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Sinking to New Lows: Stanford Pummels Cal, 63-13, to Keep the Axe

We all knew that Cal's chances of recapturing the Axe in the 116th Big Game were somewhere between slim and none. But Saturday's pummeling of the Bears by Stanford was perhaps even more noxious than we expected.

Ezra Shaw

When the California Golden Bears drove 80 yards in six plays to score a touchdown on their first offensive possession of Saturday's 116th Big Game -- scoring on a beautifully thrown fade from Jared Goff to Maurice Harris -- the Bears found themselves tied 7-7 with #9 Stanford with a little more than three minutes gone in the first quarter. Cal had managed to not only tie the game, but had perhaps planted a small seed of hope into the minds of Cal fans who wanted nothing more than to salvage a Big Game victory from an otherwise dreadful 2013 season.

Alas, Goff's touchdown pass to Harris proved to be the beginning of the end of the competitive portion of Saturday's game. Following the Cal touchdown, Stanford recovered an accidental onside kick (heck, Colorado tried it and succeeded last week, so why shouldn't we?), setting up the Stanford offense at midfield. On the very next play, Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan found Ty Montgomery for Montgomery's second of his Big Game record five touchdowns. Just 13 seconds after Cal had tied the game, Stanford had a 14-7 lead. And that proved to be the beginning of a Stanford onslaught, up with which Cal could not keep. When the dust settled, Stanford (9-2, 7-2 Pac-12) had humiliated Cal (1-11, 0-9 Pac-12) in record-setting fashion, 63-13, to win the Big Game for the fourth straight year. Why do I say record-setting?

  • Stanford's 63 points were the most scored in Big Game history, eclipsing the previous record of 48 set by Cal in 1975 and equaled by Stanford in 2010.
  • The 50-point margin of victory was the largest in Big Game history, besting the previous mark of 41 set in Stanford's 41-0 victory in the 1930 Big Game.
  • Montgomery scored five touchdowns (4 receiving, 1 rushing) to break the previous Big Game record of four, shared by Cal's Chuck Muncie (1975), Cal's Lindsey Chapman (1993), and Stanford's Toby Gerhart (2009).
  • Including Stanford's 63-point eruption on Saturday, Cal gave up 551 points this season, a school record and the third worst total in Pac-12 history.

Now those are some ugly numbers to come out of a downright ugly Big Game. And Stanford literally added injury to insult in the second quarter when Goff suffered a separated shoulder on a hit by linebacker Shayne Skov. Before exiting the game, Goff completed 10 of 19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Goff amassed 3,508 passing to break the school record previously held by Pat Barnes (3,499 in 1996). Goff also finished the season with the Cal record for total offense (3,446 yards). As a team, Cal passed for a school-record 3,977 yards, breaking the previous record of 3,705 yards set by the Aaron Rodgers-led 2003 Cal offense.

But passing numbers do not necessarily a good team make. And the 2013 Cal Bears were not a good football team. Stanford showed that in spades on Saturday, victimizing the Bears with big plays. Many expected Stanford's offense to ground and pound the Bears into submission. But with Cal gearing up to stop the run, the Cardinal offense went to the air. Hogan completed 17 of 26 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns, playing fewer than three quarters of the game. Hogan threw four touchdown passes to Montgomery (including a 50-yard bomb), one more to Jeremy Rector on a 45-yard play, and displayed great touch and accuracy on deep throws. On the ground, Stanford rushed 35 times for 186 yards, with big plays playing a prominent role in victimizing Cal. On the one hand, Stanford rushed for only 70 yards on 32 carries; but the other three carries were a 31-yard touchdown by Montgomery on a reverse, a 58-yard touchdown by Tyler Gaffney on a direct snap, and a 27-yard touchdown by Kelsey Young.

With Goff knocked out of the game by injury, backup quarterback Zach Kline got a significant amount of playing time. But Kline could not get the Bears into the end zone. Kline completed 8 of 15 passes for 115 yards, threw one interception, and was sacked twice.

Getting beat 63-13 by your archrival is nothing if not disheartening. It was just four years ago that Cal was enjoying a Big Game run of winning 7 of 8 meetings with Stanford. It was just five years ago that Cal ran roughshod over Stanford with Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen and dominated Stanford on the offensive and defensive lines. But in the here and now, Stanford has risen to prominence and Cal has fallen to depths that, I will admit, I never fathomed Cal falling to in such a relatively short period of time. On top of it all, we see Stanford winning its second straight Pac-12 North division title and having a good chance of going to its second straight Rose Bowl and fourth straight BCS bowl.

Regardless of how we feel about Stanford's success, one thing is for sure: 1-11 is not acceptable for Cal football. 0-9 in the Pac-12 is not acceptable for Cal football. Injuries and inexperience aside, it is difficult to accept that this team maximized its potential for achievement. If improvement through the season is a mark of how well a coaching staff has done its job, it is not unfair to say that the Cal staff did not do a very good job this season.

"My job is to get the team ready to play," said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes after the game. "Clearly they weren't ready to play. Clearly I haven't done a very good job."

For those who questioned whether Coach Dykes was the right hire to succeed Jeff Tedford, the 2013 season did nothing to allay their concerns. One thing is for sure: Coach Dykes has a lot of work to do to get the Cal football program moving in the right direction.


Cal's record in 2013: 1-11 overall, 0-9 Pac-12

Number of games giving up 30 points or more in 2013: 12 (!)

Number of games giving up 40 points or more in 2013: 9

Number of games giving up 50 points or more in 2013: 4

Number of games giving up 60 points or more in 2013: 2

Consecutive losses in 2013: 10

Consecutive losses to FBS opponents: 16

Consecutive losses to Pac-12 opponents: 14

Consecutive losses to Stanford: 4

Consecutive losses to USC: 10

Number of times Ty Montgomery scored again while I compiled these numbers: 2