STANFORD, California — Moving the ball down the field wasn't a problem for California. Getting it into the end zone and stopping Christian McCaffrey were, and that added up to another loss to Stanford.
McCaffrey broke the game open with two long touchdowns and the Golden Bears were hurt by settling for three field goals in the red zone in their sixth straight Big Game loss, 35-22 to No. 15 Stanford on Saturday night.
"When you have almost 500 yards of offense, against a good defense, it's a little bit frustrating when you score 22 points and don't win the game," coach Sonny Dykes said.
McCaffrey ran for 192 yards and gained a school-record 389 all-purpose yards in another highlight-reel performance that helped the Cardinal (9-2, 8-1, No. 11 CFP) clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
Jared Goff threw for 386 yards and two touchdowns but the Bears settled for field goals by Matt Anderson three times in the red zone and fell short once again against their fiercest rival.
"A lot of missed opportunities," Goff said. "We're normally pretty good in the red zone but today we weren't. They played well defensively. Those were three scores that could have changed it."
Remound Wright ran for two short touchdowns and Bryce Love added a 48-yard scoring run for Stanford, which clinched the Pac-12 North with the win. The Cardinal will play the winner of next week's game between UCLA and Southern California for the Pac-12 title on Dec. 5 in Santa Clara.
McCaffrey broke Glyn Milburn's Stanford all-purpose record of 379 yards set in the 1990 Big Game. He has a school-record nine straight 100-yard rushing games, has topped 300 all-purpose yards four times this season and needs 444 all-purpose yards to break Barry Sanders' single-season FBS record of 3,250 set in 1988. With the Cardinal making the conference title game, McCaffrey will have at least three more games to break that mark.
"If anybody has seen a running back, a football player better than Christian McCaffrey this year, tell me. Show him to me," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "I haven't seen anybody in America like this kid. He's truly, truly special."
Cal dominated the third quarter with two scoring drives and finally got into the end zone when Goff hit Darius Powe on a 3-yard pass that cut Stanford's lead to 21-16.
But the Cardinal responded after Cal gave them good field position with a short kickoff that kept the ball out of McCaffrey's hands. McCaffrey ran for 44 of the 61 yards on the TD drive that was capped by a 1-yard run by Wright, who has six touchdowns in the past two Big Games.
After Stanford stopped Cal on a fourth down, Love iced the game with his long run and ensured that the Cardinal would retain the coveted Axe for another year.
The game was especially meaningful to graduate transfer defensive lineman Brennan Scarlett, who spent his first four years at Cal before finishing his career with the Cardinal.
"It feels great," Scarlett said. "It's been a long time coming for me. I obviously never held the Axe. To be a part of this team and contribute to keeping the Axe is a huge deal."
McCaffrey made the Bears pay by beating them with big plays.
On the first, he caught a screen pass from Kevin Hogan and broke a tackle behind the line. He broke more tackles while weaving his way through the overmatched Cal defense to give Stanford a 14-3 lead.
The Bears then cut the lead with a field goal with 51 seconds left but were unable to carry that good feeling into the half when McCaffrey ran back the ensuing kick untouched for another score.