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Cal Football

Bears Keep the Axe With 27-15 Victory in 126th Big Game

November 18, 2023

STANFORD STADIUM - In the 126th and last Big Game played in the original conference that eventually became the Pac-12, the Bears defended the Axe for their 4th win in the last 5 Big Games with a 27-15 victory over Stanford.

"It's a huge win - obviously for the team's goals but also the Cal community, the players, the student body," Wilcox said. "I don't know there's a better 30 minutes to an hour in the year than when you win the Big Game and retain the Axe. It's a great feeling and I want the guys to enjoy it."

The Bears got on the scoreboard first. After both teams traded a pair of possessions, the Bears finally hit the endzone first, putting together an impressive 7 play, 88-yard TD drive on the strength of a Fernando Mendoza 32-yard catch and run to tight end Jack Endries, an 11-yard completion to receiver Mavin Anderson, a Jaydn Ott 11-yard run and a nice 9-yard back shoulder TD completion to receiverTrond Grizzell to go up 7-0 after the Mateen Bhagani extra point with 5:03 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing possession, the Cardinal got on the board to narrow the Cal lead to 7-3 on a 12-play, 49-yard drive ending in a 44-yard Joshua Karty field goal to end the quarter.

The Bears wasted no time extending their lead after the kickoff, driving 75 yards in two minutes to take a 14-3 lead on a picture-perfect Mendoza pass to Grizzell, who fought off his defender at the Stanford 26 and romping to his second TD of the game with 13:13 remaining in the half.

"It was a big day - dare you say, 'Big Game Hero'," head coach Justin Wilcox said after the game. "He's going to be in the conversation. From a year ago, Trond has made as big a jump as anybody. He cares deeply about football and the team. It matters to him, and it's great to see a guy like that that puts in the work."

"Trond is a special player," said Mendoza, who won his first Big Game as Cal's starting quarterback. "He's a vertical threat, so we had a couple of plays drawn up for him. I regard Trond as one of my best friends. We built amazing chemistry together. So when he's out there, I trust that I know what he's going to do."

Both teams traded several possessions before the Cardinal were able to get back on the board, driving just 27 yards in 10 plays before Karty hit an impressive 53-yard field goal with 3:47 remaining to close out the first half scoring. The Bears received a blow with reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week Cade Uluave going down with an injury and replaced by converted safety Hunter Barth.

The Bears suffered what looked like another critical injury midway through the third quarter. With the Bears driving and facing a 1st-and-10 at the Stanford 25, Stanford MLB Tristan Sinclair slammed Mendoza with a helmet-to-helmet blow, driving a woozy Mendoza from the game. The fifth-year senior was ejected from the game after leading the Cardinal with 10 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss up till his ejection. 

QB Ben Finley took over with the ball on the Stanford 12. An 11-yard Ott run followed by a 1-yard Ott run up the gut gave the Bears a 21-6 lead with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter. The 11-yard rush put Ott over 100 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season and seventh in his career. He also went over 2,000 career yards on the drive, as well.

Stanford next went on their first touchdown drive of the game, driving 75 yards in just three plays, with the big blow coming on a 41-yard Ashton Daniels strike to receiver Tiger Bachmeier over a trailing safety Craig Woodson. The Cardinal aggressively went for the 2-point conversion to try and narrow the Cal lead to 7 points. Daniels evaded the rush and scrambled to the sideline end zone pylon, seemingly picking up the conversion but on review, Daniels was ruled down just short of the goal line as the Bears’ lead remained at 9, 21-12 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.

After forcing a 3-and-out on the Bears, Stanford took over on their 41 on a short 34-yard Lachlan Wilson punt. The Cardinal capitalized on the solid field position, driving to the Cal 33 and settling again for a third Karty field goal, this one from 50 with :46 left in the quarter.

The Bears’ slumbering offense finally got rolling on their next possession. Taking over at their 25, Mendoza hit Grizzell for 16 down the sideline followed by an Ott swing pass that gained 15 and another completion to Ott for 9. Facing 4th-and-7 at the Stanford 31, Mendoza hit a diving Grizzell at the Stanford 10 on a critical conversion.

Facing 3rd-and-goal at the Stanford 8, Mendoza hit receiver Jeremiah Hunter at the 3 and the junior WR fought off the tackle to bull his way into the end zone for the score. The 2-point conversion attempt appeared to cross the goal line but Hunter was ruled short on the tackle, keeping the Bears’ lead at 27-15 with 10:19 remaining in the game.

Stanford attempted to get back in the game, driving to the Cal 35 but a fourth down Daniels pass to receiver Elic Ayomanor fell incomplete and the Bears took over on a 12-play, clock-chewing drive from there, with Ott taking a knee on a sure touchdown run at the Stanford 5 with a minute and a half left to squelch all hope of a Stanford comeback. The Bears took a knee the next two plays to run out the clock for the victory.

Cal fans flooded the field in celebration as the Axe Committee paraded the Axe to midfield to celebrate with players and fans with a victory that took the Bears to 5-6 on the season.

Ott put the Bears on his back with virtually no backup with their injured running back room, gaining 166 yards on 36 carries to go along with his TD run. He also hauled in 2 passes for 22 yards in the win. Grizzell led all receivers with a career-high 136 yards on 7 completions for the Bears. Mendoza completed 24-of-36 (67%) passes for 294 yards andc 3 TDs with 1 interception.

The Bears will next hit the road to complete their regular season to face a seemingly rejuvenated UCLA team who scored an impressive 38-20 victory over rival USC to move to 7-4. The game will be at the Rose Bowl at 7:30 pm on ESPN.



Discussion from...

Bears Keep the Axe With 27-15 Victory in 126th Big Game

2,802 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 14 days ago by chazzed
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Full game highlights reel, 11 minutes, most every play - rapido!

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Box score here:

Ott actually had 2 TDs, but opted to kneel and take the victory formation.

A classic Big Game boss move!
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Let's beat the traitor bears who blew up the Pac12 and win two more games to end the season!
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BearoutEast67 said:

Let's beat the traitor bears who blew up the Pac12 and win two more games to end the season!
Hear, hear! That would be an outstanding finish to the season.
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