On a gorgeous day on the Farm , the unexpected happened in the 116th Big Game. No of course the California Golden Bears did not pull off the most miraculous upset in Big Game history, in fact they got clobbered as predicted by everyone from miscreants to Miss Cleo, losing to Stanford 63-13. But the surprise this game brought forth was the way that the Cardinal racked up their points. For a team that is known to ground and pound teams into submission with running back Tyler Gaffney, Stanford chose to demolish the Golden Bears with an aerial assault never seen before in Big Game history.
“They did somewhat exactly what we thought they were going to do. They put everyone in the box, tried to stop the run,” explained Gaffney who finished the with 95 yards on the ground and touchdown. So what did Gaffney’s teammates do in light of Cal clogging the gaps early, they simply threw the ball.
In the first half alone, Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery had five touchdowns, four of which came through the air. It was an absurd statistic that set Big Game history. A 31 yard reverse on the ground set things off for Montgomery who was able to follow up that initial effort with memorable plays including two deep touchdowns for 50 and 72 yards, respectively. Montgomery wrapped up his big game with five receptions, two carries, and 191 total yards on offense. Did I mention the five touchdowns?
“To be honest we see this with Ty every game. If he gets one-on-one, we’re going to give him opportunities. We’re not the type of offense typically that’s going to take a whole bunch of shots down the field, but we’re going to take out measured and calculated shots,” expressed David Shaw proudly after the game.
Not shockingly, the Cardinal ended the afternoon with scoring the most points in Big Game history. A record day all around for Stanford against a Bears defense that is one of the worst in the country, but the lightening pace in which they did so was really amazing to watch. It was like witnessing a lamb being slaughtered by a ravenous minotaur, over and over again, until it disintegrated into nothing more than wool and bone.
Kevin Hogan, Stanford’s quarterback who has received much criticism following his recent performances against USC, a game in which he failed to throw a single touchdown, unleashed his frustrations against a willing and inexperience Cal defense. Hogan ended his afternoon with 329 yards and 5 touchdowns, just one touchdown shy of tying Stanford legend, John Elway. And he did it all with about one minute left in the third quarter, as head coach David Shaw decided that his efforts need to be saved for Notre Dame and the Pac-12 Championship. Evan Crower replaced him. “The one thing I love about Kevin, Kevin’s steady,” Shaw said, “He keeps his head down, his mind on what is important, he’ll come out and be ready to fight again next week.”
On the other side of the field, Jared Goff broke records too but might have broken his shoulder in the process.
Goff was able to complete a 15 yard touchdown to Maurice Harris early in the first quarter to keep the score level at 7 momentarily and then in the second quarter, Goff entered the school’s history books by breaking both Cal single-season passing (3,508) and total offense (3,446) records. Unfortunately, the freshman completed the feat mili-seconds before being rocked by Stanford’s Shane Skov. Skov drove the quarterback down cleanly and viscously into the ground and Goff remained there for quite some time until he was escorted to the locker room. He did not return to the game after sustaining a shoulder injury and so, Zach Kline replaced the starter. Needless to say, he did not complete a comeback for Cal.
All of this misery or utter joy, depending on who your alma mater is, happened in the first 30 minutes. The second half was a much more subdued affair until Tyler Gaffney, who was quiet for most of the game, found a gaping hole and ran it down Bears’ throat for a 58 yard touchdown after receiving the direct snap in the wildcat formation.
In the fourth quarter, the Cardinal somehow found the motivation to score even more points on the hapless Bears. Kelsey Young completed a 27 yard reverse for a score and then if that wasn’t enough, the bench players hooked up for the final score. Crower completed a 14 yard touchdown completion to Francis Owusu to round off Stanford’s emphatic 63 point afternoon.
The Bears board the bus back to Berkeley, winless in the Pac-12 and the dubious honor of being the worst team in the conference fully branded on their backside. Head coach Sonny Dykes will be eager to put this horrible season behind him and look into the silver lining that this murky, one win season, offered: his team is young and has a whole offseason to heal. Only the 2014 kickoff will prove if Dykes’ program reversal proves to have a sense of direction.
On the other end of the spectrum is Stanford who after retaining the Axe for the fourth consecutive year, also has the pleasure of playing for a Pac-12 title. After the Oregon Ducks were smoked by the Arizona Wildcats 42-16, today’s Big Game annihilation ensured that Stanford wins the Pac-12 North and will play either UCLA, Arizona State, or USC for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. David Shaw was focused on the game at hand and the Axe, but nonetheless ecstatic with the result in Arizona, “Once they made the announcement in the stadium, that’s why I love coaching at Stanford, that’s why I love our guys. Our guys said, We don’t care about that game, we have to keep the axe.”
Stanford went there last year and beat Wisconsin, so while their shot at the BCS title is long gone, the chance to be covered in Roses and wear a consecutive Rose Bowl ring under David Shaw is still very much alive.
Simply put, what we saw in this edition of the Big Game was one program that is unquestionably elite and another who is finding their way, one blowout loss at a time.
Follow Jeremy on twitter @jermg11