BERKELEY (AP) — Growing up in Texas, Davis Webb knew all about the Big Game rivalry between California and Stanford.
Now as he finishes up his only season as starting quarterback at Cal, Webb gets to experience it first hand when the Golden Bears (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) host the Cardinal (7-3, 5-3) on Saturday.
“I don’t think there’s anything like this game,” he said. “There’s so much tradition, so much pageantry and so many great players that have played in this game. I’m just excited to be a part of it. From afar, living in Dallas, everybody knew what the Big Game was. It’s going to be one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
While the Big Game is new to Webb, it has been part of Stanford coach David Shaw’s life for decades.
Shaw remembers watching his first as a high school senior in 1989 when his father, Willie, was an assistant at Stanford and immediately noticed the heightened noise, energy and excitement in the stadium.
That only increased the following year when Shaw was a player at Stanford and the Cardinal rallied for a 27-25 win after scoring a touchdown with 12 seconds left, missing a 2-point conversion, recovering an onside kick and capitalizing on two personal fouls to set up John Hopkins’ game-winning field goal.
“I say this every year, to the freshmen from all over the country and maybe the sophomores who didn’t play last year, to not be surprised by the emotion as you walk through the stadium. You’re going to feel it,” Shaw said. “I feel it as a coach. I’m an alum. I’m a Stanford guy. And Big Game is always Big.”
Here are some other things to watch:
BIG GAME STREAK: The rivalry has been extremely one-sided of late with Stanford winning the past six meetings — one shy of the longest streak in series history held by the Cardinal from 1995-2001. Only one of those games was decided by fewer than 10 points and the average margin of victory has been 23.2 points per game.
“That’d be a pretty cool legacy to leave, to be a part of a team that was able to beat Stanford,” Webb said.
BOWL BID: After opening the season 4-3, Cal has lost three straight games to put the Bears’ hopes of returning to a bowl game in serious jeopardy. The Bears must win their final two games against Stanford and UCLA to become bowl eligible, although they could have an outside shot of making a bowl with five wins if there are not enough six-win teams to fill up all the slots.
“We know what’s at stake,” Cal receiver Bug Rivera said. “Everybody knows what’s at stake. We’d really like to get that bowl opportunity and think we’re going to get it done.”
CHRYST’S PROGRESS: After going just 24 for 47 for 164 yards in his first two starts, Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst showed signs of improvement last week at Oregon. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s been making incremental improvements the first two games,” Shaw said. “It’s the execution of the offense. All the positive signs were there in practice. No one wants it more and no one is pushing himself harder than Keller. All he has to do is play his part. He doesn’t have to take the game over.”
STOPPING McCAFFREY: After being slowed by an undisclosed injury last month, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey has been back to his dynamic self the past three weeks. He has rushed for 503 yards at an average of 7.0 yards per carry and scored seven TDs in that span. He faces a Cal run defense that is second-worst in the FBS, allowing 283.4 yards rushing per game.
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