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Ranking The Big Games Of The Decade: #7 2006 Big Game

[We are currently in the process of ranking the Big Games of the 2000s.  We have discussed the 3 Big Game losses, 2007, 2000, and 2001.  Here, we discuss what we deem to be the 7th best Big Game of the 2000s, the 2006 Big Game.]


It was more of an amble, really.  A saunter, perhaps?  Can one "mosey the field"?  Well, if one could, that's what Cal fans did after the 2006 Big Game.  Rushing the field doesn't quite cover it.  It was similar to those delayed standing ovations.  A few over-zealous souls instantly jump to their feet, clapping wildly, or, in this instance, rushing down to the field to celebrate Cal's 26-17 victory over Stanford.  Most of the people, however, look at these excitable folk and mumble to themselves "Really?  We're doing this now?  I gotta stand up now?"  "Really?  I gotta rush the field now?  OK.  I guess." 

It was with great reluctance that Cal fans rushed the field.  But this is the Big Game.  Winning any year, even if Cal is on the verge of winning a share of the Pac10 title for the first time in 30 years and Stanford is, well, Walt Harris' Stanford, it doesn't matter.  It's Cal.  Versus Stanford.  In The Big Game.  Was the psychic pain of the late 90s and early 00s already lost by 2006 such that a ho hum victory over a really bad Stanford team was viewed with the same disdain of a party guest who used the wrong salad fork?  Apparently.  Apparently, only a handful of years into the Tedford era, we were already acting like USC fans. 

Welcome to the 2006 Big Game.

The first thing that jumps into my mind when I think of the 2006 Big Game is the concern I have for those who sit in the Gold Zone most of the year.  The 2006 Big Game was the last year for old Stanford Stadium.  Even though the game was played at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, it was the last year that Cal and Stanford provided ticket reciprocity for season ticket holders.  What does that mean?  Buy Cal season tickets and you get a ticket to the Big Game, even if it is at Stanford Stadium and vice versa.  After 2006, with the construction of the much smaller Stanford Stadium, both teams stopped doing this.  Obviously, Stanford realized that if they let all the Cal fans come on in, there wouldn't be any space left for that Stanford fan who actually shows up to games.  And his friend.  Oh and Toby Gerhart's father. 

Back in 2006, it meant that the young alum sections in QQ were moved to the Goldzone to make space for Gerry, Gerry's friend, and Mr. Gerhart.  We were moved not just anywhere in the Goldzone, but somewhere in the Goldzone's Mesosphere Seating Program.  It was so high up, I was reasonably certain we were placed in the Faddisphere.  Here is a photo indicative of how high we were placed:


"I think that white dot just got hit by that blue dot, but I'm not entirely sure, anybody got binoculars and 20/15 vision??"

What is forgotten years later is that Cal had lost the two games prior, making it a near impossibility to reach the Rose Bowl for the 365th straight year.  They had lost to Arizona (at Arizona) thanks, partially, to DeSean Jackson's big toe being slightly too fat.  Then, they lost a tough game to USC at the LA Coliseum.  Heading into the Big Game, there was already a strong sense of frustration, because of the two losses.  Given USC's loss to Oregon State, if Cal had defeated just Arizona, they would have gone to the Rose Bowl.  Cal fans were hoping that the team would take out its frustration on the hapless Cardinal.  So, only defeating them by 9 seemed off to many Cal fans. 

However, it is important to remember that there was a very fierce wind that day whipping through Memorial Stadium.  I know it seems as if I am just making excuses, but I remember the wind very clearly.  It was strong enough to affect the trajectory of thrown balls and field goal attempts.  Fortunately, Cal's field goal kicker was good on 4/5 attempts, but still I think that it is important to note the wind.

One reason why people might be less then enthused about this game was very little action took place in the first or fourth quarter.  It started off with a quarter full of a sole field goal kick by Cal.  Up 3-0 at the first quarter, Cal fans were perhaps nervous that the doldrums that affected them against Arizona and USC were continuing into this Big Game. 

In fact, the first 3 scores were field goals


Scoring Summary:
1st 04:16 CAL - Schneider, Tom 55 yd field goal
7 plays, 31 yards, TOP 2:18, STAN 0 - CAL 3
2nd 05:44 STAN - Aaron Zagory 23 yd field goal
11 plays, 74 yards, TOP 5:07, STAN 3 - CAL 3
03:38 CAL - Schneider, Tom 23 yd field goal
9 plays, 74 yards, TOP 2:06, STAN 3 - CAL 6



It was not until there were just a few minutes left in the first half that things started to get interesting.  Cal had just kicked a field goal to go up by a thrilling 6-3 lead.  Stanford received the ball and everybody's favorite white non-QB Heisman contender, Toby Gerhart, rushed for 2 yards.  Then, the following happened:


  S 2-8  S20   T.C. Ostrander rush to the STAN15, fumble forced by Follett, Zack, fumble by
T.C. Ostrander recovered by CAL Thompson, S. at STAN15, Thompson, S. for 15
yards to the STAN0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 02:32, Schneider, Tom kick attempt



Zack Follett with a crushing hit, forces a fumble that Syd'Quan Thompson runs back for a touchdown.  Sure, it's not an offensive TD, but we'll take it!  Up 10-3, Cal has the momentum.  For about 20 seconds:

                   Larson, Andrew kickoff 64 yards to the STAN6, M. McCutcheon return 68
yards to the CAL26, out-of-bounds (Ezeff, Marcus).


On the ensuing kick off, Stanford takes it all the way back to the Cal 26.  A few plays later, this occurs:


  S 2-G  C08   T.C. Ostrander EZ pass complete to R. Sherman for 8 yards to the CAL0,
TOUCHDOWN, clock 01:12, Aaron Zagory kick attempt good.


So, with 2:33 minutes left in the first half, Cal was up 6-3 with minimal offense on both sides.  Then, due to defense and special teams, a flurry of TDs occurred:


  02:32 CAL - Thompson, S. 15 yd fumble recovery (Schneider, Tom kick)
STAN 3 - CAL 13
01:12 STAN - R. Sherman 8 yd pass from T.C. Ostrander (Aaron Zagory kick)
4 plays, 26 yards, TOP 1:20, STAN 10 - CAL 13


In the 3rd quarter, there was some more action, but again for every action, there was an opposite and frustrating reaction.  Cal took the kick off to start the quarter and marched right down the field.  11 plays.  80 yards.  Nate Longshore in his pre-He's The Worst Thing To Happen To Cal Since Ronald Reagan Murdered Pappy Waldorf throws a key TD pass to Lavelle Hawkins:


               Derek Belch kickoff 65 yards to the CAL0, touchback.
C 1-10 C20 CALIFORNIA drive start at 15:00 (3rd).
C 1-10 C20 Longshore, Nate RR pass complete to Storer, Byron for 4 yards to the
CAL24 (Bo McNally).
C 2-6 C24 Lynch, Marshawn rush PR for 3 yards to the CAL27 (Pat Maynor).
C 3-3 C27 Lynch, Marshawn rush over right tackle for 11 yards to the CAL38, 1ST
, out-of-bounds (Udeme Udofia).
C 1-10 C38 Longshore, Nate LL pass incomplete to Jordan, Robert.
C 2-10 C38 [SHOT], Longshore, Nate XR pass complete to Jackson, DeSean for 13 yards
to the STAN49, 1ST DOWN CAL (Bo McNally).
C 1-10 S49 Longshore, Nate middle pass incomplete to Hawkins, L. (Michael Okwo).
C 2-10 S49 [SHOT], Longshore, Nate LF pass complete to Hawkins, L. for 1 yard to
the STAN48.
C 3-9 S48 [SHOT], Longshore, Nate slant pass complete to Jackson, DeSean for 16
yards to the STAN32, 1ST DOWN CAL, out-of-bounds (Wopamo Osaisai).
C 1-10 S32 Longshore, Nate middle pass incomplete to Jackson, DeSean (Wopamo
C 2-10 S32 Timeout Stanford, clock 11:38.
C 2-10 S32 [SHOT], Longshore, Nate LL pass incomplete to Forsett, Justin.
C 3-10 S32 Longshore, Nate middle pass complete to Hawkins, L. for 32 yards to the
STAN0, 1ST DOWN CAL, TOUCHDOWN, clock 11:26, Schneider, Tom kick
attempt good.


Cal goes up 20-10, but Stanford strikes right back!  Their drive is also 80 yards, but in 7 plays.  It helps when T.C. Ostrander throws a 50 yard pass for a TD:


  S 1-10 S20   STANFORD drive start at 11:26 (3rd).
S 1-10 S20 Anthony Kimble rush over right guard for 4 yards to the STAN24 (Tafisi,
Nu'u;Bishop, Desmond).
S 2-6 S24 Toby Gerhart rush over left guard for 2 yards to the STAN26 (Pimentel,
M.;Bishop, Desmond).
S 3-4 S26 PENALTY STAN false start (C. Marinelli) 5 yards to the STAN21.
S 3-9 S21 T.C. Ostrander middle pass complete to Toby Gerhart for 16 yards to the
STAN37, 1ST DOWN STAN (DeCoud, Thomas).
S 1-10 S37 T.C. Ostrander rush left for 5 yards to the STAN42 (Bishop, Desmond).
S 2-5 S42 Toby Gerhart rush over right tackle for loss of 1 yard to the STAN41
(Pimentel, M.;Mebane, Brandon).
S 3-6 S41 T.C. Ostrander RR pass complete to R. Sherman for 8 yards to the STAN49,
1ST DOWN STAN, out-of-bounds.
S 1-10 S49 T.C. Ostrander SR pass complete to Evan Moore for 51 yards to the CAL0,
1ST DOWN STAN, TOUCHDOWN, clock 06:57, Aaron Zagory kick attempt


That is the extent of the touchdowns for the day.  Cal is up by 3 with 6:57 left in the 3rd quarter and the only scoring left is 2 field goals by Cal.  Cal doesn't even score the last one until there are 58 seconds left in the game.  So, that entire time Stanford is one broken play TD away from going up either 24-20 or 24-23.  But, fortunately, the Cal D holds and with about a minute left in the game, Cal fans can breath easy.  Certainly not the dominating performance Cal fans were looking for, but a win is a win is a win is a win is a win. 

Here are the game stats:


                                   STAN      CAL

FIRST DOWNS................... 15 18
Rushing..................... 6 7
Passing..................... 9 10
Penalty..................... 0 1
NET YARDS RUSHING............. 65 127
Rushing Attempts............ 33 33
Average Per Rush............ 2.0 3.8
Yards Gained Rushing........ 107 152
Yards Lost Rushing.......... 42 25
NET YARDS PASSING............. 204 217
Completions-Attempts-Int.... 15-31-0 14-31-0
Average Per Attempt......... 6.6 7.0
Average Per Completion...... 13.6 15.5
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS........... 269 344


The real advantage for Cal is in the rushing yards where they get almost twice as many as Stanford.  Otherwise, both teams played about even.  The Cal rushing is paced by, well, you know who:


Rushing No Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg
Forsett, Justin 11 75 0 75 0 19 6.8
Lynch, Marshawn 15 73 6 67 0 13 4.5


Big Game 2006 highlights at 1:10

Nate Longshore has a remarkably bad day:

Passing         Att-Cmp-Int Yds TD Long Sack
Longshore, Nate 31-14-0 217 1 44 2


That is a 45.6% completion rate.  Ouch.  The vast majority of the receiving yards went to two guys:


Receiving        No.  Yds   TD Long
Jackson, DeSean 7 127 0 44
Hawkins, L. 3 53 1 32


Good day for DeSean there and good day for Cal.  Soon, we had this:


Plus, this: