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Cal wins first Big Game at home in 14 years, scoring 21 in the 4th quarter to beat Stanford
The Axe stays home!
(Note: Click through the Tweets to view the highlights!)
The California Golden Bears kept the Axe in a 27-20 victory over Stanford. A 21-point 4th quarter burst gave the Bears all they needed, as the Cardinal collapsed under the weight of a relentless Cal defensive attack and the spirit of a Golden Bear fanbase who sold out California Memorial Stadium.
Cal struggled for most of the first three quarters, managing only six points despite moving the football six times into Stanford territory, twice into the red zone. Jaydn Ott caught two passes for 51 yards, Mavin Anderson four passes for 31 yards, and Jeremiah Hunter a catch for 21 yards on those two Cal scoring drives. Dario Longhetto kicked 38 and 54 yard field goals, the 54 a career-long FG.
Cal moved to an up-tempo offense, but Bears wide receivers had a tough time holding onto the football, dropping over a half-dozen catches that stalled a host of drives. Cal continued to struggle on 3rd down (only 4-14 on the game), and Jack Plummer threw a red zone pick on 1st and goal at the 5 late in the second quarter.
Stanford scored on the first drive of the game behind the legs of Wildtree quarterback Ashton Daniels and safety-turned-running back Mitch Leigber (all of the Cardinal running backs are currently injured), grabbed a field goal on its second drive, and the first drive of the second half. Tanner McKee also connected with Elijah Higgins on the second Cardinal touchdown.
After that, the Cardinal did not cross the Cal 40 for the remainder of each half, as the Cal defense firmed up and Stanford began tripping over itself.
Trailing 17-6 early in the 4th quarter, Cal got the comeback going with their most successful offensive drive of the game. Jeremiah Hunter returned a punt to midfield, Plummer connected with J.Michael Sturdivant and Monroe Young, Ott piled up 28 yards on the ground on three carries and a facemask penalty set them up at the 1-yard line, and then Plummer found Young. After the two-point conversion failed, it was 17-12 Cal.
With the crowd starting to pump up, Stanford tried to get the ball moving again, but Ashton Daniels got stripped by Big Game Hero Daniel Scott, Jackson Sirmon scooped the ball up and scored to give Cal its first lead of the Big Game.
Jaydn Ott would then convert a two-point conversion. 20-17 Bears!
Stanford then stalled on its next drive and Cal seemed to have control behind the ground game of Ott, but another end zone pick by Plummer gave Stanford some breathing room. After exchanging punts (including a beauty by Jamieson Sheahan for 56 yards that pinned the Cardinal at the 14), McKee threw an interception to Scott with over two minutes left.
Ott plunged into the end zone soon after, putting this one on ice.
And then it was time to rush the field! Bonus of Shane Vereen (on the Pac-12 Network crew) restraining himself from trying to join the Cal faithful.
Additional news and notes.
Scott (10 tackles, 8 solo) joined Femi Oladejo (11 and a forced fumble) with double-digit tackles. Other defensive stars were Jeremiah Earby with three passes broken up, Xavier Carlton with a sack and two quarterback hurries, and Myles Jernigan with a sack and a pass break up.
Jaydn Ott’s 148 yards from scrimmage is the most recorded by a Cal true freshman in a Big Game in the last 20 years, and the most by a Cal running back since Patrick Laird’s 200 in 2017.
This is Cal’s second one-score victory this year (UNLV), and their first against a Power 5 opponent since beating Oregon in 2020, snapping an eight-game losing streak in such situations.
This was Cal’s first Big Game comeback since 2019. The 2022 Big Game was the first double-digit 4th quarter comeback for Cal in nearly a decade (down 17-6, won 27-20). The last one? Cal-Washington State 2014 (trailing 52-41, won 60-59).
Stanford concluded the scoring with a 61-yard field goal by Joshua Karty as time expired. This upset a bunch of people in Vegas, since the over-under for the Big Game was 46.5.
The field goal was also a necessary corrective for Stanford history: The Play happened because Stanford didn't run enough time off the clock, kicking a field goal leaving several seconds for Cal. On the 40th anniversary of The Play, Stanford did it right and kicked the FG as time expired. David Shaw is a football historian.
Cal has won its last three Big Games with fans in attendance. Guess we have to do this all again next year in the Farm huh?