Stanford took care of business Saturday by beating Cal in the 117th Big Game in Berkeley. The 38-17 victory marked the fifth consecutive year the Cardinal has won the Axe and sixth straight year the team has become bowl eligible, the previous four resulting in BCS games.
None of that matters now. Stanford needed a feel-good win to become bowl eligible and stop a two-game skid, and both lines dominated against the Bears. The Cardinal had the ball nearly six minutes longer than Cal, and relied on its power running game to keep the potent Cal offense off the field. Senior running back Remound Wright nearly became the first Stanford player to surpass 100 yards rushing this year, finishing with 92 and tied a school record with four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Cardinal contained talented Cal quarterback Jared Goff and intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble. Goff entered the game riding a streak of 146 games without throwing an interception.
Conversely, Stanford had only forced two turnovers in Pac-12 play and had nine on the season. Junior inside linebacker Blake Martinez picked off two tipped passes to set the early tone.
"Our coach said once we get one, it's going to start rolling," said Martinez, who finished with a game-high 11 tackles and also forced a fumble.
On the season, Martinez now has 92 tackles and three interceptions, both team bests.
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Few Stanford seniors can claim they played their whole careers without losing the Axe to Cal. But this group can. Most recently, the Cardinal won seven consecutive meetings from 1995-2001 and six from 1961-1966.
What does it mean to the players?
"It means a lot to the school, the alumni and to us," said senior quarterback Kevin Hogan. "It's a great feeling to keep the Axe on the Farm."
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Senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery, the team's biggest playmaker, injured his shoulder after a catching a pass on Stanford's second possession and did not return.
Stanford head coach David Shaw said Montgomery was feeling better after the game and that he expects him to be ready for a bowl game. His availability for Friday's game at UCLA (12:30 p.m., ABC) is unknown.
"When you lose a dynamic playmaker like Ty, with all the experience he has, it's tough to lose someone like that," Hogan said. "But at the same time, other people stepped up."
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Late in the third quarter, Cal had first-and-10 at the Stanford 12. Trailing 31-7, the Bears appeared to score a touchdown on three of their next four plays, but all three were overturned. Cal ultimately settled for a field goal.
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Several bowl possibilities exist for Stanford, depending how it does against No. 9 UCLA. The Cardinal most likely won't know its fate until games are completed in two weeks.
Eight Pac-12 teams are now bowl eligible, and two more could join the list with wins next week. Cal hosts BYU and Oregon State plays Oregon, although the Beavers have lost six straight to the rivals.
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Extra Points . . . The last time a Stanford player intercepted two passes in the Big Game was by Brian Taylor in 2000 . . . Fifth-year senior punter Ben Rhyne made his first tackle of the year and it was a big one. He was the last man back for Stanford and saved a touchdown against Cal return man Chris Harper in the third quarter . . . Cal was penalized 12 times for 113 yards, while the Cardinal was flagged four times for 21 yards . . . Former Stanford standout Ben Gardner served as the team's honorary captain.