One of my favorite sportswriters working today is Bill Simmons, who, as you might imagine, is a pretty big influence on how I choose to approach writing about sports myself.
But this is not a column discussing Bill Simmons, nor his merits. This is a column built around repurposing a Bill Simmons trademark -- his All-Star team system.
Inspired by my Bostonian idol, I have spent the last few years jokingly elevating certain Cal opponents into a lofty pantheon, which I have called the Colin Kaepernick All-Stars after his dominance in 2010. Today, I introduce it to you, hoping to make it as much a part of the Berkeley sporting lexicon as "#LEARNTUP". This title is reserved only for the most mythical players to have destroyed the Bears, the thorniest of thorns in our ursine sides, and those who have earned a begrudging respect for doing so.
Of course, this idea is not particularly new.
Noted tormenters of the Blue and Gold have existed long before Kaepernick, and the CGB staff will have more on those older inductees coming soon [I don't make editorial decisions]. Today, however, we'll just be talking those from more recent memory, specifically from 2010 onward, and taking a bit of a stroll down...whatever the opposite of memory lane is.
The only requirement to be an Colin Kaepernick All-Star is to be frustratingly, transcendentally great against the Golden Bears -- even if it's just for a single memorable game. Comers are accepted from all fields and sports, although my list is football based, since that is the sport I care for most.
Now, without further ado, I would like to present my choices for the inaugural Colin Kaepernick All-Stars, which I will periodically update and reference from this point forward.
May their accomplishments be soon forgotten.
Well, duh. Who else? The man who inspired this list was obviously a lock to make the team, and he only needed one career appearance against Cal to do it. For why, let's think back to a September Friday three seasons ago, when Kaepernick threw for two touchdowns and 181 yards on 10-of-15 passing.
Oh, that's right.
You probably don't remember that, because the lingering images that remain from September 17th, 2010 are of No. 10 dipping, dodging, ducking, diving and dodging Cal defenders on his way to 148 rush yards and three more scores. Fooled by read option after read option, the Bears were helpless to stop him or backfield mate Vai Taua as the two combined for 480 of Nevada's 487 yards of offense.
In the immediate weeks following that loss, I argued with all my friends that a healthy Mike Mohamed would have made a difference, but I was probably just lying to myself. The truth is that Kaepernick really put together a Vince Young-ian type evening, the kind that no single player could have stopped.
To this day, Cal fans fear any and every mention of the word Pistol. You can thank Kaepernick for beginning that.
22 catches. 424 yards, two touchdowns. For some players, that's a season.
Some -- and I dare say most -- players are also not Paul Richardson, a 6'1, 170 pound terror who reached those numbers in just a little over 120 minutes of play against Cal. The Bears were fortunate to limit the damage to just 424 yards, missing a third meeting with Richardson only because they did not have Colorado scheduled in 2012.
The extra preparation time proved to make little difference, though. Richardson was the focus on defense this year and was never allowed to get loose deep down the field, but still dominated the shorter and intermediate ranges to pull in a game-high 11 receptions for 140 yards. And those numbers were an improvement, because he had touchdown catches of 66 and 78 yards in the 2011 game.
Hey, at least we kept him out of the end zone this time around.
Thankfully, he's done running through our nightmares now. The Los Angeles native opted to forgo his senior season in favor of the NFL, but I hardly think anyone with Berkeley ties will be sad to see him depart.
True, I could have elected this spot to be filled with every tight end ever, and I expect that there will be a few nominations for exactly that in the comments.
Seferian-Jenkins, however, stands out even more than most, in part because his hands pulled a win pretty much out of thin air. The massive Fox Island, Washington native recorded three career touchdowns against Cal, but only one was particularly memorable -- a miraculous 3rd and goal grab from 29 yards out, back in 2012. The image of Keith Price being chased out of the pocket and throwing up an answered prayer still irks me today, especially because Steve Williams was draped all over him like a winter coat.
I mean, it was 3rd and 29.
That score put the Huskies ahead 14-13, and effectively sealed a game that had a ton of emotional value to it already. Although ASJ would finish with seven other catches and 123 other yards, none were more harmful to Cal's chances of revenge than that one.
And to make matters worse, he did all of this on a badly sprained ankle.
With all his dimensions and his athleticism, it is a wonder that his numbers in three Cal-UW games were not more impressive. Even this year, considered a down one by his standards, he remained incredibly huge and generally uncoverable, seemingly held back only by Washington's strange insistence not to feature him more prominently.
If you missed Montgomery's five-touchdowns-in-two-quarters extravaganza in this year's Big Game, lucky you. Some of us were not so fortunate, having to watch it it unfold under a baking Palo Alto sun.
The less said about this one, the better.
Those 2011 Bears were supposed to win in Los Angeles. Were expected to win, even, seeing as UCLA had six players serving suspensions for their brawl a week before.
Evidently, Tevin McDonald had other ideas, as he picked apart the Maynard-Allen connection three times by himself. Cal's 31-14 defeat cannot be attributed to Tevin McDonald alone, of course -- a remarkably poor job in containing Kevin Prince was equally responsible, I'd say -- but McDonald's interceptions were a pretty big deal in that regard. The last one ended up helping LA put the game out of reach, allowing them to stretch their lead to an ultimately insurmountable three possessions.
Unlike the other names included on this list, this story ends somewhat happily -- all the others have escaped payback, except McDonald. A year later, back in Memorial Stadium, the Bears returned the favor, stunning a ranked Bruins team 43-17.
McDonald had four tackles, and more importantly, no interceptions.
After careful consultation with the Cal Twitterverse, I decided to slot Mike Riley in here as the first head coach instead of Pete Carroll. You do not, of course, need me to remind you why Riley -- 8-3 all time against the Bears -- draws our ire.
Let's just move on before somebody breaks something.
The Quizz remains an ever constant enigma in the eyes of Cal fans, who undoubtedly still wonder how a player who stands so small can cause so much harm. Well, diminutive stature notwithstanding, Rodgers has earned his way onto this list for embodying the kind of all-around dominance Oregon State has had over the Golden Bears in the last decade.
His five rushing touchdowns and 330 yards on the ground over three years is maddening enough, but Rodgers managed to throw in a trick play passing touchdown and 36 more reception yards, to boot.
No one had an answer for him in any phase of the game, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the Bears lost all three matchups Rodgers appeared in, two of which saw Cal starters suffer season ending injuries. Rodgers was responsible for neither of Kevin Riley's or Jahvid Best's injuries, of course, but his memory will always be associated with darker times for that reason.
Trent Murphy/Chase Thomas
Accepting this award on behalf of the entire Stanford front seven between 2010 and 2013 are Murphy and Thomas. A career achievement honor, if you will. The Cardinal have been too defensively dominant during this period not to have earned a spot, which these two will share.
We'll begin with Murphy, who was a general menace at outside linebacker in three Big Games, recording a cumulative statline of nine tackles, three sacks and two passes defensed.
Thomas, on the other hand, gets this honor for his monstrous 2012 Big Game. A white-wearing wrecking ball that day, he totaled 7 tackles (3 for loss), a sack, a forced fumble and recovery, helping to hold Cal to 3 rushing yards on 28 carries. I remember this game very, very vividly, because it was the only Big Game I got to see in Berkeley during my time as a student -- and I watched him unleash this havoc from the front row of the student section. Fun? No. Not even slightly.
You could plug and play any member of the Stanford defense, though. Shayne Skov, Henry Anderson, Josh Mauro, James Vaughters -- it would not particularly matter, as they have all combined to give Cal fits.
When you think back to painful moments from the 2012 Cal - OSU game, there are many. The phantom holding call on Jacob Wark. Alex Logan being juked out of his shoes for a long Braxton Miller touchdown run. Tedford kicking again on 4th and 1.
And yet, the Bears still could have won even in spite of them -- the game was tied even after D'Amato's third miss of the game.
It was Smith who changed all that; Smith who scored from 72 yards out with 3:26 to play; Smith, who pulled down five catches, 145 yards, and two scores to end our upset bid; and Smith, who ensured defeat, earning his way into the Colin Kaepernick All-Stars for that performance.
364 days later, the Buckeyes traveled west, but deja vu apparently got onboard as well.
On Ohio State's third play from scrimmage, Bears fans were once again treated to the sight of Smith running free through the California secondary, and then again just two minutes after that, part of a three catch, 149 yard, two touchdown afternoon.
In two games against Cal, Smith's average reception went for 36.75 yards.
Good thing there won't be a third chapter.
- Reggie Dunn, Nelson Agholor, Bralon Addison (each for reducing our special teams units to dust. 6 combined special teams touchdowns between them.)
- Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin (for various coaching frustrations)
- Marcus Mariota (8:0 TD:INT ratio in two games against Cal, including a 6:0 game, with one more to come in 2014. Sigh.)
- Collin Ellis (two INTs returned for TD in 2013 season opener, singlehandedly providing the margin of victory.)
- LaMichael James (149.3 rushing yards per game in 3 matchups, including the two final first downs to ice the 2010 Oregon game, another near upset).
- Bishop Sankey (Even more terrifying than James, Sankey started only two Cal-UW games and averaged an obscene 215 yards per game, with four rushing touchdowns. His greatness does not befit his name. King him.)
- Shaq Thompson (As for Thompson, well...icing the 2012 game with an interception, stabbing Cal fans in the heart before signing day and adding six tackles this year will do.)
Anyway, that's it from me.
Feel free to discuss the choices I've made here in the comments below, and of course, nominate your own Cal Bear killers, in any sport. How did I do? Who did I miss among modern era players (2010-beyond)? Who do you expect to see in part two? [It's the offseason, okay? What else am I going to write about?]