Cal opens the half with their fifth three and out of the game, but the Cardinal come up a half-yard short on a fourth-down pass to Ryan Hewitt at the Bear 40. Still, sending out the offense on fourth and short was absolutely the right call from the coaching staff, so props to them. Shayne Skov registers a first-down sack as Cal goes three and out for the sixth time. This game can be quickly summarized: Stanford is having its way with Cal's offensive line. It's men against boys. Stanford punts, Cal punts, and Stanford runs out the rest of the quarter with a heavy dose of Stepfan Taylor.
Play of the quarter: Skov came through the A gap on a first-down blitz, and judging by the lack of reaction from Cal's offensive line, he was wearing his cloak of invisibility. Zach Maynard went down and Cal was on its way to another three and out.
Defense takes the lead: Through three quarters, the Bears have managed just 100 yards, three points, zero third-down conversions in ten tries and six three-and-outs. Skov, Ben Gardner and Chase Thomas each have sacks. Thomas has a fumble recovery, as does Devon Carrington on Jordan Richards' strip of Keenan Allen.
It will be interesting to see if the Stanford D can keep this dominant performance up for a final quarter. After all, the unit looked similarly impressive through 45 minutes against Washington and Notre Dame, only to falter late. Today, however, any late-game points will matter only to coaches in film review and, maybe, bettors holding slips for the over/under line. Stanford has an 18-point edge, starts the fourth quarter with the ball, and does sport a top-notch defense. That's just too tall of a hill for Cal to climb.
Only eleven: Cal had only 11 third-quarter offensive snaps, despite receiving the second-half kickoff. On the road with a 21-3 lead and an uneven quarterback, Stanford's coaches must love choking the life out of this game one snap at a time.
Final: Stanford 21, Cal 3
Before punting, Stanford starts the fourth quarter by running a little more clock, as Stepfan Taylor reaches 126 yards on 20 carries. Cal quickly hands the pigskin back, however, dropping to 0-of-11 on third-down conversions and then watching Ben Gardner blow up Isi Sofele two yards in the backfield on fourth and one.
Stepfan Taylor runs Stanford into the red zone, but the Cardinal turn it over to Marc Anthony, no relation to the top-selling salsa artist of all-time. Instead, it's a Cal defensive back who has blanketed Drew Terrell on a third-down slant route. To his credit, Josh Nunes throws a beautiful ball. Alas, it is to the wrong man. (It's déjà vu for Stanford fans, as that's the same end of the field that saw a similarly poor Andrew Luck interception as the 2009 Big Game wound down.)
Cal starts to move the ball, in part by catching some tough passes, in part by turning more to Keenan Allen, in part by taking advantage of a prevent Stanford defense, and in part out of inevitability – I mean, Stanford wasn't going to keep that up forever. Keenan Allen has a beautiful catch on fourth-and-five to keep the drive alive, but Trent Murphy drops Maynard on third down and not quite goal at the Card 11 and Wayne Lyons picks off a wounded duck thrown all the way across the field on fourth down. (If Lyons had stayed in bounds, that would have been a surefire pick-six to boot.)
Regaining possession with five minutes to go, Stanford leans on its run game to eat up the rest of the clock, mixing Stepfan Taylor in with a little Anthony Wilkerson. As the final whistle sounds, Stanford's players sprint off to celebrate with the Axe.
Play of the quarter: Ben Gardner was greedy, really, because if he didn't have the fourth-and-short tackle of Isi Sofele, any one of his teammates would have been there to clean up. As it was though, Gardner and the Cardinal D put a fitting exclamation point on the contest, snuffing Cal's last legitimate shot at victory after wreaking havoc on Cal's offensive line the entire afternoon.
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