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Ranking The Big Games Of The 2000s: 2001 Big Game

[We're making our way through the Big Games of the last decade.  First, we looked at 2007.  You cried.  Then, we looked at 2001.  You cried again.  It was just like that movie, Cry, Cry Again.  You know the one with the lone dancer at the end.  Now, we discuss 2001.  These are the last of the Stanford victories and, thus, the worst 3 games of the decade]


"Well, then we'll just hit the reset button on the Playstation."

With that statement, uttered near the tail end of the 2001 Big Game, my friend was telling me that it was tautologically impossible for Cal to win the Big Game.  Cal would end up losing 35-28, but at that time, Cal was only down by 7.  Considering that Cal's single win that year lay in the future, being down by 7 near the end of the game gave us hope.  Painful, painful hope.  Emotionally disastrous hope.  The sort of hope that seems to sweep in from time to time solely to taunt us.

My friend, correctly understanding that this 2001 Cal team was, in fact, never going to win the Big Game tried to keep me calm and reasonable.  Despite my protestation otherwise, he continued to claim that the only way Cal could win a Big Game would be if the Sony was somehow involved.

And who could blame him?  As a senior at Cal, he had yet to come even close to sniffing the Axe.  Cal had lost 6 Big Games in a row.  The last time Cal won the Big Game, I had been in junior high school.  The biggest problems I faced were girls hating me, friends ignoring me, and being completely awkward in all social situations.  Fast forward to 2001 and the biggest problems I faced were girls hating me, friends ignoring me, and being completely awkward in all social situations PLUS A 6 YEAR AXE DROUGHT!  Cal fans had so lacked access to the Axe that, using the unlimited freedom of being in full band uniform, we would walk up to Stanford's Axe Committee during the game and demand access.  It was the closest we would get.  Well, that and if you listened really hard at night you could hear the wind whipping back and forth saying "Axe.  Axe.  Axe."

It was a shanda.  Hella shanda.  Join me after the jump to further discuss the 2001 Big Game.

Heading into the 2001 Big Game, Cal was, how do I put this?  Let's see.  Not the greatest team ever?  Not likely to be inducted into the college football hall of fame?  Really, really bad?  I think we should go with the last one.  Cal was bad.  Eudora Welty in a MMA fight bad.  

We had yet to win a game that year.  Things had gotten so bad that the marching band started chanting the Oh and Loss Amount after each game.  "WE'RE OH AND FOUR!  WE'RE OH AND FOUR!"  The first game of the season had been against Illinois.  We lost 44-17.  Then, we took on BYU.  We lost 44-16.  GOING THE WRONG DIRECTION BEARS.

It wasn't much better the rest of the year.  Somehow we managed to lose to the Pac10 defending champion Huskies by only 3.  But that was minimal consolation for 45 point losses to USC, 31 point losses to Wazzu, 41 point losses to Oregon, and even 39 point losses to UCLA.  It was a rough year.  Going into the 2001 Big Game, Stanford was not great, but still had 4 more wins than Cal.  That's infinity times as many wins! 

And so we return to our trusty heroes as they watch Kyle Boller heave the ball repeatedly down the field.  If there's one thing Jesus In Cleats was good at, it wasn't healing the sick or turning water into wine.  The one thing he was good at was his Jeff George impersonation.  Jeff George after Jeff George, it wasn't as if Kyle Boller was throwing a Hail Mary, he was trying to save Tom Holmoe's job.  With each failed long bomb, you could feel Coach Holmoe's belt getting just a little bit tighter.  Not even beating Rutgers could save Coach Holmoe.

Looking at the stats, it's surprising Cal was even one Kyle Boller long bomb away from tying the game:


FIRST DOWNS...................       17       27
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 26-82 45-178
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 278 390
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 47-20-2 39-20-3
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 73-360 84-568
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 4-34 3-21
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 5-99 6-82
Interception Returns-Yards.... 3-16 2-23
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 7-38.1 5-39.2
Fumbles-Lost.................. 2-2 3-2
Penalties-Yards............... 7-51 10-90
Possession Time............... 26:11 33:49
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 3-19 0-0



Stanford had over 200 more yards than Cal.  10 more first downs.  Almost 100 more rushing yards.  Over 100 more passing yards.  Of course, when you have 9 combined turn overs with Cal getting 3 interceptions, including an Asomugha pick six, anything can happen.  Except for Cal winning. 

Although a young Chase Lyman managed to rack up 22 yards on 3 catches, it was Charon Arnold, forever lost to the sands of time, who led Cal with 8 receptions for 90 yards.  Terrell Williams, named All-Pac10 freshman of the year, before later being pushed down the depth chart by much more talented backs, led the team in rushing with 19 attempts for 66 yards.  Solid 3.5 yards per carry.  Nice.

Cal didn't score an offensive TD until the 3rd quarter when Stanford QB Chris Lewis threw his third interception on the day.  Terrell Williams put Cal ahead briefly 21-20.  But that shining moment was not to be:

The Cardinal went ahead 35-20 on Lewis' 79-yard TD pass to Powell, who juked Cal cornerback Atari Callen at the line of scrimmage and ran untouched to the end zone, and a 31-yard TD pass to Johnson early in the fourth quarter.

Cal gets up finally and Stanford responds with two huge plays to go up big.  Hearts broken.  But wait?  There's more!

The highlight for the Cal team clearly had to be with 13 minutes left in the game.  LaShaun Ward managed to take a break from his busy dropping passes schedule to catch a 48 yard TD.  WE WERE ONLY DOWN BY 1 TD!  WITH 13 MINUTES LEFT!  DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

Fortunately, for my friend, he didn't.  Beaten down by year after year of an Axe-less student union and an increasingly desperate focus on the Play (We were good 20 years ago, Bears!), he knew it wasn't going to happen.  And it didn't.  Of course, it didn't.  Because the only alternative was a Tom Holmoe team beating a Tyrone Willingham team.  About as likely as Eudora Welty winning an MMA fight. 

yellow fever: The 2001 Big Game was notable for me because the night before was the first time I ever got truly drunk.  I had a tremendous hangover, threw up before the game, threw up on the way there, threw up at the tailgate, threw up during the game, threw up after the game, and threw up on the way home.  Actually, I feel like there's a good chance I would have done all that even if I weren't hungover.

Don't worry, my Bears.  The story changes just a few months later.  Holmoe out.  Tedford in.  Shits just about to get serious.  GO BEARS!