The reason we started this series? Because when Cal scores a ton of points, the games tend to be pretty memorable. And Cal's highest scoring game against Arizona certainly qualifies. In fact, I'm tempted to say that Cal's 1996 win over Arizona is one of the most memorable, important games that also happened to be relatively meaningless.
Why was it memorable and important? Because Cal won, 56-55 in four overtimes, in large part helping to inspire the Dick Tomey rule that mandates two point conversion attempts after the first two overtime periods.
Why was it relatively meaningless? Because it was a game that matched up two teams that would combined to go 11-13. College football is full of games like these. But you never know on Saturday when you might have the chance to watch a completely unique game.
Looking back, that 1996 team was a good candidate to set scoring records, for one simple reason:
Head coach: Steve Mariucci
Defensive coordinator: Tom Holmoe
One noted offensive mind, one noted BYU athletic director!
And why is the record 'only' 56 points? Because Dick Tomey made an interesting play call:
Arizona lined up for what we all assumed would be the tying extra point. On to a 5th overtime we'd go. I was bracing myself for the humanity that would crowd us if the action shifted to the south end zone. But there would be no "9th quarter." Arizona Coach Dick Tomey decided to end this thing, right then. With a fake extra point! Arizona's holder flipped the ball backwards to the kicker, who sprinted as only a kicker can toward the right corner of the end zone. But Andre Rhodes, a Cal linebacker who also played on the field goal unit, sniffed out the fake and tackled the kicker well short of the goal line. The crowd was stunned. Did we just see what we thought we just saw?!?
That excerpt is from Ohio Bear's original retrospective on 'The Marathon at Memorial,' and you should go read/reread it now!
It's worth remembering that Cal had a solid but not unusual 35 points at the end of regulation. It took three touchdowns in four overtime possessions to set the Arizona scoring record, which makes this a record with a bit of an asterisks. So, what is the Cal record for most points scored against Arizona in regulation? Let's dive back into the record books!
The answer? Cal beat Arizona 45-27 in 2007 to set the program record for most points in regulation against the Wildcats. Justin Forsett controlled the game on the ground, Nate Longshore was efficient, and Tyson Alualu scored a defensive touchdown. If the Wildcats hadn't come back to tie the Bears in 1996, Cal's 45 point effort in '07 would stand as the lowest record on the books for points scored against an original Pac-10 school.
Can the Bear Raid break the record?
Well, if they have the help of multiple overtimes, sure! I will say that if the record were 52 or 55 it might be a bit easier, but to beat 56 you have to have (obviously) at least 8 scoring drives, and you can't ever settle for field goals or miss extra points.
The X factor here is that Arizona is coached by noted speedster Rich Rodriguez, and although I'm sure he wants to have a good defense, RichRod doesn't typically follow through by actually playing good defense. These two teams/coaches could produce some damned exciting shoot outs if they both stick around at their current jobs.