BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Paulson Adebo took away the ball so Stanford could hold onto the coveted Axe.
Adebo made two interceptions in the fourth quarter, including a spectacular one-handed grab in the end zone, to help prevent the game-tying score, as Stanford relied on its defense to win its ninth straight Big Game, 23-13, over California Saturday.
“It means a lot just knowing how much this game means to both schools, the alumni, our seniors, sending them out having never lost to California,” Adebo said. “It was big.”
The Cardinal (8-4, 6-3 Pacific 12) scored on their first two drives of the game to take a 10-0 lead on a 46-yard screen pass touchdown to Cameron Scarlett held on against the Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5) to extend the longest winning streak in the series that began in 1892.
Scarlett added a three-yard score to seal it late in the fourth quarter after Adebo’s second interception.
“It’s big, especially my senior year going for a fourth year in a row, making sure we send all the seniors and fifth years our on the right foot,” Scarlett said. “It’s a great feeling to keep The Axe.”
While Scarlett provided the touchdowns, Adebo delivered the biggest highlight with Stanford protecting a 13-6 lead in the fourth quarter. Chase Garbers took a deep shot, Adebo dived for it and cradled the ball in his right hand as he hit the ground and did a summersault.
“He’s an incredible player,” Cardinal linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “He’s a magician with the ball in his hands. It’s crazy.”
Bryce Love lost a fumble the play after Adebo’s interception but Stanford’s defense stepped up again and forced a field goal that Greg Thomas missed from 36 yards to keep the score 13-6.
The Cardinal then burned more than seven minutes off the clock, with help from a third-down roughing the passer penalty against Tevin Paul, before making it a 10-point lead on Jet Toner’s third field goal of the day.
This year’s matchup featured both teams with at least seven wins for just the second time in the past 27 seasons. The game was delayed two weeks after being postponed Nov. 17 because of unhealthy air conditions from Northern California wildfires.
There was a boisterous crowd hopeful the Bears would end their Big Game slump, but Stanford started fast. Costello picked apart Cal’s defense on the opening drive to set up Toner’s 26-yard field goal and Scarlett added has long score on the second drive.
“We wanted it really bad,” Garbers said. “These seniors haven’t beat Stanford, so our goal was to send them out a winner. As underclassmen, we failed at doing that. It hurts a lot because you feel you let your teammates down.”
Both Stanford and California will advance to a bowl game to be determined today.