Nov. 22, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Jahvid Best rushed for 201 yards and scored three touchdowns in the second half, and California kept archrival Stanford out of the postseason with a 37-16 victory Saturday in the 111th Big Game.
Kevin Riley threw three touchdown passes for the Golden Bears (7-4, 5-3 Pac-10), who scored 27 straight points after halftime to beat the Cardinal for the sixth time in seven meetings under coach Jeff Tedford.
Cal emphatically reclaimed the Axe with a victory that carried an extra measure of sweetness because it ensured a seventh straight losing season for Stanford (5-7, 4-5), which fell apart defensively in the second half of its third consecutive loss.
Tailback Shane Vereen and tight end Cameron Morrah caught scoring passes from Riley, and Best got credit for another TD catch on a clever lateral from Verran Tucker. Cal pulled away with four consecutive touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of the second half.
Best, who had scoring runs of 45 and 3 yards, became Cal's seventh consecutive 1,000-yard rusher under Tedford, who has beaten Stanford more times than any Cal coach except Pappy Waldorf. Cal's student section stormed the field after the final whistle, and the Bears paraded the Axe around the turf.
Tavita Pritchard passed for 306 yards with two interceptions for the Cardinal, whose 20-13 win over Cal at Stanford Stadium last year snapped a five-game losing streak in the rivalry. Stanford managed 435 total yards this time, more than any other Cal opponent this season, but didn't score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
Stanford trailed 10-3 at halftime despite controlling much of the first half, and the Bears' offense quickly took charge. Best's 6-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter put Cal up 37-3.
Linebacker Zack Follett's relentless pass-rushing led a strong second-half defensive effort for the Bears, who improved to 6-0 at Memorial Stadium this season. Cal finishes its regular season at home against winless Washington in two weeks.
Toby Gerhart rushed for 103 yards and a score at the close of his own 1,000-yard season, and Doug Baldwin caught a 34-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter for Stanford. The Cardinal still took another step forward this fall under second-year coach Jim Harbaugh, who's close to signing a contract extension.
Stanford had little trouble moving the ball in the first half, but remained scoreless when Aaron Zagory missed a short field goal attempt in the first quarter and Gerhart fumbled at the Cal 10 after a 70-yard drive in the second.
Cal also struggled on offense until Vereen slipped behind Stanford's defense and caught a perfectly thrown pass from Riley for a 59-yard touchdown shortly before halftime. The Cardinal made yet another long drive, but Cal stopped Gerhart for a 2-yard loss on a play from the Cal 1 with 9 seconds left, forcing Zagory's 20-yard field goal.
Cal linebacker Eddie Young made an interception on Stanford's first possession after halftime, and the Bears drove to the 1, where Harbaugh infuriated Cal's fans by calling timeout an instant before Best scored on a third-down run. But the Bears called a misdirection play that left Morrah all alone in the end zone to catch a lob from Riley.