STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Fernando Mendoza threw for 294 yards and a season-high three touchdowns, Jaydn Ott ran 36 times for 166 yards and a score, and California beat Stanford 27-15 in the annual Big Game on Saturday night.

Mendoza, the redshirt freshman making his sixth straight start after beginning the year buried on the depth chart, overcame a big hit by Stanford linebacker Tristan Sinclair early in the second quarter and returned to lead the Bears (5-6, 3-5 Pac-12) to a second consecutive win that keeps Cal’s postseason hopes alive. He completed 24 of 36 passes and was intercepted once.

Once the final seconds ticked off the clock, a massive throng of Cal fans swarmed the field to celebrate alongside the Bears.

“I don’t know that there’s a better 30 minutes to an hour in the year than when you’re able to win the Big Game and retain the Axe,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s a great feeling. I want the guys to enjoy it. It’s a huge win on many levels.”

Ott’s 36 carries were a season-high and it was his fifth 100-yard game of the year. It also raised Ott’s career total to 2,079 yards, moving him into 13th place of Cal’s all-time list.

As good as Cal’s offense was, the Bears defense was equally strong. The Cardinal were limited to 12 first downs, made only one trip inside the red zone and were tackled six times for losses while losing to their San Francisco Bay Area rivals for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

Cardinal quarterback Ashton Daniels was 18 of 35 for 188 yards passing and a touchdown, and added another 68 yards rushing for Stanford (3-8, 2-7), the lone FBS team to not have a home victory this year.

The Bears also held Stanford’s top receiver, Elic Ayomanor, to a season low-tying three catches for 43 yards.

“Didn’t make enough plays,” said Stanford coach Troy Taylor, who was Cal’s quarterback from 1986-89. “It all starts with the run game. They beat us up front.”

Mendoza was injured while trying to scramble for a first down. The Cal quarterback came up short but was drilled by Sinclair, who was flagged for targeting on the play and ejected.

Mendoza was helped off the field and missed the remainder of the drive then returned for the following series. He capped his second drive back with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Hunter.

“For our guys we wanted it more, we wanted to come out of there with the Axe,” Mendoza said. “That was our only objective. Doesn’t matter if it was messy or if it was clean. We did it and I’m extremely proud of our guys.”


California: The Bears kept their bowl hopes alive and need to beat UCLA next week for their first three-game winning streak since 2019 to get into the postseason. Mendoza wasn’t his sharpest but made enough plays to keep Cal’s offense moving. As long as Ott remains healthy, he is one of the best backs in the Pac-12 and continues to prove it weekly.

Stanford: Taylor remains winless in the Big Game. The former Cal QB was 0-1-1 playing against Stanford and now dropped his first game as a coach in the matchup. Joshua Karty kicked three field goals for the Cardinal.


Stanford: Hosts Notre Dame on Saturday. The two teams have split 18 all-time matchups in Stanford.

California: Travels to play at UCLA next Saturday in the final Pac-12 matchup between the two long-time rivals.


Get alerts on the latest AP Top 25 poll throughout the season. Sign up here --- AP college football: and

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.