Austin Jones ran for a pair of short touchdowns, Davis Mills threw for 205 yards and a TD, and Stanford blocked a would-be tying extra point in the final minute to take back The Axe trophy by beating Bay Area rival California 24-23 in the Big Game on Friday.
Christopher Brown Jr. ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 58 seconds remaining then Thomas Booker got a hand on Dario Longhetto’s PAT attempt, sending the Cardinal cheering and celebrating along their sideline. Once the clock ran out, Stanford players danced and hooted and hollered some more on Cal’s home turf in Memorial Stadium.
The Cardinal spoiled Cal’s long-awaited home opener — it had been scheduled for Nov. 7 against Washington but that game got canceled because of a positive coronavirus test on the Bears.
This marked the first time both Cal and Stanford were winless coming into the game, and they also had never previously faced off on a Friday.
Michael Wilson had 88 yards on seven catches with a touchdown for Stanford (1-2), playing for the first time in nearly two weeks after last week’s scheduled home game against Washington State got canceled because of a positive COVID-19 test among the Cougars.
This marked just the second game for Mills, held out of the season-opening loss at Oregon on Nov. 7 for what wound up to be a testing protocol mistake later acknowledged by the Pac-12.
The Cardinal had a nine-game Big Game winning streak snapped last season with a 24-20 home loss. They are now 9-1 in the rivalry under 10th-year coach David Shaw.
Jones ran for a 2-yard touchdown that put Stanford ahead early in the third but the Golden Bears (0-3) answered right back to tie it on Nikko Remigio’s 3-yard TD reception from Chase Garbers set up by Damien Moore’s 54-yard burst.
Garbers led Cal to the end zone on its opening drive, capped by a 7-yard touchdown throw to Kekoa Crawford, but the Bears couldn’t quite pull off back-to-back Big Game victories.
Brown made things interesting, rushing 15 yards on third-and-10 from the 19 in the final two minutes, setting up first-and-goal and his scoring run three plays later.
Garbers completed his initial seven passes while Mills began 8 for 10 and hit Wilson on an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter that sent the teams into halftime notched at 10-all.
The teams combined to convert just 3 of 10 third downs in the first half.
After missing all four of his field-goal tries in the defeat at Oregon, Jet Toner has been a perfect 4 of 4 since. He kicked a 27-yard field goal on the first play of second quarter.
STEALING A GLIMPSE
More than 50 people hiked up Tightwad Hill for a view of the game despite school officials urging fans not to be on the hill given the pandemic.
Cal announced the popular viewing spot for those without a ticket because you can see down into Memorial Stadium from Charter Hill would be off limits.
Stanford: The Cardinal committed to being better on special teams and more effective in the third quarter after a 35-32 home loss to Colorado on Nov. 14. They delivered an impressive performance, highlighted by Booker’s late block. Salim Turner-Muhammad forced a fumble by Marcel Dancy that Booker recovered. Then Mills’ 33-yard completion to Wilson set up the go-ahead score by Jones early in the third. … Stanford improved to 23-12 under Shaw following a loss.
Cal: Redshirt sophomore defensive end JH Tevis had his first two career sacks in the first half. The Cal defense limited the Cardinal to 19 yards rushing in the opening two quarters after coming into the game allowing 5.3 yards per carry. … Moore’s 54-yard run was the team’s longest play from scrimmage this year and since Brown ran the same distance in Cal’s 35-20 win over Illinois in the Redbox bowl last Dec. 30. … Crawford scored his second touchdown of the season and fourth of his career.
Stanford: At Washington next Saturday.
Cal: Hosts Oregon next Saturday.