Stepfan Taylor rushed for a career-high 189 yards and scored a touchdown and Josh Nunes threw for 214 yards and another touchdown as No. 22 Stanford downed host California, 21-3, on Saturday in the 115th edition of the Big Game.
Zach Ertz caught six passes for 134 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinal (3-1, 5-2), which beat Cal for the third straight year and fourth in six games since ending a five-game losing streak in the series.
Taylor passed Toby Gerhart into second place on the all-time Stanford rushing-yard list with 3,616 yards. His 28 carries also move him past Gerhart and Brad Muster for career carries with 696. Only Darrin Nelson has carried the ball more (703) and rushed for more yardage (4,033) in Stanford history.
"He was the key cog in this offense," Ertz said of Taylor. "He had almost 200 yards rushing and we feel like if we can get that going then that's going to step up everything else."
Taylor rushed for 100 yards or more for the 18th time in his career and scored his 33rd career rushing touchdown. He needs 122 yards to record his third consecutive 1,000 yard season and 427 to catch Nelson for the all-time career record.
"Throwing the ball down field and running the ball. That's what we want to be, a balanced team," Taylor said. "That's a good offense, to not have to rely on one thing. Like I said, we're going to go out there and get better."
Stanford can become bowl-eligble with a victory at home over Washington State next Saturday in a game scheduled to kick off at 3:15 p.m.
The Cardinal was its own worst enemy most of the contest. Making the most of a dominating defensive effort, Stanford overcame some silly offensive miscues to retain the Axe for at least another year.
There was nothing silly about Taylor's performance though. He ran behind a line that controlled the trenches the entire way. He gave Stanford its first offensive touchdown on the road in the first quarter and the Cardinal never looked back.
It was by far the most impressive rushing defensive effort of the season as the Cardinal limited the Bears to three yards on the ground. Stanford limited USC to 26 yards and Duke to 27 rushing yards.
"First things first, stop the run and make them one dimensional and then get after them in the pass rush," Cardinal Ben Gardner said. "The defensive line did a great job getting off of blocks all night long. It was a great collective effort by the front seven and even the safeties coming up and laying the wood. A great job by our defense collectively stopping the run."
The three rushing yards allowed is the lowest since Stanford allowed minus-5 yards against BYU in 2003 and ties for the seventh-best defensive effort, matching a 1970 outing against Oregon.
Cal threw for 214 yards, much of it coming late,. Only Washington and Notre Dame threw for fewer yards against the Cardinal this season.
Stanford also limited Cal to 217 total yards, also its best defensive effort.
Redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan also attempted his first career pass and completed a 9-yard toss to Levine Toilolo for a touchdown.
Nunes and Ertz connected on a 20-yard pass for the final touchdown.
Chase Thomas led Stanford with seven tackles, leading a defense that begrudgingly gave ground to the Bears.
Thomas, Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and Alex Debniak were each credited with a sack.
"I'm just very proud of our guys for bringing the Axe back home to Stanford," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "It was a great effort, particularly on defense, Dominating, suffocating defense. Trent Murphy was off the charts. Ben Gardner gave us great push inside. Our secondary did a good job against a great receiver."