There’s nothing quite like the magic of college football rivalries. If it weren’t for the powers of unfiltered, mutual hate, the third Saturday in November would be just another day on the calendar, phrases like the “Iron Bowl” or “Michigan-Ohio State” wouldn’t get hearts racing and — if it weren’t for rivalries — would people really go crazy for the chance to claim an old, worn-down axe? We wouldn’t have one of the most iconic plays in college football.
That’s right — on Saturday, Stanford and Cal resume their rivalry for the ages as the Big Game again descends on Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. While both teams come into this matchup with identical 5-5 records, Stanford had the Bears’ number in the last few years. Let’s take a look back at the last three Big Games.
2011: Another Stroke of Luck
After leading the Cardinal to a Big Game win in 2010 (and annihilating a Cal defender in the process), Andrew Luck was again the star of Stanford’s come-from-behind victory in 2011. On a soggy night at Stanford Stadium, Luck recovered from an early interception to help Stanford squeak out a 31-28 victory. Ryan Hewitt became the pride of all fullbacks anytime, anywhere with a team-high 7 receptions while Coby Fleener sealed the deal by recovering an onside kick in the waning moments of the game. The Bears, led by Keenan Allen’s 97 receiving yards, fought hard, but there was just too much Luck on Stanford’s side in this one. With the win, the Card recovered from a devastating loss to Oregon a week earlier and continued their furious march to another BCS Bowl.
2012: The October Experiment
A Big Game in October? In 2012, this blasphemy became a reality in Berkeley and the product on the field was equally bizarre. Stanford’s juggernaut offense of just a year ago looked absolutely anemic, despite Stepfan Taylor grinding his way to 189 rushing yards. Conversely, the once-suspect Stanford defense didn’t just shut the door on Cal — they slammed it in the Bears’ face. Led by stellar performances from Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov, Stanford held Cal to just 1-14 on third down and grinded out a 21-3 win to keep the Axe on the Farm.
2013: Montgomery runs Wild
As Cal experienced the pains of a rebuilding year under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, the Bears ran into an angry Stanford squad coming off of a loss to USC that dashed any hopes of a national title. The result was Big Game history.
Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery singlehandedly took down the Bears with 5 (5!) touchdowns in the first half. In the second half, Tyler Gaffney delivered the finishing blow with a long run out of the Wildcat for a touchdown. When the dust finally settled, the Cardinal emerged as 63-13 victors, the largest margin of victory in Big Game history.
What will 2014 bring? If history has taught us anything, we can never really know. But when you bring two teams fighting for a bowl berth who just happen to disdain each other to the core, how can the result be anything but epic?
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.