Last Saturday, amidst intermittent rain and cloudy skies, The Daily Californian defeated The Stanford Daily in the Ink Bowl for the third consecutive year, claiming the trophy, the title and the glory by a final score of 28-14.
For those unfamiliar with the tradition, The Ink Bowl is a yearly flag football game held between the staffs of Stanford and Cal’s student newspapers. The match takes place on the morning of Big Game on the campus of the school hosting the contest that year.
The rules are simple: seven-on-seven flag football, one first down halfway through the field, full contact blocking, no delay on rush, a fumbled ball is a dead ball. One male- and one female-identifying player on the field at any time, at a minimum. Two 25-minute halves, with a running clock.
This year, the brave souls of the Stanford Daily team gathered themselves early in the morning and made the arduous drive down to the East Bay for the 9 a.m. start time. Once all of the participants got to Cal’s Hearst Field, pleasantries were exchanged, bodies were warmed up, and the game began.
The Stanford team was operating at a disadvantage from the get-go. An obligation to travel with KZSU to cover the women’s soccer semifinals in Cary, North Carolina robbed the Stanford team of its starting quarterback, freshman sports writer Daniel Martinez-Krams. Additionally, freshman sports writer Sally Egan had injured her shoulder in rugby practice and could not attend either. These two skill position talents would be sorely missed.
Stanford’s substitute at quarterback was freshman opinions writer Trevor Louis, a high school varsity quarterback who graciously agreed to lend his talents to the Cardinal effort.
It was a rough outing for Louis, however, as the weather threw a serious wrench into gameplay for both teams. While it was no longer actively raining, the field was muddy as hell, and the ball became dirty after every play, becoming difficult to throw effectively (despite the Stanford team wiping it down with a pair of sweatpants after every play).
This was seen in the beginning of the game, as both offenses struggled to move the ball. A three and out for the Cardinal would lead to an attempted punt, which was blocked by Cal, and they took over on the Stanford goal line.
Stanford would not give up the game this early, however, and held an impressive goal line defense, fueled by freshman sports writer Andrew Tan at the free safety position. Despite his height, Tan’s ability to get a hand in coverage broke up several balls during the game.
The defense was also bolstered by excellent coverage over the middle of the field by senior managing editor Bobby Pragada at the middle linebacker position. The Cal quarterback has a penchant for tucking the ball and running for the end zone, and Pragada put an absolute stop to his running, making several clutch tackles and keeping the quarterback contained.
With the ball back in their possession, the Stanford offense still couldn’t get anything going. Even with big-bodied receivers in fifth-year senior sports writer Jake Stuebner and sophomore sports writer King Jemison, Louis’ passes were too inconsistently thrown to find their targets. Moving the ball through the air was not working for the Cardinal.
The team was able to make small gains with screen passes and two-back sets, featuring Tan at running back heavily, as the fastest member of the team. Good blocking from the offensive line, led by freshman news writer Cooper Veit at center, kept option plays open for Stanford.
However, a botched snap from Pragada, playing at center for a single trick play on fourth down and inches, sailed past Louis’ hands and killed a Stanford drive with the score still tied.
The momentum shift was palpable, and Pragada, wracked with guilt at his mistake, took himself out of the game and made the coaching decision to switch Tan to middle linebacker and put sophomore graphics artist Daniel Wu at single-high safety. In busted coverage, the Cal quarterback found a receiver in the end zone for the first score of the day.
Tan expressed to Pragada later in the day that he felt he could have broken up any pass intended for a deep receiver if he were at the safety position. Pragada maintains that Tan’s speed was necessary to keep the Cal quarterback contained.
Stanford continued to struggle moving the ball, and despite great defensive coverage from freshman sports writers Cybele Zhang and Shan Reddy at cornerback, Cal managed to throw another touchdown. Stanford was down 2-0 going into the half.
With quick adjustments, Stanford came out onto the field, forced a turnover and finally executed on a long pass play. With Louis rolling out to his right, he threw across his body to Jemison in traffic in the end zone, who extended above his defenders to come down with the catch.
This would not be enough for Stanford, however, who was dealt the finishing blows in the form of another passing touchdown in broken coverage and a final rushing touchdown from Cal’s secondary quarterback.
On Cal’s final scoring play of the game, their quarterback snapped the ball and scanned the field. Pragada, now playing more zone at his linebacker position, was drawn to the left side of the field by a slot receiver before noticing thequarterback tucking the ball and running to the right. As quickly as he could, Pragada ran to recover, lowering his shoulder into the opposing quarterback as they dove for the pylon, attempting to knock them out of bounds.
Had Pragada weighed 30 to 40 more pounds, the hit he would have laid on the Cal player would have knocked him out cold. His positioning was perfect. Unfortunately, Pragada is a 5-foot-8 skinny Indian kid, weighing in at about 130 pounds. His shoulder caught the opposing player, and he careened right off of him, flipping and landing in a massive mud puddle.
Stanford did not give up and rallied back for another touchdown, a beautiful scramble for nearly half the field by Louis, who bought himself time before pulling the ball down and juking out two defenders as he scampered into the end zone. But by this time, it was too late to make a comeback.
Tempers flew in the final drive as Jemison made a questionable tackle of a Cal running back, nearly grabbing the player in a headlock. Several Cal players on the sideline took an objection to this play, and the confrontation almost escalated as Jemison and Pragada jawed back to the Cal players.
Eventually, time expired, and both sides apologized for tempers flaring and shook hands in the name of sportsmanship. Despite the loss, the Stanford team played hard and left it all on the field. The Ink Bowl is all about the bond between the two schools, the spirit of the rivalry. Without Cal, there is no Stanford, and without Stanford, there is no Cal. Both teams left the field with their heads held high.
Plus, then we waxed them in the football game that actually mattered.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu.