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Football Year In Review

Jan 5, 2021

A season unlike any in program history wrapped up in dramatic fashion, as the Cardinal capped off a 4-2 campaign with a come-from-behind, 48-47, double-overtime win at UCLA. Stanford faced more obstacles than any team in the country during the COVID-19-shortened season, wrapping it up with a four-game winning streak. 

A total of 15 Cardinal garnered All-Conference recognition, highlighted by Thomas Booker, Drew Dalman and Simi Fehoko on the first team. 

The Cardinal began training camp in October at Woodside High School, due to Santa Clara County guidelines not allowing them to practice on campus at the beginning of the fall. A full timeline of events during the COVID-19 global pandemic and their effect on Stanford Football:

  • March 8: Cardinal completes seventh spring practice before spring break; the entire spring quarter was then conducted remotely.
  • July 1: Stanford began welcoming back football student-athletes; the team quarantined before beginning small-group workouts the following week.
  • July 10: Pac-12 announced that it would delay the start of the season and play a conference-only schedule beginning Sept. 26.
  • Aug. 11: Pac-12 postponed all sport schedules through at least 2020. At this time, many Stanford student-athletes opted to return home. 
  • July 1-Oct. 9: Student-athletes who remained on campus could workout outdoors only, in small groups. Many public health restrictions were in place.
  • Sept. 24: Pac-12 voted to resume football on Nov. 7 
  • Oct. 9: Stanford began training camp at Woodside High School in San Mateo County. Due to state restrictions, the Cardinal conducted two practice sessions for each of the first four practices of camp.
  • Oct. 14: Stanford conducted its first on-campus practice since March. Despite restrictions allowing for only 75 individuals per field, the setup at Elliott Practice Fields allows for the full team to practice at once while utilizing all three fields. 
  • Nov. 7: Stanford opens the season with a road game at Oregon. QB Davis Mills and three others miss the game due to what was later deemed COVID-19 testing protocol errors. The four student-athletes remained in isolation and quarantine until Nov. 13.
  • Nov. 14: Stanford plays its only home game of the season, a three-point loss to Colorado. The following week's home game (Nov. 21) was canceled due to COVID-19 cases at Washington State.
  • Nov. 27: The Cardinal wins its first game of the season, a thrilling Big Game win at Cal, 24-23.
  • Nov. 28: Santa Clara County Public Health Department announces new emergency directive which prohibits training and competition inside the county.
  • Dec. 1: Program departs for Seattle area where it will remain through its win over No. 23 Washington on Dec. 5.
  • Dec. 6: Stanford busses to Corvallis, Ore. to spend the week preparing for its game at Oregon State on Dec. 12, a game that was originally scheduled for Stanford Stadium. 
  • Dec. 13: Stanford announced that it would relocate to Santa Barbara on Monday (Dec. 14) and that Saturday's game would be its final contest of the season. Stanford will decline postseason opportunities and conclude the season with 19 straight days away from home. 

As the season began on Nov. 7 at Oregon, the Cardinal got some tough news, as QB Davis Mills, WR Connor Wedington and a few others were sidelined hours before opening kickoff due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing protocols. Without its starting quarterback, the Cardinal fell to the No. 12 Ducks, 35-14. After the COVID-19 tests from the previous week at Oregon were deemed false positives, Mills, Wedington and others are allowed to rejoin the team on Friday, Nov. 13 for practice, one day before hosting Colorado at Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal came out rusty before a fourth-quarter comeback came up just short in a 35-32 setback. The following week's home game against Washington State was canceled the day before due to COVID issues within the Cougars program.

Stanford would use the rest and head to Cal for the 123rd Big Game the day after Thanksgiving, pulling off a dramatic victory thanks to a Thomas Booker blocked extra point in the final minute of the game to clinch a 24-23 win. The Axe is back where it belongs. 

The following day, Santa Clara County health officials would announce that high-contact sports were no longer allowed to practice or compete, thus forcing three Cardinal teams, including football, to relocate. Three days later, on Dec. 1, Stanford departed for Seattle to prepare for its game against the University of Washington. The 'Road Dogs' would finish the season with 19 straight days on the road. 

Against all odds, the Cardinal shot out of a cannon in the win at UW, holding off the No. 23 Huskies' comeback attempt in a 31-26 win. Stanford then headed to Corvallis for an eight-day stay, practicing at Oregon State in preparation for an eventual 27-24 win over the Beavers. After spending time in Santa Barbara to prepare the following week, the Cardinal headed to the Rose Bowl to take on UCLA in the regular-season finale. Both programs had announced prior to the game that they'd decline postseason opportunities to allow for the student-athletes and coaches to return home to their families for the holiday season. 

In that game against UCLA, Davis Mills threw for 428 yards and three touchdowns, including a 14-yard score to Simi Fehoko in the second overtime as the Cardinal defeated UCLA 48-47. Mills, who completed 32 of 47 passes, bounced back from three second-half interceptions, including a 39-yard pick-6 to Jay Shaw that gave UCLA a 34-20 lead with 5:39 remaining. But the Cardinal scored on their final two drives to force overtime. Fehoko finished with a school-record 16 receptions for 230 yards, with the yardage ranking third all-time behind Troy Walters (278) and Darrin Nelson (237).

As the calendar turned to 2021, Stanford hoped for a much more normal season as it readied for spring ball and all that was to come.