Christian McCaffrey made another strong push for the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in front of a national television audience. The sophomore running back compiled a school-record 389 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns in Stanford's 35-22 victory against bowl eligible Cal in the 118th Big Game.
How many people east of the Mississippi watched his dazzling display is unknown, but those who didn't missed out. McCaffrey added to his already bulging highlight tape with a remarkable 49-yard score on a screen pass. A few minutes later, he carted a kickoff 98 yards to the house to lift the Cardinal to a 21-6 halftime lead.
Tweeted Brett McMurphy of ESPN, "Christian McCaffrey has to be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. The kid is unreal."
On Sunday, McCaffrey was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
Stanford (9-2), now ranked 12th in the AP poll, has no control over late starts. Seven games have kicked off at 7 p.m. PT or later this season.
Stanford went 8-1 to capture its third Pac-12 North Division title in four years, swept California (Cal, USC and UCLA for the fifth time since the turn of the century), and boasts one of the toughest overall schedules, finishing the regular season this Saturday night against fourth-ranked Notre Dame.
McCaffrey hasn't flinched and has firmly established himself as the most versatile offensive player in the FBS. He extended his national lead in all-purpose yards and now has 2,807. McCaffrey averages 255.18 yards/game, while Tyler Ervin of San Jose State is a distant second at 206.73.
McCaffrey ranks second in rushing with 1,546 yards, only 36 behind NCAA leader Leonard Fournette of LSU. McCaffrey ranks fourth in rushing yards per game at 140.5 and is third in kickoff returns at 31.3.
MCaffrey has proven to be a durable workhorse. His 331 plays rank first of the top 50 players in all-purpose yards.
"Christian McCaffrey deserves an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony," Tweeted Joe Schad, the national college football writer for ESPN.
In Sunday's latest Heisman polls, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports rank McCaffrey second and third, respectively.
McCaffrey's teammates think otherwise.
"Christian puts his nose to the grindstone as hard as anybody in this country," said center Graham Shuler. "That's why I think he deserves to be in Heisman contention and deserves all the recognition he's getting and even more.
"Coach Bloomgren and I were joking around today about what covers he's been on and why he hasn't been on Sports Illustrated and Sporting News. That stuff is very soon to come. He's a superstar."
Unbeaten against Cal
Stanford seniors became just the 13th class in program history to go undefeated against Cal.
"It's amazing," said linebacker Blake Martinez. "When you're thinking about it after you're done with your Stanford career, it's huge to come back and say you never lost to them."
Shuler credits the Stanford culture and work ethic for the accomplishment.
"It's such a special thing," he said. "Coach Shaw was talking about this program that we keep building. To be a part of that is such an honor. I came here and watched David DeCastro and those guys. They worked their tails off. You could tell on film when I was in high school watching these games, the way they play the game and how passionate they are . . . I came here because I wanted to do that."
DBs certainly tested
The Stanford secondary played without injured cornerback Ronnie Harris, one of the top pass defenders in the conference.
However, younger players stepped up against Cal quarterback Jared Goff, notably sophomores Terrence Alexander and Alameen Murphy, and freshman Quenton Meeks. The talented Goff completed 38 of 55 passes for 386 yards, but never burned Stanford deep as the Cardinal played soft on the short routes.
Alexander collected a team-high 10 tackles, Meeks nine and Murphy five.
"More proud than you could ever imagine," Harris said of the group. "They stood up out there. These guys are more experienced than a lot of people think. These guys played lights out."
Murphy said the unit embraced the challenge.
"It was exciting," he said. "We knew they were going to throw the ball. Our mentality from the first day of preseason is next man up. When Ronnie went down and Alijah went down, we had a lot of people ready to go in there and do the job."
Wright man again
Short-yardage specialist Remound Wright contributed a pair of touchdown runs and has now scored 21 in his past 14 games. He now has 12 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for 21st nationally.
Asked how difficult it was to regroup from last week's tough 38-36 loss to Oregon, he said players never wavered.
"We just stuck to our game plan," said Wright. "We knew they were a good team and they were going to give us everything they had. But we knew if we played to the best of our ability, there's no one who can stop us."
A happy man
Nobody had a bigger smile on his face in the locker room after the game than defensive lineman Brennan Scarlett. The graduate transfer from Cal played four seasons for the Golden Bears but never competed in the Big Game due to injuries and never earned the Axe.
On Saturday afternoon at the team hotel, Scarlett gave an impassioned speech to his Cardinal teammates about why winning was important to him. The message hit home.
"We have a really tight-knit locker room here," said Shuler. "I don't think there are many guys in the country that can come in after being somewhere else, regardless of being a rival school, and jell and fit in and be one of our guys. There has been no question from the start that Scarlett is like that."
Not only did Scarlett carry the Axe off the field, he led the team in their post-game victory chant of "C-House."
Stanford and Notre Dame have played one common opponent this season: USC. Both prevailed by the same score, the Cardinal winning, 41-31, in Los Angeles and the Fighting Irish, 41-31, at Notre Dame Stadium.
The kickoff for Saturday's nationally televised game against Notre Dame starts at 4:30 p.m. and will be shown on FOX. The game is a sold out . . . Martinez is tied for 15th nationally in tackles per game at 9.9 . . . Stanford remains first in the country in time of possession (35:00) . . . Many former Cardinal players attended the game, including current NFL players Andrus Peat (New Orleans Saints) and Johnson Bademosi (Cleveland Browns) . . . Stanford alum Jesse Rogers '79 served as honorary captain. He is co-founder and managing director of Altamont Capital Partners.
"Playing in this rivalry game is definitely more exciting than watching it on television." - Stanford defensive back Alameen Murphy of Fort Washington, Md., after playing in his first Big Game.