Finally made it back to the left coast for week 8 of my cross-country college football journey. The weather was a perfect 62 degrees for the friday night battle between the Washington Huskies and California Golden Bears. I had expected a hard-fought close game. That’s exactly what I got as the Huskies held off the Bears with a late touchdown en route to a 21-13 victory. The Bears play their home games at California Memorial Stadium. It was built-in the honor of the alumni and the Californians that had died in World War 1. The stadium was modeled after the Colosseum in Rome. It was originally built-in 1923. It was renovated in 2011 and now seats 62,717 fans.
THE HISTORY…………..This University is loaded with fascinating history. Football began here in 1886. The program was eliminated in 1906 when it was declared “To Dangerous” . It then returned in 1915. The Bears have won five National Titles and 14 conference championships. Cal football became prominent on the national scene in the 1920’s. From 1920-1925 the Bears went undefeated in 50 straight games, compiling a 46-0-4 record. That streak still ranks as the 3rd best in the country! The team also has produced two of the oddest and most memorable plays in college football: Roy “Wrong Way” Riegels‘ fumble recovery and run toward the Cal goal line in the 1929 Rose Bowl, and The Play in the 1982 Big Gamewith the winning kickoff return after five laterals. While talking to many of the fans I was reminded about the 2004 Bowl championship Series controversy.
In 2004, the Bears posted a 10–2 record under Tedford and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, with their only regular season loss coming against the eventual national champion, USC. California finished the regular season ranked No. 4 according to polls, and appeared to have an excellent chance to receive an at-large BCS bowl birth, most likely in the Rose Bowl. Under normal circumstances, the Bears, as Pac-10 runner-up, would have had first crack at a Rose Bowl berth since conference champion USC was playing for the national championship.
The Bears entered their final game of the regular season ranked No. 4 in BCS standings and a 24-point favorite over Southern Miss. They won 26–16 in a closer than-expected game. With 13 seconds left in the game and Cal with the ball at the Southern Miss 22-yard line, Tedford elected to run out the clock instead of attempting to increase the margin of victory to possibly impress some voters. Leading up to the game, Tedford said he had no interest to run up the score.
In a controversial case, the Texas coach Mack Brown made impassioned pleas to media asking poll voters reconsider their final votes. Several Associated Press (AP) voters were besieged by fan emails and phone calls attempting to sway their votes, apparently spurred from Brown’s pleas to rank Texas ahead of other “less deserving teams.” Nine of the 65 AP voters switched Texas ahead of Cal, and three of them were from Texas. In the Coaches Poll, four voters moved Cal down to No. 7 and two to No. 8, when the week before none had them lower than No. 6. Meanwhile, two coaches moved Texas up to No. 3 when the team did not play that week. The Los Angeles Times wrote that accusations were raised about coaches manipulated voting, but the individual coaches votes were not released to prove or disprove the allegations. The AP Poll makes its voters’ records public. No. 6 Texas gained 23 points on No. 4 Cal in the AP poll, and the fifth-ranked Longhorns closed 43 points on the fourth-ranked Bears in the coaches poll. That allowed Texas to earn a BCS berth, finishing .0129 points ahead of Cal in the BCS standings after being .0013 points behind. The Longhorns went on to beat Michigan 38–37 in the Rose Bowl, while Cal was upset by No. 21 Texas Tech 45–31 in the Holiday Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 9. In part because of the controversy with Cal’s BCS ranking, the AP poll withdrew from the BCS after the season.
THE TRADITION……………The Universisity of California marching band, is known as the “Cal Band”. I was fortunate to see the band play at Sproul Plaza before game time. This tradition happens an hour and a half before every home game. They also perform on the field prior to the game and again at the half. The Cal mascot is a Golden Bear that goes by the name of “Oski”. Oski, has quite a reputation on campus! Each year Oski is provided by one of the frat houses. It is rumoured that before each home game, he is given a breathalyzer test, as he has been known to get rather amorous with the cheerleaders. Sitting behind the east side of the stadium is a large hill. This hill has now become known as “Tightwad Hill” Many students hike up the hill to get a premier spot to watch the game, free of charge! The Hill is also where the cannon sits. The canon is fired after each Cal score.
THE GAME…………Bishop Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins proved to be just too much for the Bears Defense. Sankey rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, while Jenkins caught 8 passes for 152 yards and a score. The Huskies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a four yard Sankey run. The Bears responded in the second quarter as Chris Harper tied the game with a 14 yard run. The second half was filled with turnovers and missed opportunities for both clubs. The Bears kicked two short field goals early in the third quarter to take a 13-7 lead. Jenkins hauled in a 29 yard touchdown pass with 41 seconds left in the third quarter to put the Huskies up for good at 14-13. The Bears had NO answer for the 6-6 tight end as he continually found holes in the Bear secondary. The fourth quarter saw a six play stretch that featured three lost fumbles. It was ultimately another turnover, a Shaq Thompson interception of an errant Zach Maynard pass, that sealed the win for the Huskies. Thompson picked off the pass and returned it 33 yards to the Bear 29 yard line. Sankey then put the game out of reach with a 1 yard plunge for the final margin of victory.