Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press
BERKELEY, Calif. — The clusters of empty seats and the silence at the end of the first Big Game at remodeled Memorial Stadium won't quiet the critics of California coach Jeff Tedford this season.
Even louder might ring the final score: Stanford 21, Cal 3.
In the 115th meeting between the Bay Area schools, the sunny and serene Strawberry Canyon setting might have been the Golden Bears' best highlight. The $321 million makeover couldn't do much about the results on the field, though.
The No. 22 Cardinal (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) outgained the Bears 475 to 217 yards, outrushed them 252 to 3 yards and never lost its grip on the coveted Stanford Axe, which players paraded around the turf while Bears fans exited early. Cal lost for the third straight time to its rival, and this one was easily the worst.
"This goes on everybody," Tedford said. "They won the line of scrimmage today."
Stepfan Taylor ran for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown, Josh Nunes completed 16 of 31 passes for 214 yards and a score and the Cardinal coasted to victory. Nunes even fumbled and threw an interception late in the fourth quarter to stop what could have been — and perhaps should have been — an even more lopsided score.
Cal (3-5, 2-3) had not scored so few points in the Big Game since losing 10-3 in 1998. Zach Maynard was sacked four times, the Bears fumbled three times — losing two of them — and had another interception of Nunes wiped out by a penalty.
"It was disappointing," Maynard said. "It was more disappointing because it was the Big Game."
Stanford shredded Cal from the beginning — once the Cardinal got a handle on things, anyway.
Scrambling for yards on the game's opening possession, Nunes fumbled and Deandre Coleman recovered at the Cal 47. On the ensuing drive, Chase Thomas jarred the ball loose from Maynard on third down and forced the Bears to punt.
After Drew Terrell's 37-yard return put Stanford on the Cal 34 later, Nunes started to find his rhythm. He completed a 16-yard pass to Zach Ertz, and Josh Hill was later called for holding the tight end on third down to extend the drive.
Taylor shook two defenders at the line of scrimmage, cut outside and sliced back up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown run to give Stanford a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Taylor's previous best was 177 yards rushing in the Fiesta Bowl overtime loss to Oklahoma State last season.
"You don't want to be that class that gives the Axe away," said Taylor, who will leave Stanford 3-0 as a starter in the Big Game. "The seniors made it a point that we want to keep the Axe."
Taylor's touchdown marked the Cardinal offense's first on the road this season after losses at Notre Dame and Washington. And once they got going, they simply outmuscled the Bears on both sides.
Starting out of a power formation, Ertz broke free for a short catch and ran 68 yards down the sideline. Fellow tight end Levine Toilolo followed with a 9-yard touchdown pass from backup Kevin Hogan — normally just a read-option quarterback — to put the Cardinal ahead 14-3 on the first throw of his career.
Cal self-imploded on all of its best chances.
The Bears lost 2 yards on three plays — all runs — after Keenan Allen returned a punt 29 yards and Brendan Bigelow took a short slant for a 31-yard gain to Stanford's 2. They settled for a 21-yard field goal by Vincenzo D'Amato.
Bigelow also fumbled earlier in the second quarter to end another Cal drive, and a pass interference penalty on Steve Williams wiped out an interception. And after a video review, officials ruled that Barry Browning stripped Allen before the wide receiver went down and Stanford's Jordan Richards recovered.
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