Ten years later, Stanford coach David Shaw refers to it as simply “The moment” — the moment that legitimized Stanford, the moment that changed everything for the Cardinal football program.
The moment Mark Bradford hauled in a 10-yard touchdown catch from Tavita Pritchard with 48 seconds remaining to beat USC on Oct. 6, 2007 and secure one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
“Everybody saw it,” said Shaw, who was the offensive coordinator that season under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.
That everybody included members of the Stanford recruiting class of 2008, which featured Andrew Luck, Chase Thomas, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.
And the Stanford recruiting class of 2009 (Shayne Skov, Zach Ertz, Trent Murphy and Tyler Gaffney).
And the Stanford recruiting class of 2010 (David Yankey, Henry Anderson and Ed Reynolds).
“It affected recruiting that year, the next year, the next year,” said Shaw, whose team returns to the L.A. Coliseum this week for Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. game.
The lasting impact of the upset, Shaw believes, lies in the timing — in the kickoff time and the lack of competition for eyeballs and the overall visibility of Stanford’s effort, performance and ultimate victory.
Kickoff was 4 p.m. on the Versus Network, which was in approximately 70 million homes that fall, according to the Los Angeles Times. And the game picked up viewers as word spread of the brewing upset.
The TV competition that evening consisted of UCLA-Notre Dame — the Irish were terrible in 2007 — and LSU-Florida.
But both started an hour later than Stanford-USC, allowing viewers to click over to Versus without missing the finish of their preferred game.
“It was in that sweet spot,” Shaw said of the broadcast window.
Here are the six nuggets beyond the TV “sweet spot” that might have been forgotten or overlooked:
Stanford had lost to Arizona State 41-3 at home the week before.
Pritchard was making his first career start. Stanford starter T.C. Ostrander had suffered a seizure the previous weekend.
USC quarterback John David Booty broke a finger on his throwing hand in the second quarter but was not replaced — and would throw four interceptions over the remainder of the game.
Bradford, who grew up in Los Angeles, lost his father unexpectedly two weeks earlier. (His mother had died a few years previous.)
In addition to Shaw and Harbaugh, two current Power Five coaches were on the Cardinal staff that season — running backs coach Willie Taggart (Oregon) and defensive ends coach D.J. Durkin (Maryland) — and Lance Anderson, who coached the defensive tackles that season, is now Stanford’s defensive coordinator.
There was a communication breakdown with the sideline on fourth-and-20, forcing Pritchard to call his own play in the huddle.
On fourth down from the 5, Stanford was called for an illegal substitution, pushing the ball back to the 10. That might have proved an advantage for the Cardinal by creating enough space for Pritchard and Bradford to connect on the next play.