This time the Stanford football players left the field as conquering heroes. That is, if they were able to leave the field at all amid a flood of students and well-wishers.
Stanford won the 110th annual Big Game, 20-13, over California in a Pac-10 football game on Saturday at Stanford Stadium. And that's just a tidbit of the story, which began five years ago and finally hit pay dirt.
"This was our championship game," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We played with tremendous effort and executed plays when we needed. This game belongs to the players."
Harbaugh left the field moments after the final horn. His players lingered, becoming more students than athletes and more than willing to mingle, celebrate and dance along with everyone else on the field.
"I couldn't ask for anything better," said Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander, who started the game in his final appearance in a Cardinal uniform. "On Thursday I realized I was at my last practice and I had the jitters. I was as nervous as I've been. But it wasn't time to get sentimental. When things slow down, maybe I'll think about the last five years."
Stanford won a Pac-10 game at home for the first time in its renovated stadium, and beating California sends the Cardinal (3-6, 4-8) into a frenzied offseason. Perhaps it also marked the beginning of a new era.
"This is an unbelievable end to an unbelievable season," said Nate Wilcox-Fogel, a key member of the special teams this season. "It doesn't get any better."
Ostrander and Wilcox-Fogel understood the feeling better than most of their teammates. Growing up in the area and attending local high schools -- Ostrander at Menlo-Atherton and Wilcox-Fogel at Menlo School -- they lived the Big Game.
"You know, I went to my first Big Game before I was one," said Ostrander, who hails from a certified organic Stanford family. "I don't think I've missed one yet since I've been alive."
Ostrander hopes he has a scheduling problem next year. He wouldn't mind missing a Big Game if his career choice pans out.
"I came to every Big Game growing up," Wilcox-Fogel said. "To actually play in one and win, I can't even find the words to express it."
Snapshots of the game:
Ostrander's touchdown pass to fellow fifth-year senior Mark Bradford; and Nick Sanchez making a slipping, clumsy interception and then making a diving interception.
Evan Moore, another fifth-year senior, caught the game's first pass.
Afterward, Austin Yancy was waving a white pom-pom. Tavita Pritchard skipped his way into the locker room. Moore made it back safely but his helmet was missing in action.
At the moment, though, euphoria cures all.