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.
27. Laying the wood
Luck lays out Shareece Wright
It's Stanford/USC, which has simply been an incredible series these past five years, chockfull of some of the era's most memorable moments. (Foreshadowing alert, cough cough.) Heck, the games have left such an impact on the Stanford fan's consciousness that simply the final score and a quick phrase are more than enough for us diehards to instantly recall the contest.
Like me, I imagine plenty of you folks could type plenty of these scores and phrases up from memory: 24-23 in 2007's Biggest Upset Ever. 55-21 in 2009's "What's Your Deal?". 37-35 on Whitaker's last- second field goal in 2010. And 56-48 in triple overtime in 2011. USC did lay down a 45-23 thumping in 2008, but the forces for good have won three straight and four of the last five against the Pac-12's most dominant program of the last decade (and all time).
Now that the scene is set, let us zoom in. It's the second quarter of the 2010 contest at the House that John Built. It's 14-all with under a minute to halftime in a game that Stanford will win on a last-second field goal. On third and 14 from USC's 34, Stanford is content to run power left (which is a really wimpy call, come to think of it), setting themselves up for a slightly shorter field goal or, at least, hoping to burn one of USC's two remaining timeouts.
Stepfan Taylor is gang tackled by four Trojans for no gain, the third of whom knocks the ball loose. The pigskin trickles backward five yards, and Trojan Shareece Wright scoops it cleanly, without breaking stride. With a full head of steam, Wright has to think he's off to the races.
Wright is looking down at the 39 when he picks up the ball, and he barely has time to secure the rock and get his head up in the three steps it takes him to advance to the 44. (In fact, Wright may not have gotten his head up in time to see what was coming.)
What turned out to be coming would change the contour of the game. Andrew Luck never gave up on the play, and was thus in a position to try to make a play on Wright to prevent the seemingly inevitable touchdown. Luck did a little better than that, as he got up to near full speed before leveling Wright, putting his helmet into Wright's chest while crashing his shoulder pad against Wright's.
Wright hit the ground in the fetal position as the ball shot out of his arms. Luck had stopped a would-be touchdown and forced the fumble, and would later lead the game-winning drive. Just about all he didn't do was recover the fumble, which rocketed off a Trojan defensive back's leg and, by fluke, right back into Wright's grasp.
Here's the play. ABC's announcers gushed for well over a minute about the hit, spending so much time discussing it that the actual turnover became an afterthought:
"That's the hardest quarterback shot I've ever seen."
"What a shot. I mean quarterbacks aren't supposed to do that, are they?"
Who'd have thought that such a highly regarded quarterback's most famous plays in college would be a run (see No. 29), a catch (No. 34) and, now, a tackle? Sometimes, I suppose, the stars just align.
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
29. Outta my way - Luck bounces off Sean Cattouse for a 50-yard run
28. 0 for 3 - Card post three shutouts in 2010 campaign
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