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Stanford Leaves Cal Up a Tree

Pacific 10: Hutchinson passes for three touchdowns and Cardinal takes control early, cruises to 42-21 victory.


BERKELEY — Vengeance was swift, sinister and savage.

What else would you expect on the football field?

But the mad California rush came at the wrong time, though it had some of the best blocking of the day by the Bears. The problem was it came after Stanford defeated California, 42-21, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium before 70,500, in the 99th installment of the Big Game.

The happy-go-lucky Cardinal mascot--The Tree--was nearly reduced to kindling by disgruntled Bear fans on the field minutes after Stanford's victory put it into the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 at El Paso, Texas. For a while, it looked as though The Tree's chances for an appearance at a bowl game was better than California's.

The loss means the Bears are 6-5 overall and 3-5 in the Pacific-10, and hours later they accepted an invitation to play in the Aloha Bowl on Dec. 25. As for Stanford playing in a bowl game, certainly few would have expected this kind of a turnaround after its first seven games. The Cardinal (6-5, 5-3), which won its fourth consecutive game, was once a struggling 2-5 before the revival started on Nov. 2 with a 21-20 victory at UCLA.

Stanford has won consecutive Big Games, and is 7-2-1 against the Bears in the last 10. The Cardinal was in control throughout, establishing a 27-7 lead by the half.

"You can beat up our Tree as much as you want--as long as we win the football game," said Stanford defensive end Kailee Wong, who returned an interception 53 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.

The man behind the bark was sanguine.

"I guess in Los Angeles, you'd call it a riot. They tore me limb from limb," junior Chris Cary said.

The game was as one-sided as the Tree attack. Stanford avoided major mistakes--its first game this season without a turnover--and quarterback Chad Hutchinson was 16 for 25 for 184 yards and three touchdowns and was able to read the blitz at nearly every turn, especially in the first half. Running back Mike Mitchell had 24 carries for 127 yards, and caught one touchdown pass.

"It's probably really hard or difficult to put into words what the last four weeks have been like," Stanford Coach Tyrone Willingham said. "It's been one of those against-all-odds type situations. It'll be one of my most cherished moments as a football coach."

Cal's defense, which entered the game ranked 105th, played to that ranking, weak on the left side against the run and porous on the right against the pass. By scoring 42 points, the Cardinal tied a previous Big Game high.

The Bears have given up 40 or more points in four games this season and on Saturday even quarterback Pat Barnes could not pull off the salvage job, despite throwing for three touchdowns. And Cal cannot seem to stop the fumbles, losing one more Saturday, giving the Bears 16 in the last six games.

"You can sense around here that there is some disappointment and some sense of not getting it done lately," said Cal Coach Steve Mariucci, whose team has lost three consecutive games. "When you come away from a game like this, and it wasn't as close or as well-played as it needed to be, it is easy to be disappointed."

Barnes, who was 21 for 32 for 284 yards, watched an impressive statistic end as he had thrown only one interception in his last 272 passes. He threw two interceptions against the Cardinal--one was tipped by teammate Tony Gonzalez--and the first one led to Wong's touchdown.

"I knew I had to watch for a screen," Wong said. "He [Barnes] left it up there for a running back to make a play and it came right to me and I just took off. I don't know if I even opened my eyes.

"I was huffing out there. Afterward, I was thinking of the Leon Lett thing and thinking, 'Thank God that's not me.' It [the touchdown] kind of slowed me down the first half. But it was a lot of fun.

"To come back where we were to third place in the Pac-10. That's really huge. We've had go through a lot of really good teams."

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