Cal kicks off to Stanford to start off the Big Game (Photo: James Hart, The Puma Prensa)
by Luke Shimer, sports editor
The yearly Big Game between the Cal Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinal came and went, with Cal thrashing Stanford 41-11. Cal came off a two-week COVID-19 break where 44 staff and players tested positive for the virus and many were skeptical about whether the game would happen or have to be rescheduled.
Unfazed, the Bears’ got their second straight road win over the Cardinal. In front of a crowd of 49,265, Cal quarterback Chase Garbers threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 50 for his career, while the Bears created three plays of 75 yards or longer. The Bears racked up 636 yards, the most ever in a Big Game by either team. Cal lost two weeks ago at Arizona, minus 24 players who tested positive for COVID-19, and their game against USC was postponed because they didn’t have enough healthy players to field a team. Now with this big win against Stanford, Cal’s bowl game chances have increased heavily.
The Big Game is a rivalry game going back to 1892 where Stanford defeated Cal 14-10. NCAA Division I FBS football’s eighth-longest rivalry, is usually held at the end of November or the beginning of December. Stanford had won nine of their last ten meetings, including a nine-game winning streak.
The all-time record between the teams is Stanford’s 65–47–11 (wins–losses–ties) series record, and they won the most recent Big Game by a score of 24-23. Entering this year’s Big Game, Stanford had a record of 3-7 and Cal had a record of 3-6. This was a crucial game for Cal because if they wanted to qualify for a bowl game this year they needed to sweep the rest of the California teams in their conference. Stanford came in losing five straight games and is not eligible for a bowl game.
The Big Game goes back to when Herbert Hoover, the future President of the United States, was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams at Stanford during his undergraduate years. Along with his friend Cal manager Herbert Lang, he helped organize the first Big Game. The game only had 10,000 tickets printed, yet 20,000 people turned up. The event was officially recognized as the “Big Game” in 1900.
Berkeley graduate and San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan bought a casting of Douglas Tilden’s bronze sculpture. The Football Players in 1898 offered it as a reward to the school that could win the football game two years in a row. Berkeley replied by shutting out Stanford in 1898 and 1899, and the sculpture was dedicated on the Berkeley campus in 1900, atop a stone pedestal etched with the names of the players and the benefactor. Maria Carrillo Junior Matt Anderson said, “The rivalry between them should never change because it’s way too iconic to change the game between the two teams that have been going on for so long.”
However, the Stanford Axe has become the trophy with it being handed to the winner of the game since 1933. This year’s Axe is now in possession of the Cal Berkeley Bears and they will own it until next year’s Big Game.