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Helped By Cal Errors, Stanford Wins Big Game, 24-23

November 27, 2020

Cal made a valiant effort to overcome a Stanford lead and its own mistakes Friday afternoon, but in the end it was one error too many and the Cardinal reclaimed the Axe with a 24-23 decision in the Big Game at Memorial Stadium.

The Bears were down 24-17, a deficit built largely on the back of their own mess-ups, when quarterback Chase Garbers and the offense took over on their own 10 for one last drive. With running back Christopher Brown, who played very little in the first three quarters, ripping off key runs, the Bears went the length of the field to score what should have been a tying touchdown. 

But the rules of the game say to get a seventh point the ball has to be kicked through the uprights and the Cardinal blocked Dario Longhetto’s PAT try to preserve the lead.with 58 seconds left. That was pretty much it.

The blocked PAT was the final Cal miscue in an afternoon full of them. The Bears lost two fumbles that led to Stanford scores, committed a penalty that negatged an interception and leaked another block kick, this one on a field goal on the final play of the first half.

“We had plenty of chances to win that game but we just didn’t get it done,” Coach Justin Wilcox said. “Those mistakes were the difference...It’s as simple as that. It’s not every complicated.”

In hindsight Wilcox said it was a mistake to try to kick the conversion on the final touchdown, given the fact that Stanford had already blocked a placement. The better option might have been to go for two.

The coach explained his reasoning, “We had made a previous PAT, we thought we had shored up some of the issues. And in hindsight that wasn’ true. We thought the defense, when it wasn’t playing on a short field, had done some good things and rallying to the ball on third down and finding way to get them off (the field). And we had a pretty good rhythm on offense. We felt good going into overtime. It was the wrong decision.”

This was the second week in a row the Bears (0-3) were done in by errors, notably on special teams. Oregon State rode Cal errors to a victory last weekend.

More than once the Bears seemed ready to take control of the 123rd Big Game, but fortunes turned abruptly.

Cal opened the game much the same way it did last week.  The Bears took the opening kickoff and four-plus minutes later were in the end zone. Marcel Dancy, starting at running back, showed some nifty moves and Garbers was on target, including when he hit Kekoa Crawford for 7 yards and the score.

Until the middle of the second quarter all Stanford was able to muster was a field goal, something the Bears answered. 

On the ensuing Stanford drive Cal forced a Stanford punt and that’s when the troubles began. Nikko Remigio fumbled the kick and Stanford recovered on the Bears 16, Davis Mills found Michael Wilson in the end zone and the game was tied.

“At the end of the day you just can’t mistakes like that,” Remigio said. “I can only look at myself and get better from there. I was just trying to do too much. I lost track of my fundamentals and that should never happen.”

A drive that might have put Cal ahead at halftime came up empty when the left side of the Stanford defensive line rose en masse to block the field goal try from 32 yards out. Longhetto had hit a 52-yarder to end the first half at OSU.

In the third quarter, Cal had Stanford’s offense under control and was moving the ball when disaster struck again. Dancy had the ball ripped loose and Stanford recovered on the Cal 41. Three plays later Stanford had a touchdown and a 17-10 lead.

With the key rush coming on a 54-yard run by freshman Damien Moore, Cal tied the score on a nifty drive. Remigio caught Garbers’ 2-yard opass for the touchdown.

The Bears had apparently ended Stanford’s next drive when Daniel Scott intercepted a Mills pass. But a defensive holding penalty wiped out that turnover. Stanford eventually scored on the drive to take the 24-17 lead Cal almost erased.

Cal again was operating without three key offensive linemen, Will Craig, Valentino Daltoso and Jake Curhan along with tight end Collin Moore and several key defensive players. 

It was a game also affected by field position. Cal did not begin a drive farther upfield than its own 30-yard line. Its average drive start was its own 21. That is one reason Cal lost despite outgaining Stanford 392 yards to 300.

Moore, a true freshman, showed quite a bit of flash in his first extended playing time and led the Bears in rushing with 121 yards on ten carries.

Wilcox said that Brown’s late-game entry was pre-planned. His carries were going to be limited because he has been injured and had limited practice time. So he was saved for the final drive.




Discussion from...

Helped By Cal Errors, Stanford Wins Big Game, 24-23

3,370 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 3 yr ago by bdsteele
How long do you want to ignore this user?
We can't even get the final score right.

Edit: Okay, you fixed it.
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Should have won the last two but lack of preparation is obvious. Talent is there , but execution isn't. Once again it is "wait til next year" if we can keep the young talent intact (can't afford to lose wide receivers again!
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