BERKELEY -- California (3-5, 2-3 in the Pac-12) had hoped to recover the Axe after being without it for two years, but No. 20 Stanford (5-2, 3-1) had other plans for the 115th Big Game.
Bears quarterback Zach Maynard was sacked four times and hurried for most of the day as the Cardinal retained the Axe at Memorial Stadium by beating Cal 21-3 -- the first time since 1998 that the Bears have been held without a touchdown in the rivalry game. Maynard threw for 214 yards on 19 completions in 31 tries, and threw one interception while also fumbling once.
While Maynard's stats edged rival quarterback Josh Nunes (16-31-1, 1 TD, 214 YDS, 1 fumble), the difference in this game was the production on the ground.
Cardinal tailback Stepfan Taylor rushed for 189 yards on 28 attempts with one touchdown, while the Cal rushing attack managed a meager 13 net yards on 20 carries from three tailbacks and a freshman receiver.
"We'll look at the tape, but this goes on everybody," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "We have to do a better job as coaches to put them in a position to be successful, but I thought they won the line of scrimmage today."
Both teams struggled on their opening drives with both quarterbacks fumbling the ball.
Nunes was stripped by Bears linebacker Robert Mullins at his team's 47-yard line and Cal defensive lineman Deandre Coleman came up with it to give the Bears the ball.
After getting to the Stanford 38-yard line due to a personal foul on the Cardinal defense, Maynard nearly returned the favor. On third-and-11, the Cal quarterback failed to get rid of the ball before being blindsided by Cardinal linebacker Chase Thomas. The ball came loose at the start of Maynard's motion and was recovered by offensive lineman Matt Summers-Gavin.
Stanford's next drive, while more successful than the first, ended similarly -- with no points on the board. After putting together a nine play, 58 yard drive to get to the Cal 23-yard line, field goal kicker Jordan Williamson missed wide left. The field goal was so close that one of the two officials under the goal posts signaled it was good.
After Cal was unable to get on the scoreboard, Cole Leininger's 45-yard punt was returned 37 yards by Drew Terrell to give the Cardinal their best starting field position to that point at the Bears' 34 yard line.
It took Stanford just six plays to put the first points on the board. Taylor got his seven-yard touchdown run a play after a third-down holding penalty on Cal safety Josh Hill gave the Cardinal first-and-goal.
The Bears would not return fire until two drives later. Set up by an electrifying 29-yard punt return by Allen to put the ball on Stanford's 25 yard line, Cal marched the ball to the Stanford four-yard line before having to settle for a Vince D'Amato 21-yard field goal to close the gap to 7-3, with 13:47 remaining in the opening half.
That may have been the last time in which Cal fans still believed they had a chance of seeing the upset.
The Cardinal, and their tight ends, didn't waste any time answering back.
Nunes found starting tight end Zach Ertz completely uncovered near the right sideline for a 68-yard pass and catch to get to the Cal seven. After a false start penalty, and second and goal from the nine, backup quarterback Kevin Hogan came in to complete the touchdown pass to Stanford's other star tight end Levine Toilolo on the right sideline of the end zone.
Down 14-3, it appeared that the Bears would again put points on the board on the following drive. A 15-yard personal foul against Stanford and a 20-yard pass play from Maynard to freshman receiver Chris Harper put the Bears on the Cardinal 41 in just two plays.
A give to tailback Brendan Bigelow on the next play proved to be a mistake for the Cal offense, as Bigelow, taking the handoff from Maynard, never was able to secure the ball as it slipped out of his hands and was recovered at the Stanford 48 by Thomas to end the promising drive.
Stanford didn't capitalize on the turnover, but Cal would again give them another opportunity.
The Bears would get the ball again on their 10 yard line after a 25-yard punt by Stanford's Daniel Zychlinski. On the first play of the drive, Maynard threw to Allen on a wide receiver screen pass, and Allen was tackled at the Cal 17-yard line. During the tackle, the ball came loose and was recovered at the 20-yard line.
"Turning the ball over twice was a killer," Tedford said. "They got 14 points on that."
Officials originally blew the play dead, but just before the Bears could snap the ball again, whistles blew again to stop play for a review of the play. Upon further review, it was clear that Allen fumbled prior to being downed and Stanford would again get the ball.
It took Stanford one play to put the Bears in a hole they would never recover from. Nunes found Ertz open at the five yard line and fired a laser in his direction that resulted in an easy scoring catch to make the score 21-3 after the extra point.
"It was a really poor showing, offensively," Tedford said. "We're really disappointed about it. We have another game next week and there's still a lot to play for, and there always will be a lot to play for, because this is a very prideful team."
Outside linebacker Chris McCain went down late in the third quarter with a left ankle injury. Tedford was uncertain just how bad it was, as McCain was able to put some weight on it afterwards.
Fellow starting outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett was held out because of a Wednesday surgery on his right hand, which was re-broken in the second quarter last week. Tedford expects him to be back at some point this season.