Season of The Giant Killers - Game 1
September 16, 1967 - Portland, OR
The Oregon State Beavers opened their 1967 campaign by hosting the Stanford Indians at Multnomah Stadium (now PGE
Park) in Portland. The Beavers entered the contest as one-point favorites, one of only three occasions on the season
when they were not the underdog. OSU Coach Dee Andros was looking to extend the six game winning streak his team
had built the previous season. Stanford hoped for a fresh and successful start to their season as well. Their '66
campaign was less successful than they would have hoped, finishing 1-4 in conference and 5-5 overall.
Defensive Lineman Jess Lewis is not someone who can be ran over, something ASU running back Nate Kirtman discovered the hard way.
Both teams were starting green quarterbacks, with Church Williams for the Indians and Steve Preece for the Beavers.
Despite Williams' inexperience, Stanford Coach John Ralston had 14 returning starters and was confident in his
team's ability to be a force in the conference. Preece had spent the previous summer working on two things: his
throwing accuracy and the enlargement of Parker Stadium. Coach Andros liked the improvement he had seen from the
speedy youngster, and was convinced that Preece was the right choice to lead his offense.
The temperature was a comfortable 65 degrees for the 8:00PM kickoff, and 22,570 fans paid $2.50 for general admission
to see the season opener for the two PAC foes. It was the first meeting between the teams since '64, when Stanford
won the day by a score of 16-7, nearly ending the Beavers' 1965 Rose Bowl dreams.
The first period was relatively uneventful, with both teams unable to find any offensive rhythm. The only real scoring opportunity arose when the Beavers managed to carry the ball to the Stanford 26-yard line. The drive
would falter, however, when two incomplete passes, an offensive penalty, and a tackle for a loss pushed the Beavers
out of scoring range.
All the day's scoring took place in the second quarter, with Preece providing the offensive spark as he led the Beavers
on a nine-play, 56-yard scoring drive. From the Stanford 45, Preece drilled split end Roger Cantlon through tight
double coverage on the Stanford 17. A few plays later, the Beavers had first down and goal-to-go on the five. The
Beavers ran option left, with halfback Bill Main on the receiving end of a Preece pitchout. Wingback Don Summers
led the way, chopping down the oncoming defender and clearing a hole big enough for Main to scamper through untouched
for the score.
Unfortunately, the Beavers' lead lasted a total of only 15 seconds. After Mike Haggard converted the PAT, Stanford
immediately got on the scoreboard with a 98-yard kickoff return by Nate Kirtman. Kirtman plowed into a wall of blockers
and defenders at his own 25, somehow bounced free, and found himself out of range of any would-be tacklers. Barely
a minute into the second period, two touchdowns had been scored and the game was once again a dead heat.
Six minutes later and following a 10-yard punt return from Mark Waletich, the Beavers found themselves with excellent
field position at the Stanford 39. The offense kept to the ground and marched steadily down the field to the
Stanford five-yard line, 19 of those yards produced by Preece's spry young legs. Haggard returned to the field, splitting the uprights from 22 yards out and putting the Beavers back on top, 10-7.
The ensuing kickoff was the setting for one of the most bone-headed plays of all time. Stanford's Gene Washington - the same Gene Washington who is now the NFL's Director of Player Development - received the kick within his endzone, took a couple of quick steps forward, saw the fast approaching coverage, and calmly took a knee. Content with a touchback, Washington jogged back to the sideline, only to be met by looks of disgust from his coaches and teammates. It took a few moments before he realized the reason for their disappointment - he had downed the ball on his own one-yard line.
Under normal circumstances, that kind of field position is a disadvantage. Against the Beaver defense, it was Mission
Impossible. Stanford was unable to move the ball beyond their own five-yard line, forcing their
punter to make a quick kick from the back of the endzone. The kick might have been described as end-over-end would it have had time to make a full revolution. As it was, the ball's brief flight and roll only carried it
as far as the Stanford 15 before being downed. Four plays later and with only 1:29 left before the half, Haggard
was good again, this time from 28 yards out. The half ended, and the Beavers entered their locker room with a
That lead would prove to be more than enough for the relentless Beaver defense. Even though the Beaver offense
struggled to consistently move the ball in the second half, it didn't really matter. Stanford was unable to score
a single point despite entering Beaver territory on four occasions - including a 44-yard field goal attempt that
fell well short of the crossbars.
The Beaver defense forced three turnovers on the day, all three being interceptions by linebacker Skip Vanderbundt.
"The Skipper" snagged the last two within the final five minutes of the game, almost single-handedly
nailing the coffin shut on any hope Stanford may have had for a comeback. The key play came with only 1:25 remaining
in the game, when Stanford was deep in Beaver territory and within striking distance of the go-ahead score. On
first down, Williams had to scramble to recover his own fumble for a four-yard loss. On the next play, Williams fumbled the snap, again made the recovery, only to frantically throw up a prayer into Vanderbundt's waiting
arms on the 16-yard line. The Beavers easily ran out the clock, happy to be leaving with the 13-7 victory.
Post-Game Comments, 1967:
"We paid a big price for mistakes. We didn't take advantage of our opportunities… particularly in the second
half. But in fairness to Oregon State, Dee has a solid team, a good kicker, and that Preece did a fine job on
us." - Stanford Coach John Ralston
"A thing like that can destroy morale (Stanford's 98-yard kickoff return), but these kids came right back
to win. I'm as proud of them as any team I ever coached." - Coach Dee Andros
Reminiscing with Coach Andros, 2002:
"Stanford had a good team that year (finished fourth in the PAC). That win gave our kids the confidence,
I think, to be an outstanding team. Steve (Preece) played a fine game, and our Defense showed just how damn tough
they could be."
"Stanford had some great football players. I know that. But so did we."
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