Along with a good portion of the Bay Area, I'm still reeling over back to back weekends where the San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors fell short of a championship. I got to thinking about tough losses that Stanford football has endured.
Stanford football is currently going through its greatest football era in the history of the school but every champion has had a dark day or two. That got me thinking about losses that many Stanford fans, players, and alumni still think about today. While these losses are in no particular order, they will all sting and make you truly appreciate the journey that we are on at Stanford right now. One disclaimer before we begin: ANY LOSS TO CAL is devastating. The dirty golden bear raising the axe after any victory will sting but here are a few of the Big Game losses that have really hurt.
· November 24th, 1951. Undefeated Stanford was ranked #3 at home versus Cal and had scored less than 21 points only once all season. Stanford would go on to only score 7 points and kill any hopes of a potential national championship. That loss definitely lingered into the Rose Bowl as Stanford only scored 7 points again in a 40-7 loss to Illinois.
· November 21st, 1970. Stanford had clinched another Pac-8 conference championship and was playing a 5-5 Cal team. While Stanford had lost two nonconference games, they were still a very talented team that was heading to Pasadena. Unfortunately, Cal came up on top in a major upset 22-14. Fortunately for Stanford, this loss didn't derail them as Stanford would go on to upset Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
· November 20th, 1982. Stanford won. Enough said.
· November 22nd, 1986. A 1-9 Cal team beat a 7-2 Stanford team. A loss that ended a two year winning streak for the Cardinal and would be the last Cal win over Stanford until 1993.
· November 23rd, 2002. Cal finally breaks through and ended the record 7 straight wins for Stanford and California Memorial Stadium had more fans on the field than I the stadium held. It was my first Big Game loss in person and I couldn't believe my eyes.
· November 21st, 2009. This loss is my toughest personally and something I wish I never have to witness again. Stanford blows a 14-0 lead and just when it looks like Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart are going to lead Stanford down the field for a game-winning comeback, Luck throws a game-ending interception just short of the end zone and the Cal fans rush the field AT STANFORD.
Now that the Big Game losses are taken care of and I am sure there are people who may feel I forgot some, let's dive into some other tough losses that Stanford football has endured throughout the years.
· January 1st, 1935. Stanford came into the Rose Bowl with an undefeated record and came into the game allowing just 21 points all season. Alabama was scoring points unlike anyone had seen at that time but the first quarter played out just how the defensive minds had predicted. Stanford led 7-0. Alabama shot out of the gates in the 2nd quarter and scored 22 points, more than Stanford had given up all year and didn't look back as they cruised to a 29-13 victory and Stanford was left thinking "what if."
· October 3rd, 1970. Stanford won a Rose Bowl to cap the year but would look back on another "what if" season as they came into the game versus Purdue 3-0 and Purdue would go on to finish the season at 4-6. Just a bad game for Stanford football.
· November 13th, 1971. Stanford has always been the bigger brother to San Jose State and the series has played out that way. As of 2016, Stanford is 52-14-1 all-time. On this day, it wasn't one of the 54 wins as Stanford was upset at home and ranked in the top 10. Stanford lost 13-12.
· September 18th, 1982. Once again, Stanford was thwarted by its younger brother in San Jose State and while this SJSU team did finish 8-3, John Elway losing to SJSU coach and father Jack Elway was tough.
· December 27th, 1986. Stanford was playing in its first bowl game since 1978 and hadn't lost a bowl game since 1952. While Clemson dominated the first half 27-0, Stanford would creep back into the game and had numerous chances to tie and/or win the game but couldn't get over the hump and went on to lose 27-21. It would be Stanford's only bowl appearance in the 1980's; A loss in itself.
· October 17th, 1992. Stanford had three losses in the 1992 season. Two were to top 10 teams and neither were home games. The third was actually the 2nd loss of the season but it was a heartbreaker and killed any leverage Stanford had at returning to Pasadena. Stanford was coming off of back-to-back wins over Notre Dame and UCLA and then completely no-showed at home versus an average Arizona team. That loss was the difference between a potential Rose Bowl game and the Blockbuster Bowl.
· October 28th, 2000. Washington... TUIASOSOPO.... 80 Yards....LESS THAN A MINUTE.... BRUTAL.
· October 13th, 2001. Against Washington State, Caleb Bowman dropped a pass on 4th down that kept Stanford out of the Rose Bowl.
· September 26th, 2004. Stanford had #1 USC on the ropes at halftime 28-17 and Stanford went scoreless in the second half. That loss might actually look better now, because a victory that night may have kept Buddy Teevens' job intact.
· October 29th, 2005. Stanford was beating 8th ranked UCLA 24-3 in the 4th quarter. Stanford gained 11 yards in two possessions after that and would eventually lose in overtime 30-27.
· 2006 season. PICK ONE OF THE 11.
· November 12th, 2011. Stanford was on top of the college football world. All eyes on Palo Alto as Stanford came into their game versus Oregon with a 9-0 record, the best quarterback in the country in Andrew Luck, College Gameday was on campus for the first time in history, and with all of the pregame fireworks... Stanford put up a dud. Oregon won 53-30 and all National Championship and Rose Bowl aspirations were gone and that led to.....
· January 2nd, 2012. The Fiesta Bowl..... I was sitting in that end zone.... The Oklahoma State fans had left as they knew a chip shot would seal the deal.... Until it went WIDE LEFT.... Losing to Cal is hard, losing to Oregon or USC sucks, but that loss has left scars that won't ever heal.
· October 13th, 2012. Touchdown Jesus is more like Touchdown Judas as you don't get calls at Notre Dame and Stanford got shafted at the goal line.
· January 1st, 2014. David Shaw had finally beaten Oregon and gotten that monkey off his back and was turning Stanford into a powerhouse bully. One of the few times that Stanford got punched right back and went up against a bigger bully in Michigan State. A stonewall stop on 4th down sealed a Rose Bowl victory for the Spartans.
· September 6th, 2014. It's tough to pick a bad loss in a 5-loss season but Stanford losing to USC at home 13-10 was atrocious. Stanford had gotten to the USC 35 or better NINE TIMES during this game and did absolutely nothing with it. Kevin Hogan had a great career at Stanford and this game should have been a slam dunk win for him.
· Both 2015 losses left Stanford fans with a bad taste in their mouth and ANOTHER "what if" season. Having an opening game brainfart at Northwestern and only scoring 6 points still amazes me after what Stanford did after that game. Losing to Oregon was rough because the worst of the worst had to happen for Stanford to lose and it did. Hogan played a bad game throwing one interception and fumbling the snap TWICE. McCaffrey had 189 rushing/receiving yards; a bad game for him. Stanford defense gave up over 400 yards and had a missed field goal in a 38-36 loss.
With all of these tough losses, I wouldn't trade anything for my place at Stanford University and from a football standpoint; we are STILL the reigning Pac-12 Champions.