Cardinal keeps the Axe for another year with 23-13 victory

Stanford beat Cal, 23-13, Saturday to retain The Axe for a ninth straight year. Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

There was something right about the Big Game being played the day after the Pac-12 football championship was decided. It felt traditional.

The constructs of modern society have dictated the game be played anywhere from October through November. This once, the game was held at the end of the season, when it's supposed to be played, regardless of an artificial playoff contest.

Cameron Scarlett/Stanford Athletics
Stanford defeated host California, 23-13, in a Pac-12 Conference contest that did not need to be superficially inflated to something bigger than it is. It doesn't get any bigger.

On Sunday, the Cardinal (8-4, 6-3) will learn where the final piece of the season will be put in place. It may not be the Rose Bowl but it will still feel like a reward.

Stanford scored on its first two drives and held on for the victory as Cameron Scarlett scored twice, K.J. Costello threw for a touchdown and Paulson Adebo continued to impress in the defensive secondary.

The golden era of football continues as the Cardinal awaits its 10th consecutive trip to a bowl game, a streak unsurpassed in school history and, possibly, never to be repeated.

The nine-year winning streak against Cal is the longest in the series that has its roots buried deep in 1892 Stanford soil.

Adebo made a spectacular one-handed interception in the end zone to preserve the lead in the fourth quarter for the Cardinal. Bryce Love, who rushed for 74 yards on 22 carries, fumbled after the pick but, just like old times, Stanford's defense held and Cal missed a field goal.

"He's single-minded in a positive way," Stanford coach David Shaw said of Adebo. "He wants to learn. He asks questions. He's got great hands."

Adebo added another interception late in the quarter that he returned to the 3-yard line and set the stage for Scarlett's second score and helped Stanford keep The Axe for another year.

Jet Toner, showing no ill effects from an injury that sidelined him a few weeks, added three field goals on the day.

Cal and Stanford both entered the game with seven wins, just the second time in the past 27 that both teams had as many wins. The game was delayed two weeks after being postponed on Nov. 17 because of unhealthy air conditions from Northern California wildfires.

There was a boisterous crowd hopeful the Bears would end their Big Game slump but Stanford started fast. Costello picked apart Cal's defense on the opening drive to set up Toner's 26-yard field goal and Scarlett added his long score on the second drive.

Thomas kicked two field goals in the second quarter for Cal but 290-pound fullback Malik McMorris lost a fumble late in the half and the Cardinal drove down for a field goal in the final seconds that made it 13-6 at the break.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught five passes for 109 yards.

"He's a great football player and has a chance to become a special player," Shaw said.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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