Oct. 16, 1971: Stanford 33, USC 18
Long before Jim Harbaugh spoke his mind, the late Jack Christiansen jabbed at USC.
“The Thunderchickens ate you up!” Stanford’s defensive coordinator yelled at Trojan players after this game ended.
Don Bunce scored on a two-yard run to cap a long touchdown drive to start the game, and Stanford never let up. By the final moments, Troy was reduced to collecting garbage-time touchdowns.
Stanford lore forever holds dear Jim Plunkett keeping his promise in 1970, though this effort remains overlooked. Rod Garcia’s Rose Bowl heroics, along with Benny Barnes’ three interceptions against Washington and a titanic comeback at Oregon State stand out as celebrated moments from ’71. The Trojans soon embarked on a dominating stretch over the Cardinal, winning 18 of the next 19 against the Farm Boys and reducing the series from actual rivalry to annual lunch money theft.
But before “55-21” hovered over the Coliseum turf, this game represented the biggest knockout Stanford delivered to USC.
In all but eliminating the hosts from the Rose Bowl race, the Indian defense pitched a 20-0 shutout heading into the final quarter. Stanford (5-1, 3-0 Pac-8) dominated time of possession, running 82 plays to USC’s 56. The Trojans gained only 88 rushing yards despite the presence of Anthony Davis and Sam Cunningham. Second-stringer Mike Rae replaced an ineffective Jimmy Jones at quarterback.
Can you name the last time Stanford punked USC so badly that the Trojans changed quarterbacks in the middle of the game? John McKay wouldn’t lose another home game for four years, a streak of 25 straight games.
Rod Garcia missed an extra point on the wet field, but drilled field goals of 43 and 45 yards. Additional Stanford scoring came via Jackie Brown, Reggie Sanderson and Vic Lamanuzzi touchdown runs.
Even the Trojans’ biggest play of the night had an immediate answer. USC finally hit paydirt when Rae found Edesel Garrison on a 56-yard scoring pass early in the final quarter. On the Tribe’s next series, Sanderson took a pitch from Bunce and never stopped running. The 80-yard sprint left Stanford with a 27-6 lead and Christiansen with plenty of time to think of how to rub it in.
Oct. 12, 1996: Stanford 27, Oregon 24
”Hail Mary.” The official prayer of Doug Flutie and Kordell Stewart sunk some very unaware Kentucky fans.
“Hail Stanford, Hail.” The university alma mater provides a postgame sing-off at Stanford Stadium.
Andre Kirwan enjoyed no bigger moment in his Cardinal career. Stanford, trailing the Ducks 24-21 late, faced fourth and 12 from their own 35. That’s when Chad Hutchinson, evading a rush with his back to the south end zone, heaved a prayer toward the Stanford sideline and in the direction of two players. The conference’s best cornerback, who remains a Duck folk hero, defended a back-up senior wide receiver.
But Kirwan won the duel against Kenny Wheaton, going airborne before cradling the ball at the Cardinal 35. Stunned Oregon never recovered. Stanford drove further into Duck territory, close enough for Kevin Miller’s tying 25-yard field goal. A very memorable first overtime in Stanford football history was about to unfold.
The Cardinal won the toss and set up on defense. On the Ducks’ first play, Kailee Wong chased down Tony Graziani and knocked the ball loose. Carl Hansen recovered.
Five straight Mike Mitchell runs brought the ball to the 10-yard-line. Miller’s 27-yarder put the finishing touches on a monumental comeback for Stanford, which trailed 24-14 with 9:21 to play after Pat Johnson took a kickoff 95 yards to the house.
“That catch was the Lord’s catch,” explained Kirwan, who had five grabs for 80 yards. “Looking back on it, [Wheaton] was pushing me the whole way and it was good coverage – he’s a hell of corner. I don’t think he ever touched it. I think he went up for it. Basically, the last five yards were just a blur.”
That’s how close Stanford (7-5 and a Sun Bowl champ by season’s end) came to losing for the fifth time in six tries in the 1996 season. Instead karma found Oregon, whose marching band belted out the biggest musical middle finger possible, their version of “All Right Now”, after Johnson’s touchdown.
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