We finally got to see the Stanford we know and love in the third quarter. The Cardinal came out and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, moving the ball on offense with its power running game while shutting down Zach Maynard and the Cal attack. The Cardinal are having one of their signature second-half surges, and thus, barring a big turnaround from Cal, Stanford enters the fourth quarter with a great chance to bring home the win and retain the Axe.
Play of the quarter: With around six minutes remaining, Stanford had the ball and a 21-13 lead, and was trying to put the Bears into a deep hole. Levine Toilolo did exactly that, catching a deep 41-yard bomb down to the Cal 10-yard line to put Stanford in excellent position to score and redeeming himself for a drop in the open field earlier in the quarter. Luck hit Ryan Hewitt on a 10-yard score on the next play, putting the Cardinal up 28-13 and making a Cal comeback that much more unlikely.
Defense gets up: Stanford's defense had a great third quarter, giving Zach Maynard and the Cal running game a tough time while giving up zero points. Keenan Allen still hasn't caught a pass since the first quarter, and Maynard completed just two passes out of five attempts in the third quarter. Overall, Cal gained just 50 yards in the quarter. Even if the Cardinal offense hasn't brought the fireworks, the defense is having a great bounce-back game from the Oregon defeat.
Offensive balance: Through three quarters, Stanford has balanced its ground and aerial attacks with 25 pass attempts to 23 rushes. More than in previous games, Andrew Luck has been throwing deep passes downfield, though for every success there have been a couple misses and overthrows. Suffice it to say that Luck hasn't been having his best game, but with the Stanford run offense playing pretty well so far, it should be good enough to win the game.
End of game. Final Score: Stanford 31, Cal 28 Despite a valiant comeback attempt from the Golden Bears in the fourth quarter, Stanford was able to put Cal away by using its power running game to chew up clock. Cal scored early in the quarter and successfully made a two-point conversion to draw within one score, but Stanford's offense took the field and put the game out of reach with a field goal on its penultimate drive. With its second consecutive victory in the Big Game, Stanford will hold on to the Axe and keep its BCS dreams alive heading into next week's season finale against Notre Dame.
Play of the quarter: There wasn't really a highlight-reel moment in the fourth quarter, but Stanford's field goal drive in the middle of the quarter was huge. Stanford used the run to drive the Golden Bears back and burn minutes off the clock; Andrew Luck's few passes were generally short throws that found gaps underneath Cal's coverage. The drive took 7:40 off the clock, leaving little time for Cal to mount a comeback after the Cardinal's field goal put Stanford up by 10.
Ryan Hewitt enters beast mode: The player of the quarter was undoubtedly Ryan Hewitt, who did more than anyone to ice the game. Hewitt caught a couple of passes for healthy gains from Andrew Luck on that drive, and also made a couple of runs to convert critical third downs. Overall, Hewitt had a fantastic game, with seven catches for 64 yards and two runs for seven yards.
Defense slows it down: Sure, Stanford's defense was unable to stop Cal's offense on its final drive, allowing the Golden Bears to score a touchdown and shrink their deficit to three points at 31-28. However, the defense kept the Bears from getting to the sideline, burning off the clock and leaving Cal with no time to get the second score it needed to win.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!