Nov. 19, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Expectations have risen so high with the Stanford football program that a three-point victory in the Big Game seems 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) was outscored 15-3 in the fourth quarter, with Cal scoring on a short 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 nonetheless and retain the Axe for another year.
Besides that, 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.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal defense forced a fumble and stopped the Bears on downs during that span and Stanford built a decisive 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, leaving him visibly frustrated on the sideline.
Stepfan Taylor was held to 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).