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Stanford Is Sack Lunch for Cal

Bears get to Cardinal quarterbacks nine times in 27-3 Big Game victory. Levy, Lynch lead offense.

November 20, 2005|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

STANFORD — California's plan for the 108th Big Game was simple: Why not hold a sack race?

The Golden Bears would try to see how many they could have. As it turned out, nine was enough, the number of times Cal defenders sacked Stanford's quarterbacks in a 27-3 rout Saturday before 71,743 at Stanford Stadium.

California (7-4, 4-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference) was already bowl eligible and Stanford (5-5, 4-4) was trying to get there, but the Cardinal had no answer for a stifling Bear defense that limited Stanford, the worst rushing team in the Pac-10, to 16 net yards rushing -- nearly 100 yards below its average.

"We put a relentless rush on them," said Cal Coach Jeff Tedford. "Our defense was really holding them down."

And then there was Bear quarterback Steve Levy, a converted fullback who began this, his junior season, as a third-string quarterback, but was good enough in his first start in place of the beleaguered Joe Ayoob to lead California to 365 yards in total offense. Levy completed 10 of 18 passes for 125 yards, ran eight times for 36 yards and even inspired Tedford to name him as the starter for a bowl game.

"I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for the opportunity and I finally got it," Levy said. "Hopefully I proved something."

Cal tailback Marshawn Lynch has nothing to prove, but he gained 131 yards in 24 carries, moved over 1,000 yards for the season and broke the game open with a three-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Bears a 20-3 lead.

Maybe the Stanford players were thrown off their game by the size of the crowd, since it was only the second time this season the Cardinal had drawn more than 40,000. But since representatives from the Emerald Bowl and the Sun Bowl showed up, there was more to play for than bragging rights.

The first Big Game at Stanford Stadium was in 1921, but this was the last one at the 84-year-old, 85,500-seat facility. It will be leveled after the Cardinal's game next week against Notre Dame and replaced by a new, $90-million, 50,026-seat stadium scheduled to be ready for the 2006 season.

Cal led, 6-3, in a sleep-inducing first half that had just one highlight -- a 56-yard scoring pass from Levy to DeSean Jackson. But that was pretty much it for the Cal offense. Take away that one scoring pass and Cal averaged 2.1 yards per play. Stanford wasn't much better, averaging 3.0 yards in 34 plays, with quarterback Trent Edwards tackled four times for 24 yards in losses.

Edwards was sacked twice more in Stanford's first drive of the second half and was forced to the sideline with a shoulder injury, replaced by T.C. Ostrander.

While Ostrander had some success moving the Cardinal, completing 15 of 23 passes for 152 yards, Stanford had no success with its running attack. Besides the nine sacks, Cal had eight other tackles that resulted in lost yardage.

Justin Forsett's 21-yard touchdown run six minutes into the third quarter increased the Bears' lead to 13-3 and after Stanford missed a 40-yard field goal try, Levy directed California on a six-play, 77-yard scoring drive that ended when Lynch scored easily.

After Ostrander was sacked and then fumbled at the Stanford 43, Cal scored again, on a 14-yard pass from tailback Terrell Williams to tight end Craig Stevens for a 27-3 lead.

Tedford said Williams could have run if he had wanted.

"It was not intended to rub it in or anything like that," he said.

It all happened on the 49th birthday of Levy's father, Mark, who was in the stands.

"It's the best birthday present I could give him," Levy said. "It's a dream come true."

Tedford was able to relax after his fourth Big Game victory without a loss. Cal has won the last two by a combined 68-9.

"Four straight," he said, "is great."

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