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Stanford fans rejoice after their team scores a touchdown in the 1st quarter of the 110th Big Game on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Contra Costa Times)
STANFORD — The Big Game awoke from its slumber Saturday evening and delivered drama, controversy, a close finish and, most surprisingly, a Stanford victory.

The Axe is back on The Farm for the first time since 2001.

"You don't deserve anything in Division I, you've got to go get it," Stanford senior Evan Moore said after the Cardinal's 20-13 victory at Stanford Stadium.

"It's a great feeling."

An announced crowd of 49,209 watched the Cardinal — a 131/2-point underdog — take control midway through the third quarter, then nearly give the game away late in the fourth.

Stanford was running out the clock with just under three minutes remaining when freshman tailback Jeremy Stewart fumbled at the Cal 36. The Bears wasted no time moving into scoring range. After replay officials upheld a fourth-down completion to Robert Jordan, Cal was on the Stanford 19.

But cornerback Nick Sanchez intercepted Nate Longshore's third-down pass at the 8 with 1:55 left.

The game ended with Cardinal players and students pouring onto the field.

"I couldn't even get to The Axe," linebacker Clinton Snyder said. "I was getting bombarded by students."

And so ends a Stanford season in which the Cardinal was swept by the lowlyfrom Sports 1

Washington schools but defeated USC and Cal. In fact, Stanford (4-8, 3-6) finished tied with the Bears (and Washington State) for seventh place in the conference.


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"This team knocked down a lot of hurdles," Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh said.

While Stanford sang and danced, the Bears (6-6, 3-6) shuffled off the field with their heads down and a collapse for the ages.

After climbing to No. 2 in the nation, Cal lost six of its final seven games. But the Bears are going bowling as one of the Pac-10's six bowl-eligible teams. They just won't know where until the Bowl Championship Series standings are announced this afternoon.

If Arizona State is in a BCS game, then Cal is headed to the Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park (probable opponent: Maryland).

If ASU doesn't make the BCS, then Cal is headed to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, to face a team from Conference-USA.

"I don't know if they weren't as fired up as usual because they weren't playing for a big bowl," Moore said of the Bears. "But the want-to was on our side ... It was matter of who was going to take the game, and we took it."

Cal was without two of its top playmakers: backup tailback Jahvid Best, who has a potentially serious hip injury, and receiver DeSean Jackson, who sat out with a bruised thigh.

Tailback Justin Forsett did his best (96 yards), but he had no help from receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who dropped several passes, or quarterback Nate Longshore, who was discombobulated by Stanford's blitzes.

Longshore completed just 22 of 47 passes and threw two interceptions. At times, he looked so uncomfortable in the pocket that it was hard to watch.

"Especially in the second half, Nate couldn't really set his feet," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It came down to the pass rush."

Stanford's quarterbacks didn't sparkle, but starter T.C. Ostrander and reserve Tavita Pritchard avoided turnovers and made the throws they had to make — especially on third down.

They combined to go 21 of 32 for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

"They both were very sound; they were cold-blooded in the pocket," Harbaugh said.

Using a well-designed gameplan, Stanford focused its aerial attack in two places: sideline throws (mostly to Moore) and crossing patterns in front of the safeties. Stanford finished with just 316 yards of total offense, but it had two turnovers to Cal's three and just five penalties to Cal's 10.

"The penalties were a big concern," Tedford said. "I felt it was very one-sided as far as that was concerned. But as far as the personal fouls, that's on us. That's a lack of discipline."

The game started in exciting fashion, with Snyder knocking the ball loose from Longshore and recovering the fumble at Cal's 28. 

On the next play, Ostrander found Mark Bradford wide open on the left side with a 28-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears responded with a 91-yard drive that culminated in Longshore's 46-yard touchdown strike to Robert Jordan, who was all alone in the middle of the Cardinal secondary.

Then the pace slowed as Stanford went to its ball-control passing game and Cal leaned on screen passes to its tailbacks. A field goal contest broke out. Stanford's Derek Belch connected from 36 and 38 yards, while Cal's Jordan Kay hit from 27.

The result was Stanford's first halftime lead (13-10) in the Big Game since 2003.

California7303—13Stanford7670—20First Quarter

Stan—Bradford 28 pass from Ostrander (Belch kick), 10:49.

Cal—R.Jordan 46 pass from Longshore (Kay kick), 7:20.

Second Quarter

Stan—FG Belch 36, 12:55.

Cal—FG Kay 27, 7:10.

Stan—FG Belch 38, 3:46.

Third Quarter

Stan—Gunder 1 pass from Pritchard (Belch kick), 8:00.

Fourth Quarter

Cal—FG Kay 42, 4:34. A—49,209.

CalStanFirst downs1720Rushes-yards24-10839-120Passing252196Comp-Att-Int22-47-221-33-1Return Yards4(-1)Punts-Avg.6-39.86-33.8Fumbles-Lost1-11-1Penalties-Yards10-1185-30Time of Possession28:0231:58INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—California, Forsett 19-96, Hawkins 1-26, Montgomery 2-1, Longshore 2-(minus 15). Stanford, Stewart 24-70, McGraw 8-35, Pritchard 3-21, Baldwin 1-3, Gatewood 2-(minus 4), Ostrander 1-(minus 5).

PASSING—California, Longshore 22-47-2-252. Stanford, Ostrander 16-23-0-151, Pritchard 5-9-0-45, Bradford 0-1-1-0.

RECEIVING—California, Hawkins 7-63, R.Jordan 4-99, Arthur 3-25, Forsett 3-10, Montgomery 2-33, Stevens 2-18, Ta'ufo'ou 1-4. Stanford, Bradford 5-84, Moore 4-36, Ladner 3-31, McGraw 3-14, Baldwin 2-20, Stewart 2-6, Gunder 2-5.