Big Game: View from the Press Box

The two teams slugged it out through the first two and a half quarters in a defensive battle, but Cal made more big plays to pull away with three touchdowns in the final 25 minutes. The Stanford defense made a number of inspiring plays, but the offense struggled throughout. Trent Edwards was knocked out of action for the third time this year behind a turnstile offensive line.

4:02pm - Stanford's captains for today's game are Trent Edwards, Julian Jenkins and Timi Wusu.  All are seniors (Edwards academically), and it is no coincidence that they represent the three units for the Cardinal: offense, defense and special teams.  Those are your MVPs for the Cardinal to this point in the season, and Stanford will be looking for big plays from all three today.  California is on a slide, losing four of their last five, but this is a good football team.

4:05 - The Cardinal captains should hope for the Vegas Bowl in December because their fortune in coin tosses has been awfully good this year.  Stanford wins the toss again today, and once again they will kick off to start the game, deferring the football until the second half.  A few fans have questioned the deferral strategy this year, but with the way the Bears have been turning the ball over, and given the fact that they are starting a green quarterback today, it is absolutely the right call to put the Stanford defense on the field first.  After I have said that, watch Cal race down the field and score...

4:06 - Fifth-year senior wideout Justin McCullum did not show much in pre-game warm-ups.  He was greatly debilitated in practices this week, with one bad shoulder.  This is his last Big Game, with a bowl game on the line.  He would like to gut it out and help on the field, but he just looked so far from playing when he was practicing this week.  Literally operating with one arm.

4:08 - No surprises in Stanford's starting defense.  Same lineup we saw last week in Corvallis, including redshirt sophomore Chris Horn at left defensive end for his second start.

4:09 - Cal is suffering at the quarterback position and starting a former fullback today, so they waste no time in dipping into their bag of tricks.  First play is a reverse, which goes for one yard - stuffed by junior safety Brandon Harrison.

4:10 - Seven yards on three downs means Cal punts early... though David Lonie punts a great one, traveling 45 yards with no return as T.J. Rushing fair catches.

4:11 - Stanford starts several recently injured players on offense - a welcome sign for nervous Cardinalmaniacs™.  Trent Edwards at quarterback; Nick Frank at fullback; Matt Traverso at tight end; Allen Smith at left tackle; and Mark Bradford at wide receiver.  No McCullum, though.

4:12 - Cal has the #3 rush defense in the conference, so we did not expect that fifth-year senior tailback J.R. Lemon would pick up nine yards on first down.  Dare to dream?...

4:13 - Interesting substitution after a short second-down rush moves the chains.  Lemon goes out and Kris Bonifas comes in, while Frank moves back to tailback.  That is a power running lineup in the backfield, but the first-down hand-off is stuffed for a two-yard loss.  Lemon comes back in, and Frank returns to fullback.  Remember, the first 15 plays are scripted...

4:14 - Another first down, this time on a 15-yard completion to Bradford.  That is his first reception since he was injured early in the UCLA game last month.  Also moves the ball across midfield for the first time for either team this game.

4:16 - Stanford's first third-down test.  3rd & 4 at the Cal 43.  Split backs, two wide.  Edwards looks to redshirt junior receiver Marcus McCutcheon on a quick throw to the left, but the ball sails too high.  Little mistakes can loom big.  Stanford had nice field position but must punt.

4:19 - While we sit during this television time out, I'll comment on something I saw walking through the gates today.  Stanford had a big display board showing the new stadium, with a sample seat (individual armrests and chair back) from the future facility for trial, plus a couple of young people to hand out flyers.  That's a good marketing effort to see, for Stanford to drive new season ticket sales with the new stadium.  Although, I didn't see this at earlier home games this fall...

4:20 - Cal picks up its initial first down of the game, and they do so on two straight running plays.  That is unquestionably their strength, and they are unafraid to assert it early.

4:21 - After completing their first pass of the game for short yardage, Cal again hands off.  Redshirt junior safety Trevor Hooper was deep in the backfield, but Justin Forsett showed nifty running to blow by and still pick up five yards and the first down.  That is a little example of the elusiveness and explosiveness that Cal's backs possess, which may outstrip any and every player on the Stanford defense.

4:22 - Brandon Harrison is down on the ground after that play and has to be helped off the field.  In comes redshirt junior David Lofton.  He played primarily at Hooper's spot (free safety) this year, but the trio of safeties spend enough time in practice working at both positions that Lofton should not be ill-prepared.

4:24 - After the injury, Jeff Tedford calls for the deep ball, down the right (Stanford) sideline.  Unknown quarterback Steve Levy connects with fab frosh receiver DeSean Jackson on an underthrown ball against T.J. Rushing.  Jackson  keeps his balance to stay in bounds and runs into the endzone - 56 yards in total.  Too many times in the last month, Stanford has been beaten on deep balls underthrown.  For all the worry about Stanford's speed in its secondary, those are simply missed plays to not find the ball...  Cal's extra point is blocked by Hooper.  0-6, Bears lead.

4:27 - Rushing provides minor atonement by running the ensuing kickoff out to the 37-yard line.

4:28 - Edwards drops back on first down but finds nobody open.  He scrambles to his right and has one man in the open field, who beats Edwards to the corner and tackles him at the line of scrimmage.  Cal has some speed and talent on that defense.  Stanford needs execution to win these battles because they are at an athletic disadvantage.

4:29 - As soon as I say that, Edwards runs 12 yards on a scramble for a first down.  Of note: there were a lot of plays I saw in practice this week where Edwards took off running.  The coaches apparently scouted something in Cal's defense that may give Edwards opportunities to run.

4:30 - Edwards runs yet again, this time for just three yards.  More importantly, he was leveled on a "de-cleater" of a tackle.  Ouch!

4:31 - On third down, Edwards again drops back and again finds nobody open.  This time a linebacker gets into the backfield, and Edwards has to take the sack (seven-yard loss).  There is no sustainable offensive plan that the Cardinal can hope to execute today if the receivers cannot find some space and give Edwards a target.  Strong coverage thus far from the Bears.

4:32 - For the second time today, Jay Ottovegio punts with a short field.  Tim Mixon, who is the #6 punt returner in the nation, fields this punt down at his four-yard line and runs with it.  Stanford's punt coverage has been excellent all year, and they swarm to Mixon, tackling him at the nine-yard line.  The kid has a lot of justifiable confidence in himself, but that was a questionable decision.

4:34 - Harrison is back in the game, with a heavily taped right foot/ankle.  Our first non-injury substitution on defense has fifth-year senior Michael Craven at outside linebacker for Udeme Udofia.

4:35 - Marshawn Lynch is fun to watch.  He just made Jon Alston look slow when they went head-to-head in the backfield, and that is a difficult thing to do.

4:36 - Cal punts from their own 17-yard line, which should give Stanford its best field position today.  But the punt is short and takes a huge Cal role, from mid-field all the way back to the Stanford 31-yard line.  Rushing needs to react sooner when the ball after the ball comes off the punter's foot and get to that.

4:37 - Stanford goes to a shovel pass from Edwards to Lemon on first down, picking up six yards.  We have not seen that in the offense for more than a month.  Coaches like Walt Harris like to show something in their playbook and then tuck it away as the defensive coordinator schemes against and plans for those plays.  Maybe the shovel pass has been out of games long enough that Harris is ready to employ it again.  It will be interesting to see how often Harris calls that today.

4:38 - Edwards takes off on the first designed run of the day, which again mirrors what I saw a good deal in practice this week.  He picks up eight yards and the first down.  Cal is going to start bringing their defensive players a lot closer to the line of scrimmage after all this Edwards scrambling.  Will Stanford be able to take advantage on the deep ball when that happens?

4:39 - Redshirt freshman tailback Anthony Kimble is in the game.  Picks up a couple yards on his first carry, hit immediately at the line of scrimmage...  Edwards takes a huge sack on the next play.  There is no question that Stanford's offense presents far less of a threat than Cal's right now.  You can just see that Cal is more dangerous.  Stanford is going to need some breaks...

4:42 - The first quarter is already over.  That was fast!  No penalties thus far, and a good deal of running from both teams that has kept the clock running.

4:44 - Ottovegio is Stanford's MVP thus far in the game, and that is not a good thing.  He just punted for the third time, again putting the ball inside the 10-yard line.  Mixon runs it out to the 15.  The key to that punt, which helped the coverage unit, was that it was placed right next to the sideline.  40 yards and into the corner.  Outstanding.

4:45 - Next defensive substitution for the Cardinal has outside linebacker Timi Wusu in for Jon Alston...  Wusu comes up huge right away, stuffing a 3rd & 1 running play for a six-yard loss.  A tremendous kid and great athlete who has been injured too much for his career to ever take off, Wusu wants to make an impact better late than never at Stanford.

4:47 - Stanford is going to start this next possession in Cal territory at the 47-yard line.  Excepting the one 56-yard pass connection, Stanford has done its job on defense.  The Cardinal offense is consistently starting in better field position than the Bears; they had better take advantage of the short fields.

4:50 - Stanford is insistent on establishing the running game, and they start this possession with two tight ends to shore up blocking.  Lemon is a single back and gets the hand-off but just one yard.  Walt Harris is like any other coach in America and hates long down-and-distance situations like 2nd & 9.

4:51 - On third down, Stanford again has a double-tight formation but this time releases junior Patrick Danahy on a crossing pattern.  Edwards hits him for a 10-yard gain and the first down.  If your receivers are not getting the job done wide, go to your bevy of talented tight ends to move the ball - absolutely.

4:53 - After trying a deep out route to Bradford that went high and incomplete, Stanford goes again to the tight end.  This time it is a middle screen to redshirt junior tight end Matt Traverso, which picks up 12 yards and puts Stanford in the red zone for the first time today (19-yard line).  Saw that exact play to Traverso in practice this week.  This offense looks just like what they practiced, which is probably why practices were closed.

4:54 - The first time out of the game is called at 10:47 in the second quarter.  Stanford has 2nd & 9 at the 18.  While most fans are thinking of which passing play should be drawn up for which target in the endzone (corner fade to Bradford?), I am thinking that Stanford needs to at a minimum not give up a big sack.  Edwards has been dropped already twice in this game, and the Cardinal really could use points on this possession.  For the record, I would go again to the middle screen to Traverso.  Though the time out does give Cal time to tell its players to watch the tight end, after Danahy's and Traverso's plays on this drive...

4:56 - Not a sack, but Stanford takes a loss of a yard when Edwards flares out to Frank in the flat.  The junior fullback had green in front of him, but the ball was high and a little behind, which put Frank off-balance.  That play is supposed to hit the back with his momentum going forward to get upfield.    Edwards has been exquisitely precise this year on his throws, but he is just off his game thus far today.  Again, the little things can undo a drive and ultimately change the outcome in a tight game like this...

4:58 - On third down, Edwards does throw a fade to Bradford in the back right corner of the endzone, and Bradford is held with one arm pinned all the way while the ball travels to him.  He still gets a hand on it but has little chance.  That should have been flagged, and would have moved Stanford closer to the goalline...  Fifth-year senior kicker Michael Sgroi comes on for the 37-yard field goal, which is good.  That at least puts points on the board, and tugs a little momentum to the home team.  3-6, Bears still on top.

5:01 - Sgroi hammers his kickoff out the back of the endzone.  That is the second unreturnable boot by Sgroi.  The specialists have brought their "A" game for Stanford today.

5:02 - Forcett takes a pitch outside, which is something we have seen several times already.  Cal wants to employ its speed outside and stay ahead from the Cardinal brick wall in the middle.  But fifth-year senior Kevin Schimmelmann was the faster man on this play, blazing into the backfield and hitting Forcett for a five-yard loss...  Schimmelmann makes the next tackle on second down... Schimmelmann blitzes on third down to hurry the throw, which goes to Jackson in the backfield but is hammered by junior Michael Okwo for a three-yard loss.  The Stanford linebackers just look fantastic so far.  They are healthy and deep, which allows rotation, which allows fresh and fast legs.

5:04 - Stanford starts on their 39-yard line and again looks to run on first down.  AGAIN Lemon is stuffed - no gain.  It's an oft repeated theme this year, but boy does your offense play behind the eight ball when the running game gives you nothing.

5:05 - Very next play is an attempted middle screen from Edwards to Lemon, but he is blasted by a Cal defender - knocking the ball loose for an incompletion.  Looking at the speed from both of these defenses, this has all the markings of a low-scoring game.

5:06 - Even when Ottovegio kicks low and allows a return, that stellar punt coverage swarms to the ball.  Mixon had all kinds of green but was met so quickly by a wall of Cardinal.  The special teams continues to help Stanford with field position.

5:08 - Cal actually passes on first down, a short comeback that picks up seven yards.  That will given them confidence in their playcalling.

5:11 - After a first down, Cal has a run stuffed for a loss of two by fifth-year senior nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo.  But he is slow to get up...  Alston make the first big hit on the Cal quarterback, forcing a fumble the Bears recover... 3rd & 17, and Stanford has good enough coverage to give the front players time to get through the Cal block.  Redshirt freshman Gustav Rydstedt gets to Levy first, and then Okwo comes in to bring him down for the sack.  Levy or not, the Stanford defense is getting the job done.  Just that one play has them trailing, though.  Big Game can be like that.

5:14 - Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Allen Smith is down on the ground after an incompletion, in obvious pain and clutching his left knee.  Trainers come on the field; he rises to his feet mostly under his own power.  He walks off the field, though gingerly.  That brings fellow redshirt frosh Ben Muth into the game at left tackle.  Edwards has already taken hits today, but now he has a second stringer protecting his blind side.

5:16 - Stanford comes back with a quick-developing pass play to Traverso for 14 yards and a first down.  Good call...  But there it is - Edwards takes a sack on the next play.  Two Bears bear down on him in a hurry.  Cal will want to attack right now.

5:17 - Cal takes a time out.  They have Stanford back on their 27-yard line with 2nd & 18 at 1:13 in the second quarter.  They look to be playing for one more offensive possession.

5:19 - Stanford runs the ball, predictably.  Walt Harris has just about always run the ball in "conservative" clock situations this year when you expect him to.  Harris plays the percentages.  He gets a big boost here that maybe he didn't expect, though, when Frank picks up 11 yards.  Cal takes another time out at 1:06.  I would disagree at this point with Cal's clock strategy.  Should Stanford somehow pick up a first down, they would have time outs left and a good chance to put points on the board.  Even if a punt comes, Stanford has moved the ball enough, and they have such a strong punting game, that it seems likely they will get unfavorable field position... with a backup quarterback to lead the hurry-up drill.

5:21 - Harris smells the opportunity and calls a pass, but with nobody open, Edwards has to run.  He has some daylight but clearly not enough with a pair of defenders closing on him.  He comes up a yard short of the marker, but more importantly forces Cal to use their last time out.  Stanford is now all the way out at their 44.  I don't get this by Tedford...

5:23 - Well, the punt is poor, which makes Tedford look smarter.  Ottovegio drops it out of bounds at the 28 - just 34 yards.  I would have figured that ball to go inside the 20.

5:24 - So Cal comes out and throws on first down, incomplete.  There are 42 seconds left on the clock.  If Stanford makes a stop here, Walt Harris can turn the tables and call time outs.  I would...  Cal runs for just two yards, into a wall of defense.  Sure enough, Harris calls a time out.  Now 35 left on the clock, and Cal is looking at 3rd & 8.  Does Cal run and make Stanford eat their final time out, or do they still look downfield with some hope in their hurry-up offense?

5:26 - The Cal offense hurried up - to punt - on that drive.  Cal sits at their own 32 with fourth down.  Stanford has no more time outs, which means they will certainly kneel out when they get the ball back.  They are playing here for a punt block or a big Rushing return.  Anything else should send us into halftime.

5:28 - Stanford brings the heat, and Wusu gets the leg of the punter and draws the first penalty of the game.  It is a 15-yarder, which totally changes the remainder of this half.  Now Cal is out at the 47 and needs just a couple completions for field goal range.  Stanford fans don't like the call (surprise), given how little Wusu got of the punter.  But that was a legit flag.  The punter is unprotected immediately following his kick.  The question you could ask is if it was truly roughing, or just "runing into kicker."  The latter would have been five yards and not reset the chains for Cal.

5:30 - All a moot point; Cal goes nowhere and takes us into the locker room.

5:33 - Both offenses have showed spurts, but the defenses are dominating the game.  It would be shocking if the offenses get on track in the second half, unless some injuries or creative playcalling shake this game up.  A 3-6 final seems unlikely, but from where does the remaining scoring come?  Probably the same way Cal put their touchdown on the board.  Just.  One.  Big.  Play.  This game may come down to one individual making one outcome-altering play.

5:48 - If you are not a Stanford or Cal fan, and you are watching this game on television, you likely have turned the channel by now.  Fans on both sides bemoaned the lack of coverage for this game by ABC - limiting it regionally.  With over 400 yards punting in this game through two quarters, against just a shade over 200 total offensive yards, you have to say that ABC made the smart call.  It is a tightly contested game, which leaves Cardinal and Bears fans on the edge of their seat, but it's not pretty to watch, folks.

5:53 - Stanford starts the second half with the ball, which makes you smile in this narrow game...  But starting on your own 19-yard line is not exciting in the least bit.  The kickoff return game seems to have dropped off a good deal since the opening few outings this year.

5:54 - Allen Smith is back in the game at left tackle.

5:55 - Stanford is in a hole in a hurry, with 3rd & 9 at their own 20.  Edwards sits in the pocket and has enough protection to find Traverso for 11 yards.  That was big.  Traverso leads Stanford with three receptions and 37 yards to this point.

5:56 - There again is a big sack - the fifth of the game for Cal of Edwards.  It costs the Cardinal 10 yards, but maybe much more.  Edwards is on the ground, and the game is stopped while trainers tend to him.  They are looking at his left arm/hand.  He walks off the field, with no apparent lower-body injury...

5:58 - Redshirt sophomore quarterback T.C. Ostrander is into the game.  He received little work in practice this week, with Edwards dominating the snaps.  That is a roll of the dice that Harris takes - preparing his starter as much as possible, but leaving the backup in bad straits...  Sure enough, Ostrander botches the hand-off to Frank on the first play in the game, though they fix the exchange and Frank motors in a hurry to pick up a surprising seven yards.  Stanford will be severely challenged on offense with Ostrander in the game, not because Ostrander is a bad quarterback but instead because of his scant preparation.  Harris' offense asks so much of the quarterback...

5:59 - After an Ostrander sack, Stanford punts.  Ottovegio falls to the ground after a Cal rusher makes contact, which should have been flagged.  There was very little difference between this play and the one that drew 15 yards against Wusu.

6:03 - Momentum moved to the Cal sideline when Edwards left the game - that is assured.  But they just grabbed more with a 12-yard run on first down that reached the third level of the defense.

6:04 - Tedford feels that momentum, too, and throws deep at Robert Jordan down the left side.  The ball is overthrown, and Rushing is there to try for the interception, but he cannot come up with the ball.  A turnover could be the game-changing play, and Rushing needs to come up with the ball for the Cardinal.  That ball hit him right in the hands.  I expected more out of the senior and The Bootleg Magazine cover boy this year

6:05 - On 3rd & 5, Stanford has good coverage downfield, but Levy takes off.  The former fullback does big damage with a 21-yard pickup.  Cal will soon move into scoring range.  That was precisely the big individual play I discussed earlier that could decide the game.  Levy may have just made the play of the game.  If Cal puts up points here, Stanford will be looking out of a deep hole.

6:07 - There it is.  Levy runs the option and pitches to Forsett while Wusu dives at the quarterback.  Forsett darts up the field for 25 yards, blowing by Hooper, and is tackled across the goalline.  That was a 71-yard drive in two and a half minutes.  3-13, Cal takes a two score lead.  Stanford will need to make some offensive changes and gambles (or a big special teams play) in the final 26:33 of the game to catch up.  More of the same will just tire out Ottovegio's leg.  Kudos again to Levy, who ran twice with the ball on that drive for first downs.  There is your Big Game hero.

6:11 - Ostrander back into the game as the offense takes the field.  Muth is at left tackle.

6:11 - Stanford turns to its third-string tailback in redshirt sophomore Jason Evans in search of some semblance of a running game, but he loses two yards on his first touch.

6:12 - Ostrander sits in the pocket, with good protection, and finds Traverso for 18 yards.  That has to give a big boost to the young quarterback.

6:13 - Ostrander gives almost all of that back with a 12-yard sack...  A screen pass to Evans loses another couple yards...  3rd & 24 with your backup quarterback in the game is a brutal place to be.  Harris runs a draw to get back 11 yards.  It will be up to the Stanford defense to get a turnover for the Cardinal to have any chance at bringing the Axe back home.  No Edwards, no McCullum and no running game = no offense.

6:17 - This is where a Tedford team runs the ball relentlessly to control possession, the clock, and beat down the opposing defense...  And then I see Cal turn to passing plays on both second and third downs.  The first is incomplete, the second is covered, but Levy scrambles 10 yards for the first down.  A story in the first half was Edwards running with the ball, but Levy is now the one making the big pickups on the ground.

6:20 - Lofton has been playing for a while now in place of Harrison, despite that appearance we saw from the injured junior when he returned for a stretch.  He just lost his man in coverage to let tight end Craig Stevens run wide open for an easy 26 pitch-and-catch.  As coaches like to say, the margin for error in a game is a slim one.  That mistake just moved the ball a big chunk.

6:22 - Levy scrambles once again, though this time he finds redshirt junior inside linebacker Mike Silva running at him, so Levy is hurried into a poor throwing decision.  Fifth-year senior Jon Alston is there to pick it off.  That is the first turnover in the game, and Stanford will need several to catch up.

6:23 - Stanford started at the 32-yard line but kill themselves with a five-yard Ostrander sack right off the bat.  This offense is moving backward every time they touch the ball...  More reversing of field comes on a shovel pass (hey, Harris did go to it again) that is sniffed out as soon as Lemon catches it.

6:24 - It has been suggested to me that Ostrander is most comfortable when he moves around the field.  He did that on every down in high school at Menlo-Atherton behind a terrible offensive line.  It's his comfort zone.  He scrambles here and pulls up short of the line of scrimmage so that he can throw to fifth-year senior wide receiver Gerren Crochet for 18 yards.  Tremendous vision and decision by the redshirt sophomore.  Stanford may not score here, but that play helped in the field position battle and has to greatly boost Ostrander's confidence.

6:25 - Ostrander looks for Crochet deep, deep down the field and puts the ball on him.  Crochet drops the ball when he is hit.  That is a "must" play, particularly for a fifth-year senior in the Big Game.  I like Gerren; he's a great kid.  He has made a few plays this year, and he is an underrated blocker at the receiver position.  But several times this year had the chance to go up and make a play but not gotten it done.  For a wide receiver, it is not all about speed or separation.  There is an ill-defined quality that manifests in simply making a tough play.  I wish Crochet showed that more because he is a kid you want to see succeed.

6:31 - We are at the end of the third quarter.  Just 15 minutes remain for this Stanford team to dig down and find a way to reclaim the Axe.  The outlook is decidedly bleak right now.

6:33 - Cal is flagged on the first play of the fourth quarter with their first penalty of the game - two actually, only one of which Stanford can accept.  Stanford still has just the one penalty that came when Wusu roughed the punter.  Ugly though these offenses have been, you have to commend the teams for playing cleanly.  You could say that Stanford (and to an extent, Cal, too) is executing terribly on offense, but you would expect to see more penalties if they were sloppy.  That argues to me that Cal's defense deserves a good deal of credit, and Stanford's does on the other side of the coin, as well.

6:35 - The Stanford defense stands tall and tries to give themselves some chance.  Alston flashes into the backfield and takes down Lynch for a three-yard loss.  The effort and ability of this defense, especially the seniors, makes you wish so much that the offense could give them a chance to win.

6:35 - Rushing is out as the punt returner, with Crochet in his place.  But Crochet runs backward on his first return opportunity and is dropped for a two-yard loss.

6:37 - Bradford has not made a reception since the one early in the first quarter.  He is out on the field every play, however.  He is simply not getting open.  He may have been "healthy enough" to play in this game, but he is clearly not back to form physically.  Bradford never once in Tuesday's or Wednesday's practices ran a play during seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 competition.  With no McCullum today, Bradford is commended for trying out there.  The mind is willing, but the body is not able.  Bradford will need to heal a good deal this next week for Stanford to have an respectable chance against Notre Dame.

6:39 - Stanford is finally getting some production at tailback.  Evans is in the game and picks up a tough seven yards on a pair of carries.

6:40 - The work by Evans pays off not just in the yardage gained, but also allowing Ostrander to sell play-action.  A nice fake is followed by a strike to Crochet down the right (Cal) sideline for 22 yards.  Can Crochet hear me type?  Prove me wrong, buddy...

6:42 - Ostrander has to scramble to his right and then heaves a deep ball to an open Bradford on the Cal sideline.  The ball leads Bradford to the outside, and he catches it just as he goes out of bounds.  The official on the spot rules the play incomplete, out of bounds.  This is an obvious candidate for instant replay...  The Cal defender for some reason lost Bradford for a second, leaving the junior wideout with a good five yards on him down the field.  If that ball is put on the money, it's a quick six...

6:45 - Mark it down (no pun intended), the first instant replay review of the 108 years of Big Game goes Stanford's way.  Bradford is ruled in bounds, and the Cardinal move to the 15-yard line on the 29-yard reception.  A touchdown here would pull Stanford back into the game, against all odds.

6:46 - Exhilaration is replaced immediately by exasperation, as Ostrander is tripped up while he pulls away from center.  He tosses the ball toward Frank, who falls on it for an eight-yard loss.

6:47 - Already at third down, Stanford is about to squander their best opportunity of the day...  Ostrander has a pass rusher in his face up the middle, in the blink of an eye.  He makes a nifty move to his left, and then rolls to his left.  Ostrander has to throw across his body but gets it in the vicinity of Bradford in the back left corner of the endzone - incomplete.

6:48 - Sgroi's attempted field goal goes wide right, which may have sucked the last of Stanford's life out of this game.  The Card wanted a touchdown in the red zone but needed a minimum of the field goal.  That big play by Ostrander and Bradford now is tantamount to a punt, with Cal taking over at their 23-yard line.

6:50 - Lynch carries on first down and is surrounded by Stanford defenders on all sides.  They take a while to tackle him to the ground because so many of them are trying to pry the ball loose.  The turnover is Stanford's only chance in this game, as we tick under nine minutes...

6:52 - Forcett is almost stopped in the backfield, when Oshinowo hits him initially and then redshirt sophomore defensive end Mike Macellari grabs his face mask.  But the back breaks loose and reverses field to his left, ultimately picking up 29 yards.  Tack on another 15.  Cal is going to put more points on the board and make this game look like a decisive victory.  Whether the margin will be representative or not, their players are clearly making more plays.

6:55 - Bears are knocking on the door, sitting at the Stanford eight-yard line with 1st & Goal.  They call time out before the play clock hits zeros.  It will take a real blunder for them to not put the nail in the Cardinal's coffin right here.

6:56 - Lynch powers up the middle for five yards...  Stanford shows some confusion in the defensive playcalling, with players scrambling on and off the field late in the play clock.  It looked like Stanford wanted to put in their goalline defense but substituted late.  Kevin Schimmelmann calls a time out.  It probably will not make a difference, but it's the right thing to do.  Until Cal scores, this is still a 10-point game with half a quarter to go.  Put everything you can into stopping the Bears here.

6:59 - Sad.  Stanford stacks the middle, where Lynch looks to run, but he bounces to the right when he sees nobody there.  Literally, he walks into the endzone with an effortless trot.  3-20, Cal takes a commanding lead.

7:00 - This is the third straight year where Trent Edwards could not play to the end of Big Game.  Injuries have twice (2003, 2005) knocked him out of the game, and once he was injured coming into the game (2004).  Token though it may sound, that has to be a goal for Edwards in 2006 for his fifth year on The Farm - to finish Big Game (and of course finish with the Axe in his hands).

7:02 - Stanford is in the hurry-up offense, and twice Ostrander has rolled out of the pocket to then make completions for first downs.  Looking to next year, or even next week if Edwards cannot play, Harris has to think about the difference between his two quarterbacks.  Call a different set of plays for Ostrander.

7:03 - Another pass is completed to move the chains, this time to redshirt junior Marcus McCutcheon...  But on the next play, Ostrander is sacked and fumbles the ball into the air.  Redshirt junior offensive guard Josiah Vinson dives onto the ball, but he cannot get a handle and ends up pushing it into the air.  Cal recovers, which puts cement boots on any thoughts of late-minute heroics for Ostrander and Stanford.

7:05 - Lynch just ran for 22 yards.  Cal is in the red zone already.  Stanford's defense is losing its legs as they stay longer and longer on the field.  They have to play for pride right here, to keep Cal from making this game look any worse.

7:09 - This will not make Stanford fans happy at all.  With the game well in hand and just three and a half minutes to go, the Bears are pulling out the stops to score.  Reserve running back Terrell Williams just tossed a halfback pass into the endzone for a touchdown to tight end Craig Stevens.  3-27, Cal is piling it on.  As the saying goes, it's Stanford's job to stop Cal and not Cal's job.  Just an extra little salt in a painful wound, in the big picture.

7:11 - Time to head downstairs for post-game locker room interviews.  This won't be any fun, but the job has to be done...

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