Christian McCaffrey’s Big Game in the Big Game Leads Stanford to Win


Christian McCaffrey can do it all. The Stanford Cardinal‘s sophomore running back entered Saturday’s “Big Game” against the Cal Golden Bears as the nation’s leader in all-purpose yards, racking up the yardage on the ground, through the air, and in the return game. He’s even thrown a 28-yard touchdown pass this season.

McCaffrey didn’t throw against the Bears, but he did just about everything else in leading the Cardinal to a 35-22 win over their rivals, their sixth straight win in the Big Game, extending their all-time series lead to 61-46-11. McCaffrey entered the game with 2,418 all-purpose yards this season, the most in the nation, and extended that lead with a healthy performance against Stanford’s rival.

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The slick running back scored twice, once on a reception, and once on a kick return. The receiving score came a short screen pass that should have been stopped for a one or two-yard loss. Instead, McCaffrey bounced off a shoulder tackle, ran through an arm tackle, and followed a blocker the rest of the way to score a 49-yard touchdown. On the kick return, McCaffrey hit the hole with authority, ending a 98-yard scamper with a trip into the endzone.

In the first half, McCaffrey alone outgained the Bears, with 282 all-purpose yards compared to Cal’s 267. In doing so, McCaffrey broke the Pac-12 record for all-purpose yards in a season, passing the 2,683 yards that USC’s Marqise Lee totaled in 2012.

In the end, Cal, as a team, racked up 619 total yeards to outgain McCaffrey, but it wasn’t enough for them to knock off their rivals for the first time in this decade. McCaffrey gained 389 all-purpose yards against Stanford’s big foe, breaking the school’s record for most all-purpose yardage in a single game. He rushed for 192 yards, gained 49 yards on his lone reception, and gained 148 yards on kick returns. That broke the yardage record previously held by Glyn Milburn, who gained 379 total yards in the 1990 rendition of the Big Game.

McCaffrey didn’t score a rushing touchdown, but his teammates crossed the goal line three times in his stead. Senior Remound Wright, the short-yardage power back, scored a pair of touchdowns, both coming from within the two-yard line. Freshman receiver Bryce Love, an electric playmaker with blazing speed, took an outside sweep 48 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to put a stamp on the game.

McCaffrey piled on to his already mighty impressive all-purpose yardage total. His 389 against Cal pushed him up to 2,807 on the season. He continues to close in on Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders’ record, which he set in 1988 by gaining 3,250 yards (2,628 rushing yards, 106 receiving yards, 421 kick return yards, 92 punt return yards). Coincidentally, McCaffrey plays with Sanders’ son, Barry J. Sanders.

His Heisman case continues to build, and his versatility and explosive playmaking ability making him a very worthwhile candidate. There are many strong candidates who make great cases, but McCaffrey’s recent body of work, including nine straight game of at least 100 yards on the ground and eight games of 200 total yards, can’t be ignored.

Next: Big Game Means Different Things for Two Teams

The Big Game was a little sweeter for Stanford. With the win, they also clinched the Pac-12 North division crown, ending any chance of an Oregon Ducks’ miraculous comeback. In the Pac-12 Championship, they’ll face the winner of the Pac-12 South, which will be decided in the next week’s UCLA and USC matchup.