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October 20, 2012The Stanford Axe will spend another year on The Farm and senior running back Stepfan Taylor couldn't be any happier about it.
"You don't want to be that class that gives the axe away," Taylor said. "Me and Chase (Thomas) and all the other seniors, we made it a point that we're going to keep this axe."
Taylor certainly did his part.
He ran for a career-high 189 yards on 29 carries and scored the only touchdown Stanford would need as they went to newly-renovated Memorial Stadium and came away with a 21-3 win - its third straight over its biggest rival.
The 115th Big Game was unusual in the sense that it was played in October, but for Stanford coach David Shaw, the date was simply a footnote beneath a signature win.
"We'll play it wherever the put it, that's fine," Shaw said. "We'd love for it to be at the end of the year, but this thing is special. It's special for both sides."
And Saturday was a special day, not only for Taylor, but also for the Cardinal defense as a whole. Behind standout performances from Chase Thomas, Ben Gardner and [/db]Trent Murphy[/db], Stanford limited Cal to just three yards rushing. Part of that was a result of Stanford holding an 18-point lead for most of the game and Cal needing to throw as a result of the large deficit, but mostly it had to do with Stanford's physical play up front.
Gardner set the tone as a physical presence and the rest of the line occupied blockers as Stanford's deep stable of linebackers were able to roam free.
"The defensive line did a great job getting off of blocks all night long," Thomas said. "We separated edges on the defense and we kept the inside linebackers clean to come up and fill the gaps. It was a great collective effort by the front seven and even the safeties coming up and laying the wood."
Cal found its way into the red zone just twice. A 1st-and-goal from the two-yard line led to Cal's field goal and its second trip ended on an interception from sophomore Wayne Lyons, the first of his career.
"This was a blueprint game," Shaw said. "This is what we want to do. We don't care about stats. We don't care about any of that other stuff. We want to stop the run, we want to run the ball, limit the big plays in their pass game, make the big plays in our pass game and in special teams, try to control where the ball is."
Stanford was successful in each of those areas.
Cal quarterback Zach Maynard finished 19-of-31 for 214 yards, but was limited mostly to short passes. His longest was to sophomore Brendan Bigelow, who accounted for most of the 31-yard play after the catch.
Future NFL receiver Keenan Allen, Maynard's half brother, had just four catches for 43 yards.
Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes was 16-for-31 and also threw for 214 yards.
Shaw described his performance in a word: "Solid."
He did have some criticism for the junior as well: "That last interception was inexcusable."
The comment was directed a fourth-quarter interception, which came on third down in the red zone. Nunes got careless and Cal took advantage.
With games against Washington State and Colorado up next for Stanford, the Cardinal has a good chance to be 7-2, (5-1 Pac-12) when it hosts No. 8 Oregon State on Nov. 10.
For Cal, the road looks much more difficult. The Bears play at Utah next week, then have Washington, Oregon and Oregon State to finish the year. In other words, a three- or four-win season could be in the cards.
Andy Drukarev contributed to this report.