Stanford 27, No. 5 Texas 24

Sunday, September 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ DeRonnie Pitts punctuated an up-and-down, back-and-forth game with a flying leap of faith.

Pitts cartwheeled into the end zone after catching a 15-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Chris Lewis with 1:12 to play as Stanford beat No. 5 Texas 27-24 on Saturday night.

Stanford led 20-9 with 10 minutes left, Texas' Major Applewhite rallied the Longhorns with two touchdown drives. The Cardinal (2-1) then made a frantic four-play, 59-yard drive in just 43 seconds.

It ended when Pitts caught a short sideline pass, broke Joe Walker's tackle at the 10, leaped for the goal line, was flipped into the air by Roderick Babers and landed in the end zone.

``I knew I was flying over him as soon as I got off that one tackle,'' Pitts said. ``Chris made a great throw, and we set up the play perfectly. (The leap) was pretty scary, but I saw (Virginia Tech QB) Michael Vick do it today, so I thought I'd give it a shot.''

Texas (1-1) couldn't answer, with Brandon Healy dropping a fourth-down pass from Applewhite with 33 seconds to play. Stanford fans stood and cheered for several minutes after the victory, the school's first over a top-10 team since Sept. 18, 1993, when the Cardinal beat No. 7 Colorado.

``It's an absolutely fantastic feeling to beat a team of this caliber,'' said coach Tyrone Willingham, who called the victory one of the biggest of his tenure. ``It shows the resilience of our young men to bounce back and not let the past affect them.''

With former Stanford golfer Tiger Woods cheering on the sideline, Lewis led a dramatic comeback in place of starter Randy Fasani, who injured his left knee when he was sacked by Maurice Gordon just seven minutes into the game.

After the Texas offense was stymied all evening by an inspired Stanford defense, Applewhite connected with B.J. Johnson on a 71-yard touchdown strike with 9:29 to play. Applewhite then hit Victor Ike over the middle for a 38-yard scoring play with 5:44 left to give Texas a 24-20 lead.

``The game definitely had a sense of the bizarre,'' Applewhite said. ``We didn't play well until the fourth quarter. We had some confidence and momentum in the fourth quarter, and when we got the big play, we really started feeding off that.

``The game was going in so many different ways, up and down.''

Fasani appeared to injure his left knee when he was sacked. Lewis immediately keyed a 77-yard touchdown drive for the Cardinal's first points, throwing a 37-yard TD pass Luke Powell on his second pass of the game and the fifth of his college career.

Fasani, his knee in a brace, stood on the sideline on crutches to cheer on Lewis, a freshman who holds the California high school record for career TD passes. Lewis' previous college experience consisted of three passes against Washington State two weeks ago.

``In the back of your mind, you're always telling yourself to be ready, and then when Randy went down, it was like clockwork,'' Lewis said. ``Someone told me to take some snaps and get ready to go, and I was ready.''

Lewis was just 12-of-33, but he threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Russell Stewart had three catches for 82 yards, and Pitts had three receptions for 62 yards.

Lewis' 17-yard TD pass to Pitts gave Stanford a 13-9 lead at halftime. A minute into the third quarter, the Cardinal scored again when Emory Brock, the son of baseball great Lou Brock, blocked Kris Stockton's punt, grabbed the loose ball and scored.

Most of the game was a defensive battle, with both teams combining for 23 frustrating punts. The Longhorns' frustration showed in a hat-throwing tantrum by Texas coach Mack Brown after a penalty in the third quarter.

``There's a lot of positives here,'' Brown said. ``We were down on the road, and we fought back and got the lead. We've got some things to be proud of, but we have to be more consistent and methodical as well.''

The game bore no resemblance to Texas' 69-17 thrashing of Stanford in Austin last season. Both Applewhite and Chris Simms had trouble against a Stanford defense that looked nothing like the lackluster unit that allowed lowly San Jose State to score 40 points last week in a disheartening loss.

The Longhorns couldn't run _ Hodges Mitchell had just 52 yards on 19 carries _ and couldn't pass until the game's final minutes. Applewhite was 18-for-40 and was intercepted twice and sacked five times, while Simms was 3-of-6 and played sparingly in the second half.

Applewhite started the game but gave way to Simms after two ineffective series. Taking over after the Texas defense recorded a safety, Simms capped the Longhorns' only scoring drive of the first three quarters with a 38-yard pass to Roy Williams.