We continue our ambitious offseason series, counting down the top
40 moments of the Harbaugh/Shaw era.
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.
7. Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind
I took a deep breath before every time I sat down with former
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh for our weekly KZSU pregame interview.
Except for those spaced-out, glazed eyeballs that looked straight
through me (not at me), I just never knew what I was going
to get from him.
Harbaugh's infectious passion rekindles the Stanford football fire
Some weeks, we'd have a casual football talk regarding the upcoming
game. Other times, he'd find a way to splice four marvelous yet
absurdly over-the-top Owen Marecic analogies into our chat. And then
there were those times that the he'd suspect me of being some kind
of spy for the opposition.
"Coach, what is Erik Lorig's status for this weekend?" I
"Why, so you can go tell Arizona State?" Harbaugh would snap
Standard behavior. The man was consumed by the game of football.
Anywhere, anytime he was near it, he flipped his switch into mad
scientist mode. Any possible legal competitive advantage was
pursued. Whether it be by keeping players awake with water guns on a
cross-country flight to counteract jet lag or by bringing in a
military general to make a pregame speech analogizing football to
war, Harbaugh left no stone unturned.
His dizzying passion for the game was evident in those piercing
eyes. A blank stare simultaneously combined with a fiery one -
impossible, right? Harbaugh pulled the look off. His rabid obsession
with success became known as "enthusiasm unknown to mankind." For
the Cardinal program, that soon became success unknown to mankind.
Around football activities, I only saw Harbaugh truly loosen up
once. That was at San Francisco's Gordon Biersch restaurant the
Monday following his team's 55-21 whipping of USC in 2009. As he was
enjoying a meal with the highlights playing on a bar TV, Harbaugh
chuckled while SportsCenter debated his decision to go for two up
48-21 in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps the story of how he met his wife, Sarah, provides insight
into Harbaugh's super-driven personality. After he got her number in
the parking lot of a Las Vegas restaurant, she was hesitant to
accept his date invitation. But, Harbaugh pressed forward with
unbridled enthusiasm, calling dozens of times until Sarah finally
answered and accepted the invite. Not succeeding was not an option.
Harbaugh's energy might be unusual, but it's infectious. He called
out Pete Carroll and mighty USC in its prime before he even coached
a game. He fell onto his back in front of national TV cameras to
express his displeasure with officials. A lot of it seemed
theatrical, but it really wasn't. It was just Jim Harbaugh. He
brought a foreign level of passion to the Farm that has since found
its way to NFL postgame handshakes, one of which upset a certain
Detroit Lions coach last year.
Enthusiasm unknown to mankind restored belief in Stanford football.
It sold the program in the living rooms of top recruits nationwide.
It caused blue-chip players like Andrew Luck to commit to the Farm
even after the team had finished a season 1-11. It turned the
Cardinal into an elite program, one that flummoxed the opposition
with endless formation shifts and an impeccable attention to detail
that sought to create every small matchup advantage possible.
The passion was genuine; it came directly from Harbaugh's football
soul. As a result, it didn't take long for an abundance of winning
on the Farm to become very real, too.
memorable moments - Loukas, Luck, and a phantom clipping
40. Fake out
- Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and
bowls - Stanford climbs into college football’s beauty
- Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of UW
act - 2009 win over Ducks launches a November to remember
bowling - Loss to Sooners doesn't ruin first bowl game since
35. "Shut up
and play football" - Cal jaws pregame, falls behind 45-0 in
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
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 Cattouse for a 50-yard run
28. 0 for 3
- Card post three shutouts in 2010 campaign
27. Laying the
wood - Luck lays out Wright
- Owusu is knocked out of four games
ahead - A 21-3 lead vanishes in Autzen in 2010
24. So close,
yet so far - Luck’s worst game costs Card 2009 Big Game
23. Run, Toby,
run - Gerhart takes over against the Irish
22. Xs and
Os… and Ys and Zs - Stanford toys with defensive
perfect football player” - Marecic makes purists weep
20. Rumor Mill
- Report: Harbaugh to take every NFL job
Your Deal?" - Stanford hands 'SC worst home beatdown ever
Unknown to Mankind - Shaw named Harbaugh's successor
Beats USC - Cardinal hand the Trojans another soul-crusher
16. We've Got
the Axe - Stanford wins first Big Game in six years
15. Return of
the Red Zone - Cardinal students populate the stadium in
14. Blown Away
- Stanford takes VT to the woodshed in Orange Bowl
- Stanford wins 10 straight games by 25+ points
12. Dance With Girl Who Brung Ya
- Card settle for FG attempt, loses Fiesta Bowl
11. College Gameday to The Farm
- Campus welcomes ESPN
10. Thanks, John - Card build new stadium, enter arms race
9. The Stanford-USC rivalry - Stanford takes four of five in thrilling fashion
8. Andrew Luck returns - QB shocks nation with decision
David Lombardi, a TV and radio
(95.7 The Game SF) personality in the Bay Area, is a Stanford and Pac-12
Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for
several years. You can check out several of his Stanford calls and
other writing at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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