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Stanford 125: The 1970s

Oct 22, 2019

In recognizing the 125th season of Stanford football and the 150th year of college football, is celebrating and highlighting Stanford's football history with a season-long series by decade.

Stanford 125: The 1970s

Games of the Decade:

Jan. 1, 1971 (Rose Bowl): Stanford 27, Ohio State 17

Stanford had not won a Rose Bowl in 30 years when it took the field against undefeated and No. 2 Ohio State, but it did have Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett and the Thunder Chickens.

Stanford (8-3) lost its final two games of the regular season and came into the game as a 13-point underdog against the Buckeyes (9-0), who were two years removed from a national title with many of the same players and hadn't lost to a team other than Michigan in more than three years. The Buckeyes defense included the fearsome Jack Tatum and Outland Trophy-winning nose guard Jim Stillwagon, and an offense led by quarterback Rex Kern and fullback John Brockington,

While Stanford enjoyed the sights and sounds of Bowl Week, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes kept his players behind closed doors, practicing as many as three times a day, and did not even let them out to a scheduled roast beef-eating contest.


1971 Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Ohio State.

The tone was set on the game's opening drive. Ohio State moved downfield to the Stanford 39, where the drive stalled. Facing a fourth-and-1, the Buckeyes went for it, but Greg Sampson stuffed Kern for a two-yard loss. Moments later, Stanford's Eric Cross took the ball on a reverse and ran 41 yards to set up a short touchdown run by Jackie Brown. Ohio State was in for a battle.

Stanford coach John Ralston and his staff worked overtime to think of wrinkles to throw the Big Ten power off its game. Though Plunkett threw 30 times, he also became a runner, carrying on options and draw plays.

"People asked John why he didn't do that a lot before then," Plunkett said. "He said it was a long season and they were saving it for that big game. It paid off big time because it caught them totally by surprise."

With Ohio State up 17-13 on the strength of two Brockington TD runs, the Buckeyes sought to put Stanford away, gambling on another fourth-and-one, this time at the Stanford 20 on the opening play of the fourth quarter. But linebacker Rod Kadziel hit Brockington head-on for no gain on the game's pivotal play.

Stanford followed with a drive of its own, but found itself facing 3rd-and-15 at Buckeyes' 37. Plunkett dropped back, but was forced to scramble by a heavy rush. On the run, he spotted tight end Bob Moore downfield and threw. Between two defenders on the right sideline, Moore leaped to make the catch and came down at the 2 for a 35-yard gain. Brown gave Stanford the lead on a 1-yard run, culminating an 80-drive in which Plunkett went 5-for-5 passing.

Having to play catchup, Ohio State was forced uncharacteristically to the air, playing into Stanford's hands. Safety Jack Schultz intercepted a Kern pass to set up the clinching score, a 10-yard pass from Plunkett to Randy "Rabbit" Vataha with 8:18 left. And Stanford pulled out a remarkable 27-17 victory before 103,389 at the Rose Bowl.

Years later, Stillwagon said, "We had a great team. I always say, if we had played Stanford nine more times, we would have beaten them nine times. But in that one hour, we weren't a team to adjust. We were a team that stuck to our game plan. The more the game got tight, the more we would be predictable."

On the other side, Stanford felt it deserved the victory. That result returned Stanford to prominence, and Plunkett's performance helped popularize the passing game in the wishbone-era of college football.

"Maybe some guys would be happy just to get here," said Plunkett, the game's Most Valuable Player, in the locker room afterward. "But we were planning on winning, too."

Two hours after the final gun and long after the San Gabriel Mountains disappeared in the darkness, sportswriters began to return to the press box to type their stories and Ralston was left alone, finally, to be with his family. He uttered the words everyone in cardinal red was thinking.

"Wasn't that fun?" he said.


Stanford, as shown by Sports Illustrated, was a huge underdog to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Jan. 1, 1972 (Rose Bowl): Stanford 13, Michigan 12

Don Bunce, a product of nearby Woodside High, had the misfortunate of being in the same Stanford class as Jim Plunkett. As a senior, Bunce redshirted so that he could have one season as the starting quarterback after Plunkett graduated.

In his first home start, Bunce and Stanford faced their first big test of 1971, an Oregon team led by future Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts and running back Bobby Moore (later Ahmad Rashad).

Bunce left no doubt of his abilities when he hit Miles Moore for passes of 78 and 41 yards, and threw 36 yards to John Winesberry. Bunce tossed three TD passes in a 38-17 Stanford victory. Afterward, Oregon coach Jerry Frei said, "I wasn't misquoted before when I said Bunce is as good as Plunkett was. After this game, I still believe. Could I believe anything else?"

The Rose Bowl against No. 2 Michigan provided Bunce with a chance to join Plunkett in Stanford lore. The undefeated Wolverines, coached by Bo Schembechler, were 12 ½-point favorites and outscored opponents 358-40 over the first nine games.

Stanford held its ground because of two crucial sequences. Trailing 10-3 early in the fourth quarter, Stanford was forced to punt from its own 33. Jim Kehl, lined up as an upback, received the snap on a fake and handed the ball forward to Jackie Brown through Brown's legs. Brown ran 33 yards for a first down, and followed a minute later with a 24-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

Michigan took a 12-10 lead when Stanford's Jim Ferguson tried to return a missed field goal, but was hit at the 2 and driven back into his own end zone. Officials ruled it a safety, though Stanford felt it should have gotten the ball where Ferguson's forward progress was stopped. Now, Stanford had to surrender the ball on a free kick with only three minutes left. But the Stanford defense held, forcing a punt after a three-and-out.

Stanford was in jeopardy, setting up on its own 22-yard line with 1:48 left. This is where Bunce shined brightest. He threw five consecutive completions and got the Indians downfield. With 12 seconds left, Rod Garcia, out of Steve Murray's hold, kicked 31-yard field goal to give Stanford a 13-12 upset victory.

Bunce played one year of pro football, as a teammate of Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed of Rocky fame) with the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions, and used the money earned to pay his way through med school. Bunce became an orthopedic surgeon. He passed away in 2003 of a heart attack at age 54.


Rod Garcia kicks the winning field goal out of Steve Murray's hold with 12 seconds left.

Dec. 31, 1978 (Bluebonnet Bowl): Stanford 25, Georgia 22

In only two years, Bill Walsh led a Stanford resurgence, taking the Cardinals, as they were known at the time, to consecutive bowl games. In 1977, Stanford trounced LSU in the Sun Bowl, 24-14, and faced heavily-favored Georgia (9-1-1) in the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl in the Astrodome.

Georgia immediately set out to dominate, taking a 22-0 lead by the early third quarter. However, Steve Dils, a fifth-year senior in his only season as a starter, sensed that the Bulldogs had grown overconfident -- Georgia made mocking gestures toward the Stanford bench -- and began to attack.

Dils threw touchdown passes to Ken Margerum (32 yards), Darrin Nelson (20 yards), and again to Margerum within a span of 4 ½ minutes to tie the game, 22-22.

The defense provided those scoring chances in that span, forcing a Georgia punt and three fumbles, one of which set up a go-ahead 24-yard field goal by Ken Naber with 14:50 left in the game.

Gordy Ceresino made 20 tackles and earned Defensive MVP honors, while Dils (16 of 28 for 210 yards) was the Offensive MVP. The Cardinals lifted Walsh upon their shoulders in triumph afterward and San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was impressed too. He already had come to agreement to hire Walsh as the 49ers' next coach, and made it official nine days later.

"Listen up for a minute," Ceresino said to his teammates in the locker room after the game. "At halftime, I told you that in two years I have never seen you quit on Bill and I asked you not to quit on him today. I knew you wouldn't."


Defensive lineman Chuck Evans at the Bluebonnet Bowl. Photo by David Madison.

* * *

Notable Coaches:

Bill Walsh (1977-78, 1992-94)

The Stanford job came at the right time for Bill Walsh. Though he had great success in creating what would become the "West Coast Offense" as a Cincinnati Bengals' assistant, and was assumed to be Paul Brown's successor with the Bengals, Walsh was passed over for head-coach opening by Brown himself, the general manager. Walsh was heartbroken. Brown expected Walsh to remain in Cincinnati under the new hire, but when Walsh said he could not, Brown labeled Walsh as disloyal, damaging Walsh's reputation around the NFL.  

Walsh spent a season as the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator, but wanted to be a head coach and no NFL interest was forthcoming. Stanford, however, gave him a chance. Walsh, with Guy Benjamin in 1977 and Steve Dils in 1978, had the quarterbacks to make his system work, and receivers James Lofton and Ken Margerum excelled under him.

Taking advantage of the intellectual capabilities of his players, Walsh unleashed a sophisticated passing offense that rivaled any NFL team. Stanford led the nation in passing twice under Walsh, who compiled a 17-7 record in 1977 and 1978, and coached Stanford to two bowl victories over Southeastern Conference teams.

"He looks and acts like a man who was bred for the role," the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 1978, "and he has made Stanford football the best show in town."

Walsh thrived in Stanford's academic environment and, after his NFL career ended, famously returned to The Farm in 1992 with the exclamation, "This is my bliss."

With the San Francisco 49ers mired in a 2-14 season in 1978, Ron Barr, who produced Stanford football's weekly TV highlight show, recommended Walsh to 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, who disregarded skeptical league contacts to hire him. Walsh coached the 49ers to three Super Bowl victories and gained a reputation as one of football's greatest coaches. "The  Genius" was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.


 Bill Walsh celebrates the Bluebonnet Bowl victory in 1978.

Jack Christiansen (1972-76)

In five years, Jack Christiansen never had a losing season, but he also presided over a quarterback controversy – Mike Cordova or Guy Benjamin – that divided the team. And, because he fell between John Ralston and Bill Walsh on the Stanford coaching order, Christiansen's place in history is murky, despite a 30-22-3 record.

Christiansen was a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back for the Detroit Lions and head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1963-67 before he arrived at Stanford as a linebackers coach in 1968. As offensive backfield coach in 1969-70, Christiansen helped create Stanford's pro-style attack in which Jim Plunkett thrived, and the quarterback credited Christiansen for his role.

Under Christiansen, quarterback Mike Boryla earned consensus first-team All-America honors in 1973 and Duncan McColl had a school-record 17 sacks in 1976. Christiansen also converted high school quarterback Tony Hill into a wide receiver who would earn two second-team All-America seasons and reach three Pro Bowls in 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.


Jack Christiansen at the 1976 Big Game. Photo by David Madison.

John Ralston (1963-71)

Stanford's only two Rose Bowl victories over a 71-year span were under John Ralston's watch. Ralston also oversaw the racial integration of the football program and the hiring of the team's first African American assistant coach, and he helped create a better communication and understanding between the admissions and athletic departments.

Ralston accomplished another first – becoming the first Stanford head coach to jump straight to an NFL head coaching position. Ralston left The Farm for the woeful Denver Broncos and coached them to their first winning seasons. The Broncos finished second in the AFC West all four seasons under Ralston, who was named the 1973 UPI AFC Coach of the Year.

In 1976, the Broncos posted their best record to that point, 9-5, and just missed out on their first playoff appearance. As general manager and coach, Ralston drafted, or signed as a free agent, 36 players on that team, including stars Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, and Louie Wright. But a group of players thought the team could have done better and forced Ralston's firing. With mostly the same players, the Broncos reached the Super Bowl the next season.

Ralston was embittered by the firing, but never showed it. He believed in positive thinking and the Dale Carnegie philosophy. Ralston always greeted guests with a firm grip, a look in the eye, and repeated their name before releasing their hand. Ralston, who passed away Sept 14, always made a strong impression.


John Ralston leads Stanford on to the field for the 1972 Rose Bowl.

* * *

Prominent Players:

Jim Plunkett (1968-70)

In 1970, Jim Plunkett became Stanford's first and, thus far, only player to win the Heisman Trophy Award as the best player in college football. Plunkett led the Indians to a thrilling 27-17 upset over previously undefeated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, capping a 9-3 season that included a Pacific-8 Conference championship.

Wrote Mike Antonucci in a 2010 issue of Stanford Magazine:

Jim Plunkett's Stanford career nearly ended before it began. A month before his enrollment, Plunkett was told by doctors that the lump he had felt at the base of his neck was cancerous. In a call with Rod Rust, the assistant coach who had recruited him, Plunkett relayed his fears. The surgery required to remove a malignant tumor would end his football playing days. Rust didn't hesitate: We will honor your scholarship, he said.

Rust remembered making that promise impulsively, confident that Stanford would back him up. Rust's mother had gone blind, and he related so strongly to the Plunkett family's closeness that he had moved beyond any concern about what Plunkett could contribute to Stanford. "I worried more about Stanford being good enough for Jim Plunkett," he said.

The tumor turned out to be benign, but Plunkett has never forgotten the generosity shown by Rust. It foretold the enduring intensity of Plunkett's relationship with Stanford. Only his family means more, and even in that context, there is a special rapport. "Stanford is in both our hearts," said Gerry Plunkett, Jim's wife, "because I see how very much it means to him."

Plunkett completed 191 of 358 passes for 2,715 yards in 1970, and he ran for another 183 yards, giving him 2,898 yards of total offense that season (a school and Pac-8 record). He led the Indians to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 19 years and their first Rose Bowl victory in 30 seasons, earning game Most Valuable Player honors. He finished his career with an NCAA-record 7,887 yards in total offense.

Plunkett went on to become the No. 1 NFL Draft pick by the New England Patriots, earning Rookie of the Year honors. He played 16 NFL seasons, with the Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, the franchise he led to two Super Bowl titles and was named MVP of Super Bowl XV in 1982.

In 1991, Plunkett's No. 16 became the second number retired in Stanford history (the other is Ernie Nevers' No. 1). He is a member of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame and the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame.


Jim Plunkett. Photo by Getty Images.

James Lofton (1975-77)

It says much about the athletic ability of receiver James Lofton that 41 years after setting Stanford track and field records in the long jump and 200 meters, those records still stand. Lofton, the 1978 NCAA outdoor long jump champion, could run, jump, and catch passes. Lofton caught 14 touchdown passes in the 1977 season, a school record tied by JJ Arcega-Whiteside last year, and averaged 18.00 yards per catch for his collegiate career.

In the 1977 Sun Bowl, Lofton caught a 49-yard pass from Guy Benjamin in stride for Stanford's first touchdown, and caught another TD pass in the third quarter for the go-ahead score in a 24-14 victory over LSU.

Lofton, who earned a degree in industrial engineering, played 16 years in the NFL, with the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. He is among three former Stanford players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.


James Lofton leaps to make a touchdown catch against Oregon State in 1976. Photo by David Madison.

Jeff Siemon (1969-71)

Only one Stanford defensive player in the two-platoon era is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame: Jeff Siemon.

Siemon was a Thunder Chicken. Let's explain:

Before the 1970 season, some of the defensive linemen thought their position group could use a nickname. For example, USC called it's defense, "The Wild Bunch." Defensive end Pete Lazetich said there was a motorcycle gang in his native Montana called the "Thunder Chickens."

It was meant as a private joke among the linemen, but after the press got a hold of it, the nickname took off. The original 1970 Thunder Chicken starters were Larry Butler, Greg Sampson, Dave Tipton and Lazetich. In 1971, Roger Cowan replaced the graduated Tipton and the linebackers were added to the group. It's one thing to have a great nickname, but the Thunder Chickens produced on the field.

In the 1971 Rose Bowl victory against Ohio State, Stanford twice stuffed the Buckeyes on key fourth-down plays. In the 1972 Rose Bowl, Stanford stuffed Michigan late with a key three-and-out, enabling Stanford to get the ball back for its winning drive.

Siemon earned the Silver anniversary Dick Butkus award his senior year as the nation's top linebacker, and the Pop Warner Award as the top senior player on the West Coast. He was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 after a five-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles.


Jeff Siemon with coach John Ralston.

* * *

Best Teams:

1970 (9-3)

Forty-nine years ago, Stanford unleashed one of the most remarkable seasons in its modern football history. Stanford's story features a defensive line called the Thunder Chickens, a Heisman Trophy winner, and a Rose Bowl victory over an invincible opponent and its legendary coach.

The 1970 Stanford football season ended in Pasadena with coach John Ralston carried off under the night sky by his players in the afterglow of a stunning 27-17 victory over previously undefeated Ohio State and coach Woody Hayes, before 103,839 fans.

The Indians went 9-3, captured the Pac-8 title and finishing No. 8 in the AP rankings. And Stanford was rewarded with its only Heisman to date, to quarterback Jim Plunkett, and would repeat its Rose Bowl victory a year later in another upset, 13-12 over Michigan.

The effect of that 1970 season continues to be felt at Stanford with its quarterback tradition. Stanford had outstanding quarterbacks over the years, beginning with Frankie Albert, the first 'T' Formation quarterback, and the likes of Gary Kerkorian, Bobby Garrett, John Brodie, and Dick Norman. But it was Plunkett who began a true revival of the idea that Stanford was the cradle of quarterbacks.

His success ignited a golden age of quarterbacks that cemented Stanford's reputation. Following Plunkett were Don Bunce, Mike Boryla, Mike Cordova, Guy Benjamin, Steve Dils, Turk Schonert, John Elway, and John Paye. The string of years in which the position was manned by a future pro went uninhibited from 1968 to 1986.

But even more than that, the 1970 season proved that Stanford could achieve success in modern football and still be loyal to its strict academic requirements. That model continues to drive the program today.


This catch by tight end Bob Moore was crucial to beating Ohio State. Photo by the Los Angeles Times.

1971 (9-3)

Stanford's season certainly wasn't smooth. A 13-12 loss to San Jose State – when Rod Garcia missed four field-goal tries and an extra point – was particularly disappointing, as was a 24-23 loss at home to Washington State.

But Stanford had its moments. A 33-18 victory over USC was Stanford's first road win over the Trojans in 14 years, and a 20-9 victory at home over UCLA clinched a second consecutive trip to Pasadena, and the opportunity to take down undefeated Michigan.

For an understanding of what it was like to attend a game at Stanford Stadium in 1971, consider that the atmosphere. The area behind the Stanford bench was the territory of Prince Lightfoot, a Native American of the Yurok tribe who performed traditional dances at Stanford games for more than 20 years.

The revolutionary Stanford Band was at its irreverent creative best, but still was playing Indian-themed fight songs before "All Right Now" made its LSJUMB debut at halftime of the 1972 Rose Bowl.

One of the most entertaining non-football aspects of the game was the flinging of Carnation Malted Milk lids onto the field. From the end zone seats, this was more than a pastime. Wooden spoons could be fastened together to form boomerangs, and the stacks of Stanford Daily football editions begged for the assembly into paper airplanes or were torn into confetti. Beer- and soda-can pull-tabs? Great rocket-launchers.

The air hummed with flying objects – malted milk lids, paper airplanes, and wooden spoon-contraptions until debris filled the track and littered the end zone. A deafening roar could be heard whenever an object soared deep past the goal line … the 10! … the 20! … the 30!

The game's accompanying soundtrack was provided by the deep understated tones of Ed Macauley, who served as public-address announcer nearly every season from 1952-92. Decades of Stanford Stadium memories are incomplete without a backdrop of Macauley's "Bunce to Miles Moore!"

At the game's conclusion, young fans bolted from the splinter-inflicting wooden bleachers, weaved through the narrow tunnels, skirted the crowded staircases, and sprinted across Angell Field to intercept the players before they could enter the locker room a half-mile away at Encina Gym. With the twin gryphon statues standing guard, a supply of autographs, chin straps, bloody towels, and sweaty wristbands were treasures to be had.


Benny Barnes, here against Duke in 1971, was a standout in the secondary.

1977 (9-3)

This was the first season of the first Bill Walsh era. Stanford featured Guy Benjamin at quarterback and James Lofton at receiver. But the biggest revelation for Stanford football was freshman running back Darrin Nelson.

Before 1977, no Stanford player rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. And certainly no Stanford back raun like Nelson, whose shifty moves, quickness, agility, and ability to feint and cutback brought a new dimension to the Stanford attack.

Playing before a home Stanford crowd for the first time, Nelson rushed for  89 yards and caught five passes for 42 yards, and scored a touchdown in a little over a half in a 37-24 victory over Illinois.

On Nov. 12, against San Jose State, Nelson took a pitch around left end and burst through the defense for 12 yards. That was his first carry of the game, and he didn't stop until a 4-yard run on the game's final play enabled him to break the Stanford single-game rushing record. Nelson gained 211 yards on 20 carries – breaking Lou Valli's 209 from the 1956 Big Game. Nelson finished the season with 1,105 yards on 194 carries.

Stanford, at 5-2, finished one game out of first for the Pac-8 title. A 45-21 loss at Washington kept the Cardinals from the Rose Bowl. But for the first time in its history, Stanford was allowed to go to a different bowl. The Pac-8 champ always had the right to go to the Rose Bowl, but no other conference schools were allowed to go to a bowl until 1975.

Stanford's reward in 1977 was a Sun Bowl matchup against LSU. All-American Charles Alexander rushed for 197 yards altogether and put the Bayou Bengals' ahead, 14-10, but Gordy Ceresino and the Stanford defense shut out LSU in the second half to allow Stanford to come back. Ceresino finished with 22 tackles and was the game's Defensive MVP. The Offensive MVP was Stanford QB Guy Benjamin, who completed 23 of 36 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception.


Gordy Ceresino wrestles down LSU's Charles Alexander for one of his 22 tackles in the Sun Bowl. Photo by David Madison.

* * *

Key Moments:

The Fumble That Wasn't (Oct. 13, 1979)

Long before its epic 2007 victory over heavily-favored USC, Stanford had another Trojans upset to savor. Trailing 21-0 at halftime at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Stanford rallied to hand No. 1 USC a 21-21 tie.

The pivotal play was the fumble that wasn't. Having closed to within 21-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Stanford faced a fourth-and-1 at the USC 11. Turk Schonert pitched to Mike Dotterer, who fumbled. But, somehow, the ball bounced back into his hands deep in the backfield. Dotterer reversed direction and sliced forward, gaining exactly the 1-yard needed to keep the drive alive.

Two plays later, Schonert rolled left, saw an opening up the middle and cut through the defense, holding the ball aloft while crossing the goal line on 10-yard TD run. Ken Naber's extra-point tied the game with 4:33 left.

The included great individual efforts. USC's Charles White gained 221 yards on 32 carries and scored two touchdowns., Schonert relieved freshman John Elway at halftime and completed 16 of 27 passes for 163 yards and touchdowns. Even more impressive was Schonert's ability to stay cool against a supposedly invincible Trojan defense.

After Stanford drew even, both teams had chances to win. Naber missed a 43-yard field-goal try with a minute left, and USC drove downfield to set up its own try on the game's final play. But the holder fumbled the snap and an awkward kick was smothered by Stanford players as time expired.

"We were simply fighting for our lives every minute of the game," Stanford coach Rod Dowhower said. "The players on the field made it work – give them all the credit."


Mike Dotterer, shown against Boston College earlier in 1979, made a huge fourth-down conversion against USC. Photo by David Madison.

Goal Line Stand (Sept. 12, 1970)

Stanford hadn't won a conference title since 1951 or a Rose Bowl since the 1940 season, but the opener in Little Rock provided a hint of what was to come. Beginning an 11-game regular season for the first time, Stanford took on No. 4 Arkansas in a nationally-televised game in the days when the NCAA only allowed one nationally-televised game per week.

Despite being huge underdogs, Stanford got two touchdown runs from Hillary Shockley on the way to building a 27-0 second-quarter lead. But Arkansas roared to life, cut the deficit to six with 7:25 left, and drove to the Stanford 5-yard line in the final minute, before facing third-and-2.

With fans screaming "Woooo, pig, sooey!" Arkansas coach Frank Broyles sent his best runner, Bill Burnett, into the line. But Stanford middle linebacker Jeff Siemon stuffed him for no gain.

After a timeout, only 29 seconds remained for a pivotal fourth-down play. Arkansas quarterback Bill Richardson darted to his left on a sprintout option. He looked to receiver Chuck Dicus, who was covered by Stanford cornerback Benny Barnes. Richardson turned to run, only to be met by linebacker Mike Simone short of the first down, clinching a 34-28 Stanford victory.

"Our defense came of age," Stanford coach John Ralston said.
And so did Jim Plunkett's Heisman Trophy campaign. By completing 22 of 39 passes for 262 yards and one touchdown against one of the top teams in the country on the road and on national television, Plunkett now was on the radar of every Heisman voter in the country.


The 1970 Thunder Chickens.

The Kick (Nov. 23, 1974)

Stanford had the ball on its own 19-yard line with 19 seconds left and trailed Cal, 20-19, in the 1974 Big Game at Berkeley's Memorial Stadium.

The back-and-forth contest had swung back Cal's way. Stanford trailed 10-3 in the third quarter before coach Jack Christiansen replaced starting quarterback Mike Cordova, who had thrown three interceptions, with Guy Benjamin. The move ignited the Cardinals to 16 consecutive points.

But Cal, featuring running back Chuck Muncie, rallied with 10 points of its own, taking the lead with 26 seconds left on Steve Bartkowski's 13-yard pass to Steve Rivera. Pandemonium ensued and officials barely were able to stop jubilant Cal fans from tearing down the goalposts.

With those 19 seconds to work with, Benjamin hit Ted Pappas for 19 yards to the Stanford 38. After an incompletion, Benjamin found tight end Brad Williams on a crossing pattern. Williams angled for the sideline while picking up every possible yard before the clock expired. By the time he stepped out of bounds after a 25-yard gain, two seconds remained.

Mike Langford, a straight-on kicker, lined up for a 50-yard field-goal try at the right hashmark. Holder Eric Test calmed Langford and told him to keep his head down and follow through. Langford did indeed and swung his toe at the ball. When he looked up, he was being swarmed by his teammates.

The kick went through the uprights and Stanford earned a dramatic Big 22-20 Game victory.


Mike Langford, shown against Washington earlier in 1974, beat Cal with a 50-yard field goal. Photo by David Madison.

* * *

Scott Laidlaw leaps for yardage in the 1974 Big Game. Photo by David Madison.
* * *


Rose Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Don Bunce (left) and Jim Plunkett.

Lead photo: Don Bunce faces the Michigan defense in the 1972 Rose Bowl.