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Five victories and still going strong: Stanford keeps rivalry streak intact with 38-17 triumph over Cal in the 117th Big Game

November 24, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 24, 2014

Big Game’s luster has dwindled somewhat in recent years. Stanford walloped Cal in their 2013 meeting, 63-13; the 50-point thrashing was the largest point differential in Big Game history. It was the Cardinal’s fourth consecutive Big Game triumph; only one of those contests, Stanford’s 31-28 win in 2011, was closer than 18 points. In each of those four years, the Cardinal went on to enjoy 11 or 12 total victories.

If the 2014 matchup wasn’t quite as glamorous as it has been in past year, there were circumstances that added an element of intrigue to Saturday’s contest. The teams entered the 117th Big Game on much more even footing than of late; both sported 5-5 overall records.

But in most other ways, the teams were mirror images of one another. A 5-5 win-loss tally represented a come-up for Cal, which won only a single game in 2013; for Stanford, which finished last year 11-3 with a Rose Bowl berth, that record was a definite let-down. Cal has a prolific offense and a terrible defense; going into Saturday, Stanford’s scoring defense was ranked seventh nationally (16.5 points per game), but its offense was relatively anemic.

On Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Stanford took a 17-point lead into the locker room at halftime — yet the game could easily have gone differently.

The visitors in white jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a short Remound Wright touchdown run and Jordan Williamson’s 24-yard field goal. But on its second possession, Cal drove the length of the field and seemed poised to score.

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Cardinal clobbers Cougars: Stanford rolls, 55-17, in Seattle

October 1, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 1, 2013

Football can be a funny sport. Saturday night’s Stanford game against Washington State in rainy Seattle provided another example of that.

Paradoxically, I was reassured that everything was going to be OK by the Stanford football possession that ended with quarterback Kevin Hogan’s worst pass, an underthrown ball intercepted by WSU defender Deone Bucannon in the end zone.

Up until the pick, the drive had borne all the hallmarks of classic Cardinal offense. Stanford traveled 74 yards over the course of 17 plays. The protracted possession ate up more than half of the second quarter — 7:57, to be precise.

Talk about balance: The Cardinal rushed nine times and threw eight times on the series. (A pass interference penalty on tight end Luke Kaumatule erased another aerial play.) Talk about power: Three of the Cardinal rushes, all by Tyler Gaffney, went for five yards or longer. Talk about versatility: After the flag on Kaumatule, Hogan threw three straight completions — to Ty Montgomery for 14 yards, to Devon Cajuste for 16 and to Sanders for another 16. (Montgomery and Cajuste caught balls for nine and 10 yards respectively earlier in the drive.)

The Cougars defense held Gaffney (and Anthony Wilkerson, who got one carry) to three yards or fewer on six occasions, and Hogan had three incomplete passes, which included the Bucannon intersection plus what I recall as being an overthrown deep ball to an open Michael Rector. But the overweening impression that I took away from the drive was that the Cardinal offense was going to be very, very difficult to stop.

That conclusion was justified in the second half. Stanford led just 17-3 at intermission. But Cardinal fans who expected the Farm boys’ size and strength to overwhelm the Cougars after the break found their expectations amply rewarded.

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