50-41. More memorable moments

No. 12

Building a top 40 was a team process, and I'd like to thank Jim, Lars, Andy Drukarev, David Lombardi, Wyndam Makowsky, several of my '08 friends and whoever I'm inevitably forgetting. In winnowing down everyone's input into a top 40, we had to leave several ideas on the cutting board. Here are 10 of the best of the rest.

No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though we've 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 development 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.

In this special edition of our countdown, we are pleased present the Stanford football's "honorable mention" memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.

50. Foreshadowing greatness
Andrew Luck signed with Stanford in 2006. (It's not technically within the last five years, but c'mon now.) The stories, linked below, are fun to see in retrospect:
Mike Eubanks introduces him.
Stanford offers.
He commits.
The family issues a press release on his commitment.
Recruiting experts reflect on the commitment.
Matt Squeri reflects on the commitment.

49. Hello Andrew
Andrew Luck introduces himself in earnest to the Stanford faithful with a 50-yard flea flicker versus UCLA. Link.

48. Finding a way
Alex Loukas runs past Arizona in 2008, 24-23, after Jason Forcier and Tavita Pritchard stalled. In retrospect, perhaps this is the earliest hint of a new attitude, as the team found a way to win a close one after years of losing from ahead.

47. Perfection
Hosting Wake Forest in 2010, Stanford busted out its black uniforms – and a taste of what was what to come. For fourteen straight possessions, Stanford was as close to perfect as you'll ever see: offensive touchdown, forced punt, touchdown, forced punt, touchdown, forced punt, touchdown, forced punt, touchdown, field goal allowed, touchdown, interception, touchdown. It was 7-7 in the first when the streak started, and 55-10 in the third when the carnage was over. Stanford would go on to win 68-24.

46. Not quite there
Stanford took a step ahead in the 2008 Arizona game, but yielding that ground the next year, losing to the Wildcats 43-38. As it would three times that season, Stanford blew a double-digit lead, with Nic Grisby taking a screen for a 57-yard touchdown with three minutes left for the game-winning score. Stanford led 28-13 in the first half, and 38-29 in the early fourth, but as the score implies, while the offense was rounding into top form, the defense still had a ways to go.

45. What clipping?
Here's another double-digit lead Stanford blew in 2009 (the other blown lead came against Cal). In Andrew Luck's first road start, a 17-3 halftime lead over Wake Forest evaporated into a 17-all tie in the fourth, but Stanford was driving in the mid-fourth quarter for a potential game-winning score. From Stanford's 45 on a third and two, Toby Gerhart ripped off a 30-ish yarder (the box score doesn't say) down the right sideline and well into field goal range. One problem: a phantom clipping call on Chris Marinelli wiped the play off the board. Stanford had to punt from its 42 with 3:34 left. The Deacons would march downfield for the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left, and a 24-17 win. Without the holding call, perhaps we score and hang on for the victory, Toby has a chance to further pad his yards, and given how narrow the vote margin would prove, perhaps Gerhart ends up nudging out Mark Ingram for the Heisman.

44. Look ma, one hand
We've seen him run and we've seen him throw. We hadn't seen him catch, but Andrew Luck changed that with a beautiful one-handed snag versus UCLA in 2011. Link.

43. Times, they're a-changing
The 2008 college football season's first game was a Thursday night ESPN broadcast of Oregon State's visit to Stanford. Neither team led by more than a touchdown through the first three quarters, but then, the Cardinal, touchdown-plus underdogs, started to separate. After a Bo McNally pick-six of Lyle Moevao, Stanford had pushed a 20-20 tie in the late third to a 36-20 advantage with 9:36 left.
Oregon State marched right on back with a touchdown and a two, and would find themselves in a third and four at Stanford's 16 with under a minute to go when Moevao found an open Darrell Catchings, who ran down Stanford sideline to the three. If you're a believer in momentum, a Beaver touchdown, the two and an overtime loss were all but certain for Stanford. But then Taylor Skaufel punched the ball loose, the ball trickled out of the end zone, and Stanford knelt it out, having just hung on. The game gave a national audience reason to think that the 2007 upsets of USC and Cal were no fluke, and the winds of change were blowing in Palo Alto. Link.

42. "Skov timed it perfectly!"
Shayne Skov must have had Notre Dame's snap count down, or found some tip to key off. Either that or he had ESP, as he crossed the line of scrimmage seemly a millisecond after the snap to sack Dayne Crist. The Irish offensive line didn't have a chance, Skov threw Crist to the ground uncontested, and Stanford would go on to win in arguably college football's most storied stadium, 37-14. Link. It's the first play.

41. The Sherman saga
Richard Sherman was an underachieving wide receiver in his first years at the Farm. He's now a legit cornerback for Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks, making highlight reels. Link. In between, Sherman transitioned to defensive back in spring of 2009, before his redshirt junior year, and it was an understandably rough transition. He made a few other teams' highlight reels at first, but by the 2010 season, he was hands down the team's most reliable defensive back. The Seahawks noticed, snapping Sherman in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
Of course, the on-field transition pales in comparison to other adjustments Sherman had to make. He came to Stanford from Compton, and his personal story made him a favorite among many Stanford fans.

Previous:
40: Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39: Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests


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