Most exciting game
Avinash: 2014. The Hill Mary game. I didn’t watch a second of this game. I just read the box score, got a splitting headache at midnight in Seoul, and decided to never think about it ever again. Very exciting, and the first three quarters showed us what the peak of the Bear Raid attack could look like. The fourth quarter gave us the other side.
Ohio Bear: 1996. Cal 56, Arizona 55, 4 OT. This game was tied 35–35 at the end of regulation, then became the “Marathon at Memorial” 4-OT epic. Pat Barnes threw for 503 yards and 8 touchdown passes. Cal took a 56–49 lead in the 4th overtime when Barnes connected with fullback Marc Vera for his 8th TD pass of the game. (Unlike current rules, teams were not required to go for two after the second overtime.) Arizona scored a TD to pull to within one and then tried to walkoff to the win with a fake extra point. Cal linebacker Andre Rhodes sniffed out the play, however, and tackled the kicker-turned-ballcarrier short of the end zone, winning the game for Cal.
Vincent Sheu: 2009 edges out 2014 for me, perhaps because I was there live. Nick Foles leading an Arizona drive down the field late, only to throw two forward passes in the same play? Vereen’s 61-yard TD run right afterwards? This game set up the last fun Big Game we’ve had a in a while.
Best Cal performance
Avinash: 2004. Cal 38, Arizona 0. This was a terrible Wildcats team, to be sure. But to play at home and cross midfield a grand total of two times? To hold Arizona to 18 yards on the final six drives of the game? Glorious. Arizona would not score on Cal two years in a row, getting blanked 28–0 in Berkeley in 2005.
Ohio Bear: 1990. Cal 30, Arizona 25. Cal went into Tucson as a decided underdog against a Dick Tomey–coached team that was expected to control the clock and the game against the upstart Bears. But a confident Cal squad went into Arizona Stadium and unleashed Russell White against an unsuspecting Arizona defense. It was an unlikely road win that gave Cal fans hope that the 1990 team was something special. The Bears would ultimately return to Tucson later that season for the Copper Bowl, Cal’s first bowl appearance in 12 years.
Best Cal upset
Avinash: 2009. Cal 24, #24, Arizona 16. Jahvid Best done for the season, the Wildcats storming at the front of the Pac-10, and Cal ground that offense to a halt (four straight three-and-outs in the second half). Even with Kevin Riley really struggling, Shane Vereen put up 159 yards and a back-breaking touchdown late, and Nick Foles threw a football twice.
Nik Jam: 2009 as well. I got to watch that game from the Victory Cannon area. I remember the doom and gloom that week because of the Jahvid injury the week prior. No one I hung out with expected a win. That was a pretty fun night.
Ohio Bear: 1993. Cal 24, #13 Arizona 20. The Bears started the season 5–0 after the Miracle At Memorial, but then dropped the next four games—three of them without starting QB Dave Barr. Barr returned for this November game at Memorial Stadium, but was largely a non-factor as Cal fell behind 20–0. But Barr and RB Lindsey Chapman rallied the Bears in the second half, pulling the Bears to within 20-17. Then, with less than 4 minutes remaining, Eric Zomalt intercepted a Danny White pass and took it in for a pick-6 to give the Bears the lead. Cal’s defense held to end the game, and the Bears had a win, which provided the momentum to a season-ending 4-game win streak, a final top-25 ranking, and an Alamo Bowl win over Iowa.