Click photo to enlarge
California wide receiver Keenan Allen (21) finds his balance and heads for the end zone during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Dean Hare)

BERKELEY -- His third Big Game for Cal -- perhaps his final one -- could be particularly big for Keenan Allen.

With seven receptions on Saturday against Stanford, Allen would become the Bears' career record-holder.

The junior from Greensboro, N.C., wants that to be merely a footnote to the game.

"Hopefully, we'll do something as memorable as that trombone play," said Allen, referencing the 30th anniversary of The Play. "We're definitely trying to get the Axe back for our fans and our team. I don't even like these guys just because they're the rival."

At 3-4 overall, 2-2 in the Pac-12 and winners of two in a row, the Bears face a crossroads Saturday at Memorial Stadium. A win over the 22nd-ranked Cardinal (4-2, 2-1) would keep alive their bowl hopes. A defeat makes the road more difficult.

"This is a win we need for our season," confirmed Allen, who has never beaten the Cardinal and suggested a victory could be the most meaningful of his Cal career.

Most likely, the Bears will need a big game by Allen to post their first Big Game victory since 2009.

Allen has been very good against the Cardinal, with eight catches for 54 yards, 120 yards in kickoff returns and a 17-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones as a freshman in 2010, then six catches for 97 yards and a TD last season.

"Guys that are that tall and that long should not be that fast and that agile, and they should not return punts," Stanford coach David Shaw said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder. "But he can get to speed quickly. He runs strong. He runs great routes. He can catch the ball in traffic. He's one of the best in the country."


Advertisement

Allen is coming off his most productive game of the season, with 11 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown in the Bears' win at Washington State. The Cougars played a lot of man-to-man coverage, and Allen ate it up.

"Once you come out there and see that look, I just feel like they have no chance," he said.

Cal first-year receivers coach Wes Chandler said he doesn't expect the same approach from Stanford's stout defense.

"They play man coverages in their scheme, but I would think with anybody -- not just Stanford -- it would not be very wise to single Keenan Allen," he said. "If they do it, oh well."

With 196 catches, Allen is within reach of the Cal record of 202, set by Geoff McArthur from 2000-2004. Already, Allen is fourth all-time among Pac-12 receivers who played three seasons or fewer.

On the prospect of setting the Cal record, offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik said, "Keenan might not know how big that is until later in life."

Chandler, who spent 11 years as a player and six as a coach in the NFL, knows. He was a teammate when Charlie Joiner became the NFL's career receptions leader, then a coach when Emmitt Smith broke the league's all-time rushing record.

"Because of the character the young man has, he's accepting the role as leader and taking it as it comes, but not overemphasizing it," Chandler said of the record. "But it's a great accomplishment."

Allen said he's not sure if this will be his last Big Game. He will be eligible to enter the NFL draft next spring and is projected in mock drafts as a consensus first-round pick.

For now, Allen is concerned only with Cal. He no longer is a visitor from the far coast, who once thought The Play occurred during a Michigan-Ohio State game. "I had no idea," he said.

He enjoys Berkeley and said he has developed an appreciation for the Big Game. "It definitely has a lot of history, a lot of tradition," he said. "I know the fans love it."

Chandler, who caught 559 passes in an his NFL career, believes Allen will someday be a very good pro. He said Allen has a great football IQ, work ethic, size, hands, the ability to run precise routes and the kind of deceiving game-day speed that Jerry Rice brought to the game.

"He reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald," Chandler said, comparing Allen to the Arizona Cardinals' star receiver. "The future is very bright for Keenan. He's what every general manager would want to build an offense around."