Linebacker Jackson Sirmon turned a teammate’s fumble into a 37-yard touchdown, producing the go-ahead score in host California’s 27-20 victory over rival Stanford on Saturday afternoon in the 125th annual Big Game in Berkeley, Calif.
Sirmon’s return came after the second fumble on a crazy play that occurred on the 40th anniversary of one of the most famous kickoff returns in college football history known as “The Play.”
It gave Cal (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) a second consecutive win in the Northern California rivalry.
The Golden Bears hadn’t scored since the first quarter and trailed 17-6 before Jack Plummer threw a 1-yard TD pass to Monroe Young with 11:18 to play.
A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Cal behind 17-12. However, on the third play of Stanford’s ensuing possession, the Golden Bears’ Daniel Scott forced a fumble on Ashton Daniels’ run around left end.
The ball hopped into the arms of Cal’s Jeremiah Earby, who took two steps and in turn dropped the ball, with this bounce landing in Sirmon’s hands to begin his dash to the difference-making score.
A two-point conversion by Jaydn Ott put Cal up 20-17 with 9:54 remaining, after which Ott added a 1-yard TD plunge to ice the victory with 58 seconds left.
Stanford’s Joshua Carty drilled a 61-yard field goal on the final play of the game to account for the final score, ending the Cardinal’s run of six consecutive wins in Berkeley.
Ott was the game’s leading rusher with 97 yards on 18 carries and the one score. Plummer went 23-for-43 for 280 yards and one TD with two interceptions, directing the Golden Bears to a win that ended a six-game losing streak.
Cal’s Jeremiah Hunter was the game’s leading receiver, with five catches for 103 yards.
Stanford (3-8, 1-8) was led offensively by Tanner McKee, who threw for 271 yards on 29-of-45 passing with one TD and one interception. Mitch Leigber ran for 83 yards and a first-half score, while Elijah Higgins hauled in eight passes for 69 yards and a 9-yard score that increased the Cardinal’s lead to 17-6 midway through the third period.
Each team scored on its first two possessions of the game, but not again before halftime, with Stanford taking a 10-6 lead into the break.
Leigber scored the half’s only TD on a 1-yard plunge to cap the Cardinal’s first possession.
Stanford’s Joshua Karty added a 42-yard field goal at the 3:47 mark of the first period, sandwiching 54- and 38-yard successes by Cal’s Dario Longhetto.
–Field Level Media