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Looking Ahead to the Stanford-Oregon Showdown--Or Not

Owen Marecic already is, but do we really have to start looking ahead to Oregon?
Owen Marecic already is, but do we really have to start looking ahead to Oregon?

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited for Stanford's looming trip to Eugene for a primetime showdown with the Ducks. Really excited, even. Check-Kayak-for-last-minute-flights-to-Portland-excited. (Forget about it.) Still, there's a part of me that doesn't want Saturday to come, and not only because I'm fearful that my feelings may be hurt by some of the signs that the Duck faithful parade behind the ESPN Gameday set.

There's a part of me that just wants to relish the fact that Stanford is 4-0 for the first time since before most current undergraduates were born, and appreciate the sight of Cardinal players featured prominently on the pages of national magazines and websites, without looking ahead to the next game. (I'd be plenty happy watching this on loop for the next four days.)

Stanford is ranked No. 9 in the AP poll--and it isn't basketball season! Sure, the polls don't mean much before October hits, but the last time the Cardinal cracked the top 10 in the AP poll was 2001, Tyrone Willingham's last season on the Farm. Incidentally, that was also the last year Stanford left Autzen Stadium with a win.

The retrospective approach seemed to work well last week, so I thought I'd try it again before turning the attention to Saturday's game throughout the rest of the week. Take a moment to appreciate the Cardinal's remarkable season to this point and hit the jump to relive Stanford's improbable 49-42 victory over No. 5 Oregon on October 20, 2001.

Fresh off its first loss of the season to Washington State, a 45-39 setback at home that dropped the Cardinal from the rankings, Stanford headed to Eugene for a date with Joey Harrington and the 6-0 Ducks. Autzen Stadium, site of the longest home winning streak in the nation (23 games), seemed an unlikely place for Stanford to get back on track, especially after starting quarterback Randy Fasani sprained his knee and left the game in the second quarter.

Oregon led 35-21 in the third before backup quarterback Chris Lewis found Teyo Johnson for a 28-yard score to pull Stanford to within seven. After future Whizzinator user Onterrio Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, the real craziness began. Stanford wasted excellent field position following a blocked punt when Lewis's pass to Brett Pierce was knocked away in the end zone on fourth down, but the Cardinal converted a second blocked punt into a touchdown on a Lewis strike to Luke Powell.

Trailing 42-35 with 9 minutes left, Willingham made a gutsy call for an onside kick, and it was recovered by the Cardinal. Eight plays later, Kerry Carter scored from a yard out to tie--er, bring Stanford closer. Mike Biselli's extra point was blocked, and the Ducks maintained a 42-41 lead. Safety Tank Williams helped ensure the Cardinal would leave Eugene with more than a moral victory. His pressure on Harrington deep in Ducks territory on Oregon's ensuing possession produced a wobbly pass that was intercepted by defensive end Marcus Hoover. Carter scored from three yards out--his fourth rushing touchdown of the game--with 1:10 left, and Stanford added a two-point conversion to cap the scoring in a wild, wild win.

"It was all about heart, you know?" said backup quarterback Chris Lewis, who guided Stanford to 21 straight fourth-quarter points in a 2001 upset of No. 5 Oregon. "It's such an honor to come into this stadium and beat a phenomenal team."

Lewis led Stanford to an upset of DeShaun Foster and the No. 4 UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium the following week, propelling the Cardinal to No. 10 in the AP poll. Stanford, which was last ranked as high as 9th at the end of the 1992 season, lost its next game at Washington.

So what about you? Are you dying to watch the Cardinal attempt to keep this thing rolling? I'm sure I will be when Saturday comes. For now, I'm just trying to soak up what it feels like to root for a top-10 team. Is there room in the van?