On Sunday afternoon when millions of people tune in to watch Super Bowl 53, they’ll be able to do so knowing that they will see two of the very best teams the game of football has to offer.
The New England Patriots are playing in what seems to be their 87th consecutive Super Bowl and the Los Angeles Rams have been one of the best teams in the league thanks to an opportunistic defense and a high-octane offense. The quarterback matchup offers an interesting storyline, as we’ll see the greatest QB to ever play in the NFL in Tom Brady face off against Jared Goff, a young gun who is leading the next generation of great signal-callers.
While we all sit and watch in awe of these two talented teams, in Menlo Park, Calif., a former walk-on quarterback will be able to enjoy the Super Bowl knowing that that he bested Jared Goff in a shootout that was one of the most entertaining games in recent BYU history.
Let’s do a quick experiment. Go to the internet browser on your phone or computer and type in the name Christian Stewart.
Surely a Google search of this name would yield stats and articles about the BYU quarterback who helped save the 2014 football season. Maybe there’s a story about how Christian played in spring practice in 2015 after his eligibility was finished to help the team prep for the coming season.
So what do you find when you search Christian Stewart? Google assumes that you’re not looking to find out more about the former walk-on from Snow College.
Instead Google asks, “Did you mean to search for Kristen Stewart?”, the actress best known for her role in the Twilight films. This probably has more to do with the bewildering popularity of a book/movie series about teenage vampires than it does the significance of a BYU quarterback, but it’s fitting that the internet is slow to remember Christian’s playing days. It’s probably because he’s somewhere in Silicon Valley crunching numbers for Accel-KKR, a technology-focused private equity firm, instead of playing football on Sundays.
In all reality, Christian Stewart was never supposed to see the field at BYU.
It wasn’t a lack of talent that was going to keep Christian on the sidelines, but rather the fact that he happened to be playing quarterback at BYU at the same time as super-human Taysom Hill. Stewart enjoyed a very successful stint at Snow College before coming back to BYU to finish out his career and, more importantly, get his degree. So when Taysom went down with a season-ending injury against Utah State, everyone (Christian included) was unsure of what would happen next.
With Stewart under center, BYU continued to move the ball well, but suffered losses to Boise State and Nevada after the heartbreaker against Utah State. What was looking to be a promising season was in a tailspin.
Eventually, the Cougars hit the friendly part of the independent schedule and under Christian’s direction they were able to reel off easy wins against Middle Tennessee State, UNLV and Savannah State.
To close out the season, BYU had one final test against Cal, an offensive juggernaut looking to lock up a bowl bid at home. The Golden Bears were led by none other than sophomore sensation Jared Goff, who was lighting up the Pac-12 but wasn’t collecting many wins because their defense was nonexistent. With a 5-6 record, the only thing standing between them and bowl eligibility was C-Stew and the Cougars.
It doesn’t make much sense to compare the performance of two quarterbacks playing in the same game because they don’t play head-to-head and they don’t face the same opposing defense. However, if there was ever a case where it did make sense, it would be for this showdown between Christian Stewart and Jared Goff.
Both BYU and Cal were fielding terrible defenses that couldn’t hold leads even when their respective offenses were putting up 35+ points per game.
Against Nevada, BYU had a comfortable 28-15 lead going into the half before they gave up 28 consecutive points en route to a tough home loss. Similarly, earlier that year Cal was dominating Arizona 28-6 down in Tucson when their defense gave up the ghost and let the Wildcats score 36 (!!!!) points in the fourth quarter on their way to a massive comeback. Goff finished that game with 380 yards and three touchdowns.
So on November 29, 2014, when BYU rolled into Berkeley, there were no expectations that defense was going to be on display. This game was all about the quarterbacks.
The scoring started quickly with BYU taking a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a 47-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to Mitchell Juergens. The Bears came storming back in the second quarter with a pair of touchdown passes from Jared Goff to receiver Kenny Lawler, giving them a 21-14 halftime lead.
Up until this point, Goff looked the part of the future NFL star, throwing up a clean stat sheet of three touchdowns and no interceptions. The second quarter wasn’t boding well for BYU, as the offense started to lose steam and Goff continued to cut through the defense with ease. But the second half was a different story where Christian Stewart played like a man possessed.
Stewart threw 15 of 20 for 330 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions in the second half, and finished with 433 passing yards for the game. In the fourth quarter, he orchestrated TD drives of 99 and 66 yards, both of which ended in touchdown passes to his main man, Jordan Leslie.
In the end, it was a goal line stand that locked up the win for BYU, but without the heroics of their backup quarterback, they would have been toast. Stewart not only got the win but bested Goff in the box score.
- Stewart - 23-38 / 433 yards / 11.4 ypa / 5 touchdowns / 1 interception
- Goff - 38-60 / 393 yards / 6.6 ypa / 4 touchdowns / 1 interception
After this game, the career trajectories couldn’t have been more different for the two quarterbacks. Goff played for one more year at Cal where he earned first team All-Pac-12 honors before being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
His first season with the Rams made many wonder if they wasted their top pick on Goff as he didn’t make much of an impact, with LA losing all seven games he played in. Then in 2017, when Sean McVay took over as head coach, the tide changed. Goff looked like an entirely different quarterback as he led the Rams back to the playoffs as a Pro-Bowl signal-caller. In 2018, it was more of the same but this time with Goff leading his squad all the way to the Super Bowl.
As for Stewart, the Cal game ended up being the highlight of his football playing days at BYU. After that, the Cougars lost in a sloppy affair against Memphis in Miami Beach Bowl that will forever be remembered by the brawl that ensued after the final whistle.
Stewart’s focus then turned to the classroom where he graduated in the spring from BYU’s rigorous accounting program. From there he moved to the Bay Area and started working for Raymond James Financial as an analyst where he stayed for about two years before joining Accel-KKR as an equity investor.
Every once in a while, Christian will join BYU SportsNation as a guest, but aside from that, there probably isn’t much that identifies him as a former college quarterback. Who knows, maybe he has a giant photo of him launching a touchdown pass in that game against Cal or a couple of helmets at his desk at work. Or maybe he’s one of those guys who doesn’t like to relive the glory days and you have to twist his arm in order to get him to talk about his impressive stint at BYU.
Either way, he’ll always be the guy who, on one Saturday afternoon in November, was better than one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.