Nov. 22, 1997
Cardinal Win 100th Big Game Thriller
STANFORD In typical Big Game fashion, the 100th edition went down to the wire before Stanford emerged with a 21-20 victory in front of 85,000 fans at Stanford Stadium Saturday afternoon. After slugging it out for almost the entire 60 minutes, the outcome was in the balance until a Justin Vedder pass was intercepted deep in Stanford territory with 1:22 left in the game, stopping a potential game-winning drive for Cal.
Offensively, Dameane Douglas had another huge day for the Bears as for the second game in a row, the junior from Hanford, Calif., came up with 143 receiving yards, this time on 11 catches. Last week versus Arizona, Douglas hauled in 12 balls for the same total yards.
Freshman Chidi Iwuoma led the defensive corps with nine total tackles while Matt Beck pitched in with five, three for loss in addition to blocking an extra point.
Big Game jitters seemed to get the best of both offenses in the first quarter as neither squad was able to mount a significant drive. On their third possession, Cal appeared to be finally be moving the ball. Vedder hit Bobby Shaw on 3rd-and-5 from the Bears 26 for a first down and a Tarik Smith run moved the ball to the 38. But on 2nd-and-6, Vedderšs attempt to hit Bruce Pierre on a slant pattern was deflected at the line of scrimmage and Stanfordšs Corey Hill intercepted the pass, returning it 41 yards for the first score of the 100th Big Game and an early 7-0 Cardinal lead.
The Bears went three-and-out on their next possession and, after Cardinal quarterback Chad Hutchinson connected with Troy Walters on a 30-yard pass down the right sideline to the Cal 17, it appeared that Stanford was going to add to its lead. But the Cal defense stood its ground, forcing a 27-yard Kevin Miller field goal attempt. As Stanford lined up for the kick, Cal linebacker Matt Beck mistimed his rush, hurdling the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. The five-yard penalty gave Stanford a first and goal at the Cal 5, but the Cardinal were kept out of the endzone as strong penetration by the Bears defensive line on first-and-goal forced a mix-up in the Stanford backfield. Hutchinson fumbled the hand off attempt and Calšs Kato Serwanga recovered the loose ball at the Cal 11-yard-line to kill the Stanford drive.
The Stanford defense, however, again held Cal without a first down and after a short punt set the Cardinal up in Cal territory at the Bears 38, Stanford upped it lead to 13-0 on a Anthony Bookman 13 yard touchdown run. The point after was blocked by Beck, but the Bears still found themselves down 13 points just over five minutes into the second quarter.
The Cal offense seemed to hit its stride on its next possession as Vedder led the Bears on a 74-yard, six-play scoring drive to close the gap to 13-7. Vedder hit Shaw for 11 yards on the drivešs first play and a 12-yard connection to Douglas moved the Bears into Cardinal territory at the Stanford 48 for the first time in the game. Vedder then hit a wide-open Brian Surgener for 27 yards to move the ball to the Cardinal 21. Two plays later, Smith got Calšs first touchdown of the 100th Big Game as he took a hand off up the middle, breaking three tackles as he rumbled 19 yards for the score.
Stanfordšs ensuing possession went nowhere and, when Deltha OšNeal returned the Cardinal punt 55 yard to the Stanford 23, it looked like the Bears were in position to take their first lead of the ball game. But Smith fumbled at the Stanford 17 two plays later, and the Cardinal recovered, ending the Cal drive.
Stanford then put together an 83 yard five play drive and extended it advantage to 21-7 when Hutchinson hit a wide-open Walters on a middle screen that covered the final 36 yards of the drive. After missing its previous PAT, Stanford elected to go for two points and succeeded as Hutchinson connected with Bookman in the right corner of the endzone for the conversion.
The Bears were unable to move the football on their next possessions but got it right back when Marquis Smith jarred the ball loose from Bookman at the Stanford 32. The fumble was recovered by Jerry DeLoach and with only 0:37 showing in the clock before half time Cal had a golden opportunity to cut into the Cardinal lead. Two Vedder scrambles gave the Bears a first down at the 22, but thatšs as deep as Cal would be able to move the ball as a grounding penalty moved the ball back to the 29. With only no time remaining in the half Ignacio Brachešs 46 field goal attempt sailed through the uprights. The kick was the longest of his Cal career, and the Bears had moved within 11 points of Stanford at the half, 21-10.
Although both offenses moved the ball in the third quarter, neither could generate any points after the two squads combined to put up 31 in the first half. Cal moved the ball 50 yards from its own 17-yard-line to the Stanford 37 on its first drive of the half before being forced to punt. The Bears also moved the ball on their second drive of the quarter as Cal drove the ball from the shadow of its own goalline at the four all the way to midfield before being forced to give it back via a punt.
Meanwhile, the Cal defense was keeping the Bears in the game as Stanford could only manage two first downs and 56 yards of total offense during the quarter.
Stanford finally was able to move the ball to open the fourth quarter as the Cardinal took their opening drive and moved to the Bears 23-yard-line. But the Cal defense shut the drive down there, forcing a 40-yard Miller field goal attempt which sailed wide left.
Taking over after the defensive stand with 9:12 remaining on the clock, Vedder marched the Bears 77 yards on 11 plays as the Bears trimmed the lead to 21-18 with 4:44 remaining in the game. The drive appeared to stall only three plays in as Vedder scrambled for his life on 3rd-and-7 from the Cal 26 until he found Douglas streeking across the middle of the field for a 13 yard completion and a first down. Three plays later it was Vedder to Douglas again, this time for 27 yards down to the Stanford 33. A 13-yard completion to Shaw moved the ball to the 16 and after Fields slammed up the middle for four more yards, Vedder found Shaw once again for the senior receiveršs 10th touchdown on the season to cut the Stanford advantage to 21-16. Knowing a two point conversion would put the Bears within a field goal, Cal head coach Tom Holmoe sent the offensive unit back onto the field for a the two point attempt. After a play-action fake to Fields, Vedder rolled to his left and found an open Surgener at the goalline who fell into the endzone for the conversion.
Just 1:46 later, Cal got the ball back courtsey of another stellar defensive stand by the Bears defense. Starting at their own 41 with nearly 3:00 reamaining, Cal looked to be in good position to at least tie the game. But after driving to the Stanford 33, Vedder was intercepted by Stanford linebacker Chris Draft at the 14 and the Bears comback attempt appeared to be foiled.
After again holding the Cardinal to three-and-out, Stanford opted to take a saftey on fourth down insted of risking a block. The Cardinal free kick was returned 15 yards to the Cal 40 by OšNeal but only 0:14 remained on the clock when the Cal offense returned to the field. Two Vedder desperation pass came up incomplete and Stanford escaped the 100th Big Game with a 21-20 victory.
The loss dropped Cal to 3-9 (1-8, Pac-10), while Stanford ended the season with a 5-6 mark (3-5, Pac-10).