BERKELEY -- Jared Goff had gone a school-record 159 passes without throwing an interception. Stanford came into the 117th Big Game with a -10 turnover margin, and averaging just 23.9 points per game. On Saturday, both Goff and Rubenzer threw a pair of picks, Stanford topped its season average before halftime, the Cardinal were able to score the most points they had in a game since a match-up with FCS UC Davis, and, even with its best offensive weapon -- Ty Montgomery -- on the shelf after the second play of the second series due to a shoulder injury – throttled the Bears, 38-17, to extend its Big Game winning streak to five.
“They’re a good team, a good defense, a lot of big strong guys over there, and they did a good job getting pressure,” said Goff, who had two of Cal’s five turnovers.
“First of all, I want to give Stanford credit. They played a good football game, and the kids played hard,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “I think their staff did a better job at getting them ready to play than we did. I’m disappointed in the way that we played. I anticipated us playing better football. It was a bit of a strange football game, and it certainly didn’t start the way we wanted it to start.”
Cal was without active tackles leader Michael Lowe for all but one play, as the senior safety was ejected on the first play from scrimmage due to targeting on Austin Hooper, and four plays later, cornerback Darius White would get flagged for face-guarding Montgomery on a back-shoulder fade from Kevin Hogan, setting up Stanford’s first touchdown.
“That was a tough blow to have to deal with on the first play of the game,” said Stefan McClure. “That’s a huge blow to lose him the first play of the game on something like that.”
Hogan finished the game 15-for-20 for 214 yards, with one rushing touchdown and one interception – the first career grab for JuCo transfer White on a Willie Mays-style snag. Hogan was able to hit slants and crosses over the middle, taking advantage of converted wide receiver Bryce McGovern at safety, who, although he made a career-high nine tackles and blocked one punt, was targeted for much of the game.
Cal allowed four rushing touchdowns and 92 yards to tailback Remound Wright -- who was nearly the first Cardinal tailback to rush for over 100 yards this season. His four touchdowns on the ground were the most for a Stanford back in the Big Game since Toby Gerhart in 2009. His four scores were also the most scores – period – by a single player in the Big Game since Montgomery’s five last season.
As the Cardinal offense hummed, the Cal offense sputtered, as Goff threw two interceptions and completed just 16-of-31 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown for a 98.7 QB rating. In the third quarter, he and Luke Rubenzer shared snaps, with Rubenzer playing six snaps to Goff’s two in the second drive of the stanza, then four of six on the next series, after having played just two snaps in the entire first half.
“We’ve been doing it for a while now,” Goff said of switching quarterbacks. “Nothing really affects [my rhythm]. He was doing a good job and running the ball well and getting good reads. I think he did a really good job.”
Rubenzer rushed for 60 yards – a personal best, and the most rushing yards by a Cal quarterback since Zach Maynard ran for 52 against Fresno State in 2011.
During one particularly bizarre stretch in the third quarter, the Bears had three touchdowns – two Rubenzer runs and one Goff fade to Kenny Lawler -- overturned upon review, and, because of an Alex Crosthwaite hold and a Steven Moore unsportsmanlike flag, had to settle for a 38-yard James Langford field goal.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, and I’ll leave it at that,” Goff said.
“I’m not going to say much about that whole thing,” said Dykes, before pausing to consider his next words. “There’s nothing I can say about that, that’s good. You saw it. Write your opinions on what you saw. I thought it was shameful.”
Officiating was a touchy subject with Dykes after the game, who saw 12 penalties for 113 yards called against his team, while the Cardinal didn’t get their first infraction until after halftime.
“We can live with penalties that are aggressive penalties, but we can’t live with penalties that are lack-of-discipline penalties, and today, we had a lot of lack-of-discipline penalties, and that’s my fault,” Dykes said.
The Bears started out their first drive in promising fashion, as Goff hit Bryce Treggs on a 22-yard slant, but Goff buckled to pressure on the second play – an incomplete dump-off to Treggs – and center Chris Adcock was flagged for a false start on the next.
After Montgomery exited (surrounded by redshirt freshmen on the sidelines as his shoulder was looked at), the Cardinal still marched down the field for a 68-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 24-yard field goal.
Enter: Daniel Lasco. As Goff struggled on his first series – going 1-for-3 – Cal turned to its dependable tailback. Lasco rushed for 24 yards on five carries, as Goff went 4-for-5, highlighted by an 18-yard jumping, stretching grab (the first of three) by Lawler. But, on third and goal at the Stanford four-yard line, Lasco saw the ball punched out by Blake Martinez -- who also came up with both of Goff’s two interceptions off of tips in the first half – giving the Cardinal the ball.
“There were two defenders sitting right there, a linebacker and a safety, and I thought I’d split them, and I took one head-on and the other came across and placed his hat perfectly on the ball,” Lasco said. “I just need to get lower. My pads weren’t low enough, and the ball was exposed.”
Cal, though, did not allow any points off of the gaffe, and two and a half minutes later, came up with its first score, as Stephen Anderson bullied his way past Martinez and Jordan Richards and into the end zone, helping Goff break his own single-season passing yardage record (3,508) to start the second quarter.
The rest of the half was downhill, as was the game. A Wright touchdown run thanks to second- and third-effort pushes against linebacker Hardy Nickerson gave the Cardinal a 17-7 lead.
Six plays later, another Goff tip at the line choked off a promising drive and resulted in a Martinez pick, thanks to James Vaughters, but, again, the Cardinal did not score.
Despite Cal’s five turnovers, Stanford only managed to score seven points off of them, though, perhaps more importantly, two of those turnovers kept points off the board for the Bears – 14 to be precise.