Oct. 25, 1975: Stanford 54, Washington State 14
Though at least one of the conundrums of the mid-’70s remained unanswered, the Card prevailed in style. Starter Mike Cordova led four touchdown drives while deputy Guy Benjamin directed three more. Cordova ran 16 yards for a touchdown in the third and threw for another score.
With the Card up 14-0, the crowd of 35,000 erupted in cheers when Benjamin entered the fray. He then marshaled Stanford on a 94-yard touchdown drive by way of four completions. The exclamation point of the march came on a 25-yard touchdown strike to Bill Singler. Later, in the fourth quarter, Benjamin fired a 29-yard strike to Tony Hill, who made a leaping catch between two defenders.
Stanford (3-3-1, 2-1 Pac-8) won for the second straight week, on its way to five straight victories. Nonetheless, the club “settled nothing in the continuing controversy over who should play quarterback,” according to Sports Illustrated (see pg. 54).
“Cordova has a sore arm and wasn’t throwing well today,” head coach Jack Christiansen told reporters. “So I put in Guy Benjamin. Then, in the second half, I went back to Cordova because he warmed up well and seemed to be throwing better just before the second half started. But he didn’t throw real well again, so I have to assume his arm was still hurting him.”
The strong-armed Cordova certainly enjoyed his moments. He led a late drive to tie No. 2 Michigan in Ann Arbor a month earlier. The pair combined for 2,357 yards and 21 TD passes (1,311 and 11 for Cordova). Only five teams in major college football averaged more yards through the air per game.
But as Cordova told Emeritus back in 2001, the back-and-forth hurt the team’s chances. Benjamin stood as the clear “people’s choice” over his counterpart, a career 45 percent passer on The Farm.
Case in point was a mid-October showdown with UCLA, a game which eventually decided the Pac-8 title. Trailing the Blueshirts 7-0 but threatening to score, Stanford stalled when Cordova, who played the duration, misfired three straight times to the end zone. Mike Langford then shanked a 24-yard field goal attempt. Down came a chorus of boos from the partisan crowd, who endured a 31-21 defeat.
This week, though, overmatched Washington State never stood a chance. Like the Bruins, the Cougars employed the veer option, but now Stanford was ready. The Cardinal recovered two fumbles and intercepted five Cougar passes.
The biggest run of the day came courtesy Stanford tailback Ron Inge, who sprinted 77 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0. Between the groundwork of Inge, Gary Lynn and Don Stenvenson, the Card collected a school-record 395 rushing yards. The late Jerry Waldvogel came in under center to lead a touchdown drive.
“Both Stanford quarterbacks looked excellent,” Washington State coach Jim Sweeney said. “They have the best running combination I’ve seen at Stanford in years, and their line blocked extremely well.”
The Benjamin/Cordova shuffle ended two years later, after Cordova graduated and Christiansen was fired. Benjamin thrived under Bill Walsh in 1977 when Stanford flourished with one, finally, established quarterback.
Sometimes, less is more. Unless you’re Evel Knievel.
Oct. 22, 1983: Stanford 31, Arizona 22
A streak of nine straight losses finally ended, 30 years ago this week.
Freshman John Paye enjoyed his breakout performance, completing 22 of 28 passes for 280 yards. Emile Harry caught two scores, while Eric Mullins hauled in the clincher. Stan Gill added Stanford’s (1-6, 1-3) first rushing touchdown of the season – seven weeks in(!).
Just weeks removed from a No. 3 national ranking, the probation-saddled Wildcats jumped out to a 17-7 lead before the Cardinal came roaring back.
“This win won’t mean much in history, but for me, it means a lot,” Paul Wiggin said afterwards. For one of the great players and nice guys of Stanford football, it would be his last victory as head coach.
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