Cal rallied from a 14-0 deficit to upset Stanford in the 2011 Big Game, 21-14. Time and time again, Stanford had its chances to deliver the Bears a knockout punch, but the Cardinal could never quite capitalize, and Cal never gave up.
"Losing like this is absolutely awful," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "We're all going to be tossing and turning in our sleep tonight, thinking if only I had this play back, if only I did that one thing differently."
Stepfan Taylor caught one would-be knockout punch, a 30-yard streak as the first half expired, but, upon review, his attempt to drag his toes in the back of the end zone missed by inches. On first-and-goal in the first quarter, Luck threw behind a slanting Chris Owusu, and into the hands of Cal's D.J. Campbell. Instead of a 28-7 halftime lead, the Cardinal thus led just 14-7 at the break, and Cal remained very much in the game.
"I think Cal took a lot of momentum from keeping it close early," linebacker Shayne Skov said. "They knew the first half could have been way worse, and when they regrouped and came out after halftime, they were a different team."
Neither squad could get on board in the third, setting up a fourth quarter that will remind Stanford fans of the agony of the 2009 Big Game.
With the clock winding down, Luck and the Cardinal were driving downfield for a game-clinching score. Like two years ago, Stanford elected to pass instead of sticking with the run, despite success on the ground. And like two years ago, the Cardinal paid the price, as Aaron Tipoti beat the Cardinal offensive line, stripped Luck from behind, and rumbled 48 yards to knot the game at 14-all with 3:43 left.
Still, Stanford was well positioned for no worse than overtime, but after a Cardinal three-and-out, the Bears ran a game-ending two-minute drive to perfection. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard completed passes of 12, nine and 15 yards to bring Cal within the Stanford 30 with 49 seconds to go.
To add insult to injury, the Stanford defense appeared undecided as to what to do as Cal neared the Cardinal goal-line. The unit appeared to waffle between letting the Bears score a touchdown to save clock, or playing honest defense and hoping for a missed field goal.
Murphy's law took over, and the Cardinal managed the worst of both worlds, playing just soft enough for Cal to advance the ball in 10-yard chunks, and then letting Maynard find tailback Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass with all of 11 seconds remaining.
"It's on me, it's all on me," Coach David Shaw said. "We didn't have the resolve we needed today, and we didn't have a plan to bury them when we had the chance. Cal's good enough that if you let them hang around, they're going to take advantage, and that's exactly what happened."
While it was a tough day for Stanford's signal caller, with his fumble and interception, Luck did account for both Stanford touchdowns. No. 12 found Levine Toilolo on a five-yard corner route in the early second, and threw a flare to Taylor that went for 65 yards later in the period to give Stanford the 14-0 edge.
Cal responded though, as Keenan Allen shook two Stanford defenders to turn a 10-yard dig into a 72-yard touchdown with two minutes left in the first half, and keep the Bears within a score heading into the locker room.
Disclaimer: The Bootleg's crystal ball cannot be held responsible for any wagers placed. Also, EA Sports doesn't know about injuries and depth chart changes and such. Take the stories in the spirit in which they're intended.
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