The Cal football team got what it wanted in the 118th Big Game – a chance to win. The Bears could not convert it in a 35-22 loss to Stanford on Saturday night.
Down just 21-16 entering the fourth quarter, the Bears could almost taste their first victory in the series since 2009.
“Guys were excited. You could look at everyone’s eyes and they believed we were going to win,” senior safety Stefan McClure said. “That was a moment we really trained all year for. Fourth quarter against Stanford with a chance to compete.”
Instead, it was Stanford that closed out the game, scoring touchdowns on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter to leave the Bears frustrated by their own mistakes.
Quarterback Jared Goff was sharp for the Bears (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12), completing 37 of 54 passes for 386 yards and two touchdowns. Cal outgained Stanford 495 yards to 356. The Bears didn’t turn the ball over a year after giving it up five times.
The game was nothing like the previous two seasons, when the Bears were outscored 101-30. But there were issues that decided the outcome.
Cal converted just one of five red-zone chances for touchdowns – settling three times for field goals.
“We’re normally really good in the red zone. Today we weren’t,” Goff said. “Missed opportunities. Three scores that could have changed it.”
The Pac-12’s third-least penalized team, Cal was flagged eight times for 63 yards.
“There were a lot of little things,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said in his opening post-game remarks. “The officials, er rather the penalties, killed us. Didn’t give us a chance to win the game. It was tough to overcome that.”