Another tough matchup! The Play Players and J.J. Arrington. Clearly, this is a difficult choice, but whomever wins the day will enter into the CGB Hall Of Fame. Nobody ever said that'd be easy, right?
So, vote early and vote often! Voting ends on Friday at noon PST. You can see the entire bracket here.
The Play Players
Norcalnick talks about The Play.
Moen to Rodgers to Garner to Rodgers to Ford to Moen. Like pi to math majors, every Cal fan should know the sequence. But how exactly did a last second victory in a game with no real national significance become so legendary, so mythical?
When I was 9 I went to my first Big Game and watched Cal win. Having been hooked on Cal football, I then saw Cal lose 7 straight times. My Mom, the consummate pessimistic yet loyal Cal fan, would hold up The Play as our desperate Cal fan trump card. Lose 7 in a row to the ‘furd? So what, we have The Play. Go a decade without a bowl? Whatevs, we have The Play. No Rose Bowl berths in either of our lifetimes? No worries, we have The Play.
For 20 years between The Play and Tedford, it was our one shining moment in a sea of football pain and misery. Whenever the Big Game was in Palo Alto my mom would play a tape that analyzed The Play, including an introduction, the CALX call of the game (which is significantly more confusing even than Starkey’s call) and player interviews. We played it to piss off the Stanford fans, because THEY LOST ON THE PLAY!
Every once in a while ESPN or Sports Illustrated will have some silly internet voting for the greatest play in college (or sports) history. Despite a biased voting public, The Play almost always wins. Nothing can match 6 laterals against your biggest rival with the most insane band in America on the field.
It is here that we must mention the unfortunate part of our story: Mariet Ford, he of the psychic blind lateral, is currently behind bars for the murder of his wife and 35 month old son. The Chronicle has a long profile on Ford, detailing the glory of The Play and his fall from grace.
Now, in 2009, with 6 straight bowl games and perennial conference title contention, maybe The Play isn’t as important as it used to be. We don’t need to hang our hat on one moment. Or, maybe The Play will remain as a moment that defines Cal athletes and fans alike with the attitude that the Bear will not quit, the Bear will not die.
And if you ever wondered if The Play was ‘the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending... exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football,’ I’ll leave you with this:
For many years, John Elway was bitter, on both a personal level and on behalf of his team, about the touchdown being allowed: "This was an insult to college football... They [the officials] ruined my last game as a college football player."
Cal fans were understandably anxious to see what Arrington would do carrying the full workload in 2004. What he did was have the greatest season by any player in the history of Cal football. That's right. The greatest season ever.
In each of his 12 games, Arrington hit for at least 100 yards - the only back in America to make that claim. Against Air Force in the opener, he scored three times including an 89-yard run that set a Cal record. 3 more scores against NMSU, and then a couple of off games - 108 yards and a TD v Oregon State and 112 in the heartbreak loss to SC. Then J.J. got serious. UCLA was torched for 205 yards and two scores in the next outing, and then ASU, Oregon, Washington and Stanford all surrendered a touchdown and at least 120 yards to #30.
But J.J. Arrington, to us, defined himself in the rain and mud of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You recall the scene - the Bears needed a blowout win to impress the human pollsters and vault past Texas into the Rose Bowl. It was not to be, but Arrington moved heaven and earth to make it so, rushing 31 times for 261 yards, the most by a Cal back since 1954.
Arrington had an all time legendary season playing for one of our most prolific teams of the last half century. And he did it sort of out of the blue. I mean, we all knew that Arrington was good and had the potential to step in and do the job, but I don’t know that very many Cal fans expected that he would surpass the production of Echemandu’s 2003 season, much less run for 2,000 yards. I kind of expected the 2004 Bears to be all about Rodgers and G-Mac. It wasn’t.