"View From The Press Box": Big Game

In what could be the final football piece of his TheBootleg.com career (we hope not!), Daniel Novinson blogs the first half of yesterday's memorable 20-13 victory in the 110th Big Game. It may not have been a thing of beauty, but there is nothing quite like a win over a favored arch rival, one that broke the curse of the new stadium once and for all.Go Cardinal!We've got the Axe!We've got the Axe!

"View From The Press Box": Big Game

Pregame: Stanford-Cal. 110th Big Game. I know, I'm a dork, but the Stanford and Cal newspapers battled in the "Ink Bowl" this morning. I was one of our better players - so right away you should have known we were in trouble - and Cal brought, no exaggeration, 40 kids to our nine. For the record, each school was encouraged to bring whatever they'd find helpful. They brought a laminated playbook; we brought a keg. No surprise then that the Weenies jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead (despite my own horse-collar tackle of a Cal wideout in the flag football game). However, after the break, yours truly threw touchdowns, first on a halfback toss pass and then again on a game-ending hook-and-lateral of beauty. Take that, Starkey! We lost 32-28 but the Daily staff dominated the second half, the subsequent drinking contests and the all-important fun category - and heck, their girls knew it too. 

4:15 pm: Okay, I don't know if that's the keg in me, but I believe in Stanford Football. Oh wait, maybe it was that Clinton Snyder fumble recovery on a beautiful three-person sack of Longshore. Now I'm delusional, after Cal decides not to cover Mark Bradford - literally the most consistent playmaker on our entire roster - and the senior from L.A. jogs untouched into the end zone. 7-0 Stanford, five minutes into the ballgame. 

4:18 pm: Landon Johnson and Nate Wilcox-Fogel bring down LaVelle Hawkins at the nine. A sentence I'd never dream I'd write. The next run up the middle goes nowhere and Cal soon faces a third & long. 

4:24 pm: But when there is light at the end of the tunnel for a Stanford fan, you're forgetting you're only halfway through the tunnel. Stanford leaves a receiver open on the third down - that's good for a first, and then soon-to-be Big Game hero Nick Sanchez can't keep up with Robert Jordan - that's good for seven and a  7-7 tie eight minutes in. 

4:30 pm: A rarely-called reverse with an option pass from Mark Bradford. Not the world's tightest spiral (stick to wideout at the next level, Mark!) and so Bernard Hicks snags the wounded duck for an easy pick. Still, I'm loving Harbaugh's aggressive playcalling in this game. Go for the throat, baby. 

4:33 pm: Stanford has absolutely no answer as Cal's running game continues to out-juke the Stanford defense, nine yards down the field on a first down. 

4:33 pm: Finally, a three & out stuff! Stanford shuts down Cal's running game with a one-yard loss, and subsequent forced punt. 

4:39 pm: I know the field's slippery, but fire Cal's equipment manager (and promote ours)! The Bears seem to be slipping and sliding much, much more than we are - and hopefully our heroes can capitalize on this drive. 

4:44 pm: Sarcasm overheard in the press box: "Who wants it least?: Big Game 2007." Fair enough, after a sloppy, sloppy first quarter ends knotted at seven. Early warning: Longshore is a perfect six-of-six for 83 yards and a touchdown. Stanford's giving (too much?) respect to the Cal wideouts with 10-yard cushions on each snap. But, a) we're offsetting that by run- blitzing the heck out of the Bears and b) Longshore has struggled with accuracy throughout his Berkeley career, make him nickel & dime it up the field. 

4:50 pm: Derek Belch, why did we ever doubt you? That's a 36-yard field goal to cap a 15-play, 58-yard drive, and Stanford leads 10-7 two minutes into the second. 

4:55 pm: Leggo my Egboh! Pannel has been an absolute beast up front, again disrupting the Cal running game (the biggest surprise to me thus far, as I thought Cal would go 35 for 220 on the ground). Still, the Bears continue to drive down the field as we near the 5:00 pm hour, now facing a fresh set of downs at the Card 17. Hey, we just need to convince Coach Tedford to put in Riley Skinner, right? 

5:04 pm: Cal, 2nd & 18 at Stanford's 25, run up the middle going nowhere. Oh wait, that's a personal foul and 3rd & 28. Thank goodness, because Cal gets 24 on a hitch to the right on the next snap, but has to settle for the game-tying field goal with 7:10 left in the second. Stanford's been outgained 199 to 126 (and the turnovers are even at one apiece), but hey, it's 10-10. Can't ask for much more my senior year! 

5:11 pm: I know, I know, we hate them. But as I've said, their girls are at least as cute and now their band has at least cleared our band's bar, playing Apache's "Jump On It" to devastating effect. I feel like Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi though - so busy writing about Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and whoever else sucked up to him in Hollywood that he forgets about the game entirely. Purely football focus here forward, I promise. 

5:12 pm: As promised, football second-guessing: a) Why did TC start only to have Tavita to come in halfway through the first? I don't think either quarterback's backers would have wanted this. Identify the best signalcaller and put him under center, no excuses and no taking account of bruised feelings [Editor: the staff's brilliant dual-headed monster QB strategy would only later be made apparent], b) Why haven't we thrown more than 15 yards down the field? Guess it is due to doubts about our quarterbacks' accuracy and arms strength. 

5:14 pm: Time for a hissy fit? Richard Sherman drops a third & four out route that hits both his hands with 5:30 left in the half. Stanford shows that they're going for it at the Berkeley 29 and Cal burns a timeout to prepare. 

5:16 pm: Richard Sherman, marry me! Don't know why I commented on the mercurial personality, as our sensational sophomore pulls in an eight-yard slant and picks up a defensive pass interference call to move the chains. Stanford should be leading heading into halftime, who'd have thought it? 

5:18 pm: At some point in the ballgame, expectations meet harsh reality. This is that point. Stanford, stop running the ball. Trust me, in my game plan, I too had us going for 120 on 25 touches. My dreams also have me putting a ring on Baby Spice's finger. (She was my first-ever crush and I was 11, let's not judge.). At the end of today though, neither is going to happen. Let's adjust to reality, get our scoring offense out there, and put the ball in Tavita's hands. 

5:19 pm: Derek Belch, first-half co-MVP, alongside...maybe Richard Sherman? The odds I could have gotten on that pregame. But hey, good ball control offense, good clock drainage and Stanford leads 13-10 with 3:46 left in the first half after a 38-yard Belch field goal. 10 plays, 41 yards in 3:18. 

5:32 pm: My atheism is coming under fire here. While we're 2-of-2, now it's Cal who misses a chip-shot field goal, this one a 38-yarder. Stanford is going to air it out with 20 seconds left in the half, but barring a 1982-inspired miracle, your Cardinal will lead the 13-point favorite Bears heading into halftime. 

5:34 pm: No miracles and it's halftime baby, Stanford 13, Cal 10. Final: Phil Knight 38, Corvallis 31 in double-overtime. Cal brings on the Gestapo, err, marching band for halftime and it's the Nintendo halftime. Pong, Tetris, Mortal Kombat, Pokemon, Legend of Zelda and Mario, in order. Who are you playing for, though? The current college students are too young to remember the original versions of these games, which came onto the marketplace about the same time I came out of the womb, and the donors who pay enough to get tickets to Big Game are way too old for this. Maybe Mr. Fleming appreciates it up the broadcast booth and Mr. Eubanks down on the field, but that's an audience of two. Someone should have researched their market a little more thoroughly beforehand. 5:43pm: Oh wait, actual numbers: Stanford 111 yards to Cal's 176. Cal's 13-of-18 through the air, and the Cardinal just 11-of-20. Say hello to your leading rusher, nephew of the one, the only Throwin' Samoan… Tavita Pritchard, with 22 yards on three scrambles. Meanwhile, Forsett's run for 82 yards on 14 touches and the Bears are 4-of-7 on third downs and have 17 minutes of first half possession. And we're winning why again? Jim Harbaugh for President. (And TC's been really good at 8-of-14 for 90 yards and a score, considering the few passes Sherman's dropped.) Defense is playing out of their minds, and Cal's panicking now that we're covering their top playmakers. Oh, and hey, if we have the right to complain about injuries, how about the fact that Cal's without DeSean Jackson. Think he might have made a difference through 30? 

5:48 pm: Now, I would never be happier to be dead wrong (after all, I called a 17-7 halftime lead for the Bears, so certainly have been incorrect in the past), but I think Cal pounds one in the mid-third, adds one in the fourth, and hits a icing field goal for good measure while our offense really doesn't do much of anything in the stretch as Cal sells out to the pass, and it's a 24-16 Berkeley final, much the same as in Walt Harris' last game. Interestingly, in my scenario, the same Big Game result that was enough to get Harris fired will give the optimists reason to prop up Coach Harbaugh (as they should, don't get me wrong!) in the nine months to come. [Editor: We think Daniel was trying to pull a "negative jinx" by predicting a Cal victory - and it seems to have worked.] 

5:57 pm: Okay, just had some fun on the KZSU halftime show, just saw senior defensive end Udeme Udofia pressure Cal's Longshore into a stall on a third &14 near midfield, just caught the eye of that cute Daily Cal writer, and oh yeah, it's my senior year, people. I'm going onto the field to do my less-than-objective best to will our guys to victory. I'm sure you are all doing your part in the stands, and you know as well as I do that these next 90 minutes will make all the difference in how we look upon this season.

When he's not covering Cardinal Football and Men's Basketball for TheBootleg.com, Daniel Novinson writes men's basketball for the Stanford Daily (www.stanforddaily.com) and broadcasts it on KZSU (90.1 FM, kzsu.stanford.edu)

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