(1) 2009 Big Game
With less than two minutes on the clock and the 113th Big Game on the line in a battle of two top-25 teams, California linebacker Mike Mohamed etched his name in Big Game immortality.
Backed against the end zone and Heisman Trophy runner-up and future NFL quarterback, Andrew Luck, marching the Stanford offense down the field for a potential game-winning touchdown, Mohamed reached to the sky to intercept any thought of a Stanford victory.
"I just remember we had fought so hard," Mohamed recalled. "Just one of those great feelings, and afterwards, our fans rushed their field. That was definitely one of the most memorable things."
As the Cal fans flowed onto the field at Stanford Stadium to celebrate the Golden Bears' 34-28 win, in the middle of it with his eye black smeared from sweat and tears was Cal running back Shane Vereen.
Just a sophomore that night, Vereen carried the load of the offense with 42 rushing attempts. Vereen, who had only been inserted as the starter the week prior, ran for 193 yards and scored three touchdowns.
His efforts significantly helped keep the coveted Axe trophy with the Bears in Berkeley for a second straight year.
Vereen has gone to have a successful NFL career that included a breakout 2012 playoff performance and a 2014 Super Bowl victory with the New England Patriots. In the Super Bowl he caught 11 passes for 64 yards. However, despite all the NFL success, Vereen still says the 2009 Big Game reigns as one of his favorite games he's ever played in.
"It's still up there," Vereen said. "Definitely the best in my college career. A real emotional win."
Similar to Mohamed, Vereen says one of the most memorable parts of that game was how the Cal fans rushed the field to celebrate the win with the team.
"We won at their place and rushed their field," Vereen emphasized. "And got the Axe back,"
Since Vereen's Giants have a bye this week, he and some former teammates are planning on attending this year's edition of the Big Game, which falls exactly five years to the day after his heroic game. Both Vereen and Mohamed say they stay in touch with friends, teammates and are closely watching every Cal game.
"We try and stay in touch as much as possible," Mohammed, who has played in the NFL since 2011, said. "It's tough but I try to stay in touch after games. After every game you'll run into Cal guys and say hi and catch up."
After Vereen and Mohamed shook the hands of the defeated Cardinal following that epic victory, they ran to the Axe and carried it to their locker room. There, surrounded by teammates, Mohamed once again reached high, this time with the Axe in hand.
"It was definitely the cherry on top," Mohammed said.
Tomorrow night, the current Bears look to bring the Axe home to Berkeley, but for that 2009 Cal team, the Axe was there's that night.
"We weren't intimidated," Vereen said. "The Axe belongs in Berkeley."
(8) Cal/UCLA 1990
Coach Terry Donahue & the 3-3 UCLA Bruins traveled to Berkley to meet the 4-2 California Golden Bears of coach Bruce Snyder. The Golden Bears used a punishing rushing attack that amassed 311 yards to gain a 17-0 1st quarter lead & then withstood a 4th quarter rally by the Bruins to retain The Belt with a 38-31 win over UCLA. The victory was the first for California over UCLA in 18 games dating back to 1972. Early in the 1st quarter, California took advantage of a short UCLA punt & turned it into a 48-yard field goal by PK Robbie Keen. Late in the quarter, the Golden Bears drove 85 yards in 16 plays with RB Anthony Wallace scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run putting California ahead 10-0. On the Golden Bears next possession, QB Mike Pawlawski turned what should have been a disastrous trick-play into a huge gain. From the California 47-yard line, Pawlawski was suppose to pitch the ball to All-Pac 10 RB Russell White & White would then throw an option pass but White was not where Pawlawski thought he would be on the pitch allowing the ball to roll free. Pawlawski recovered the fumble & still had time to throw a to RB Greg Zomalt for a 49-yard gain to the UCLA 4-yard line. On the next play, Pawlawski threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to TE Brent Woodall giving the Golden Bears a 17-0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. The Bruins got on the board early in the 2nd quarter with a 13-play, 83-yard drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown by RB Brian Brown but California came back with their own 12-play, 80-yard drive with RB Marty Holly scoring on a 28-yard touchdown run giving the Golden Bears a 24-7 lead. UCLA's next drive stalled at the California 13-yard line & PK Brad Daluiso hit a 31-yard field goal. California's TE Brian Remington returned the ensuing kickoff 28 yards to the UCLA 49-yard line before the Golden Bears drove for a 47-yard field goal by Keen putting California ahead 27-10 at the half. Midway through the 3rd quarter, California pushed the lead to 30-10 with a 31-yard field goal by Keen. The Bruins responded with an 8-play, 74-yard drive with Brown scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run making the score California 30 UCLA 17. White scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 0:32 left in the 3rd quarter & the 2-point conversion gave the Golden Bears a 38-17 lead. Early in the 4th quarter, UCLA drove 80 yards in 15 plays with RB Kevin Smith scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:42 left in the game. UCLA got their next touchdown when WR Scott Miller recovered a fumble in the end zone by UCLA WR Reggie Moore after he caught a pass from QB Tommy Maddox at the California 3-yard line. With 7:00 left, UCLA trailed 38-31 but the Bruins got the ball back with just over four minutes left. UCLA drove to the California 14-yard line when California's S Michael Davis blitzed & he forced a fumble from Maddox. California's DT Joel Dickson recovered at the Golden Bears' 25-yard line & Pawlawski ran out the clock. Pawlawski finished with 155 yards passing with a touchdown, Wallace rushed for 134 yards with a touchdown, & White added 125 yards with his score. Maddox threw for 220 yards in the loss. California finished the season 7-4-1 while the Bruins finished 5-6. UCLA would play for The Belt again in 3 weeks.