John Elway passed the Cardinals 80 yards to an upset of the No. 13 Buckeyes, completing four of six passes in the last 1:38 after the defense had intercepted the home team's Mike Tomczak in the end zone.
Elway, the nation's major college leader in total yards, threw 18 yards to split end Emile Harry for the winning touchdown with 34 seconds left. The play before, he had passed 34 yards to Harry. For the game, Elway was 36 of 64 for 408 yards.
"It's (his touchdown pass) like hitting a home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning," said Elway, who hit .318 this season as a New York Yankees' minor league baseball player.
Ohio Stadium's largest crowd ever, 89,436, saw the Buckeyes (2-1) appear headed for victory when they scored midway through the last period.
A 63-yard pass play from split end Gary Williams to flanker Cedric Anderson set up that touchdown at Stanford's five. Two plays later, tailback Tim Spencer ran two yards for a 20-13 lead with less than nine minutes left.
Mark Harmon kicked a 47-yard field goal, his third of the game, to make it 20-16 with 4:54 remaining. But on the next series, outside linebacker Rowland Tatum intercepted Elway's pass at the Ohio State 46 and returned it 21 yards with 2:23 to play.
Two plays later, Stanford safety Charles Hutchings intercepted sophomore Tomczak. Elway's passing then made Stanford 2-1.