The Stanford football team received a pleasant surprise Saturday.
In addition to beating visiting California, 63-13, in the 116th annual Big Game, the Cardinal learned Arizona upset Oregon. That meant Stanford was suddenly playing for a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
The Cardinal (7-2 in the Pac-12, 9-2 overall) completed its conference schedule and owns the tiebreaker with the Ducks. Stanford can host Notre Dame this Saturday (at 4 p.m.) without any unnecessary distractions.
"Any time we win the Big Game, especially with the news we got that we have another great opportunity presented us three weeks down the road," Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan said. "We celebrate all victories and this one's a big one."
Stanford, which is No. 8 in the BCS Rankings this week, may not host the conference championship game since Arizona State, which beat UCLA 38-33 on Saturday night, has just one conference loss. A win over Arizona next week gives the Sun Devils, who clinched their spot in the title game, an extra home game this year.
"It felt great to know we were going to get another opportunity at the championship game," Stanford's Ty Montgomery said. "I never know what any game is going to be like. I just want the best for me and my teammates."
Stanford downed Arizona State, 42-28, at home on Sept. 21. The Sun Devils, who host the Wildcats next week, are 6-0 in Tempe this season.
Meanwhile, Hogan threw for 329 yards, on 17 of 26 passing, and five touchdowns, including a 72-yard completion to Montgomery, all career highs. Hogan did not play in the fourth quarter, giving way to Evan Crower, who threw a 14-yard scoring toss to Patrick Owusu. Kelsey Young added a 27-yard TD run as Stanford won its fourth straight Big Game.
Montgomery scored five touchdowns, four on pass receptions, as Stanford scored its most points in a Big Game ever. The Cardinal's 42 first-half points was also a Big Game record.
Stanford fans began chanting "Ari-zon-a, Ari-zon-a" as word of the major upset spread through the stands and several of the Stanford players responded by waving their arms to encourage the sellout crowd.
"When the crowd went wild a couple of trainers, some guys on the sideline, mentioned it," Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney said. "It was huge to hear the crowd, especially with the game pretty much put away at that point."
Stanford coach David Shaw learned of Oregon's loss when former Cardinal Richard Sherman (of the Seattle Seahawks) shoved his phone in his face during the fourth quarter.
"He thought it was OK for him to share it with me," Shaw said. "He tapped me on the shoulder and didn't say anything, just showed me his phone with the score on it. I was a little bit shocked. I thought I was seeing it the wrong way."
The Cardinal scored in the game's first minute on Montgomery's 31-yard end around. Cal tied the scoreless than three minutes later but could never muster enough for a return to the end zone, settling for a pair of field goals.
Montgomery also caught touchdown passes of 50, 12, 72 and 9 yards as Stanford was never really threatened after opening a 21-7 advantage.
"If he gets one-one-one we're going to give him opportunities," Shaw said. "A couple of those were not really deep shots, Ty just made them big plays because of his ability."
Gaffney, who rushed for 95 yards, scored on a 58-yard romp out of the Wildcat near the end of the third quarter.
Stanford won its 15th consecutive home game and improved to 36-3 at Stanford Stadium dating to the end of the 2007 season. The Cardinal also improved to 6-0 following a loss under Shaw.