Stanford’s Big Offense Makes Cal Eat Its Words : Big Game: Vardell, Whitfield silence Bears with some smash-mouth football, 38-21.
He guaranteed a California victory, that’s what Golden Bear wide receiver Brian Treggs did. He said it loud and clear, loud enough for every Stanford player to hear. And just in case any of them were hard of hearing, he added a personal twist to the prediction.
“I will live in Palo Alto if we lose to Stanford,” he announced. “I will not come back to Berkeley.”
Yes, well, guess who is filling out change of address forms today?
Treggs, trash-talker supreme, learned several important lessons in the aftermath of a 38-21 loss to the Cardinal Saturday at Stanford Stadium: Never make a promise you can’t keep. And never, ever blurt out such things when Cardinal offensive tackle Bob Whitfield or fullback Tommy Vardell can hear.
After all, they take this Big Game stuff seriously.
To prove the point, Vardell rushed for three touchdowns and 182 bruising yards, many of which came after the massive Whitfield, no wallflower himself, cleared away openings wide enough for the Stanford band to march through. More remarkable than the yardage itself was that Vardell did it against a Cal defense that put six, seven and sometimes eight men on the line, daring Stanford to be so foolish.
But run it they did. Vardell carried the ball 39 times. Halfback Glyn Milburn chipped in 11 carries. Quarterback Steve Stenstrom added five rushes of his own. By the time they were done pounding, No. 21-ranked Stanford (8-3) had beaten sixth-ranked Cal (9-2) and Vardell had set a school record for most rushing yards in a season (1,084) and most carries in a game.
His final carry happened to be his most memorable of the day. As 85,500 fans watched, Vardell took the ball around the left side, home of Whitfield, and didn’t stop until he lumbered 13 yards for his third score. So exhausted was Vardell, that he begged Stanford tight end Paul Nickel, who greeted him first in the end zone, not to pile on.
“Just stay away,” Vardell said.
Nickel did as he was told, but reluctantly.
“I was so tired at the time, I wasn’t even thinking,” said Vardell, known as “Touchdown Tommy.” “I couldn’t even raise my arms.”
Vardell’s uniform was a mess. Grass and bloodstains decorated his pants. His jersey had been ripped apart in places, allowing his shoulder pads to stick through. He had scratches on his forearms and a nick on his forehead.
Now then, imagine how the Cal defenders felt? By game’s end, few of them wanted any part of the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Vardell or of the celebrated Stanford offensive line. Missed tackles were commonplace. And rarely did anyone bring down the senior fullback alone.
“After a while,” said Vardell of his blockers, “300 pounds of meat and strength are going to get to you.”
Vardell was referring to Whitfield, the 6-7, 300-pound bulldozer who relished every moment of the 94th Big Game.
For instance, it was Whitfield who challenged Treggs quote for pregame quote, going so far to say that the Cardinal was going to “bust (Cal) up.” It was Whitfield who strutted past the Golden Bears during their warmup drills and all but challenged them to a fight. It was also Whitfield who engaged in some spirited postgame taunting with several Cal players.
And guess who loved every moment of it? None other than Stanford Coach Dennis Green, who has wanted for years to dispel the Cardinal image of eggheads in uniforms.
“We’re not going to back down,” Green said. “Our guys will not back down to anybody.”
Several of the Stanford players questioned the wisdom of Cal’s pre-Big Game jabbering. If anything, they said, the talk helped the Cardinal even more.
“That lit us up,” linebacker Ron George said. “Talk is cheap. I mean, our schedule, our stadium, a six-game win streak, national TV . . . c'mon. We’ve got Tommy Vardell, Glyn Milburn, Bob Whitfield. I mean, how can you stop our offense?”
As it turns out, the Bears couldn’t. They couldn’t stop it in the second quarter, when the Cardinal took a 10-7 lead. They couldn’t stop it in the third quarter, when the two teams matched touchdowns and Stanford retained a 17-14 advantage. And they definitely couldn’t stop it in the fourth quarter, when the Cardinal scored three times, compared to one Golden Bear touchdown.
Equally damaging were the many mistakes made by Cal. The Golden Bears were flagged 11 times for 140 yards. At least seven of the penalties were 15-yarders, the result of late hits, cheap shots and/or taunting. Cal also fumbled away the ball once and had a pass intercepted.
To add insult to injury, Cal kicker Doug Brien, usually dependable in such instances, missed field goal attempts of 38, 39 and 42 yards. And running back Russell White, who gained 89 yards in 20 carries, never got near the end zone.
“If you eliminate some of those 15-yard penalties, I see this as a three-point game,” Cal Coach Bruce Snyder said.
Maybe so. Stanford certainly committed its share of errors. An interception here. Two missed field goals there. Six penalties.
But the Cardinal had something that Cal didn’t: Vardell.
“This is definitely the way to go out for me,” Vardell said. “I never dreamed I’d be in this position.”
Neither did Cal, which hasn’t beaten Stanford since 1986. Snyder is 0-4-1 against the Cardinal.
Just to rub it in, Stanford cornerback Darrien Gordon stopped Treggs as they left the field. Gordon kiddingly told Treggs that he could stay at his place from now, seeing that the Golden Bear needs a new residence.
“He kind of laughed about it,” Gordon said, “but I don’t think he’ll be coming.”
Don’t be so sure. Treggs, who will leave Cal without having beaten the Cardinal, might consider the sub-lease offer.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way I planned,” he said. Then, smiling sheepishly, “I think I’m going to go out right now and start looking for an apartment.”