The Big Game, tied for the 10th longest rivalry in college football history, has been a series where "anything can happen, and usually does." Four Big Games have been decided on the game's final play. The 1982 game will forever be known as one of the classic contests in college football history. The Play became one of the most infamous plays in college football. Stanford had taken a 20-19 lead on a 34-yard field goal by Mark Harmon with just four seconds to play. On the ensuing kickoff, Cal scored a touchdown on an incredible five-lateral, 57-yard return that ended when the Bear's Kevin Moen bowled over Gary Tyrell, the trombonist in the Stanford band, and went into the end zone for a controversial game-winning TD.
|Big Game Notebook|
Stanford leads 52-39-11
First Game in Series
March 10, 1892
Last Game in Series
November 20, 1999
Games Decided by TD or less
Games Decided by FG or less
First Big Game at Stanford Stadium
November 19, 1921
First Big Game at Memorial Stadium
November 23, 1923
The 1959 classic featured the Bears' holding on to win 20-17 despite an NCAA-record performance by Stanford quarterback Dick Norman, who threw for 401 yards on 34-for-39. Vince Ferragamo's eight-yard TD pass to Steve Sweeney on the game's final play gave Cal a 24-21 Big Game win in 1972. Two years later, Stanford won 22-20 when Mike Langford connected on a 50-yard field goal on the game's final play.
In 1976, Cal's Markey Crane fumbled the ball on his own two-yard line with 1:31 left in the game and his team on top 24-19. Stanford's Ron Inge scored the game-winning TD moments later to give the Cardinal a 27-24 win. Tuan Van Le blocked a 20-yard field goal in the '88 Big Game to preserve a 19-19 tie. Stanford's answer to The Play occurred in 1990 when the Cardinal scored nine points in the final 12 seconds to pull out an improbable 27-25 victory. QB Jason Palumbis connected with WR Ed McCaffrey on a 19-yard TD with 12 seconds on the clock, lifting the Cardinal to within a point of Cal at 25-24. A two-point conversion, however, failed and the Bears celebrated a certain victory. But, Stanford recovered the ensuing onside kick and Cal was penalized 15-yards on the first play, setting the Cardinal up at the Bears' 22-yard line. Stanford PK John Hopkins came on to hit a 37-yard field goal as time ran out and Stanford began celebrating its 27-25 win.
To the winner of The Big Game goes the Stanford Axe, which first made its appearance at a Stanford-Cal baseball game on April 13, 1899. The Axe was used by Stanford students at the baseball game to decapitate a straw man dressed in blue and gold. Cal students grabbed the Axe during a post-game brawl. To better conceal the Axe, the handle was cut off and the remaining blade was safely brought back to Berkeley. Two law professors from each school ruled that the Axe was a prize by reason of conquest and, therefore, would remain in Berkeley.
The Immortal Twenty-One, a group of Stanford students, added to Big Game lore by stealing the Axe at Cal's annual Axe Rally on April 3, 1930. The Axe, which had been in a bank vault for 31 years, was now in possession of the Immortal Twenty-One. When the famous group of students returned to campus, the celebration began. Classes were canceled for two days and the University presented each member of the Immortal Twenty-One with a block "S" letter.
After three years of negotiating, the presidents of both student bodies agreed that the Axe would be a trophy given to the winner of The Big Game.