This Date in Cardinal Football": 10-16-99

The Bootleg's Mark DeVaughn looks back at Rose Bowl-saving home "survival" game salvaged against rising Oregon State squad back in 1999 when the oft-struggling Cardinal defense had trouble stopping the wide-open Beaver spread, but was bailed out when the power-packing Stanford "O" rammed it home on the diabolical dam-builders...and it happened one decade ago, on "This Date in Cardinal Football!"

"This Date in Cardinal Football": 10-16-99

Make like a "Trenchdog" and grab a chain necklace. Go ahead and start a site on the "World Wide Web", and introduce an IPO while you're at it. It's time to party like it's 1999, but hopefully not like "Woodstock '99",  thanks to the latest installment of Mark DeVaughn's weekly "This Date in Cardinal Football" series.

After averaging over 50 points in its three wins to start the 1999 Pac-10 season, Stanford found a new template for victory against Oregon State on this very date a decade ago. The brushstrokes, ugly and uneven, easily could have painted a Cardinal loss.

In front of a nonchalant crowd of just 37,419, the rather defenseless Cardinal defense gave up 533 yards of total offense to the visiting bark-eaters, who entered the contest (and happily would leave) without a conference win. The Cardinal's top running back lost two fumbles – inside the opponent's 10-yard-line. Illness limited Stanford's best receiver while leg injuries hobbled its pass-rushing specialist. The Cards indeed walked a high tightrope against a dangerous team that finished the next season ranked No. 4 in the nation.

"This is probably the best victory I've been a part of," said quarterback Todd Husak, who threw two interceptions on this day after sitting out the previous game against the San Jose Spartans with some bruised ribs suffered against UCLA.

The path to the Rose Bowl is indeed often paved with afternoons like this one, a 21-17 season-deciding home win for a very fortunate Cardinal squad. A wild fourth quarter made up for the three periods of lousy output from the nation's fourth and fifth-ranked offenses. Speedy sophomore running back Brian Allen scored the winning touchdown on a 37-yard touchdown sprint with 3:45 to play, as Stanford's rosy picture got a bit clearer.

Stanford (4-2, 4-0) stayed unbeaten in conference play, while none of its competition could offer better conference records than 2-1. Washington lost to Arizona State that night for its first Pac-10 defeat.

"Let me emphasize that it feels really good," exaggeration-prone Ty Willingham said of his club's startling first-place status.

A year earlier, as the Cardinal limped to a 1-8 start, the Beavers were the ones in a good mood. Troy Walters muffed a late punt, leading to a tie-breaking touchdown and Oregon State's first win at Stanford Stadium in 30 years. The 1999 sequel had its intriguing subplots.

The upswing put in place by the departed Mike Riley (to the NFL) kept on going. Dennis Erickson (the ASU Sun Devils coach in 2009) now patrolled the sidelines, while trolling the junior college ranks and parole rolls for NFL-caliber recruits. The newly renamed "Reser Stadium" hosted a team that finished 1999 in the Oahu Bowl, breaking the Beaver program's drought of 29 consecutive losing seasons.

Countering the mighty mite duo of Jonathan Smith and Ken Simonton was a Stanford team still not on the national radar. Coupled with a 69-17 season-opening surrender at Texas, the second of three straight losses to San Jose State had put the dimmer switch on a 3-0 Pac-10 start. Which Cardinal team would show up for homecoming?

Throughout much of the contest, it was the lousy one. The Cardinal moved 80 yards on its first drive, only to have Kerry Carter fumble in the end zone. A third-quarter goal-line stand stuffed Simonton, the nation's leading rusher coming in, at the one. Stanford drove all the way to the Beavers' six before the unfortunate Carter lost the handle once again.

Oregon State held a 7-0 edge at halftime. Husak struggled at times in starting for the first time since being injured three weeks earlier against UCLA. DeRonnie Pitts totaled 123 receiving yards in place of flu-ridden Troy Walters; Pitts made a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown to knot the score late in the third.

The two teams combined for four lead-changes over the final 20 minutes. OSU's Smith passed for 405 yards, but a sack by defensive end Andrew Currie on third-and-goal thwarted the Beavs' first drive of the final quarter. Ryan Cesca kicked Oregon State back into the lead (10-7) from 34 yards out.

But just seconds after Allen's first touchdown run with 6:33 remaining, the Beavers took the lead right back. About 10 yards separated Roddy Tompkins from the nearest Cardinal defender when he hauled in a prime Smith offering. The clock showed 6:13 left after the 69-yard touchdown.

Not since 1997, a span of 18 games, had Stanford produced a 100-yard rusher. Simonton needed 32 carries for his 115 yards. He lost two fumbles inside the Cardinal 10-yard-line, marring his sixth straight 100-yard game. Allen fell a yard short of the 100-yard barrier (on just nine carries), though "B.A." stood poised to be the hero as the final seconds ticked down.

Smith drove Oregon State to the Stanford 40. On rd & 10, senior cornerback Frank Primus intercepted Smith's pass at the Cardinal five-yard-line with 24 seconds left. It was sweet redemption for Primus. An untested sophomore two years earlier at home against Arizona State, he had surrendered 100 combined receiving yards on successive passes. Granted, a personal foul nullified one of the plays.

"Mind-boggling," was how Primus described the Beaver spread offense. No matter. On a weekend John Rocker and Mariano Rivera were the baseball's top relief pitchers (we thought you might like to recall that), the Cardinal were very relieved – and unbeaten in the Pac-10.

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