No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though the program has since assumed all the trappings of a football powerhouse – the three straight runner-up finishes in Heisman voting, the two straight BCS bowl berths and top-10 finishes, the top-ten 2012 recruiting class, or the eminent graduation of the top pro prospect of the last decade – it wasn’t that long ago that Stanford football was an afterthought.
On December 19, 2006, new athletic director Bob Bowlsby hired Jim Harbaugh, a former star quarterback, but an unproven coach who had never worked at the FBS level. The rest, as they say, was history.
We are pleased present Stanford Football’s 40 most memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.
No. 40: Fake out
It was early in the first quarter, scoreless in Seattle. Stanford had last won three straight versus the Huskies in the ‘70s. The Card hadn’t posted a road shutout since 1974, while Washington was last shut out at home in 1976.
That all ended on October 30, 2010, as the Cardinal blanked the Huskies 41-0 in Seattle. The Card led 28-0 at halftime and would possess the ball for 37:30. Washington could muster only 54 yards through three quarters and 107 yards on the game, their worst total since 1973.
For my money, it was Stanford football’s single most dominant performance of the past five years, especially given the locale – a city where the Cardinal have suffered untold horrors. So while there was no one play that tipped the balance of the game, there was most certainly a play that got it all started.
In both design and execution, the play was beautiful. Andrew Luck saw Washington packing the box, with a five-man front and three linebackers perhaps five yards apart. In shotgun, Luck motioned Stepfan Taylor next to him, and audibled a fake dive to Taylor up the middle. The Husky cavalry bit and the linebackers sacrificed the minimal width they had. Andrew Luck broke through the first wave and started galloping down the left sideline.
Still, Luck's work wasn't done. He had a few yards on Washington's secondary, but most quarterbacks would have yielded that cushion before reaching the goal line on a potential 51-yard touchdown run. Luck didn't.
The play highlighted Luck’s football IQ and his wheels, two of his most underrated attributes. His passing numbers on the night looked pedestrian at best: 192 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception. (To be fair, Luck was 19-of-26 with a few drops and the pick was on a half-ending jump ball.) Most importantly, Luck ran for 92 yards, led his team to touchdowns on his first four drives and, as always, was more than the sum of his stats.
"To be mentally understanding the game the way he does is just remarkable…" Jim Harbaugh said postgame. “Let's open up the Heisman discussion a little bit. This Andrew Luck is a great, great football player.”
The next 15 months would eliminate any argument on Luck's abilities as a football player. However, one question remains up for debate.
Who was more surprised: the Versus cameraman or the Washington defense?
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