No. 22 Stanford holds on to beat Cal
His star running back’s condition in question and a Pac-12 North title not yet attained, Stanford coach David Shaw nonetheless was in good spirits Saturday night after yet another win over archrival California.
His 22nd-ranked Cardinal (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) defeated the Golden Bears 17-14 to extend their winning streak in the series to eight games. Shaw, a former Stanford player, is 7-0 against Cal as head coach.
A Washington victory over Washington State next week in Seattle will give the Cardinal the Pac-12 North title. If that happens, Stanford would play Pac-12 South winner USC in the conference title game Dec. 2 in nearby Santa Clara, Calif.
Shaw, 45, became Stanford’s winningest coach on Saturday with a 72-20 record. Pop Warner had a record of 71-17-8 from 1924 to 1932.
“(The 72 wins) says a lot of the people that are here,” Shaw said. “We have great kids who work extremely hard. We have coaches who get the most out of their players. Hopefully, this will continue on for a long time.”
Stanford’s Heisman Trophy candidate, Bryce Love, gained 101 yards on 14 carries before getting injured in the fourth quarter against Cal, which is 5-6 and 2-6 heading into Friday’s last regular season game at UCLA.
Love, hobbled earlier in the game by a foot injury suffered earlier this season, set an FBS record with his 11th rush of 50 or more yards this season. He broke free for a 57-yard score with 8:57 left in the third quarter. Before that run, which increased Stanford’s lead to 17-6, Love gained only 24 yards on eight carries.
“The young man is amazing,” Shaw said. “He fought his way through it. He broke that long run although he was in pain.”
Love was forced to exit with 11:22 left in the game when his left ankle was twisted while being tackled on a 1-yard run. His ankle was heavily wrapped and he appeared ready to reenter the game, but backup Cameron Scarlett took over.
Concerning Love’s status for next week’s game against visiting Notre Dame, Shaw said, “We’ll see what he’s like.”
Scarlett rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries in a pivotal possession for Stanford that ran the clock out after the Cardinal started their final drive at their 37-yard line with 7:25 remaining.
Scarlett’s 3-yard run gave the Cardinal a fourth-and-1 at the Cal 18 with 2:18 remaining. Shaw went for the first down and Scarlett converted with a 2-yard run. With Cal out of timeouts, the Cardinal went into victory formation.
“There was no decision,” said Shaw when asked why he did not try a field goal instead. “We were in plus territory, it was fourth-and-1 and our coaches have worked so hard to get our guys ready for such a situation.
“There was no question we were going for it.”
Cal running back Patrick Laird gained 153 yards on 20 carries. He answered Love’s 57-yard score with a 39-yard run that put the Golden Bears at the Stanford 1. He ran it into the end zone on the next play, and quarterback Ross Bowers scored a 2-point conversion run to cut the lead to 17-14 with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
Stanford’s Jet Toner missed a 41-yard field goal with 11:13 remaining, one play after Love exited the game.
Cal had the opportunity to tie or take the lead when it drove to the Stanford 48, but Stanford safety Ben Edwards intercepted a Bowers pass with 7:25 left at the 6 and made a 29-yard return.
“This one hurts because we had our chances, but we didn’t make enough plays to win it,” California first-year coach Justin Wilcox said. “We knew every possession would count (the Golden Bears only had six all game), and we knew we had to take advantage of our opportunities and we didn’t. That falls on me.”
The teams played to a battle of field goals most of the first half as neither could muster much offense until Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kaden Smith with 8:17 left in the half.
The pass, which gave Stanford a 10-3 lead, capped a 10-play drive of 70 yards. The Cardinal had 69 yards in two previous possessions of the half.
Laird rushed for 30 yards on four carries and caught an 11-yard pass from Bowers on Cal’s last possession of the half, which resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Matt Anderson with 2:43 left to cut the lead to 10-6.
Anderson, who missed a 47-yarder earlier in the second quarter with the ball bouncing off the crossbar, tied a school record with his 56th career field goal.
“This loss is going to hurt tonight, but we have to flip the switch pretty quick,” Wilcox said. “We have a short week but we have to make it a great week of practice. We travel on Thanksgiving and play the next day. We have to focus on being ready for UCLA.”
NOTES: Saturday’s game marked the 120th meeting between Stanford and Cal, which is tied for the seventh-longest rivalry among FBS programs. The Cardinal lead the series 63-46-11. ... Through 35 career games before Saturday, Stanford RB Bryce Love was averaging 8.19 yards per rush. The FBS career record is 8.26 by Glenn Davis of Army (1943-46). ... First-year Cal coach Justin Wilcox, a defensive coordinator previously at Washington, USC and Wisconsin, is making an immediate impact on the Golden Bears’ defensive execution. Entering Saturday’s game, they were among the national leaders in several defensive categories — tied for eighth in turnovers gained (22), tied for 10th in defensive touchdowns (three), tied for 14th in interceptions (13) and tied for 19th in fumbles recovered (nine).