Last week, we all got to enjoy a look back at one of the best teams in Cal history - the 1975 Bears. This week, we'll talk about the greatest team(s) in Cal history. That's a pretty declarative statement for a topic so subjective, but I think it's pretty tough to argue.
I'm talking, of course, about the Wonder Team. Now, to be fair, I'm using a bit of historical leeway. The wonder teams covered a five season from 1920-1924 in which Cal combined for 44 wins, 0 losses, and 2 ties. Reasonable minds could have an interesting debate about which of those 5 teams was the best. But it's hard to conclude that it isn't the greatest stretch of Cal football ever seen.
Frankly, I'm surprised more scoring records weren't set by the wonder teams. There likely would have been more if they had played a full Pac-10/12 schedule rather than games against teams like St. Mary's, the Olympic Club, and various other teams that don't exist anymore. But they did set a program record for the most points scored against the University of Washington Sun Dodgers.
Sun Dodgers? Yep. Here's a bit of kinda creepy background:
It's the personification of the anti-Washington recruiting pitch!
In 1921, the 2nd year of Andy Smith's 5 year run of undefeated football, Cal defeated Washington 72-3. That sounds pretty bad, but to Washington's credit, they scored more points against Cal than five other teams on Cal's schedule, so it could've been worse. Grape Job!
What should you know about Cal's blowout win over Washington? Well, not surprisingly, Calbear81 has you covered:
In the Washington game, Jesse "Duke" Morrison rushed for five touchdowns - a single-game record that still stands at California.
She also discovered an early game recap written from the Cal perspective. Prepare yourself for some old timey sports writing!
November 12, 1921 will long be remembered as a day of achievement for the Blue and Gold, for on this day California settled an old account with the University of Washington. Six years before, when California changed from the Rugby game to American football, the experienced Sun Dodgers came south and swept the inexperienced California eleven off its feet, running up to a 72-0 count before the final gun put a stop to the scoring. But this year it was California's turn and the Blue and Gold warriors settled the old score in a decisive manner. This time when the final shot put a stop to the scoring the score stood California 72, Washington 3.
California went into the game with no intention of running up a large score but when once the Bears were unleashed they rushed the foe with such fury that Washington found it impossible to stop them. Feeling their strength, the Bears struck here and there with a deftness and sureness that bewildered the Sun Dodgers. The attack grew more deadly as the game went on with the result that more points were scored in the final period, with an entire second team lineup, than in any previous quarter.
Only once did Washington show any signs of offense. This was in the first quarter when they made first down and carried the ball into position for Wilson to kick a field goal for the only Washington score. Never during the game was the California goal line in danger or ever threatened.
Coach "Andy" Smith took no chance and early in the second quarter started taking out the first string players, saving them for the "Big Game" with Stanford the following week. During the second half the eleven was composed entirely of second team players. But this had no effect upon the scoring, in fact, the second team rolled up more points in the second half than were scored by the first Varsity in the initial half.
Struck here and there with a deftness and sureness!
Can the Bear Raid break the record?
I'm going to go on record with a no. And that's without making a value judgment about the likelihood of Sonny Dykes turning around Cal's offense. Even 2013 Baylor would have a tough time breaking this record.
I feel safe saying that this is the single most unbreakable points record that is technically possible to break.* Even Oregon rarely gets into the 70s, and then only against the weakest teams on the schedule. And while Washington has certainly had their down spells over the last decade, I think it's unlikely that they will be scratching the bottom in quite the same way any time soon.
No, breaking this record would take a confluence of events too unlikely to fathom. Sonny Dykes would need to get Cal's offense performing at an Oregon level of effectiveness. Washington's defense would need to fall to Nick Holt levels of badness again. And Washington would probably need to score enough to force Cal to keep pushing on offense. Basically, you'd need a repeat of the 2011 Alamo Bowl, except even then Baylor ‘only' managed 67 points. And that's how hard it is to get to 72 points.
*Here's a scavenger hunt for those who enjoy combing through the Cal record books: What is the record for most points scored by a Cal football team in a single game against a team that still currently has a football program. Sorry, St. Mary's and Pacific! I don't know the answer, but it might be 72 against Washington.