BERKELEY, Calif. – Stepfan Taylor ran for a career-high 189 yards and one touchdown, and No. 22 Stanford overwhelmed rival California 21-3 on Saturday for its third straight Big Game victory.
In the 115th meeting between the Bay Area schools and the first at remodeled Memorial Stadium, the sunny and serene Strawberry Canyon setting might have been Cal's best highlight. The Cardinal outgained the Golden Bears 475 to 217 yards, outrushed Cal 252 to 3 yards and never lost its grip on the coveted Stanford Axe.
Stanford's Josh Nunes completed 16 of 31 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled and threw an interception late in the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach.
Cal (3-5, 2-3) had not scored so few points in the Big Game since losing 10-3 in 1998. The Bears fumbled three times — losing two of them — and had another interception of Nunes wiped out by a penalty.
Stanford shredded Cal from the start — once the Cardinal got a handle on things, anyway.
Scrambling for yards on the game's opening possession, Nunes fumbled and Deandre Coleman recovered at the Cal 47. On the ensuing drive, Chase Thomas jarred the ball loose from Zach Maynard on third down and forced the Bears to punt.
After Drew Terrell's 37-yard return put Stanford at the Cal 34, Nunes started to find his rhythm. He completed a 16-yard pass to Zach Ertz, and Josh Hill was later called for holding the tight end on third down to extend the drive.
Taylor shook two defenders at the line of scrimmage, cut outside and sliced back up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown run to give Stanford a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. The score marked the Cardinal's first offensive touchdown on the road this season after losses at Notre Dame and Washington.
And once they got going, they simply outmuscled the Bears on both sides of the ball.
Starting out of a power formation, Ertz broke free for a short catch and ran 68 yards down the sideline. Fellow tight end Levine Toilolo followed with a 9-yard touchdown pass from backup Kevin Hogan — normally just a read-option quarterback — to put the Cardinal ahead 14-3 on the first throw of his career.
Cal self-imploded on all of its best chances while the game was close.
The Bears lost 2 yards on three plays — all runs — after Keenan Allen returned a punt 29 yards and Brendan Bigelow took a short slant for a 31-yard gain to Stanford's 2. They settled for a 21-yard field goal by Vincenzo D'Amato.
Bigelow also fumbled earlier in the second quarter to end another Cal drive, and a pass interference penalty on Steve Williams wiped out an interception. And after a video review, officials ruled that Barry Browning stripped Allen before the wide receiver went down and Stanford's Jordan Richards recovered.
Nunes found Ertz on the next play for a 20-yard touchdown pass to give Stanford a 21-3 lead and quiet the crowd, other than the small smattering of boos fans mixed in on occasion. If not for two missed field goals by Stanford's Jordan Williamson, the score would've been even more lopsided.
The Cardinal's conservative approach in the second half limited production but also made sure the Bears never scored. Stanford stuffed Isi Sofele on fourth-and-1 from the Cal 44 early in the fourth quarter that essentially put the game away.
Marc Anthony stepped in front of a pass by Nunes for an interception and returned it to the Cal 10. But the Bears' best drive of the game ended when Wayne Lyons tip-toed the sideline to intercept Maynard's pass at the Stanford 3.
Maynard completed 19 of 31 passes for 214 yards — most with the game already decided. Allen, one of the nation's best receivers, was held to four catches for 43 yards.
The game marked the 30th anniversary of "The Play," when Cal scored on a five-lateral, 57-yard kickoff return while the Stanford band ran on the field to win 25-20. It also was the first time the teams had ever played in October.
Unlike in that memorable 1982 game, Stanford never let it come down to the final play.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP