Cal Football: Bears return the Axe to Berkeley and become bowl eligible

Cal Football (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Cal Football (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Cal football program ended their nine-year drought against their rivals, Stanford, as the team finally won the Big Game and in doing so also became bowl eligible.

The streak is finally over. The Axe is finally coming back to its rightful home in Berkeley and the Cal football team can once again rejoice in happiness.

Stanford has fallen and Cal is left standing.

The Bears defeated the Cardinal in a thrilling 24-20 victory that featured a fourth-quarter comeback and a late-game defensive stand. And despite squandering multiple opportunities throughout the duration of the game, none of that will matter.

What matters is the outcome and that’s also what people will remember. Cal has won the Big Game and it’s been made even sweeter by the fact that they are now bowl eligible for the second consecutive season.

This marks the first time since the 2008/2009 seasons that Cal has qualified for a bowl game in consecutive seasons. And perhaps not coincidentally, 2009 also marks the last time that Cal defeated Stanford.

Now, both streaks have been snapped.

A beat-up Stanford team actually controlled the majority of the game despite giving Cal numerous opportunities. Two Davis Mills interceptions were turned into three-and-outs for Cal while a holding penalty followed by a blocked field goal thwarted another scoring opportunity.

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But with the game on the line, it was quarterback Chase Garbers who stepped up and led his team to victory.

Garbers, who was a game-time decision, was given the ball trailing 20-17 with 2:23 to go after a Ryan Sanborn field goal gave Stanford the lead. And just 64 seconds later, Garbers scrambled into the end zone from 16 yards out for what would be the game-winning touchdown.

That score capped off a six-play, 75-yard drive in which two completions to sophomore wideout Nikko Remigio and a beautiful sideline grab by junior Trevon Clark set the Bears up in a position to score and take the lead.

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Garbers showed moxie and an innate clutchness with his ability to lead Cal to victory on the most important drive of his career. The pressure of playing on the road in a huge rivalry game with the team’s bowl hopes possibly on the line didn’t seem to bother Garbers.

Cal has their quarterback and it will sure be fun to see him develop even further next season.

Stanford was given one final opportunity as they took over at their own 25-yard-line with 1:19 remaining in the game. But after getting to 3rd-and-1, the Cardinal would be stopped on two consecutive plays as Cal took over on downs and secured the victory.

The final 4th-and-1 run stuff was fittingly led by senior linebacker Evan Weaver who leads the country in tackles and is the on and off-field captain of the Bears defense.

The Bears have finally returned the Axe home to its rightful residence in Berkeley ending its near-decade-long stint in Palo Alto.

Cal will travel down south to take on UCLA next week but they will do so with the comfort of knowing that they have already clinched a postseason berth. Still, a victory to close out the regular season sure would be nice.

But that game is still around a week away. For now, let’s just bask in this moment and appreciate just how long it took to get here.

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Cal is back in control of the Axe and Bears fans deserve nothing less.