There Once Was a Time when Beating UCLA was Actually a Big Deal. No, Seriously.




As Cal goes for its 2nd win in a row at the Rose Bowl (the above photo captures the excitement of the UCLA faithful in our last game there), 4th straight and 7th win in its last 10 games against UCLA, here's a little news for you youngsters...  Not all that long ago, beating UCLA in any sport was considered a season making achievement for CAL.  Ask some of us older folks (or some of the really old folks like '81) and we'll tell you the horror of 25+ straight years without a victory against the Southern Branch in hoops... or 18 straight years of losses on the gridiron...  This run of futility helped define the two program's fan bases...  strike that.  All it did was instil in Bruins fans the obnoxiousness that still inexplicably exists today... You see, to them, beating CAL was a birthright, like having blond hair, or making deep and penetrating social commentary on achieving racial harmony!   But as my grandfather used to say, the worm always turns and my how this worm has got jiggy... indeed, times have changed... Wins against the Bruins are now common place and a, GASP, loss to them could ruin a season...  So with that, Uncle FiatLux is ready to tell another story from 1991... so after the jump, come on in a bit closer... come on, get right up close... I've got treats for everyone... a little closer...  There you go... after the jump the full story.

In 1990, after 18 years of futility in football against the Bruins, the California Golden Bears finally put the world right by beating UCLA 38 - 31 in a thrilling game at Memorial Stadium.  The night before, after the bonfire rally, Coach Snyder let me in on a little secret; the team would be entering through the student section!  He told me to keep it quiet and just make sure people were ready... So sure enough, with no fanfare, suddenly a river of big, burly blue started cascading down each side of the student section... as people realized what was happening the student section absolutely exploded as did the rest of the stadium!  The entrance worked as the Bears raced out to a 27-10 halftime lead and would eventually hold on for the great win.  In the closing seconds the crowd let out with a Bear Territory chant that reverberated through Old Memorial Stadium and was repeated in the victorious locker room!.  As the game ended a delirious student section rushed the field to celebrate.  That part's important because the perpetually uptight head coach of the Bruins, Terry Donahue, took offense at this show of joy and promised to not have to witness a CAL victory again!

Entering the 1991 season there were great expectations in Berkeley.  After starting off 3-0 with a last second victory in Tucson over the Wildcats, The LA Times summed up the feeling in Berkeley perfectly when it wrote in its preview:

It's early October, and the Pacific 10 football season is barely under way. However, unusual significance has been attached to today's game between UCLA and California at the Rose Bowl.

There is a sort of crusading fervor in much of the Bay Area, where the Bears, after years of residency in the lower echelon of the conference, are regarded as a championship-contending team.

What you need to know about that early October day at the Rose Bowl is that it was hot.  I mean it was HOT!  And humid... and smoggy... oh was it smoggy...  look, you can barely see the other end of the stadium through that smog.  (now remember, these are OLD photos that were taken with one of those disposal cameras - which were cutting edge in 1991 - and then stored in some shoe box, then scanned, then converted from tiff to jpeg... then uploaded, you get the idea)

cal band ucla 1991 smoggy

This would have an impact because our star running back, Russell White would have asthma an upper respiratory infection, which made it hard for him to breath...  additionally he would need intravenous fluids at halftime!  Here's a great shot of the endzone pylon, and oh, if you look closely you can all see Russell White fielding the opening kickoff too!  Good work by the groundskeepers at the Rose Bowl that year....

russell white cal ucla 1991



Cal fans showed up 15,000 strong at the Rose Bowl that day.

Did I mention it was hot?

cal ucla 1991 me



Yes, that's an incredibly geeky looking FiatLux...  And that box I'm standing on... that black box.... was INSANELY hot. I had to keep pouring water on it and my shoes!  But man did the CAL section rock the Rose Bowl that day!

By the way, here's a good way to make me feel old.  Take someone with whom I was in college, say, Brian Treggs.   That's him in the photo...   313623_10150436044782835_612382834_10348303_988853621_a_medium


then tell me his kid is going to be a freshman at CAL next year... BRB, going to take a glucosamine tablet...


The game was tied 14 at the half... the CAL band put on a great show... but what's that in  the background? 

calband ucla 1991b


Those poor UCLA students can't even get their card stunts straight....  Little did they know how prescient they were being as CAL was about to turn their whole world upside down!

Let's fast forward to the 4th quarter... CAL was down 24-14 with about 6 minutes left and UCLA had the ball... This was not going like it was supposed to... it was going to be a looooonnnng drive back up 5.  But that CAL team was special... and before you knew it, Jerrott Willard forced a fumble, Mike Pawlawski hit Brian Treggs for 24 yards down to the 3 and Russell White would then carry two hapless UCLA defenders with him into the end zone to tie the game.  The CAL defense would hold again and Doug Brien would kick a 47 yard field goal to win the game for CAL!!!

There was joy all around!!!

cal ucla 1991 HAPPY


And poor Terry Donahue had to go midfield a loser again.

This game gave me one of my all time favorite quotes from Mike Pawlawski...UCLA players had said after  the previous year's game that is there had been a 5th quarter they would have won.  I told you they were obnoxious and delusional... to that Pawlawski had this:

"When we beat them last year," he said, "they started wearing T-shirts about a fifth quarter, like they would have beaten us if we could have kept playing. Well, looks like today they should have been thinking about the fourth quarter, instead of the fifth, because that's when they needed to play."

They just don't make 'em like that anymore!

One last thing.  At half time of the game, Jerrott WIllard came over to me and said "Ken, you got to keep the crowd going... they're making so much noise and we get totally fired up and feed off it!"  So those are your marching orders for Saturday... Let's take over the Rose Bowl and make it Bear Territory... When UCLA has the ball you need to make noise not only to disrupt the UCLA offense (sic) but to fire up our own team!  Because if we all do our job right, we'll make the Rose Bowl look like it did in 2009!



Be nice. You can find the original CGB team at

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