Cal and Stanford hold a historic and bitter rivalry, one defined by miraculous plays and heroics that every young fan can only dream of one day participating in. Hot starts and end-of-game antics are to be expected.
The 124th edition of the Big Game was no exception, with the Bears beating the Cardinal 41-11.
With the first quarter marked by three forced turnovers by both teams and two inexplicable fourth-and-goal calls by Stanford, the game began to encapsulate the sick and twisted energy that so many Pac-12 games have possessed this year (and frankly, every year).
Then, the longest pass play in Big Game history happened. Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave dialed up a run-pass option that had the entire Stanford defense fooled, while Trevon Clark raced untouched into the end zone. It was one of those plays where as soon as the ball was in Clark’s hands, the whole stadium knew it was a touchdown, but Clark may have known even earlier.
“As soon as I heard the call, I knew I was going to score,” Clark said. “It didn’t matter where we were on the field. I lit up like a Christmas tree.”
Stanford would continue to (quite literally) trip over its own feet, punting the ball back to the Bears. Eleven plays later, Cal quarterback Chase Garbers would find Christopher Brooks on a little play-action boot pass.
With just more than 10 minutes left in the second quarter, the score was 14-0, Bears.
There would be no more scoring until seconds before the half expired on a made Stanford field goal. Nevertheless, one thing became clear: Cal continued to put itself in a great position to win.
Stanford couldn’t get anything going in the first half. Everything the Cardinal tried was laborious and boring, but instead of the high-level execution that has been synonymous with David Shaw’s tenure at Stanford, there seemed to be general confusion and a lack of a solid base for the Cardinal.
Miscommunications on defense, poor alignments and a truly awful selection of both offensive and defensive play calls left much to be desired. In other words, the Stanford football team had the same abysmal organizational skills as the Stanford band at halftime. Yeah, it was that bad.
Not that the Bears were complaining.
On the opening drive of the second half, Cal came out with a plan to attack the Cardinal’s lack of structure. A swing pass to Kekoa Crawford turned into a double pass to Trevon Clark, who in turn went up and over the nearest Stanford defender. For all the excitement of the drive, it ended in a field goal. 17-3, Bears.
“It was supposed to be a touchdown,” Clark said. “But I’ll take the catch.”
And Cal continued to tack on big plays, with Brooks as the next one to enjoy the limelight on a 75-yard run — a drive that resulted in a Cal field goal. The Bears were up 20-3, but the red zone was giving them some trouble.
Luckily for them, Stanford was content to punt the ball away when it had already passed midfield. Call it surrendering, call it cowardice or call it “pinning them deep” — the reality was, the Cardinal had no faith in their own ability to convert.
On the very next drive, Cal avoided its red zone woes by simply allowing Marcel Dancy to run for a 76-yard touchdown. It’s nice to be able to call the “touchdown” play from anywhere on the field. 27-3, Bears.
“It was a lot of fun to watch,” said head coach Justin Wilcox. “They had that ‘won’t be denied attitude’ attitude throughout the game.”
Stanford and Cal would trade touchdowns on the ensuing possessions. With just about 10 minutes to play, the Bears were up 34-11 and had a chance to add to their commanding lead.
At this point, Cal had a commanding lead in attendance as well, as nearly the entire Stanford student section had cleared out, while the Bears were still going strong in their corner.
“It felt like we had the advantage out there,” said senior linebacker Cameron Goode. “It was a good feeling to see those Stanford fans leave early.”
While it may have been a little late in the evening to add to their attendance, Cal added another touchdown from Dancy. Then it picked off Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee, again. After that, it was all over.
The Bears notched their second straight Big Game win at the Farm, but no late-game heroics were needed this time around. A 30-point rout in what was once a “hostile” crowd turned into a new claim on the map for the Bears.
“I’m not surprised in any way that we performed the way we did,” Clark said.
And well, you know the story. You tell the whole damn world Stanford is Bear territory.