Return Of The Axe: Garbers, Cal responds late to capture the 122th Big Game, 24-20

By Morris Phillips

STANFORD — Chase Garbers began the week as a question mark, unable to practice, and an unlikely participant in the Big Game against Stanford.

He ended the week, standing tall in the end zone after scrambling 17 yards for the winning score as Cal shocked Stanford, 24-20, with two touchdowns in the game’s final eight minutes.

“To make some of the throws that he made on the last drive and then the scramble for the touchdown, those are huge plays,” coach Justin Wilcox said of Garbers. “And I think people are going to be talking about that drive for a while.”

With Cal facing the possibility of a tenth consecutive loss to their Bay Area rival, Garbers and receiver Nikko Remigio stepped up, firmly planting their names on the face of the rivalry. Garbers started the day tentatively, throwing instead of taking an opportunity to run for a first down in the second period. He finished the Big Game as a duel threat, throwing for 285 yards, and running 13 times for 72 yards as well.

Remigio finished with nine catches for career-best 157 yards. With 7:44 remaining, and Stanford leading 17-10 while holding Cal scoreless in the second half to that point, Remigio broke free in front of the goal post and caught a 17-yard, game-tying touchdown from Garbers. Then on Garbers game-winning touchdown, Remigio’s block on Stanford safety Jonathan McGill near the goal line created space for the quarterback to score.

Ironically, Remigio had a pair of second quarter drops against USC the previous week that helped the Trojans break open a close game and go on to a 41-17 victory over Cal. On Saturday, Remigio had the best game of his career.

“Nikko did a great job,” Garbers said. “He was missing a couple of games due to injury, but he played one of his best games I’ve ever seen him play today. And awesome to have a wideout like him who is so versatile.”

Stanford’s Davis Mills played well enough to be the game’s hero, by completing 26 of 35 passes for 283 yards in place of the Cardinal’s injured K.J. Costello. But two interceptions in the third quarter hurt Mills’ effort, including the first career interception by Cal’s Daniel Scott.

Both teams came into the game with numerous injuries, and Stanford reportedly played with 25 players unavailable. But the game was competitive throughout, and well played, with Davis’ interceptions the only turnovers for either team. Both teams avoided penalties as well, committing just four each.

The win gave the Bears (6-5, 3-5) bowl eligibility for the second, consecutive year with one game remaining next weekend at UCLA. The loss insures that Stanford will finish with a losing record for the first time in 10 years. The Cardinal had made bowl appearances in each of those 10 seasons.

Stanford completes their season with a home game against No. 16 Notre Dame next weekend.

Cal fans stormed the field after the game surrounding the Axe–the game’s signature prize–as well as enthusiastically greeting the players. Evan Weaver, Cal’s record-breaking linebacker, was congratulated by his father, and Remigio got emotional when meeting his family.

“I was sitting there crying like a baby,” Remigio said. “It was an indescribable experience.”

Garbers also had the chaotic scene create an indelible memory for him as well.

“I saw a bunch of people rushing the field and a lot of people jumping. I was trying not to get knocked over. But it was awesome to see the Cal fans get up on the field and celebrate with us because it really means a lot to them and us,” Garbers said.

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