(4) Cal/Oregon 1993
The scene: 1993. After a disappointing 4-7 season in 1992 with a team coming off a national #7 ranking and a Citrus Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers, the Bears entered 1993 with few expectations, but a lot of experienced players. Also going around in 1993 - it was the height of the AIDS scare - with Magic Johnson "attaining" the HIV virus only a year prior, so no one in college was having sex. Or at least not compared to now. Or maybe I was the only not having sex. Women back then also dressed from head to toe in flannel and listened to really depressing music. (Seriously, have you listened to Pearl Jam's Black? It's a wonder I didn't sit in my room being depressed all the time, because that was the music I listened to too.)
Waking up early Saturday morning, on a perfectly sunny Bay Area day, I rode my bike up to campus - locked it near Lower Sproul/Harmon, then got over to Top Dog for my traditional pre-game meal (2 Bockwursts, 1 with Russian Mustard and Onions, the other with Stone ground mustard and kraut) then on up to the Stadium itself, taking Bancroft up and into the stadium about 2 hours early.
I was early for the game since I had been doing some part time work and odd jobs for the athletic department, and on that fateful day, I had been scheduled for an on-field position, so I had to make my way over to the media entrance on the north side to pick up my field pass and get out there early and to watch warm-ups.
Oregon came into the game with a powerful offense, led by quarterback Danny O'Neil, while the Bears countered with probably our best team between the Pawlawski team of 1991 and the Rodgers team of 1994. Dave Barr was a remarkably efficient quarterback - (entering this game with a 170.3 QB rating - which was 4th in the nation), but I remember he was completing about 69% of his passes that year. Our wideouts were the very fast, but stone-handed Damien Seimian on one-side, and the hands-of-glue, but not so fleet-of-foot Mike Caldwell on the other. Running behind a massive offensive line, anchored by future NFL stalwart Todd Stuessie, Lindsay Chapman was a predecessor of Justin Forsett, albeit a little more physical, but not as slippery.
The Bears defense was led by Jerrott Willard - here in his prime, and in my opinion the best linebacker Cal has had since Hardy Nickerson - including The Bishop, Pain Train and the Asian Assassin. With pass rushing from Regean Upshaw and Duane Clemons and secondary covered by Artis Houston and Eric Zomalt, the 1994 Bears were stacked on both sides of the ball, and in my opinion, came within a Dave Barr broken collarbone of playing on New Year's Day in Pasadena.
(5) Cal/USC 2003
At this point, I was 100% sure. There was no way Cal would win this game. Losing a 14 point halftime lead, then a late 4th quarter three point lead, and then blowing a chip shot field goal that would have won the game? You don't make these mistakes and beat a team like USC. It just doesn't happen. Even when Reggie Robertson threw a spectacular 25 yard laser touchdown into the outstretched hands of Jonathan Makonnen with two Trojan pass rushers bearing down on him, I didn't believe. And I really didn't believe when USC immediately responded with a quick score to send things to a 3rd OT.
I'm not even sure I believed after Ryan Killeen missed a 40 yard field goal after USC's possession was stymied with a poorly timed penalty. And when Cal failed to get a first down and get any closer for TFred I wasn't sure I could handle the pain of a 3rd failed attempt. When the field goal unit trotted onto the field the Mic Man (or was it Mic Chick Kate Troescher at the time? My addled brain doesn't remember) told us all to join our hands in a silent prayer to the Gods of Football. A part of me still believes that the well-timed display of desperate unity somehow made the difference, though TFred kicking one yard further back from the line of scrimmage may have had more to do with it. In any case, you all know what happened next. I was so overwhelmed by the victory that I was momentarily stunned, but I was quickly forced to regain my awareness or risk being trampled by the downward surge of 18-22 year old humanity that flowed onto the field in rapturous celebration of a wholly unexpected win for the ages.