One of Cal's most accomplished athletes drives head long into Cal's greatest sporting moment! Who will move on to the Sweet 16? Vote by Friday at noon PT! Click here to view the full bracket.
Results of the Brick Muller bracket: Glenn Seaborg 142, Matt Biondi 71; Steve Bartkowski 156, Dante Hughes 50; Desean Jackson 206, Theo Robertson 82
Randle's evolution as a player was remarkable. When I first watched him sophomore year I cringed watching him run the offense. I don't play much basketball, but when I do I'm usually the point guard, and the things Randle did are NOT things that would make my teammates happy. The shots themselves weren't that bad. I'm guessing if he was taking them in the first place he was hitting them in practice, and the next two years proved he could make those shots.
No, it was the lack of ball movement and inability to get the ball to the bigs that really exasperated me. The process of watching our plays developed was chaotic, and not in an enjoyable Nellie-ball sort of way. You could see the team unravel during conference play as they ran into smarter and more efficient teams. That's the point guard mantra--run the offense, make your teammates make happy. Bad point guards lead to bad teams, and that was what Cal was in 2008.
(The most curious thing was that Randle and Ryan Anderson never really gelled. Although people opine what would've been if Ryan had returned for a year (or two) with Monty, Jerome probably would've left as he was already on the fence after the Braun firing, and we'd have probably had two years of Nikola Knezevic running point guard. Think we're Pac-10 champions this year if that happens?)
His maturation was exceptional under Monty though. First he got the alpha dog streak as the team's on-the-court leader in his junior campaign. That he went from an inconsistent shooter shooter to one of college's most efficent offensive players (53rd in the nation in 09) in a year without great bigs to set picks for him lends credence to Montgomery's teaching methods. Amazing what putting a system in place does for good players.
Second, his endurance for a guy his size was exceptional. He played an average of 35 minutes the past two seasons, and that's including blowouts. And it wasn't like the guy was taking plays off either--he handled the ball on over a fourth of our possessions the past two seasons. It not only underscored the importance of Randle, but the faith Monty had in letting him play those long minutes. It wore him out last season, but his performances were solid from beginning to end this year.
Finally, he embraced his teammates and ran with them as they ran with each other. Although his 2009 campaign was more spectacular than his 2010 season, I felt he played even better this year. He sublimated his individual talents in search of the team goal, which was the conference crown. The final stretch of the Pac-10 season (where they won nine out of their last ten games) was perhaps the best basketball he ever played as a Bear. He stepped up when they needed him, he stepped aside when others were ready to carry the load. And they got that conference ring.
Norcalnick talks about The Play.
Moen to Rodgers to Garner to Rodgers to Ford to Moen. Like pi to math majors, every Cal fan should know the sequence. But how exactly did a last second victory in a game with no real national significance become so legendary, so mythical?
When I was 9 I went to my first Big Game and watched Cal win. Having been hooked on Cal football, I then saw Cal lose 7 straight times. My Mom, the consummate pessimistic yet loyal Cal fan, would hold up The Play as our desperate Cal fan trump card. Lose 7 in a row to the ‘furd? So what, we have The Play. Go a decade without a bowl? Whatevs, we have The Play. No Rose Bowl berths in either of our lifetimes? No worries, we have The Play.
For 20 years between The Play and Tedford, it was our one shining moment in a sea of football pain and misery. Whenever the Big Game was in Palo Alto my mom would play a tape that analyzed The Play, including an introduction, the CALX call of the game (which is significantly more confusing even than Starkey’s call) and player interviews. We played it to piss off the Stanford fans, because THEY LOST ON THE PLAY!
Every once in a while ESPN or Sports Illustrated will have some silly internet voting for the greatest play in college (or sports) history. Despite a biased voting public, The Play almost always wins. Nothing can match 6 laterals against your biggest rival with the most insane band in America on the field.
It is here that we must mention the unfortunate part of our story: Mariet Ford, he of the psychic blind lateral, is currently behind bars for the murder of his wife and 35 month old son. The Chronicle has a long profile on Ford, detailing the glory of The Play and his fall from grace.
Now, in 2009, with 6 straight bowl games and perennial conference title contention, maybe The Play isn’t as important as it used to be. We don’t need to hang our hat on one moment. Or, maybe The Play will remain as a moment that defines Cal athletes and fans alike with the attitude that the Bear will not quit, the Bear will not die.
And if you ever wondered if The Play was ‘the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending... exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football,’ I’ll leave you with this:
For many years, John Elway was bitter, on both a personal level and on behalf of his team, about the touchdown being allowed: "This was an insult to college football... They [the officials] ruined my last game as a college football player."