#10: Cal 70, Baylor 22 (2002). Yeah, Baylor sucked this year, like most years pre-Art Briles. But we sucked more the previous year. So to come out and lay 70 points? To be up 35-0 at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER? Maybe the Bear Raid will one day lay down destruction that epic, but it’s hard to think of a more spectacular debut for a college head coach.
At halftime, the score was a whopping 49-7. Old Blues -- those who hadn't endured cardiac arrest from all the (gasp!) scoring -- were in at least in shock. It didn't matter if it was Baylor that Cal was beating up on (who would finish the season 3-9). What mattered was that Cal was winning, Cal was scoring points on both sides of the ball, and Cal was winning in impressive dominant fashion. In a fashion that hadn't been seen for at least a good year or more. I think all Cal fans knew at that time that this might just be the start of something special. Just maybe.
#9: Cal 46, Michigan State 22 (2002). Hello, we are Cal football, and we are here to stay. Cal marched into a hostile Spartan Stadium against a 15th-ranked Michigan State squad that had Rose Bowl aspirations, and basically kicked their tail for 60 minutes. Cal was up 25-0 at halftime, held off a short Spartan rally, and went home victors. Michigan State didn’t turn out to be very good, but we were the ones who knocked them off their perch.
I think it was after this game, when Cal fans finally realized, that this was a new Cal Football team. Even before this game, Cal fans still had doubts about whether the team was really good or not. Beating Baylor and New Mexico State doesn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in anyone. But after beating Michigan State, people realized that the 2001 team really was gone. The 2001 team wouldn't have beat a ranked opponent on the road.
This was 2002, and the Bears were back to being the hunters rather than the hunted.
#8: Cal 45, Texas A&M 10 (2006 Holiday Bowl). From a satisfaction standpoint, this was probably the one. Cal pushed aside the fact that they just missed the Rose Bowl, then whipped a solid Texas A&M team for four quarters in San Diego. Marshawn and Justin put together the best one-two combo.
So what transpired the rest of the way in the Holiday Bowl was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever gotten in the Tedford era. There would be no repeats of the Texas Tech massacre. The 45-10 final score was an accurate representation of the beat down Cal game the Aggies. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett ran wild. Nate Longshore found his trio of speedy wide receivers with frequency and accuracy. Desmond Bishop, Daymeion Hughes and Mickey Pimentel finished their Cal careers by leading a dominating, hard hitting performance against an offense rarely on the wrong side of a physical domination.
#7: Cal 52, Virginia Tech 49 (2003 Insight Bowl). This ended up being the craziest football game of the Tedford era. But what a fun ride it was! Cal's first bowl game in seven years turned out to be the most wild win that's probably on the list.
The 2003 Insight Bowl was a game that had everything - except defense. Over 100 total points, 1,000 total yards, multiple double digit comebacks, special team triumphs and disasters and a last second, game deciding score all made this game a classic. But beyond the stats this was a game that meant the world to Cal fans and the Cal program.
#6: Cal 34, Stanfurd 28 (2009 Big Game). The last great Tedford win. Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart, Jim Harbaugh. That's a whole lot of annoying Furd that needed to get smacked around. And after a few early miscues, the Bears dominated the game and just held on for the most dramatic Big Game win of the BCS era.
There is a moment in any football play when silence falls. The fans, used to generally screaming their heads off, focus solely on the play as it develops. This pregnant silence envelops the stadium, while the linemen crash into each other and the ball spirals through the air. Nobody else notices it, because they are drinking in the play on the field. Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the 2009 Big Game. Why is Twist talking about the silence of the fans during a play? Let me tell you a secret.
#5: Cal 45, Oregon 24 (2006). A favorite for most on this site. Cal WHIPPED an Oregon team on the rise and sent them on a tailspin that did not end until Chip Kelly was hired the following offseason. The defense made it their personal goal to shut down the lethal Duck athletes and neutralized them until the Bears were up by four scores.
Cal/Oregon 2006 did not feature usc losing. It did not go to triple overtime. The game wasn't even competitive, as Cal dominated from literally the opening kickoff. Instead, it was the most electric atmosphere I have ever witnessed/participated in at Memorial Stadium. It was the loudest I've ever heard Memorial. I would contend that the game represents the high water mark of Tedford's tenure, to this point. Most of all, this game demonstrated what an awesome force our University can be.
#4: Cal 45, Tennessee 31 (2007). The biggest non-conference win of the BCS age, Cal took on a Tennessee team that would compete for an SEC title and overwhelmed them with that lethal Pac-12 execution. The Bears and Vols traded scores for most of the first half before Forsett, Jackson, and Hawk took control of the game late.
This was about more than just revenge.
This was more than just about how Tennessee stole our playbook from practice in the weeks up to the game, so they knew what exactly we were planning. This was more than just about Erik Ainge, Robert Meachem and Jason Swain picking on an injured Syd'Quan Thompson for three quarters. This was even a little bit more than getting pasted on national TV after coming in with the best national ranking in five decades and seeing our title hopes burnt to ashes in front of our eyes, with 100,000 orange blurs belting Rocky Top (which at the time sounded like a chorus you'd hear if you were being dragged to hell) as Cal fans drank themselves to sleep.
#3: Cal 31, Oregon 24 (2007). Cal never wins in Autzen Stadium. The last win was in 1987, and the three games in Eugene since then we've lost by a combined 106 points. So this one meant a lot, as it was the climax of the real great years of Tedford football. Cal beat an Oregon team that would prove to be a national title contender in Autzen, and seemed poised to start off a campaign of their own. Alas.
A head coach looking for his first win in the place where he spent years as an assistant; a road team looking for its first victory in Eugene in 30 years; a pair of undefeated teams looking to establish themselves as the #1 challenger to conference top dog USC; potential Heisman candidates on both sides; fourth quarter leads and late comebacks for each; and finally, a thrilling finish with a crazy final twist that seemingly took forever for the instant replay officials to sort out. This game had everything..
#2: Cal 30, Stanfurd 7 (2002 Big Game). It ended a seven year losing streak to the Furd and would kick off a run of five straight Big Game wins (and seven out of eight overall). It clinched Cal's first winning season since 1993. And it pretty much put a stop to the notion that you can't produce winning football in Strawberry Canyon. It was a seminal moment for the program.
It was definitely a unique game at Cal and one that is unlikely to be repeated (mostly, because I hope we never, yknow, lose 7 years to Stanford again). It was for all the years of students who never saw the Axe in Berkeley. It was for all the fans, who had suffered through the 2000 Big Game, a really rough OT loss to Stanford. Sure, to the objective observer it was probably just a boring 30-7 victory of one mediocre team over another mediocre team. But that day in November 2002, there were no objective observers in Memorial Stadium.
#1. Cal 34, USC 31 (2003, 3OT). This was the first game where Cal fans not only thought the Tedford era was going to be a long and prosperous one, but it was the first one where we really felt like the Rose Bowl might be within our reach pretty soon. It was Cal's last win against USC and kicked off a heated rivalry that lasted half the decade.
The student section was a mad house – cursing, obscene gestures, and thousands of jingling keys – amongst other acts of disdain towards USC, their band, and the 15,000-20,000 or so Trojan fans who completely dominated the south side of the stadium. When Cal raced to a quick start and a lead the noise and intensity just kept going up. I would attend every home game except two (UW in 2003 and Oregon in 2006) over the rest of my four years as a student, but I was never part of a louder, more incensed, crazed student section. Until that point I had been a loyal, engaged Cal fan. But USC 2003 pushed me over the top, into a true obsessed die hard. And for that, I have Reggie Robertson to thank.
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