The Drive, The Catch, The Fumble; Stanford’s Miracle Win Over UCLA Compares To 49ers’ Miracle Win Over Dallas In ’82
By Dave Levine
Last night’s battle between Pac-12 football rival powerhouses Stanford and UCLA was as ugly a game as you could imagine–if you are a Stanford fan.
Stanford (I refuse to call them “the Cardinal”; they were “the Indians” for 42 years until insane p.c. took over the Stanford campus) played undoubtedly its worst game since the Northwestern game that opened the 2015 season. The only exception was their punter/kicker Jake Bailey who kept run-back threat Juju Shuster from making returns. Stanford didn’t score a touchdown until very late in the game.
For some reason, every time Stanford got close to the red zone, they had (stupid) penalties, allowed sacks of their hapless QB Ryan Burns and so they settled for 3 field goals.
Star RB Christian gained 139 yards from scrimmage but the UCLA kickers kicked away from him on kick-offs and on punts, they kicked high, forcing him to call for fair catches. That effort backfired when Bruin special teams player Marcus Rios ran into McCaffrey on a fair catch with 2 minutes left which gave the Stanford offense good field position for their final drive–a piece of art work by QB Burns and his receivers.
In “The Drive, The Catch, The Fumble”, Stanford almost copied the script from the last 2 minutes of the famous 49er vs Dallas NFC Championship Game on January 10, 1982 when Joe Montana–with 2 minutes left, led his team down the field 80 yards against the vaunted Cowboys defense. “The Catch” followed with a leaping Dwight Clark jumping high above DB Everson Walls in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. What people tend to forget about that sequence of events is “The Fumble” that happened next after Cowboy QB Danny White made a clutch throw over the middle complete to WR Drew Pearson into 49er territory. One more pass completion and Dallas’ great field goal kicker would be able to win the game and go to the Super Bowl. But when White went back to the pocket to pass, Lawrence Pillers knocked the ball out of his hands and Jim Stuckey pounced on it.
In last night’s college version of the “Miracle Win”, with 4 seconds left in the game and with the ball on the Bruin 40 down 16-13, UCLA star QB Josh Rosen faced only a 3-man Stanford defensive line so that Stanford could drop back extra defensive backs near the end zone. Rosen dropped back to pass the “Hail Mary” into the end zone. But the pass never came off as one of Stanford’s three pass rushers, outside LB Joey Alfieri (No. 32), came from way behind Rosen to blindside the QB before he could let the ball fly. Stanford’s star DT Solomon Thomas picked the ball up and ran for the (unneeded) score as time expired.
I watched the game from my living room and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. UCLA’s secondary–particularly their safeties–were getting away with late hits. They were “headhunting” which is illegal. I hope those refs are given a good balling out for missing those calls.
However, a sudden, amazing turn of events shocked the UCLA Rose Bowl crowd and I’m sure it did just about everyone watching. The Bruins–who had dominated the game for almost the entire game and who had successfully kept the ball away from return man McCaffrey–fell flat on defense on that “Miracle Drive” by Stanford. They looked tired. It had been a defensive battle (The score was just 13-9 before “The Drive”). One Bruin DE was down on one knee. Injuries had plagued both teams. The Bruins had lost their monstrous star LB Eddie Vanderdoes earlier in the game. They also lost a DT. Stanford had lost both its starting DBs, a tremendous loss against a deep passer like Josh Rosen. The winning touchdown pass from Stanford’s QB Burns in the corner of the end zone to second string WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside with 24 seconds left reminded me of Dwight Clark’s “The Catch”. Arcega-Whiteside leaped high, where only he could catch the pass and got one toe down (In college football, a receiver needs only one foot or toe down with possession for the score).
This is why college football is so fun to watch. While the refs did all they could to ruin this great game, players on both teams made it worth a watch. However, the dirty hit by Tahaan Goodman knocking out Stanford WR Francis Owusu with a helmet under the helmet will surely be talked about for the rest of the season (Owusu’s brother Chris’ career was affected by the same kind of hit playing for Stanford in 2011). Bruin safeties were late-hitting the entire game but never got called for it. This was one of the worst-reffed college games I’ve seen–comparable to the calls and non-calls made in that famous 49er vs Dallas Championship Game in 1982.
Stanford–now 3-0 and badly banged up on defense–heads to Washington (4-0) in a short week for a Friday night game there. The Huskies gave up 28 points to Arizona and won by only a touchdown in overtime.
I assume because it looked so terrible for nearly four quarters despite pulling out a win at The Rose Bowl against a tough UCLA team, the AP has kept Stanford at #7 in the nation with their next opponent, Washington, at #10, probably due to the Huskies’ weaker schedule.
Eventually, the rule changes and continued poor referee performances will destroy college football for many fans. Until then, games like this one will be one for the ages.