After last week's dominant win over UCLA in the regular season finale, the expectation was for more of the same in Friday night's rematch in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It took about three and a half minutes for that expectation to wash away in the rain.
PASADENA, Calif. (GMC) -- The Stanford Cardinal took the field on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl thinking about a possible return trip in January. They were one step closer towards that goal when they left a few hours later.
In the early going on Saturday afternoon it looked like Kevin Hogan and the Stanford Cardinal would simply run Oregon State into the ground. Picking up right where they left off against Colorado, the Cardinal dominated both sides of the ball throughout the first quarter as they forged a 14-0 lead and threatened to turn what had been expected to be a close game into a blowout.
In most cases, the final score of a game will tell you all you need to know. In games like Saturday afternoon's contest between Stanford and Colorado, it tells you nothing.
A typical college football fan sitting on the couch watching the Alabama-LSU snooze fest or the Oregon-USC shootout on Saturday night saw "#14 Stanford 48 Colorado 0" scroll by on the bottom of the screen and probably thought one thing: "Wow, Colorado must really be awful."
While that may be true, that doesn't tell you the whole story. Not even close. Allow me to tell you the whole story.
Most everyone looking at Saturday afternoon's matchup between Stanford and Washington State had it pegged the same way I did: a big win for the Cardinal. It certainly looked like it was heading that way early on when the Stanford defense took the field against Jeff Tuel and Coach Mike Leach's Cougar offense.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In a season marked by questions, inconsistency, and trepidation, the Cardinal discovered on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley that they still own the Golden Bears. This year's win should come as no surprise. Even considering a 7-1 advantage for Cal from 2002 to '09, Stanford has still thoroughly dominated this series over the past 52 years. Starting with a 20-7 win in 1962, Stanford holds a 32-19-1 record in Big Games over those five decades and change, and nothing we saw on Saturday indicated that any of that might change in the near or distant future.
The Cardinal offense lined up on 4th and goal only a few inches shy of the goal line and the tying score they'd need to push the game into a second overtime period. Quarterback Josh Nunes took the snap, turned towards the backfield, and handed the ball to Stepfan Taylor for his fifth consecutive carry. Taylor took the ball and ran directly into the line behind the right guard, but he was immediately met by the surging Notre Dame defense.
The crowd erupted and a few Irish defenders began celebrating, but Taylor's legs kept churning and his body kept twisting. He appeared to be stopped a second time, but since he was still atop the pile, the play was still alive. Finally, even as the announcers were proclaiming a Notre Dame victory, Taylor somehow managed to spin clear of the pile and reach the ball towards the goal line.
As the Notre Dame defense raced upfield in apparent victory, the referees gathered, keeping hope alive for the Cardinal. Had Taylor actually scored? Was Stanford an extra point away from a second overtime? The NBC cameras -- the same cameras providing the replay footage for the officials in the review booth -- showed several different angles of the play, and most of them seemed to confirm that Taylor had, indeed, pushed the ball across the plane before his knee touched the turf.
It was only twenty-four hours ago that the villagers were lighting their torches and preparing to storm the castle. Josh Nunes had to go, said the masses, and he had to go quickly. This morning the torches have been doused, and the villagers have dispersed. Josh Nunes carried the Cardinal to victory on Saturday afternoon, and he did so in dramatic fashion.
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