Q1: Card convert, Cal misfires thrice (7-3)

Cal had three bites at the apple this quarter: the wheel route where an open, streaking receiver failed to adjust; Holder's late breakup in the back of the end zone; and Goff's misfire the next play. NFL-caliber receivers make all of those plays, and so you'd like for a college squad to at least convert once. Instead, Cal leaves four points on the field.

A lot of pregame whispering up in the press box about if and how Stanford could end up back in the playoffs after all should the Cardinal win out. The consensus seemed to be that Michigan State upsetting Ohio State helped the cause, but I'm not so sure. I think a one-loss conference-champion Michigan State with a win over Oregon probably gets in over Stanford, now with that extra loss to Oregon. Plus, now we have to worry about one-loss Ohio State too.

Regardless, a ton on the line tonight obviously, and the Cardinal come out slinging it around, connecting on the first snap to Devon Cajuste over the middle for nine, and then missing on a bomb to Michael Rector, who could only get one hand on the ball. On third and ten from their 40, however, Stanford waves the white flag of surrender and runs a Christian McCaffrey draw. Weak call early.

Cal, however, runs the exact same sequence from their own nine. They false start, then get back the original yardage, then run a surrender draw and punt just across midfield.

Stanford 0, California 0, 10:23 remaining, first quarter

Q: Do we have a fake field goal or punt in our playbook? Would have loved to have seen it last week, and would love to see it today too. Anyway, starting from midfield after a poorer Cal punt, Bryce Love gets four yards on a screen, so a vanilla result, but from a unique formation for the Card: Hogan was in the shotgun with three backs -- one behind him, and one to each side. Christian McCaffrey runs for 20 on third and two, then for nine on the next snap on a play blocked for six, and then for gains of four and five, now down to the Bears' two. In comes Remound Wright who is stopped dead to rights for a solid second, but the whistle never blows, Wright's legs never stop churning, and eventually he bounces off right tackle for a two-yard, well-earned touchdown.

Stanford 7, California 0, 6:25 remaining, first quarter

David Shaw at home, David Shaw in games to clinch a division, David Shaw in games to clinch a conference, David Shaw after a loss, David Shaw against a California school, David Shaw against this particular California school: lots to like about Stanford's chances even before that Wright touchdown. Meanwhile, Cal goes for fourth and one on its side of the field and gains 17 on a (legal) pick play. So nice decision for the Bears, and they get rewarded with a nice outcome -- no one on Stanford's D truly at fault, just nice play design. Next play, Stanford's defense does bust as a wheel route is open for a touchdown, but the receiver fails to adjust to what looked to be a nice Jared Goff ball. Huge break for the Cardinal D!

The officials then make sure to get their money's worth, with two Cal holds offsetting a Blake Martinez pass interference, and none of the fouls terribly impressive. At least the calls kind of balance out.

Bryce Treggs, onetime Stanford recruit (and son of a Cal great), tiptoes the left sideline for a 19-yard gain, with Goff doing well to look off the defense and find his third or fourth option before the pressure came home. He is the real deal, ladies and gentlemen. Third and five at the Cardinal 13 and this place is as packed as I've ever seen it. The fans in blue are the ones making the most noise at the moment, however, as Stanford's secondary continues to look overwhelmed, giving up an open 11-yard completion down to the two. But if the D can hold at the goalline, Cal can move it between the 20s all day, as far as the Cardianl coaching staff is concerned. Cal can't hang onto a second-down touchdown (their second drop of a would-be touchdown this drive), with Alijah Holder recovering to rake out the ball a split-second after his man gets his first foot down in the back of the end zone, mere feet in front of the goalposts. After a review, call is upheld.

Third and goal from the Cardinal three, biggest snap of the quarter will be one of its last. A rare Goff miscue comes at the worst time, as he had a man in the front right corner of the end zone on a rollout, but fires inches low. As a receiver, you'd still like to dig that ball off the turf, but as the Bears connect on the chip-shot field goal, Stanford fans won't complain.

Stanford 7, Cal 3, End First Quarter

Cal had three bites at the apple this quarter: the wheel route where an open, streaking receiver failed to adjust; Holder's late breakup in the back of the end zone; and Goff's misfire the next play. NFL-caliber receivers make all of those plays, and so you'd like for a college squad to at least convert one of the opportunities. Instead, Cal leaves four points on the field, and they can't afford to do that too many times tonight.


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