Cal has more than just “The Stanford Axe” in mind when it attempts to win the rivalry game against host Stanford on Saturday afternoon in the annual Big Game.
It will be the school’s final meeting as members of the Pacific-12 Conference.
The Golden Bears (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) must win at Stanford (3-7, 2-6) and again on Nov. 25 at UCLA in order to get to .500 for the season and become bowl eligible. They haven’t reached the postseason since playing in the 2019 Redbox Bowl.
Becoming bowl-eligible would require a third straight victory over the Cardinal, having blitzed the hosts 41-11 two years ago before retaining San Francisco Bay Area superiority with a 27-20 home win last November.
Cal and Stanford will continue their 131-year-old rivalry moving forward, but they will do so next season as new members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Golden Bears kept their bowl hopes alive with a wild, 42-39 home win over Washington State last Saturday. Cal scored three touchdowns on fumble recoveries, including one by center Brian Driscoll.
The senior is well aware of the rivalry with Stanford, but he admits there’s more to this matchup than just another year in possession of a coveted plaque.
“We’re going to recognize the history and appreciate that,” Driscoll said, “but we’re trying to win out and get to a bowl game and our mindset is just win every week.”
Driscoll’s recovery came on a fumble by standout Cal running Jaydn Ott, who went over 1,000 rushing yards for the season with 167 last week. It was the sophomore’s fourth game with 150 or more yards this season.
As a freshman last season, Ott contributed 97 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Golden Bears’ narrow win over Stanford. His 1-yard TD run gave Cal a 10-point lead in the game’s final minute.
Stanford has yet to win at home this season, falling to Sacramento State in a nonconference game before coming up short against Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and Washington in Pac-12 contests.
The Cardinal were competitive in a 42-33 defeat against the No. 5 Huskies in their most recent home game, after which they won 10-7 at Washington State before falling 62-17 last week at then-No. 12 Oregon State.
Stanford will complete its season Nov. 25 with a home contest against Notre Dame, meaning the Cal game takes on extra significance in that it will be the Cardinal’s final Pac-12 football contest.
It’s also a big game for first-year coach Troy Taylor, a former star quarterback for the Golden Bears.
“Cal’s forged the person I am,” said Taylor, whose Golden Bears career ran from 1986-89. “I’ll be forever grateful to Cal. It was an unbelievable experience …
“Excited to be (now at Stanford). Excited to continue a great rivalry. It’s one of the oldest rivalries, and I’m excited to compete against Cal.”
Taylor competed against the Golden Bears in 2021, when his previous team, Sacramento State, gave Cal a scare before settling for a 42-30 defeat.
Stanford would love for that kind of offensive success. The Cardinal have been held to a total of 27 points in their past two games and have scored 10 or fewer four times this year.
The Cardinal are led on offense by sophomore wideout Elic Ayomanor, who needs 88 receiving yards Saturday to reach 1,000 for the season.
–Field Level Media
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