It's fitting to look at Ron Rivera with Texas A&M upcoming on the schedule, since Rivera will forever be defined (at least to our thinking) by the A&M game his senior year. With 1:20 left in that game, Cal and the Aggies were tied at 17 and Cal had the ball deep in A&M territory. On 4th and short, the Bears set up for an easy field goal attempt, and Randy Pratt knocked it through for a three-point lead and, apparently, the win. Then Joe Kapp lost his mind.
The Aggies had jumped offside, and for some reason Kapp took the points off the board to go for a touchdown. This was the precise moment when Old Blues looked at each other and realized that this coaching experiment would not work out. On the next snap from center Gale Gilbert lost the handle and A&M recovered the fumble at their own two yard line. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle to our fourteen-year old eyes.
A&M Coach Jackie Sherrill called a toss sweep - a dumb call deep in your own territory, but not quite Kapp-esque. The ball arrived to Hawkins at approximately the same time as Rivera, who was coming on a run blitz. Rivera was traveling a bit faster than the pigskin, and he knocked Hawkins backwards into the A&M end zone for an improbable safety - and the upset win for Cal.
Rivera had many more shining moments as Cal's best defender of the early 1980s. He was named team captain as a sophomore, and led the Golden Bears in tackles from 1981 to 1983. In 1983 he set a record that still stands with 26.5 tackles for loss including 13 sacks. For his efforts Rivera was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac 10 and was a consensus choice for All-America at linebacker. He was also the first Golden Bear to become a finalist for the Lombardi Award.
Rivera was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the 1984 draft, and became the first Puerto Rican to play professional football. Following his retirement in 1992, Rivera entered the coaching ranks and is now the highly-regarded defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears.
And readers share some memories:
"Ron Rivera also had a hand in helping erase the dumbest coaching mistake in Cal history when he tackled a Texas A&M running back in the end zone scoring a safety, when coach Joe Kapp had taken 3 points off the board." ~LeonPowe
"I remember that game oh so well, even though I could only listen to it on the radio. It was the first game of the 1983 season, making it Cal's very next game after The Play. Cal had it won with the FG. Then there was a penalty, and Kapp decided to take the 3 points off the board and try for a TD. The next play, Cal fumbled. But then the next play, Rivera got us the safety. Cal wins! In Texas!" ~CalBear81
Which school should we reserve our primary hatred for, USC, the Furd or UCLA?
"That's a very tough question that I wrestle with often. First of all, UCLA isn't even in the conversation. They're like your little brother who has a slumber party at your house, and you get kicked out of your bed, and then one of his friends wets your bed, and he knows but doesn't tell you and you figure it out when you get into bed the next night. And then the next day he beats you in Air Hockey for the first time in his life, and he parades around the house screaming about how awesome he is and how you suck. You don't hate that guy; you just don't feel bad when you push him out of the way to get the cool seat on the ride at Disneyland.
UCLA fans are the biggest front-running poseurs on earth. Be that as it may, I don't detest their school. As for the other two, it's so damn hard... Satan or Voldemort? AIDS or cancer? Nixon or Bush? Mussolini or Bin Laden? Stanfurd people are sit-back-and-judge dweebs who convince themselves that their school is more academically challenging (as if) and average about 2.3 risks per lifetime, but at least I have some respect for their school. SC fans are the jackoffs who show up for the game in their SC shirts with their SC hats and their SC pants and their lame SC fanny packs and think that cheating is awesome and are actually proud that their band played on Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk."
I guess what it comes down to for me is, who's beating us more frequently at the time? In the ‘80s, when SC was king and we were holding our own in Big Games, I hated SC more. Then when SC was down and Stanfurd beat us seven Big Games in a row and 900 consecutive times in basketball and Tiger Woods and Chelsea Clinton were there and they were racking up bogus national titles in women's cross country and fencing every five minutes, I absolutely hated Stanfurd more. Now we're all over Stanfurd, in every sport (really), and USC has a professional football operation that we can't overcome, and I have to hear about it from my NFL friends all the time.
So I guess the short answer is, SC Sucks (and Stanfurd swallows)."
Cal fans can be a laid back, downtrodden bunch, especially after a game like that, and probably don't make as much noise as we could. How do we get them riled up for playing USC?
OK, let me explain something to you: This is not a choice. This is a battle between darkness and light, and it is a mortal fight to the finish, or at least until we get to Pasadena on Jan. 1 in my lifetime.
Last November, all three of my kids' soccer games were rained out, and I had a late flight out of Sacramento, and it occurred to me that I could roll down to the Cal-Oregon game. So I did, and I sat with my best friend in the pouring rain and was cold and wet and couldn't even booze cause I was driving. It was miserable. And we won. And I remember saying something like, "I could sit here and watch us beat SC while people pissed on me for three hours, and I'd be cool with that. But if you told me I could sit here all day and, uh, receive oral pleasure, and we lost? Pretty far from cool."
I guess that's my way of saying, you've gotta want it. Really want it. When we were 0-9 going into the 2001 Big Game at Stanfurd-that's two years after the game when we had eight false starts and 20 penalties in all and Stanfurd celebrated a Rose Bowl berth and my friends and I slinked away in our blue-and-gold bathrobes in agony-some of my friends were fed up and decided they weren't going. We were about to lose our seventh in a row, and it was dreadful, and I briefly contemplated sitting it out as a form of protest. This was right after 9/11, and I remember having a revelation: Hell yeah I'm going, because I'm a Cal fan and even though my team is a joke and is as ill-prepared for this challenge as a college football team could possibly be, going to Big Game is what you do when you're a Cal fan. I said, "We will not be cowed by Holmoe-ism. We need to make a statement-to Stanfurd, to ourselves-that even in the darkest of times we are not going away." The next year we ended the streak in Berkeley and my friends and I were at Blake's literally pouring pitchers of beer on one another's heads and loving every drop of it. It was that good. And Saturday can be, too.
Look, one of the reasons I wrote what I wrote last Monday was to remind the less-grizzled Bear Backers what the deal is. Yeah, we're disappointed about the nightmare in Oregon, and rightfully so, but the bottom line is we're 0-1 and winning our conference is all that matters. Don't get caught up in the expectations and the polls and the Heisman talk and whether GameDay is coming to campus, because none of that stuff is ours.
The quest for the Rose Bowl? That's ours, and we hold it dear, as we should. And as long as we have breath, I'm gunning for Pasadena, and doing everything I possibly can to try to get us there.
My future wife, in college, was hammered one Saturday and came up with, "The crowd controls the game. And we control the crowd." And I still believe that. I was at The Play. I give up never. And the notion that what happened last week will somehow cause my people to be submissive against the University of Shameless Cheaters is untenable.
Yo, everyone, GET YOUR GODDAMNED GAME FACES ON. These are the Trojans, and we need to treat them like Trojans: Give them a rollicking ride, take them on a three-hour, dirty-talking, ass-slapping, multiple-orgasm-producing trip to the next dimension, and then tear ‘em off and flush ‘em down the toilet and grab a beer and fall asleep with a fat-ass smile.
Can we do that? Does a Bear s--- in Tommy Trojan's megaphone? Did O.J. do it? Did O.J. Mayo get paid? Is ‘Tusk' the worst song in the history of recorded music? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Let's dooooooooooo itttttttt.
(Oh, and don't forget the thing about buying my friends the pitchers.)
Before we finish, here's a look at the aftermath of last week's action.
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