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The Axe Stays Home
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 11/19/2011

Nov. 19, 2011

Postgame QuotesGet Acrobat Reader | Postgame Notes | Box Score

Postgame Interviews:
Postgame Press Conference
Coach Shaw Interview -
Stepfan Taylor -

STANFORD, Calif. -- Expectations have risen so high with the Stanford football program that a three-point victory in the Big Game could seem almost like a letdown.

But with a little perspective - 114 years of history - a 31-28 over Cal is a proud accomplishment in any year.

The Cardinal (10-1 overall) was outscored 15-3 in the fourth quarter, with Cal scoring on C.J. Anderson's 1-yard run with 14 seconds left. But a Golden Bears' onsides kick was corralled by Stanford's Coby Fleener to ensure the victory, Stanford's first in the Big Game at Stanford Stadium since 2007.

On a night when its power running game was held to an uncharacteristically low 149 yards and quarterback Andrew Luck had some highs and lows, Stanford was able to grind out a victory and retain the Axe for another year.

"It wasn't pretty, but doggone it, we fought to the end and we got the win," Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football/Head Coach David Shaw said.

Stanford clinched at least a share for the Pac-12 North Division title by completing its conference schedule with an 8-1 record. With Oregon losing to USC, the best the Ducks can do is tie.

The Cardinal can win the division outright and gain a spot in the Pac-12 championship game if Oregon loses its Civil War showdown against visiting Oregon State on Saturday, with Stanford's season finale against visiting Notre Dame in nonconference action not being a factor.

An Oregon victory, however, would send the Ducks into the Pac-12 championship by virtue of its victory over Stanford in head-to-head play.

The latest Big Game in history (a 7:15 p.m. kickoff) was ultimately decided in the third quarter. Luck completed 8 of 10 passes for 135 yards in the third alone, including both his touchdown passes, of 4 and 10 yards, to tight end Levine Toilolo and fullback Ryan Hewitt, respectively.

Meanwhile, Cal's third-quarter drives ended on a punt, a fourth-down sack by Jarek Lancaster, and a fumble recovered by Delano Howell, as Stanford built a 28-13 lead.

In all, Luck produced a 20-for-30 night, throwing for 257 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. This after missing several open receivers in the early going that left him visibly frustrated on the sideline.

"I give credit to their defense," Luck said. "They played a heck of a game."

Cal's Zach Maynard, a dual-threat quarterback who has come into his own in recent weeks, matched Luck, going 20 for 30 with two touchdown passes and passed for 280 yards. He also directed touchdown drives on both fourth-quarter possessions. But it was too late.

"We had a great week of practice and we were poised coming into the game," Maynard said. "We knew we had to control the game and we came out guns blazing. We left it all on the field."

Stanford struggled to contain Maynard and his brother, Cal receiver Keenan Allen, who had six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, but no catches thereafter against double and triple coverage.

"We knew they were going to come and try to punch us in the mouth, and they did that for a while," said Stanford linebacker Ben Gardner, who had five tackles, including a sack. "We had to punch back, and defensively we some big plays that really helped us take control in the second half."

Stepfan Taylor was held to a team-high 46 yards rushing on 16 carries, but surpassed the 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. The junior became the third back in Stanford history to achieve multiple 1,000-yard seasons, joining Darrin Nelson (three times) and Toby Gerhart (twice).

A wild beginning to the game began on the first play from scrimmage when Maynard went deep to Allen, who caught the ball after a collision with defender Johnson Bademosi. The play went for 42 yards.

However, on the next play, Maynard's pitch to Ise Sofele was wild and Gardner recovered amid a scramble. The ensuring series showed the best and worst of the Cardinal. Luck misfired on a pass to a wide open Toilolo, but the Cardinal took a 7-0 lead on the next play, a reverse that Ty Montgomery carried for 34 yards.

Luck again misfired, this time on Stanford's following series when Montgomery fell and the pass was intercepted by Steve Williams and returned 49 yards for an apparent touchdown, only for a penalty on the return to negate the score, though Cal retained possession.

Moments later, Cal (6-5, 3-5) took a 10-7 when Maynard lofted a pass to the deep right corner and Allen ran under it for a 15-yard score.

The Bears extended the lead to 13-7 in the second quarter, before the Cardinal scored three unanswered touchdowns, beginning with Tyler Gaffney's 6-yard run up the middle for the go-ahead score, with 7:10 left before halftime.

"Our kids fought back," Shaw said. "Andrew was phenomenal, not just in running and throwing, but once again in dictating the plays that we run."

For the first-year coach Shaw, the victory was first of his coaching career.

"I didn't think about it really until it hit me today," Shaw said. "Looking at the fifth-year seniors in the fourth quarter, the look in their eyes ... they wanted it so bad. And, as a coach, you can't help but pull for your guys and want them to be successful."

-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics



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