Without waiting to see whether Oregon would beat Arizona in the desert, No. 14 Stanford took itself out of the Rose Bowl race. One of the more entertaining games in the recent history of this 112-game rivalry ended when Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed intercepted a pass from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at the Bears’ 3-yard line to save a 34-28 Cal victory at Stanford Stadium on Saturday night.
Cal (8-3, 5-3 Pacific-10) beat Stanford for the seventh time in the last eight years, pulling off the upset in a rare year in which the Cardinal was the favorite. The loss knocked Stanford (7-4, 6-3) into third place in the conference, ending its bid for a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Cardinal looked to be on its way to a game-winning drive when Mohamed stepped in front of the pass from Luck with 1 minute 36 seconds left in the game. Behind the stellar performance of the senior running back Toby Gerhart, Stanford staged the late comeback attempt after watching its 14-0 first-quarter lead evaporate as Cal went on a 31-7 run. Coming into the game, however, the tables had been turned on this rivalry. Stanford was the favorite for the first time since 2001. The Cardinal was ranked and bowl eligible, the tangible results of the rebuilding process of its third-year coach, Jim Harbaugh. Cal, meanwhile, has been viewed as a major disappointment, starting the year among the country’s top-ranked teams and then dropping out of the national picture after lopsided losses to Oregon and Southern California at midseason. The loss of Jahvid Best two weeks ago to a concussion was only supposed to further dampen the Bears’ prospects.
But the sophomore Shane Vereen, who has become the Bears’ No. 1 runner in Best’s absence, had career highs of 42 carries for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns and helped make much of this game a duel between the teams’ running backs. Gerhart, who has vaulted into Heisman consideration, had 20 carries for 136 yards and 4 touchdowns. He set a Stanford record with his 23rd rushing touchdown this season.
Harbaugh said he regretted not handing the ball to Gerhart at the end. “There were a lot of should-haves in this game,” Harbaugh said.