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Rating the Bears: Cal vs. Leland Stanford Junior University

A decade of misery erased.

California v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This is the tenth season we have been running this Rating the Bears/Grading the Bears series. During that time we have vanquished every one of our Pac-12 foes except the one that we face in the most important game of the year. The 1-11 season in 2013 would have been much, much better if that sole win was against the Lobsterbacks. Alas, we suffered through the entire 2010s without a win over LSJU. Until Saturday. With our final chance to reclaim the Axe during this decade, the Bears delivered the most gratifying win of the Wilcox Era. The 2017 blowout over Wazzu was a delight; the 2018 and 2019 upsets over UW were thrilling; and the 2018 win over USC was cathartic. But none have quite matched the revelry that followed this win.

Rating the Bears

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 88.2 12.2
Rush Offense 79.7 26.1
Pass Defense 80.4 20.0
Rush Defense 89.4 11.1
Special Teams 69.6 26.2
Coaching 87.5 13.7
Overall 91.7 12.5
Win Chance vs. UCLA 73.9% (+18.3) 21.6 (+3.3)

After scoring the game-winning TD against USC in 2018 and leading the game-winning drive against UW in 2019, Chase Garbers continues to build his legend by scoring the game-winning TD in the Big Game. His performance helped propel pass offense to 88.2, a high not seen since Sonny Dykes’ offense was lighting up the scoreboard. The ground game earned strong scores thanks to a productive outing and pass defense earned fairly typical scores, undoubtedly aided by two critical interceptions. Run defense earned spectacular scores by holding its third straight opponent under 65 yards. After spending much of the season allowing opponents to march downfield by grinding out 4- and 5-yard carries, the Cal run defense has allowed about 2 yards per carry against its last three opponents. We’ll need a similarly suffocating performance against a very productive UCLA ground game this weekend.

Special teams were the only blemish on the week thanks to a blocked field goal and some atrocious punting. I’m interested to see what the staff does about our curious decline in special teams performances this season. Ragle is a great recruiter, but his units are not getting the job done on the field. The rest of the coaches earned strong scores, complemented by an exceptionally strong Overall score. Our predictions of a win over UCLA have grown thanks to our recovery from the midseason slide and UCLA’s second consecutive losing season.

Ratings Comparison

We are already painfully familiar with the fact that this was our sole Big Game win during the 2010s, so this will obviously compare favorably to other recent Big Games.

Comparing Saturday’s reclamation of the Axe (gold) to other Big Games in the 2010s

Other than special teams, every single category earned the highest marks we’ve seen in recent history.

While this was clearly the best Big Game in recent history, it has tough company when trying to compare against the best performances of the Wilcox Era.

Comparing Saturday’s triumph (gold) to other games in the Wilcox Era (blue)

Pass offense earned its highest score of the past three years, but most other scores were somewhere in the top-5 or top-10. If this is only a top-5 or top-10 performance, then we’re clearly in good hands with this coaching staff.


We have an amusing recent tradition where we receive an explosion of perfect scores. It happened after the 2017 blowout over Wazzu, the 2018 streak-breaking win over USC, and, now, this Big Game victory. Behold, this week’s highest scores:

Sunshine Pumpers

Name Grade
1. David Shaw is a big fat LOSER (of the Big Game) and in life!!! 700 (100.0%)
1. ComeOnYouSpurs 700 (100.0%)
1. wiata78 700 (100.0%)
1. IJustWannaBeInTheNWayTieForFirst 700 (100.0%)
1. Berkelium97 700 (100.0%)
1. cleancutmedia 700 (100.0%)
1. Rocksanddirt 700 (100.0%)
1. CoolingFan 700 (100.0%)
1. spbdoug 700 (100.0%)
1. A$AP Bear 700 (100.0%)
1. Rollonyoubears111 700 (100.0%)
1. passion 700 (100.0%)
1. The Ghost of Joe Roth 700 (100.0%)
1. SG_BEAR 700 (100.0%)
1. gph2os 700 (100.0%)
1. TD_24 700 (100.0%)
1. Rattos Rambles 700 (100.0%)
1. concernedparent 700 (100.0%)
1. MIT Bear 700 (100.0%)
1. Goldenlikethebears 700 (100.0%)
1. Berkules 700 (100.0%)
1. RememberTheCalamo 700 (100.0%)
1. C98 700 (100.0%)
1. heyalumnigo 700 (100.0%)
1. Victory is sweet 700 (100.0%)
1. Texashaterforlife 700 (100.0%)
1. The Townie 700 (100.0%)
1. ShadowSandrock 700 (100.0%)

26-way tie for first!

Old Blues

Next, the lowest scores of the week.

Name Rating
1. ShanghaiDave 355 (50.7%)
2. Poohbears 365 (52.1%)
3. I don't 382 (54.6%)
4. ABVidale 418 (59.7%)
5. ChicagoBear 440 (62.9%)

I hope you all were grading on a steep curve. That reminds me of those classes where a raw score of 40-something would somehow translate to an A or a B.

The Voice of Reason

Finally, those scores closest to the community average.

Name Deviation
1. sacalum 2.20
2. 1988goldenbear 3.96
3. CALumbus Bear 4.83
4. oski74 5.31
5. Alex Ghenis 5.82

2.20—that’s a spectacularly low score!

Now let’s see what you all said about the game. I predict enthusiasm unknown to mankind.


Any comments on the gameday experience?

  • Texashaterforlife- The best start time for a game that is on the field of your nemesis. Cuz now you can party for a long time and leave them the mess to clean up.
  • Gobears67 - Stanfurd Stadium sucks. Took way too long to get in.
  • Letsgobears2023 - Cal fans were LOUD today at the Farm. What an atmosphere!
  • Poohbears - $10 tickets are a great concept. Oh yeah, BEARS WIN, BEARS WIN!
  • A$AP Bear- I almost teared up when I was celebrating down on the field with the team. What a day. GO BEARS!!!
  • ComeOnYouSpurs- We won. Good day.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s passing game?

  • Teepee - Hit and miss. Not having Crawford was a major problem -- there isn’t enough depth here to make up for key players missing. When he needed it, Chase threw some great balls -- particularly in that last drive.
  • Oski74 - The passing game is where we had hoped it would be the 2+ years.
  • Rose Bowl Oski - Garbers didn’t see a couple of open receivers, but his throws were mostly on target. Also, I don’t recall any drops.
  • Auricursine - Garbers still scares me when he takes to the air. The receivers still scare me when the ball is headed towards them. I’m forever shocked when our TEs actually hang on the ball. But Reinwald’s catches were reminiscent of Alex Lagemann’s grabs in the 2009 Big Game, in that we finally had possession receivers who could keep drives alive and not force Garbers into playing hero ball on every single down--except for the one down that mattered.
  • Oaklandishbear - By no means perfect, but this is the best game to date for Garbers and the receiving crew. Wow it is sure nice to have the ability to have big plays downfield. Great catches by Clark, Duncan, and Remigio. Good-to-great throws by Garbers. Let’s keep getting better!!!
  • TD_24 - Nikko Remigio finally coming out of his shell. Garbers played poised and that’s what got us over the top.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s running game?

  • Sacman701 - Stats weren’t bad, but they were inflated by scrambles. The backs had slim pickings against a distinctly non-elite run defense.
  • Alex Ghenis - It’s great to have a healthy Chris Brown back and the OL is progressing now that they’ve gotten some more stable starters get experience. 3.8YPA isn’t shabby and was enough to help for the win.
  • Jacobs. - Apart from Garbers (who rocked!), this really was the most painful part of the game to watch. Just stop trying to run into all the defenders at the line. Please. Stop.
  • Bearlygolden - Good enough, with Garbers. When was the last time a Cal QB was our leading rusher in a game?
  • Rose Bowl Oski - Seems like the RBs should have had more success, but Garbers scrambling was excellent.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s pass defense?

  • Sacman701 - There were some lapses and Mills did some damage, but we had two picks and some sacks and we generally got the better of Furd. They had only one TD drive that went more than 30 yards.
  • Goldenlikethebears - The takers took it.
  • TD_24 - Jaylinn Hawkins is a bad man
  • GoldenBear 77 - Other than the first blown coverage, bend but not break.
  • ShadowSandrock - MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  • Bowles Hall - Another good night for a very good squad
  • CALumbus Bear - I was continually filled with a sense of doom when we had furd in third and long, and some long-haired freak would leap up and catch something for a first down conversion. There were too many (albeit ultimately not enough) of those instances for comfort.
  • Auricursine - Will Daniel Scott be the next great Cal safety? Missing Davis was worrisome, especially on the opening drive, but Scott showed he had a nose for the ball, and having him step up was huge.
  • Wiata78 - Palo Alto grading = 100.000

What are your thoughts on Cal’s run defense?

  • Texashaterforlife - CLUTCH!! Defensive Front seven should go to Disney World.
  • Concernedparent - Evan Weaver
  • Ratto’s Rambles - 11/10 BECAUSE THAT FINAL STOP.
  • Calbear1984 - Effective. Made the stop when it counted. Kept them at a deficit on 3 downs
  • Bowlesman80 - It dawns on me how strong our DL and LB corps are- they were awesome.
  • Swamphunter - “Scarlett is piled up! He did not get it, Cal will win the Big Game!!”
  • 1988goldenbear - Solid game. Weaver continues to be a beast and he had a lot of help. Awesome stuff on the last defensive play to beat the arrogant Furdies at their own game. Loved it!
  • California Love - Very good. Stanford could rarely run the ball and when the Cardinal got something going on their last drive, made a great stop on 3rd and 4 to force a field goal and give the offense the chance to win the game.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s special teams?

  • Sacalum - Disappointed in the punting game -- again. And another blocked FB? What gives!
  • Wiata78 - Still bad on kickoff coverage. Extra credit for the 49 yd FG cancels out the blocked FG. Palo Alto grading = 100.000
  • Oski74 - Across the board improvement is needed.
  • Oaklandishbear - YUCK! Credit to Thomas for the long boot, but that was the only thing nice to say about Special Teams. So I won’t say anything else.
  • California Love - Week in and week out, my response here is “weakest link.” The Big Game was no exception. Thank God we went for the touchback after taking a 24-20 lead, rather than attempt another directional kick and give Stanford the ball on the 40. Blocked FG towards the end of the first half killed momentum and 20 yard punt after the Hawkins INT gave Stanford the chance to go 30 yds for a TD.
  • - Too unreliable in all phases, especially stopping kickoff and punt returns
  • Rollonyoubears111 - We haz field goals!
  • ShadowSandrock - No comment
  • KJ1980 - A made field goal helped. The block did not. We need better punting. Not sure what the problem is because our punter gets lots of practice in games.

What are your thoughts on the coaching staff’s performance?

  • TD_24 - Wilcox got this team to be resilient and that’s what this staffs moniker should be.
  • CALiforniALUM - May be time to see if Troy Taylor wants a job.
  • SeaBearly - They won so they coached well. . .
  • Passion - Clap Clap Clap
  • ShangDave - Why wait to the 4th to open up the Offense? Imagine if we played like that for 4 quarters
  • Jacobs. - This is such a mixed bag. Before the Big Game I really thought that no one on offense could really coach anything, especially with WRs. Now I wonder how much of our terrible offense is down to a very unimpressive O-line. Defense got picked apart on the first drive, but seemed well coached for the rest of the game.
  • TJ - Very good -Garbers is on the right track. His running game is good & getting better-making the right decisions
  • Auricursine - While I feel that Baldwin’s floor as a coach is higher than that of someone like Buh, the tendency of the Toyota Tercel offense to turn into a Smart Car for long stretches is still nothing if not maddening… That said, Wilcox’s first Big Game win surely bodes well for future success keeping the Axe. Every Cal coach since Stub Allison that has gotten a Big Game win, has won at least a second one, at minimum. If Roger Theder and Keith Gilbertson can have two Big Game wins, why not Justin Wilcox?

What are your thoughts on Cal’s overall performance?

  • California Love - For me, every Big Game win is memorable and cause for celebration. The last drive made 2019 especially classic. Garbers’ TD may join the video highlights before future games and Remigio should be up there too. Great players make great plays in big games, so it was no surprise to see Goode and Weaver stop Scarlett on 4th and 1.
  • Oaklandishbear - 100%!!!! The whole is far, far greater than the sum of its parts here. Perfect mark for bringing home the Axe in dramatic fashion.
  • CoBears - We’ve got the Axe!!! Time to beat fUCLA so that we can meet or beat expectations for the season.
  • CALumbus Bear - It was our best Big Game performance in 10 years. I emitted many a groan during the game, and would periodically begin to lose hope until some unexpected good pass play would rekindle a bit more optimism. Late in the game our offense suddenly appeared competent and it seemed that we could tie or take back the lead. And then a glorious score on a broken play! Earlier in the game we had outsmarted furd into using 2 of their timeouts, and I suddenly had confidence that our D would hold firm in the waning moments. And indeed they did. The entire Cal team (defense, offense, special teams, coaching) did just enough to win back The Axe. But all was not good: I could tell RallyComm hadn’t practiced taking possession of The Axe, as their tumbles and panicked scrambling looked pretty pitiful on TV.
  • Bearlygolden - I’ll remember this game for a long, long time.
  • Goldenone - We get the Axe - so it was a great moment
  • ShangDave - Living on the edge and able to hang in there to beat an ok Stanford team. That game was the definition of playing through adversity until the end.
  • Rollonyoubears111 - I shed tears, man. I was welling up with the feelz! My family thought I was nuts.
  • The Ghost of Joe Roth - PERFECT