Stanford Cardinal wins The Big Game over Cal Bears; McCaffrey rambles for 284 rushing yards and three TDs
Berkeley, California – Stanford let Christian McCaffrey loose and he rushed for 284 yards and three TDs in the second half to lead the Stanford Cardinal to a 45-31 win at California Memorial Stadium in the traditional Big Game rivalry over Cal. It was Collegefootballfan.com’s first trip here and another great rivalry attended. A constant cold, steady rain could not slow the Soph RB down as he ignited his team’s lead with a 90-yard touchdown run early in the second half.
For CFF.com, the cold, damp, dreary weather prevented us from heading down to San Jose afterward to see the SJSU Spartans host Air Force as we recently planned. With clothing to dry out, a 4 a.m. wake up call to fly out, heavy traffic getting out, etc.am , I aborted the mission and glad I did. Some other time maybe. This game alone though was worth the entire effort.
During the first half, California (4-7, 2-6) would take leads, but Stanford would retaliate right away. On the very first Golden Bear play from scrimmage, QB Davis Webb (34 for 57, 393 yards, two TDs) connected with WR Chad Hansen on a slant pattern over the middle and he took it to the house for a 70-yard catch and run. With the help of a short kickoff to avoid McCaffrey from breaking off long returns, Stanford started with great field position any way. Cal HC Sonny Dykes must have figured short kicks were better than long TD returns as he stayed with that special team strategy the entire game. Two plays later, QB Keller Chryst ran a misdirection bootleg for a 16-yard TD run to tie it up, 7-7.
In the second period, Bears RB Tre Watson, one of three very quick, mighty mites in the Cal backfield, scored on a seven-yard run. The Stanford Cardinal responded immediately with another scoring drive. Chryst lofted a pass down the middle into the outstretched hands of his TE Dalton Schultz near the end zone for a nine-yard score. Tied at 14-14, Cal’s Matt Anderson pushed a FG attempt wide right. As the half ended, Stanford Cardinal PK Conrad Ukropina delivered a 40-yard FG to take their first lead of the game, 17-14.
Wrapped in rain gear from head to foot, I decided not to leave my seat during halftime as I was going to be as dry and as comfortable as I was going to be. I didn’t want to unravel. Cal’s Marching Band is pretty good, and I give their student body with seats their on the 50-yard line behind their team (more schools should do this) credit for staying throughout this rivalry game despite the weather and the odds.
Halftime entertainment started with the students doing a card section with multi-colored placards, but damned if I could tell even on the video board directly in front to me what the messages were supposed to be. One may have been a pizza with a lot of toppings at best. Later, I thought maybe they tried to form a hallucinogenic dream considering the area’s history, but I doubt it. The band did a tribute to the award-winning rock band “Queen”. Pretty good – “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We are the Champions” were performed, although the latter was not indicative of how their football team would play in the second half.
The third period started like the first, but with Cal punting first and the Stanford Cardinal getting the ball deep in its territory this time. From the ten, the quick-footed, turn-on-a-dime McCaffrey hovered, looked for his blocking, darted left, and raced past one defender on the outside for a 90-yard TD. Stanford extended the lead, 24-14. It was the California Golden Bears chance now to retaliate. Anderson got three back with his 43-yard FG. McCaffrey was on a roll now however, and Stanford HC David Shaw set up his offense to take advantage. He finished the next drive with an 11-yard TD run as he piled up the yards. Before the period ended, Watson scored his second TD for the Bears who climbed back within range, 31-24, to end the third period. Despite impressive numbers, Webb (34 of 57, 393 yards, two TDs), misfired often today. It could have been the weather, but he missed on many passes to the flat in this West Coast style offense.
In the final period, McCaffrey finished off a drive with a one-yard TD run to go up 38-24, and the Stanford Cardinal seemingly put the game away to get “The Axe” as Chryst put air under the ball to find WR Trenton Irwin who made a nice over the shoulder catch in the end zone for a 30-yard TD reception to extend the lead to 45-24. With 3:01 remaining, the Bears tried to come back as “the Champions” their band alluded to at halftime. Webb completed one of his long pass attempts of the day, and then he followed with a 16-yard TD pass to Hansen (7 catches for 114 yards, two TDs) who wrestled the ball away from a Stanford Cardinal defender to close the score, 45-31. Their subsequent onsides kick attempt failed, and the Stanford Cardinal proceeded to run out the clock.
The Stanford team stormed the field with the Axe for the seventh year in a row. They rallied to sing their alma mater along with their fans in the south end zone where I also sat. Special thanks to my great friend Karen Croft, Stanford Cardinal (nee Indian) legacy, alum, and fan who got me this ticket! As much as she’s Stanford through and through, she just refuses to set foot on the Cal-Berkeley campus. We had a nice dinner together the night before at her favorite restaurant, Café Zoetrope. I still have yet to see a game at Stanford, so we’ll have to get a date set up again in an upcoming season. Maybe San Jose State will be playing conveniently nearby for my sake as well to add another venue to my growing list.
Stanford (8-3, 6-3) hosts Rice next Saturday in kind of a strange season finale after having just played in The Big Game. Cal will host UCLA. It’s generally a tradition for UCLA to finish up with USC, but when Notre Dame comes to play in L.A., thanks to Mrs. Knute Rockne, the Trojans finish their season against the Irish, so UCLA gets Cal to finish up. Collegefootballfan.com heads to familiar territory next weekend when we see No. 8 Penn State (9-2, 7-1) host Michigan State (4-7, 1-7) who scared Ohio State Saturday in a 17-16 loss.
More good news for CFF.com, with Navy’s 66-31win over East Carolina Saturday, it looks like we’ll be heading back down to Annapolis or possibly Philly the week after next to see the Mids battle with Temple for the AAC Championship. It doesn’t get better than this! Another great season. Now how about Penn State in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day where we already plan to be? With a win over Michigan State and a win over Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship, why not? They already beat Ohio State, and if the Buckeyes can take care of Michigan…
Extra points: Cal has three mighty mite backs as I referred to them – Tre Watson (5′ 10″) , Khlafani Muhammed (5’9″), and Bug Rivera (5’8″) – all looking very short in stature compared to the Cardinal defenders. Muhammed may be the short in stature but he sure runs tough. Taller tacklers seem to hurt themselves because he’s about chest high when they put a hit on him.
Dan Donnelly of Dan’s Tailgate blog suggested to go to Pappy’s Sports Bar on Telegraph nearby, but after I familiarized myself with the campus and with all the rain, the place was too crowded to catch up on other games before our 2:30 PT kickoff. Jim Buckley, a Cal grad, suggested going to Top Dog on Bancroft for what he claims makes “the best hot dogs in the world”. A small place with no seating, a soggy hot dog couldn’t cut it for me today. Too bad they don’t sell in California Memorial Stadium. I bought two there. After I ate one, I threw to other out because the first was so bad. If you know me, I eat everything.
I had asked these guys and my Nevada connection Paul Andrew about the parking horrors there, and they all provided suggestions. I saw signs for parking from $30 at the local high school a distance away to $90 closer to campus. I got to a parking garage Jim suggested at about 10:30 am on Durant near Telegraph and lucked out. Jim told me for the Washington game, he paid $45. I think someone there screwed up this weekend, and they had to make up for it. When I first pulled in, the sign read “Event Parking – $4”. Wow! How lucky was I? Well later when I walked by during my self-tour to a public restroom, that sign changed to $35. OK, better than $45, I thought. Somebody must have said something. I was good when the automated system charged me only $16! It’s these little things that help me keep affording to do this.
By the way, Paul Andrew’s father played football for Cal back in the 1950’s under Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf. Pappy’s record at Cal was 67-32-4 from 1947 to 1956. He guided the Golden Bears to three Rose Bowl from 1948-50. He’s in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Beyond that, his former players organized “Pappy’s Boys” who still celebrate their successes today and help finance and support the current California Bear program in many ways, probably their greatest tribute to their former head coach.
Here’s my SEC gripe today. Next to last weekend of the season. Chattanooga? Alabama A&M? West Carolina? Louisiana-Monroe? Austin Peay? Texas-San Antonio? If not for the previous hurricane postponement of LSU at Florida, add Presbyterian and South Alabama to that list of generally-speaking cupcakes on the SEC schedules. Every other conference is playing meaningful conference games this week. The Big 10 and Pac-12 even added one additional conference game this year to play a total of nine. Why can’t the SEC do the same instead of scheduling opponents like these? A supposed respite because of the big rivalries the following week? Bull!
It’s all about the money. Play a chump for a win to get that sixth win in case a particular team is on the borderline to get to a bowl. They keep turning down the opportunity to play another team in their other, respective division. The problem is the SEC doesn’t like competition against the best including their over-rated foes in a conference that should be named “Alabama and everybody else”. A loss to another “tough” conference foe for some may preclude them from getting another home game. Oops! I meant bowl game, ha-ha! Who are they kidding? It means more money, but the reality is that they’re cowards! Rivalry week means some will be facing Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech this week. Let’s see how these turn out. They wouldn’t play these either if not for traditions.