Stanford: Cardinal will try to extend dominance
The last time Cal beat Stanford in the Big Game, the Yankees were World Series champions, Tiger Woods was still married, and the U.S. was still in the subprime mortgage crisis.
It was Nov. 21, 2009, and the Cardinal had a first down at the Cal 13, trailing 34-28. Toby Gerhart, college football’s answer to the rhino, had rushed for 139 yards on 20 carries and scored four touchdowns.
Instead of giving Gerhart another crack, however, head coach Jim Harbaugh had Andrew Luck throw two passes. The first was incomplete, the second intercepted by linebacker Mike Mohamed with 1:36 left to clinch the outcome.
Since then, Stanford has beaten Cal seven straight times, the last six with David Shaw as head coach. At 5 p.m. Saturday, the teams meet again in the 120th Big Game at Stanford.
Three times during the streak, a loss to Stanford cost Cal a bowl opportunity (the Bears finished 5-7 in 2010, 2014 and last year). This year, No. 20 Stanford (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) needs to win and hope Washington beats Washington State the following Saturday; that would put the Cardinal in the conference title game against USC. Cal (5-5, 2-5) again needs a win to become bowl eligible.
Shaw is among the many impressed with how Justin Wilcox has reversed the Bears’ fortunes in his first year as head coach, especially transforming the defense.
“They’re very sound, they’re very physical, they’re very varied,” Shaw said of the Cal defense. “You’ll see even fronts, odd fronts, a variety of blitzes, internal blitzes, external blitzes, safety blitzes, corner blitzes — a variety of way of attacking you.”
Asked what he has remembered most from the win streak in the rivalry, Shaw pointed to Ty Montgomery’s five touchdowns on as many touches in 2013. “I hadn’t really seen anything like that in my time here,” he said. “… That was amazing.”
When completely healthy, Stanford tailback Bryce Love is capable of astonishing feats, too. He’s still not 100 percent because of an ankle injury he sustained more than a month ago. Nevertheless, Love logged 30 carries for 166 yards and three touchdowns Friday night in the upset of Washington.
“His 80 to 90 percent speed is still faster than anybody else out there,” Shaw said.
An example, Shaw said, was Love’s 35-yard run with less than five minutes left that “sealed the game for us. If he’s 100 percent, he would have scored.
“We’ve learned not to ask him how he feels because he’s always ‘OK.’ We have to see functionally what he can and can’t do. He can play through ridiculous pain.”
Briefly: Love regained the FBS rushing lead with 1,622 yards and ranks first in yards per game at 180.2. With 8.96 yards per carry, he is second to Arizona quarterback Kahlil Tate (11.45) . ... A targeting penalty against the Huskies that was reversed by replay review was not targeting, Shaw conceded after angrily protesting the hit on wide receiver Connor Wedington during the game. Shaw is still waiting for word on another reversed targeting call involving a hit on fullback Daniel Marx. … Wedington and tight end Dalton Schultz are questionable for Saturday, and tackle Walker Little remains out, Shaw said.
David Shaw and Stanford knocked off Cal 45-31 at Memorial Stadium last year, Shaw has been the head coach for six of the Cardinal’s past seven Big Game wins.