But this is not your father’s college football, or even the game you watched from your old college dorm room. Over time, the gridiron landscape has witnessed many changes that once seemed laughable. Texas and Texas A&M no longer compete in the same conference. The Wishbone is extinct. The SEC produces No. 1 draft picks – who play quarterback. Joe Paterno and Penn State…you get the idea.
For the first time, the No. 14 Cardinal and the No. 11 Beavers face each other as ranked teams. In honor of this new reality, This Week in Stanford History features a pair of games that offer a study in contrast. One represents an outcome Stanford fans would dearly love to repeat itself. The other is Exhibit A for just how inept both the Cardinal and the Beavers once were.
Nov. 7, 1970: Stanford 29, Washington 22
Let’s complete the mosaic that is the 1970 season. You know all about Jim Plunkett winning the Heisman. The victory in the Rose Bowl over No. 2 Ohio State remains entrenched in Cardinal lore. You may recall the campaign beginning with an upset win at Arkansas. But what game saw the Indians clinch the conference title and the Pasadena berth that came with it?
Stanford secured the Pac-8 Championship and its first Rose Bowl berth in 19 years this week in 1970 with what felt like three different games. The over 58,000 in attendance at the old stadium witnessed some serious twists and turns – and even Plunkett becoming the nation’s all-time leading passer – as the Indians battled the 17-point underdog Huskies.
Washington took The Opening kickoff back for a touchdown, only to see the Tribe respond with 21 unanswered points to end the first period. Plunkett, in today’s terms, went off. Short touchdown tosses to Jackie Brown and Jack Lasater preceded a 27-yard bullet to Miles Moore. Despite two interceptions in his final Stanford Stadium appearance, the senior became college football leader in career passing yardage (7,082 career yards by day’s end).
But it was Sonny Sixkiller who led the nation in passing coming in. Hampered by the flu, he came off the bench to rally the visitors. With his nine-yard scramble for a touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion toss, Sixkiller had the Huskies up 22-21 heading into the fourth. Washington faced a fourth and three at the Indian 33 early in the final period when Stanford decided another momentum swing was in order.
“The Huskies dominated the game until Stanford’s winning drive,” the Associated Press wrote.
The Indians held and took over on downs. Plunkett took it from there. The ensuing 67-yard Stanford march culminated in a 15-yard touchdown toss to Randy Vataha, who made a nifty maneuver to stay inbounds. The two-point pass to Brown increased the margin to seven points. The scoreboard showed 7:32 left to play.
Sixkiller led a march that reached the Stanford 28, where the Indians’ long-held Rose Bowl dreams finally became a reality. A screen pass on fourth down went for negative yardage, and the celebration was on. Stanford – who’d lose to Air Force and Cal to end the regular season – moved to 8-1 (6-0 in conference play) and No. 6 in each of the major polls.
Nov. 9, 1985: Stanford 39, Oregon State 24
Jack Elway’s second Cardinal team epitomized his program’s 1980’s plight: Some talent, little depth, and a quarterback running for his life. Undermanned Stanford had a difficult time finding wins on its remaining schedule by the time Oregon State arrived for a late-afternoon visit.
The Cardinal survived a game that featured back-to-back safeties and a steady rainfall, scattering what remained of the 26,000 who bothered. Stanford improved to just 3-7 (2-4 in Pac-10 play). The Cardinal took the lead for good in the second quarter, a welcome outcome for a team just weeks removed from a five-game losing streak. John Paye (separated shoulder) and Brad Muster (bruised ribs) each nursed nagging injuries.
The Beavers “play football the way Barney Fife plays deputy,” one Seattle sports writer wrote the previous month. That was before the 37-point underdog Beavers shocked host Washington by a 21-20 score, but OSU remained a doormat. The Beavs wound up 3-8, one of the eight times they’d finish with three or fewer wins during the decade. The fact that TBS televised this game – for just the second time in history, the Cardinal played under the lights at home – makes some sense. These were the days when Andy Griffith reruns ruled the superstation’s airwaves.
Appropriately, each team traded soft punches. Oregon State stood poised to break an early 7-7 deadlock when the Stanford stopped Darvin Malone on fourth and goal from the one. On the next play, Muster was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
After going three and out, Oregon State reverted to its old ways. Punter Charles Stempeck missed the snap and had it bounce behind him into the end zone. He was tackled, and the game was tied once again.
The Cardinal immediately capitalized, with a 50-yard connection from Paye to Greg Baty setting up Muster’s three-yard touchdown run.
Stempeck would soon bobble another snap. The 15-yard punt that followed set the table for David Sweeney’s 34-yard field goal and a 22-9 Stanford edge. Ernie Fisher then registered the fourth blocked punt by an Oregon State opponent that year, and the Cardinal soon led 39-16. At least the smallest home crowd in a dozen years went home happy.
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