1967 - 76 Cardinal  "Jim Plunkett"
(Authentic Reproduction)




1967's 5-5 season could be blamed upon the offense whose production fell to 157 points scored. Gene Washington was moved to flanker in order to take advantage of his speed and he was the Indians only All Pac 8 nominee, leading the conference with forty-eight catches for 575 yards but only two touchdowns. Tackles George Buehler and Malcom Snider played well. Blaine Nye again led the defense and went on to a career with the Dallas Cowboys from 1968 through '76 as a top-notch offensive guard. Moving Don Parish from DE to LB bolstered the team's ability to stop the run. A change in helmet design marked the '67 season with the introduction of a red one-inch center stripe and a red, two-inch plain-block style "S" logo on each side of the helmet. This same helmet would be maintained through the 1976 season.
1968 ushered in the newly christened PAC 10. It found Stanford with a 6-3-1 record and their best showing against USC in eleven years although it was a 27-24 loss. The team rallied behind the enthusiastic leadership of redshirt soph QB Jim Plunkett who incredibly did not rate an All PAC mention with his conference record of 2156 yards in completions with 142 of 268 attempts connecting for fourteen TD's. The team's total offense and passing offense marks led the conference with receiver Gene Washington snaring seventy-one passes for 1117 yards. He did make All PAC and then played with the Forty-Niners from '69 through 1977 as their first-round draft choice, finishing with the Broncos in '78. OT George Buehler moved to the Raiders for nine seasons and another two with the Browns in a very fine career as an offensive guard. TE Bob Moore blocked and caught well while OT Malcom Snider was named to a number of All American teams before playing with the Falcons and Packers between 1969 and 1974. The defense was improved with LB Don Parish being named All Conference.
Ralston now had the team he had envisioned and Stanford was a contender in 1969. They tied for second in the PAC 10 with a 5-1-1 record, and went 7-2-1 overall. The two losses were in close contests against Purdue (36-35) and USC (26-24) with the Southern Cal game being lost on the final play of the game to a long field goal. The D-line was young but JC transfer Dave Tipton, Pete Lazetich, and All Conference LB Don Parish gave them the second best rush defense in the PAC. Plunkett had an All PAC season; 197 completions in 336 attempts for a record 2673 yards and 20 TD's, 381 of those yards in the Indians 29-28 win over Cal. The rushing of Bubba Bean and receiving of All Conference TE Bob Moore who had passed up a contract with the New York Mets as a pitcher, and newcomer Randy Vataha had the high-flying Stanford squad ready for a 1970 run at the title, even without Parish who went on to the St. Louis Cardinals. When 1970 was completed, John Ralston was the coach of a Rose Bowl team and a victorious Rose Bowl team! 1970 began with a loss in a well-played 34-28 game vs. number-four Arkansas. It progressed with the first defeat of USC since 1957 by a 24-14 margin and a PAC 10 Championship clinching win over Washington 29-22. Despite a 22-14 loss to hated Cal, the team was terrific on both sides of the ball. The "Thunder Chickens" of the defensive line, named by Montana resident DT Pete Lazetich after "a wild and reckless motorcycle gang", stood out in white shoes and included Greg Sampson, and 6'6" Dave Tipton, the latter going on to the Giants, Chargers, and Seahawks in a five-year pro career. The LBers were led by Jeff Siemon, a 235-pound seek-and-destroy specialist. The offense was loaded with record setting QB Plunkett who again led the conference with 191 completions in 358 attempts for 2715 yards and 18 TD's and he became the first college player to pass for more than 7000 career yards with 7544 total. His career total offense mark of 7887 was also an NCAA record and he won the coveted Heisman and Maxwell Trophies, typically giving the credit to his teammates and those offensive teammates included TE Bob Moore, ends Randy Vataha and Jack Lasatar, and effective rushers Jackie Brown (588 yards) and FB Hillary Shockley (622 rush yards).  Plunkett's center John Sande a three-year starter, was an All American with his QB. The Rose Bowl had Rex Kern of Ohio State facing off against Plunkett but the West Coast boys were for real, winning 27-17 over the eleven-point favorites from the Midwest. Moore moved on to the Raiders and Tampa Bay for a few solid seasons, finishing his pro term with Denver. Vataha, who spent summers working at Disney Land, became Plunkett's receiver with the Patriots and had a good career there from '71 through '76, then had another season with the Packers.  
Jim Plunkett was used to showing his mettle. An All Northern California All Star out of James Lick H.S. in San Jose, he appeared in the North-South High School All Star game and was told that another QB was much better than him but that he could play another position. He asked to play defensive end, "played like a mad man" in his fifty-eight minutes on the field, and then over the course of his college career. Plunkett of course far exceeded the other player, winning the Heisman Trophy as a senior and becoming a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame. His high school coach noted that no player worked harder to improve nor did he ever take his success for granted. Even after completing ten of thirteen passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns in his college debut, he was on the field for extra practice trying to strengthen his arm and practicing his footwork the following day. Used to hard work by virtue of helping to support his mother who was blind and his father, a news-vendor suffering from progressive blindness, Plunkett always worked a series of physical, menial jobs to aid the family. He found time to also compete at basketball, track, and wrestling. When illness restricted his initial performances as a freshman at Stanford it was suggested that he move to defensive end rather than quarterback, but head coach John Ralston was politely told that he would prefer the QB position and would earn his spot. Plunkett did, applying his enormous work effort and throwing up to 1000 passes per day to increase his arm strength. He set a PAC-8 record with 2156 passing yards as a soph, breaking that record in both his junior and senior years. He finished his career with 7887 yards, a record that stood for more than a decade. In 1970 he was a consensus All American and won both the Heisman and Maxwell Trophies while leading his teams to a three-year 22-8-2 mark, including a victory in the Rose Bowl over Ohio State. A thirteen-year pro career as the Patriots first-round draft choice had a rocky start with a terrible team, even though he was the NFL Rookie Of The Year. Ultimately, after serving time with the Pats and Forty-Niners, Plunkett, inspired by the Mexican hero Zorro which kept him in touch with his Mexican-American roots, led the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles and received the professional recognition he deserved.   
With Plunkett off to the Patriots, there were holes to fill for the '71 season and the defending PAC 10 champions filled them well. QB was so well stocked with Don Bunce and Mike Boryla that hot-shot Jesse Freitas transferred to San Diego State and later was good enough to play with the Chargers for two seasons. Bunce was Plunkett's patient back-up, the 1967 California High School Athlete Of The Year who was eventually drafted by the Redskins, but instead played one year in the CFL before becoming an orthopedic surgeon. He served Stanford as their team physician for eleven years and tragically died at only fifty-four years of age from a heart attack in 2003. In '71 however, Bunce came into his own, throwing for 2265 yards and thirteen TD's. Jackie Brown was a powerful rusher, teaming with Bunce to give the Indians the PAC total offense lead. The Thunder Chickens were back with wild DT Pete Lazetich holding down the line before going to the Chargers for three years and the Eagles for another, with "partner-in-crime" Greg Sampson, the '72 Oilers first-round draft choice who played well for them through the '78 season. MLB Jeff Siemon became the Vikings first-round pick and was always a highly respected pro, playing through 1982. The 9-3 record and 6-1 conference mark were repeats of 1970 and again resulted in a Rose Bowl appearance and another victory, this time with MVP Bunce leading the way 13-12 in a thriller over Michigan. Having accomplished what he had wanted, Coach Ralston announced his resignation on January 5, 1972 and became the head coach of the Denver Broncos where he stayed until 1976, bringing them to the playoffs. He spent quite a few years as an NFL assistant and again was a head coach with the USFL Oakland Invaders and at San Jose State. Ralston was elected to The College Football Hall Of Fame primarily for the great success he had at Stanford. 
The two leading candidates for the open head post were Ralston's offensive coordinator and Cal grad Mike White, and former Lions pro star Jack Christiansen who had joined the Stanford staff in 1968 after serving as the Forty-Niner head coach for five seasons. White took the head coaching job at Cal and Christiansen signed on with Stanford as the top man for 1972. Losing other Ralston assistants including Dick Vermeil, Christiansen was fortunate to assemble a staff of former Falcon head coach and Lombardi assistant Norb Hecker, George Seifert from the Oregon staff who later became a Super Bowl winning coach with the Forty-Niners, Ray Handley, the future Giants head man, and Dave Currey who later was the head coach at Long Beach State and the University Of Cincinnati. Another change was the elimination of the Stanford nickname of "Indians", one that had been associated with all of their official athletic teams since 1930. The student senate passed the vote approving the change to "Cardinals" in response to the protests of the University's Native American students. Despite a movement by alumni to reinstate the Indians name in the mid-'70s, the name was officially altered in 1981 to the singular "Cardinal" and it has remained as such to the present day. There was a great deal of rebuilding to be done as many stars from the previous two seasons had departed. The defense in particular needed work and the 6-5 season was in part due to inconsistency on that side of the ball although S Randy Poltl and LB Jim Merlo acquitted themselves well with All PAC performances. Merlo went on to a good seven-year career with the Saints and the team was the best in the conference against the pass. The offense was again potent, led by former back-up QB Mike Boryla. An All State back out of Colorado, the Cardinals were so deep at QB on the frosh team that he was moved to flanker but he battled back to win the starting QB position, throwing for a great 2284 yards. Soph FB Scott Laidlaw was a powerhouse averaging 5.6 yards per carry, augmenting the outside speed of HB John Winesberry and receiving of Boryla's favorite, Eric Cross who led the PAC in receptions yet did not make All Conference. Clutch kicker Rodrigo Garcia did make the All PAC 10 squad. The low point of the season was the last-play loss to Cal as their frosh QB Vince Ferragamo threw a desperation pass that won 24-21 for the Bears. AD Chuck Taylor announced his retirement as the year ended.
In a year of inconsistent play, the Cardinals led the conference in pass defense for the second straight season and finished 7-4 with all four losses coming against teams rated in the Top Ten. An inexperienced O-line hurt but FB Scott Laidlaw again led the rush attack and QB Mike Boryla was granted a medical redshirt season to throw 140 completions for 1629 yards and seventeen TD's to make All PAC 10. He entered the pro ranks for three seasons with the Eagles and another with the Bucs. The defense had the distinction of having both DE's, Pat Donovan and Roger Stillwell named to different 1973 All American teams and S Randy Poltl as an All Conference performer. Poltl managed to squeeze in a season with the Vikings and another two with the Broncos. 1974 was a wild season with two inexperienced QB's battling back and forth for the starting role and neither Mike Cordova nor Frosh Guy Benjamin winning it, but with both quarterbacks winning breath-taking games. New receiver Tony Hill showed promise with thirty-four receptions and Scott Laidlaw continued as the go-to RB before putting in five years with the Cowboys and one with the Giants. Benjamin and kicker Mike Langford were the heroes of the game against Cal as Bears' QB Steve Bartkowski connected on what appeared to be the winning TD toss with twenty-six seconds remaining. Benjamin quickly struck and moved Stanford down the field and Langford kicked the winner to best their biggest rivals, 22-20. After failing to win in their first five games, the defense stepped up and DE Pat Donovan became one of few two-time All Americans, again teaming with Roger Stillwell. Stillwell played for the Bears at his usual DE position from '75 to '77 but Donovan, like DT Blaine Nye a few years before him, went to the Cowboys and was switched to the offensive team. Donovan packed on a bit more weight and manned one of the offensive tackle spots from 1975 through '83. The 5-4-2 season and the QB musical chairs irked a lot of alumni.
The 6-4-1 record of '75 wasn't seen as improvement upon the 5-4-2 of the year before and Christiansen's inability to name a starting QB and instead continue to split duties between Mike Cordova and Guy Benjamin was blamed for the team's inconsistent play. WR Tony Hill earned elite status, catching fifty-five passes for 916 yards. The defense was rocked in the Big Game with Cal to the tune of 48-15 and gave up plus-thirty points in four other contests although DE Duncan McColl received All Conference and second-team All American mention. S Rich Waters was also All PAC. Guy Benjamin played so well in completing 170 passes for 1982 yards and twelve TD's that Christiansen had to keep him as 1976's full-time QB starter. Tony Hill was the primary receiver and became a top-rated performer with the Cowboys from 1977 to '86, but James Lofton and Bill Kellar were almost as effective. All PAC protection was provided by linemates big Gordon King at OT, and  guard Alex Krakozoff. The defense was somewhat improved although tagged for fifty-one points against Michigan with DE Duncan McColl maintaining family tradition and like his father, former Chicago Bear great Bill, named All American.

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