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 eminent graduation of 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.
29. Outta my way
Luck bounces off Sean Cattouse on 50-yard run
Within the context of the game, the spotlight shone brightly. It was third and five at Stanford's 21, first quarter, 2010 Big Game. Though the Cardinal were significant favorites, Stanford led only 3-0 after ten minutes had elapsed in Berkeley and were looking for a spark to get the offense going in earnest.
In a broader context, the spotlight shone brighter yet. The teams had fought pregame (see story No. 35 below), and Stanford was coming off a devastating 2009 loss to California, in which Andrew Luck killed a would-be winning drive with an interception in the final minutes. Stanford had but one loss on the 2010 season and was in position for a BCS berth if it won out – but first the Card needed to get past the pesky Bears.
Verdict: While Stanford would end up winning in a 48-14 laugher and the play was in the first quarter, it mattered more than one might think at first blush.
Here's the play. Luck is on the right hash, in a shotgun single-back formation. Cal brings five, and a defensive end and a blitzing linebacker start to loop around Stanford's left and right tackles, respectively, forcing Luck to step up into the pocket. Meanwhile, Cal has taken away both of Luck's primary outlets: the receiver just past the sticks is double-covered and the tailback is also covered (and short of the first down to boot). The Bears have this play dead to rights. What is Luck to do?
Stanford's then-redshirt sophomore quarterback takes off. That he was decisive and didn't hesitate allows him to get past the first wave of defenders, who would otherwise have tripped him up short of the first down. Luck then slices left, toward the middle of the field, in between the three underneath defenders who were covering Luck's two outlets. As the last underneath defender dives, only to grab air, it's a first down, but as Luck is up to full speed by this point, the run could go for a whole lot more.
Following his receivers, who are now blocking 30, 35 yards downfield, Luck continues to head north- northwest, as he eyes and angles away from a Cal defensive back on the right sideline. It's only at the last second, therefore that Luck notices a defender sneaking up on his left side, looking to crosscheck Luck into the ground. It's Sean Cattouse, and the two each throw their weight into the hit, colliding shoulders at Cal's 44.
Luck has the height and weight advantage on Cattouse, and Stanford's quarterback also threw his body into the hit earlier and with more force. F = ma, Luck has all three of those variables in his corner, and it will soon show. Cattouse has shown awful form, trying to check high, like a hockey player, instead of wrap up low, like a football player, and the Stanford quarterback is going to make the Cal defender pay.
The men bounce off each other. Cattouse stumbles backward a few steps and falls down at the Bear 40, slowing up a pursuing teammate in the process. Luck pauses for half a second, perhaps because he's surprised as anyone that he's still standing, perhaps to regain his bearings after the impact, perhaps to re-evaluate the placement of Cal's defenders and decide where to run next.
Whatever the genesis of the stutter step, it works out well for Stanford, as Luck continues northwest, eventually nearing the left sideline. On a play that started with Luck on the right hash, dropping back to Stanford's 11, the quarterback has run past or through 10 would-be tackles, and ends up stepping out of bounds on Cal's left sideline at the Bear 21. The scramble gains 58 yards, but, after weaving through traffic and going all the way from the hash mark to the far sideline, Luck probably runs close to 100 yards on the play.
The rout was on, the Worldwide Leader had a signature play to air, re-air and then re-air some more during that year's Heisman race, and Andrew Luck had indelibly etched himself and the play into the hearts and minds of Stanford fans for years to come.
50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, Luck, and a phantom clipping call
40. Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests
38. Steamrolled - Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of Washington
37.Opening act - 2009 win over Oregon launches a November to remember
36.Going bowling - Loss to Oklahoma doesn't ruin first bowl game since 2001
35. "Shut up and play football" - Cal jaws pregame, falls behind 45-0 in 2010
34. Look ma, no legs - Luck throws a 52- yard dart while in free fall
33. Sit down - Burfict's head leads to go- ahead TD, Wilkerson's ices W at ASU
32. Injury bug - Despite multiple injuries, 2011 Card manage to rally
31. Whale watching - Stanford starts recruiting at an elite level
30. Suck for Luck - The media machine anoints the next football savior
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