The Miracle at Memorial

Twist wanted me to write something that was a good mid-week history lesson for CGB North Week, and for anyone who was there, the most memorable Cal game of the Gilbertson era was the 1993 Oregon at Cal game, where the undefeated Oregon Ducks brought their 3-0 record into Memorial to take on the #17 ranked Cal Bears, who were also 4-0

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More after the jump

[Note to Twist: I tried writing it the way you wanted, and I only got about 1 paragraph out of it. I don't actually remember all that much about the game - only 4 plays in particular. I realized remembering a single day from 15 years ago is really difficult. So I'm combining the two posts you wanted into one. I'm watching here a video of the 1994 game as broadcast on Sportschannel Bay Area, while adding in my personal recollections of the day. Don't like it? Deal with it. THAT'S RIGHT. I WENT THERE.]

The scene: 1993. After a disappointing 4-7 season in 1992 with a team coming off a national #7 ranking and a Citrus Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers, the Bears entered 1993 with few expectations, but a lot of experienced players. Also going around in 1993 - it was the height of the AIDS scare - with Magic Johnson "attaining" the HIV virus only a year prior, so no one in college was having sex. Or at least not compared to now. Or maybe I was the only not having sex. Women back then also dressed from head to toe in flannel and listened to really depressing music. (Seriously, have you listened to Pearl Jam's Black? It's a wonder I didn't sit in my room being depressed all the time, because that was the music I listened to too.)

Waking up early Saturday morning, on a perfectly sunny Bay Area day, I rode my bike up to campus - locked it near Lower Sproul/Harmon, then got over to Top Dog for my traditional pre-game meal (2 Bockwursts, 1 with Russian Mustard and Onions, the other with Stone ground mustard and kraut) then on up to the Stadium itself, taking Bancroft up and into the stadium about 2 hours early.

I was early for the game since I had been doing some part time work and odd jobs for the athletic department, and on that fateful day, I had been scheduled for an on-field position, so I had to make my way over to the media entrance on the north side to pick up my field pass and get out there early and to watch warm-ups. 

Oregon came into the game with a powerful offense, led by quarterback Danny O'Neil, while the Bears countered with probably our best team between the Pawlawski team of 1991 and the Rodgers team of 1994. Dave Barr was a remarkably efficient quarterback - (entering this game with a 170.3 QB rating - which was 4th in the nation), but I remember he was completing about 69% of his passes that year. Our wideouts were the very fast, but stone-handed Damien Seimian on one-side, and the hands-of-glue, but not so fleet-of-foot Mike Caldwell on the other. Running behind a massive offensive line, anchored by future NFL stalwart Todd Stuessie, Lindsay Chapman was a predecessor of Justin Forsett, albeit a little more physical,  but not as slippery.

The Bears defense was led by Jerrott Willard - here in his prime, and in my opinion the best linebacker Cal has had since Hardy Nickerson - including The Bishop, Pain Train and the Asian Assassin. With pass rushing from Regean Upshaw and Duane Clemons and secondary covered by Artis Houston and Eric Zomalt, the 1994 Bears were stacked on both sides of the ball, and in my opinion, came within a Dave Barr broken collarbone of playing on New Year's Day in Pasadena.

Our game is being called by Joe Fonzi, Matt Bouza and Matt Bouza's awesome hair.


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Fonzi begins by noting that Cal's offensive coordinator (Denny Schuler) had just come over to Cal, after being Oregon's DEFENSIVE coordinator for the last 6 years. Huh, that IS puzzling.

After some pre-game discussion, about O'Neil vs. Barr and Tommy Thompson vs. Doug Brien (kickers) we move to the kick-off. 

California has won the toss and will receive! Artis Houston and Na'il Benjamin back for the Bears! I have a good feeling about this game. Bears will start on the 20.


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Bears First Possession:

Bears start 4 wide, then move fullback Marty Holly for a 5-wideout look (Gilby with the spread?) - first down to Mike Caldwell over the middle! Things are going well already. Oregon's in a 3-4 alignment with some Polynesians in the D. Plus ca change - at least with the Polynesians.

After some good gains rushing with LIndsay Chapman running hard off tackle, the Bears offense stalls after a tackle for a loss, a sack and an incompletion, which brings Ryan Longwell out on the field.

Ducks First Possession:

Longwell's wobbly punt backs the Ducks up to their own 10. JWillard 45 records his first tackle of the day! Certain not to be his last. Crap - the Ducks are moving the ball well on the ground behind FB Juan Shedrick and TB Sean Burwell. Ike Booth compounds the problem with a late hit out of bounds. 

Note about Ike Booth. Probably my least favorite Cal player - just for his on the field performance. A big (6'3"), fast cornerback, he couldn't cover anyone. Most common phrase heard in Memorial during our 4 years: "Touchdown Opponent! Covering on the play, Ike Booth," He actually turned his size and speed into an NFL job for a number of years, until they too figured out he couldn't cover anyone.

Jerrott Willard with another tackle, after O'Neil scrambles for good yardage. Oregon is moving the ball pretty well against Artie Gigantino's very aggressive defense. (I'm counting 10 men on the line at times)

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Crap, 3rd and 8 on the 36, and James Stallworth jumps offside. Ducks convert with a crossing pattern to Derrick Deadwiller. Ducks ball on the 21. O'Neil goes straight to the end zone - touchdown Ducks!


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So with 7:13 left in the first quarter, Ducks go up 7-0. After some HORRIBLE Sportschannel commercials Bears Second Possession: Oh awesome, Benjamin juggles the kick-off, runs to his right, runs into his own blocker, takes a hit and fumbles. Oregon ball.

Oregon Second Possession: First and 10 on the California 17. By the way, Rich Brooks is wearing some awful awful pants. I can't think those looked good, even in 1993.

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After a couple of hard runs by Burwell and O'Neil, and then some massive hits by Artis Houston and Jerrott Willard, O'Neil goes back to the air to the inexplicably wide wide open receiver for touchdown #2. The usually good Je'Rod Cherry was on coverage on the tight end.

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5:48 left in the first quarter, Ducks 14, Bears 0

Bears Possession #3: After a return out to the 25, Dave Barr takes over. After a failed bubble screen to the left to Mike Caldwell, where it was almost picked by the d-line, Barr throws downfield to Caldwell again and is REALLY picked off by Chad Cota at the 49 yard line. Wonderful. (By the way, Barr had thrown 79 passes without an INT)

Ducks Possession #3 First play after the turnover, O'Neil goes play action, which draws the secondary up - BAM! Deadwiller - 49 yard touchdown. Oh boy. Now we're in trouble. 5:17 left in the first quarter: Ducks 21, Bears 0


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Not Roboduck:

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It was at this point in the game, that my friend who I was working with and I looked into the stands and actually sort of envied the people who were leaving. We thought we'd be on the wrong end of a 70-0 shellacking. Also, watching the broadcast it's very weird to see phone numbers for services, not websites.

Bears Possession #4 Bears start out on the 17 after a horrible return by Benjamin. After a couple of stalled runs by Chapman, Barr goes to Benjamin for a first down over the middle. Yay! Of course, then the Bears stall, and then Barr compounds the error trying the pitch the ball to Chapman - similar to this week's Kevin Riley to Jahvid Best, except instead of GOOD!, massive massive phail. The balls is rolling around on the turf, when the whistle blows it dead. Cal ball right? Forward pass or something? Nope, Pac-10 refs make another Kade-style ruling by awarding the ball to Oregon . . . even though Oregon never recovered. (In all likelyhood they would have if the whistle hadn't blown, but still guys - you suck)

A very loud chant of bullshit arises from the Cal student section.

 Oregon Possession #4 Oregon starts with the ball - but a couple of big stops from Paul Joiner and Duane Clemons on Ricky Whittle (who would come back to torture the Bears in 1995 in Memorial) and Juan Shedrick (the fullback who is getting the ball A LOT) and then O'Neil overthrows Deadwiller on a sideline route. Yay!

Out comes the field goal team. That's a victory right? 39-yard field goal attempt. Tommy Thompson kicks barefooted. When was the last time you saw a barefooted kicker? Anyways, as an indication of just how the day is going for the Bears, the ball hits the upright . . . and still falls through. Oregon 24 - Cal 0. 1 second left in the first quarter. I start weeping on the sidelines.


2nd quarter action: Bears possession #5 Benjamin returns to the 25. First set of downs, the Bears are moving the ball. Barr to Benjamin for the first, but then 2 sacks put the Bears into a big hole . . .and it's punt time again. 

For everyone who said they stayed through the whole game over the years, the stadium would've had to have been Neyland or the Big House - and completely packed. I clearly remember huge pockets of empty sections by the middle of the 2nd quarter.

Ducks possession #5

After the punt, they have a horrible Cal football commercial. "There's two types of Cal fans, some are outright lunatics, the others wouldn't know a forward pass from a garter snake, but some fall Saturdays they all gather at Memorial Stadium, Both season tickets and single game tickets are available, but get your tickets soon, because this fall everybody's getting into Cal."  We used to make fun of that last tagline " .. . everybody's getting into Cal" - so why did we work so hard in high school? But it wasn't the worst tagline of the mid-90s - that would either have to be "So why aren't you going to Cal games?" - because Cal sucks was the usual answer or the intentionally grammatically incorrect "Here come the Bear." Yes, it was "Here come the Bear." I'm ashamed. Let's just move on.

After some good stops by the Bears d on first and second down, O'Neil goes way down the sideline for Deadwilder, and FLAG! Jody Graham for the PI. Of course, the official on the spot doesn't make the call - it's the umpire from the middle of the field. Dammit. Ducks moving the ball again, back to Deadwilder on a roll-out after Clemons chases O'Neil out of the pocket, then another catch by Deadwilder. Two straight first downs. Then a little trickeration, as the Ducks throw the lateral looking to set-up a wide receiver screen . . . no it's a DOUBLE PASS! Tight end is wide open and touchdown Ducks. If people haven't left yet, this one sends them streaming for the exits.

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In a little bit of good news, Thompson hits the uprights on the extra point and its Oregon 30, Cal 0 with 10:17 left in the second quarter.

Cal possession #6 After a great return by Artis Houston, Cal starts with the ball on the 45. Let's at least see if we can put together a drive. Come on Bears! A couple of carries has the Bears past the 50 and Mic Man Eddie Kleinhans starts up the "Roll On You Bears" chant, then Barr goes up top for Caldwell (what hands!) and the Bears are starting to look okay for the first time today. Barr scrambles around and dumps it to Chapman and after some nice pinball running, the Bears are knocking on the door at the 10 yard line.

Hmm, spoke too soon, play action doesn't fool the Ducks and Barr is sacked . . .all the way back to the 25 (25!) yard line. Then a false start, it's now 2nd and 30. Bears go 4 wide, and Barr completes a pass over the middle to Benjamin at the 20. 3rd and 21, Barr looks to the end zone, the pass is broken up, but flags come flying in. PI on the Ducks! We have some life! Then after another Oregon penalty, the Bears have first and goal at the 3 - and then Chapman runs it in! 6:05 left in the second quarter, Oregon 30, Cal 7

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After Doug Brien kicks it OUT OF THE BACK OF THE END ZONE (yeah yeah I know, different rules)

Oregon begins possession #6 Three straight running plays and an offensive holding call - 3 and out! Let's go Bears!

Cal Possession #7 Hey - it's Matt Clizbe returning punts! Clizbe would go on to be a starter and strong contributor at safety the next two years. A fair catch has the Bears on their own 32 with 4:31 left in the 2nd quarter. After a nice pitch and catch to Seimien and a broken play scramble by Barr gets the Bears past the 50, Barr goes for everything and Caldwell is wide open after the corner fell down, but Barr's throw is too long. Bears go 4 wide and then Rutherford shifts to the slot, so it's five wide. . . and Oregon sack. Longwell punts it to the corner, and Oregon will start possession #7 on the 13 yard line.

Oregon Possession #7 2:35 left in the second quarter, and Eddie's got the student section fired up. Oregon again goes back to the run with Ricky Whittle and Juan Shedrick (he's a big load) and then an out route to Deadwiller. (How many catches is he going to make? Oh. They just answered it. 5 catches for 100 yards) Another couple of good runs and ANOTHER catch by Deadwiller and the Ducks have the ball down on the 30, and then O'Neil rolls out to McLemore to the 20. Timeout with 34 seconds left, then Cal blows up a screen - and then Oregon makes their worst mistake of the game with lineup problems with 12 seconds left, and then the snap comes with 4 seconds left and an incomplete pass means Cal escapes without being scored on. I have a feeling this might be significant - even in a 30-7 game.


Halftime summary: Cal can't stop Oregon on the ground. Cal can't stop Oregon in the air. Cal can't stop turning the ball over. Cal can't get any consistency in the run or passing game. Let's just go right to the 2nd half.

Oregon Possession #8 - Doug Brien puts the kick 2 yards deep into the end zone, then great kick coverage as Whittle is stopped at the 18. Hey! Pass rush + secondary coverage = a missed pass to Deadwiller. More pressure and great coverage from safety Dante DaPaola means a 3 and out! Things start much better this half for the Bears. "Block that kick" - chants the student section, and Artis Houston ALMOST obliges. Just missed! Matt Clizbe gets the fair catch and the Bears will start with the ball on their on 37 yard line.

Cal Possession #8 - The pass rush comes, so Barr swings a little backwards pass to his dump-off, Lindsay Chapman and . . .

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63 yards later we are back in this game. Or at least to the point where you start doing football math (let's see, if we score here, and hold them to nothing and then score again . . . ) This was the time in the game that there was a small glimmer of hope that we could at least make it interesting. With 13:39 left in the 3rd quarter, it's Oregon 30 Cal 14

Oregon Possession #9 After another good kick and decent coverage, Oregon starts with the ball on the 19. The crowd is LOUD. A couple of Burwell and Shedrick runs gets the Ducks out to 35, then the Ducks go after Rich Richardson (who I don't even remember) O'Neil throws a BEAUTIFUL ball to McLemore for a 42 yard catch down to the 25. A couple of runs later, Burwell beats the run blitz to the corner, and the air is sucked out of the stadium. Touchdown, Ducks. Oregon goes for 2 to make up for the missed conversion, and Burwell runs up the middle and in. 11:18 left in the 3rd quarter, Oregon 38, Cal 14. Egads.

Cal Possession #9 - A return gaffe (Benjamin tried to come out of the end zone, then Houston stopped him, then realized they crossed the goal line) has the Bears start on their own 5. Some tough running from Rutherford and an Oregon penalty gets the ball out to the 20, when Barr goes up high for Caldwell who makes a great catch between two guys and its "Roll On You Bears" time again. A couple plays later, Barr goes up top again - this time for Seimien . .. and it's a 46 yard touchdown. It's weird, I remember Barr being a good QB, but I don't remember him throwing such a great deep ball - I always thought that Barnes, Vedder (KIDDING!), Boller, Rodgers, Ayoob (KIDDING) and even a healthy Nate threw a better deep ball. But Barr is connecting over and over again.

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"Looks like the Bears have their regular offense in there - could be going for two here" Could be? Could be? Thanks for that insight Bouza. Anyways the Bears DO go for 2, but the ball goes right through (I mean RIGHT THROUGH) Na'il Benjamin's hands. With 8:20 left in the 3rd quarter, it's Oregon 38, Cal 20. Talk about dated commercials - GW Bank is advertising their DIRECT DEPOSIT service.

Oregon Possession #10 - After a great Doug Brien kick and good coverage, Oregon starts off at their own 18. I think Oregon is just going after whoever is playing opposite Artis Houston. This is what it would be like if we only had one good corner. Deadwiller is making catches on Jody Graham, Ike Booth and Rich Richardson. But Willard makes a huge hit to get the Bears to 3rd and five on their Oregon 30, then O'Neil and McLemore make a communication mistake. Time for a punt! This time . . .Houston does get the punt! and Eric Zomalt picks up the loose ball and waltzes in for the easy touchdown! The Bears are back in it! Again! Oregon 38 - Cal 27 with 6:55 left in the 3rd. IN THE 3rd! This

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And the Bear defense comes out again.

For Oregon's 11th possession. A VERY Clear command from the Cal Student section "HEY ALUMNI, GET YOUR HANDS UP!" A few plays, then the Cal defense holds again. Finally Deadwiller doesn't catch a few balls - as he was open. Houston ALMOST gets the punt again - and Thompson kicks it short, and Cal begins their possession with GREAT field position at the Cal 36.

Cal Possession #11 - Some bad blocking leads to a 3 and out and Longwell punts the ball back to Oregon.

Oregon Possession #12 - 3:28 left in the third quarter, starting from the Oregon 37. Some hard running again from Oregon gets the ball out to mid-field but then a Pac-10 total whiff of the false start/off-sides from the Bears call leads to mass confusion which then leads to a Willard sack. 4th down!

After ANOTHER Houston near miss on the punt, the Bears start out rolling on possession #12. Some rushes by my least favorite starting Cal running back ever, then a roll-out gets the ball from Barr to Seimien who takes it down to the 37 and starts the student section up with Roll on you Bears. and we're into the 4th quarter! alas, the Bears can't do much with this possession, so Longwell punts it down to the 8 and the Ducks take over.

Oregon Possession #13 Pined to their own 9, the Ducks run a few plays to get some breathing room, then O'Neil hits Deadwiller on the perfect slant play - the kind which DeSean Jackson or Jahvid Best would've taken to the house with 20 yards between them and their nearest pursuer. As it is, Deadwiller is chased down from behind by Je'Rod Cherry - who comes from 5 yards backto make the tackle at the Cal 10. Ricky Whittle runs it down to the 3, but some huge hits - especially by Willard on the QB sneak gets it down to 4th down on the 1 yard line. The Ducks go for it, and they fake the tailback dive for a roll out, and they have an open receiver for a split second when IKE BOOTH (yes! Ike Booth!) comes from 2 steps behind to knock the ball away! What a goal line stand!

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Cal Possession #14 Rutherford is getting all of the snaps here, which leads me to believe that Chapman is injured. Barr moves the Bears down the field, using a mix of Rutherford runs mixed in with passes to Caldwell and Bullard (Hey Sean Bullard! His first catch of his career!) Man, Cladwell has velcro mitts for hands, but then a missed offsides (Pac-10 refs!) and a Barr sack leads to another punt.

Oregon Possession #15 8:22 left to play - Oregon 38 Cal 27. Now it's nervous time. The comeback is running out of time. A good run by Burwell, then a HUGE gain by Whittle running through the middle (my friend HATED Ricky Whittle) gets the Ducks down to the Cal 20 - a couple more runs by Burwell gets the ball down to the Cal 10. If the Ducks put in a touchdown here, the game is essentially over.

Some short gains, and O'Neil looks to the end zone and Paul Joiner (who I have been in remiss in not mentioning because he has been making GIANT hits all day) separates the ball from the man. Another huge goal line stand for the Bears - Thompson hits the field goal and the Bears are down 14 with 5:11 left to play.

Cal Possession #15 Benjamin with a great return and the Bears set up shop on the 28. First play on this possession, Barr avoids the rush, moves around in the pocket a little bit and hits a HUGE downfield throw to Seimien who is GONE. Or rather buh buh buh GONE. Holy crap we are TOTALLY in this game now!

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4:53 left, Oregon 41 Cal 34. That is a close game!

Oregon Possession #16 Another touchback! I'm so jealous! Some Burwell, Shedrick and Whittle running (what else? Well Deadwiller hasn't made a catch in a while) gets the Ducks to the Bears 43. It's 3rd and three, and the Ducks try to run a pitch and a HUGE hit by JWillard45 and it's 4th down.

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Cal Possession #16 2:22 left, and the Bears start from their own 15. Now after two Dave Barr overthrows, it's 3rd and ten, then Barr escapes a sack, rolls to his right. . . and rolls and rolls, and finally hits Iheanyi Uwaezuoke for a clutch clutch first down out to the 31. This is perhaps the time for me to mention that "I-Hu" was in my Poli Sci 2 section (although I think he showed up about 4 times) and once he put his hand on my shoulder to ask me a question, and the man had the softest hands ever. No wonder he could catch footballs. Another sideline completion to Seimien is another Cal first down, and then Barr scrambles into Oregon territory and FB Marty Holly tacks on another 10 yard run. Fans are getting giddy now. Bears are running a hurry up offense and man, Barr is dialed in. Another look to the far sideline for Seimien and it's first and 10 at the 30 yard line. "Roll on you Bears! Roll on you Bears!" 1:36 left. On the 27 with 1:12 left, Barr looks to the top, see single coverage on Uwaezuoke and puts a beautiful pass to the corner on the corner route. TOUCHDOWN CALIFORNIA! MASS HYSTERIA! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER!

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Gilby IMMEDiATELY gives the "2" signal - we're going to win, or we're going to lose. None of this tie crap. Barr runs up to the line, checks down, calls an audible, fade to the corner to Caldwell. 2 points! Cal 42 Oregon 41! I am jumping up and down - I know exactly where I am in relation to this play about 30 feet away.

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Bear Territory starts up loud and clear - but there's still 1:17 left. Last Oregon possession Cal flushes O'Neil from the pocket on first down, then a sideline ball out of bounds gets us to 3rd down with 47 seconds left. Deadwiller makes a huge catch to the Oregon 42 with 42 seconds left. After an incompletion and a false start penalty, O'Neil tries to pick on Artis Houston and . . .

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A quick victory formation and game time! I was running around like a loon on the field. There was a student rush and somewhere in the middle of the field I was Willard talking to O'Neil and I still remember this, O'Neil (high school rivals with Willard and old friends from Orange County/Newport Beach) was saying "Did you have to hit me so hard back there?"

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Some notes: I never thought Gilby was a BAD coach. He was an amazing o-coordinator for the Huskies. The word was that he lost control of the team - not a tactical issue, but he was just too nice a guy and let certain players slide on discipline and other stuff. The other main thought is that Gigantino's defense was a sell-out send everyone to the qb defense. It's pretty aggravating when you see an offense scheme around it and consistently go for HUGE chunks of yardage - the worst was the 95 version when it was sack, sack, 30 yard gain. sack sack, touchdown. I think I prefer the 3-4 bendy Gregory model more. Last note, as I watched this again, I realized a lot of my favorite scapegoats made HUGE plays in this game. Seimien was huge (even if I can never figure out to spell his name) while without that huge Ike Booth knockaway on the 4th down goal line stand I don't spend 3 hours writing this. Whew! I'm exhausted now. Here's the AP Story:

October 03, 1993 BERKELEY — Dave Barr threw three second-half touchdown passes, including a 26-yarder to Iheanyi Uwaezuoke with 1:17 to play, as No. 17 California came back from a 30-0 deficit to beat Oregon, 42-41, on Saturday. It was the second-biggest comeback in NCAA Division I history. Ohio State trailed Minnesota, 31-0, before winning, 41-37, on Oct. 28, 1989, and Maryland trailed Miami, 31-0, before scoring a 42-40 victory on Nov. 10, 1984. It was the biggest comeback in Cal's history. The Golden Bears scored a 29-28 victory over Arizona on Nov. 4, 1989, overcoming a 21-0 deficit. Uwaezuoke's catch ended a nine-play, 85-yard drive. Cal, still trailing by one point, went for the two-point conversion and Barr found Mike Caldwell in the corner of the end zone to complete a 35-11 surge by Cal. "It was emotional. People were going crazy," Barr said. "I don't know if I'll ever have a feeling like this again. We were down, beaten. We were hurting. We weren't feeling good about ourselves, and we came back. We wouldn't accept no for an answer." Said Cal Coach Keith Gilbertson: "Mike made a great, just awesome catch. Dave made a great pass. . . . It brought tears to my eyes. It was a great win." Uwaezuoke's catch came on a play Barr called at the line of scrimmage. "As soon as I saw it was man-to-man defense, I knew that I had my chance," Uwaezuoke said. "In the first half, their pressure kept us from doing things like that." Said Oregon Coach Rich Brooks: "It's got to rank up there with one of the toughest defeats in my life. We came out flat in the second half and Cal really took it to us." The Bears are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Pacific 10; Oregon dropped to 3-1 and 0-1 despite 614 yards in total offense. The Ducks' Danny O'Neil threw for three touchdowns, completing 17 of 33 passes for 313 yards. Derrick Deadwiler caught 11 of O'Neil's passes for 234 yards. Barr completed 21 of 31 passes for 368 yards. His two other touchdown passes went to Damien Semien, who had seven receptions for 182 yards. Oregon had a final chance to regain the lead, but O'Neil's pass was intercepted by Artis Houston with 29 seconds to play and Cal ran out the clock. Lindsey Chapman, whose late second-quarter touchdown ended the 30-0 run by Oregon, ignited a 20-point third quarter when he took a lateral from Barr and broke loose for a 61-yard scoring run.

For those who want to watch the game themselves, the torrent is here

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