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Cal Wins When Gamble by Stanford Fails : Pacific 10: Bears stop two-point conversion attempt with 2:06 to play in 24-23 victory.


BERKELEY — It was a matchup between two teams with losing records, but Saturday's 97th "Big Game" between California and Stanford was far from boring.

In what might have been his last game at Stanford, Coach Bill Walsh's final gamble of the season came up short on a late two-point conversion in the Cardinal's 24-23 loss before 75,662 at Memorial Stadium.

Walsh, who hinted early in the week that he might step down as coach after the season, decided to go for the victory after a one-yard touchdown run by Ethan Allen with 2:06 to play.

Stanford, which had rallied from a 14-point first-quarter deficit, saw its chance for victory die when quarterback Scott Frost's desperation pass was knocked away by the Bears' Matt Clizbe in the end zone.

"At this stage of my life, I have to think of the best options for me and for the university," said Walsh, whose team finished with a 3-7-1 record after posting a 4-7 mark last season. "These are troubled days at Stanford with two seasons like this."

If Walsh does decide to call it quits, he will look back at his last game and remember Cal senior running back Tyrone Edwards, who ran for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter.

Edwards, who had never rushed for more than 74 yards, scored the first time he touched the ball when he raced 41 yards for a touchdown 54 seconds into the game.

"I went into the game thinking that I had to have a good game because this is my last one," said Edwards, a former Nogales High standout. "I wanted to end on a good note for the team, the seniors, the fans, and everyone else."

Stanford, which has not held an opponent to fewer than 21 points for more than two seasons, did its part early in making sure Edwards' wish was granted.

Playing without senior quarterback Steve Stenstrom, whose season ended two weeks ago when he suffered a broken finger on his passing hand in a victory over Washington, Stanford turned the ball over on its first two possessions.

Frost, a sophomore making his second start, had his first pass of the game intercepted by Clizbe, setting up Edwards' first touchdown run. Two plays into Stanford's next drive, freshman tailback Anthony Bookman fumbled a handoff into the arms of Cal lineman Andy Jacobs deep in Cardinal territory. One play later, the Bears took a 14-0 lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Pat Barnes to Iheanyi Uwaezuoke.

Instead of crumbling, Stanford bounced back to score 10 consecutive points during the next six minutes. Aaron Mills kicked a 30-yard field goal and, on the Cardinal's next possession, Frost connected with Brian Manning on a 29-yard touchdown pass play.

"We knew all the time that it was going to be that kind of game," said Cal Coach Keith Gilbertson, whose Bears finished 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the Pacific 10 Conference. "These teams are so similar in a lot of ways that we knew it was going to be close."

The biggest similarity between the teams proved to be turnovers. After Cal took a 17-10 lead on a 38-yard field goal by Longwell, the Bears allowed Stanford back into the game on a 69-yard interception return by linebacker Coy Gibbs to the Cal one-yard line in the second quarter. That led to a touchdown run by Adam Salina, which tied the score at 17 before halftime.

In the third quarter, it was more of the same as the teams took turns turning the ball over and wasting scoring opportunities.

Barnes, who played at Trabuco Hills High, did his share with two fumbles and two interceptions, while Stanford had three trick plays fail, including a fake field goal at the Cal nine.

The Bears finally got back on track when they turned to Edwards on their first possession of the fourth quarter. Edwards completed a 12-play, 92 yard-drive by gaining the last 22 in three carries, including an eight-yard touchdown run.

"I knew that this was my day and I wanted the ball," said Edwards, who credited former teammate Russell White for getting him ready for the game. "I wanted to get over 100, but I didn't expect to go over 200. I just know that it felt good on my second touchdown."

With the ball on its own 22, Cal gave Stanford one more chance when Barnes fumbled a snap with 3:30 to play.

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