Most exciting game
Ohio Bear: 2015. Cal 48, Arizona State 46. Cal needed a win in the 2015 regular season finale to solidify its bowl eligibility, but fell behind ASU 27–10 at halftime on a frigid night in Berkeley. The Bear Raid offense exploded for 38 second-half points, however, and the California Golden Bears defense managed to keep holding ASU to field goals. Matt Anderson won it for the Bears with a 26-yard FG as time expired and Cal headed to the Armed Forces Bowl.
Best Cal performance
Ohio Bear: 2003. Cal 51, Arizona State 23. Cal came into the game 4–5 on the season, but bowl aspirations were still very much in play. Cal needed a road win against a talented, albeit underachieving, ASU team. Cal not only got the win, but dominated the game. Aaron Rodgers completed 17 of 22 passes for 307 yards and Geoff MacArthur racked up 160 yards receiving.
Leland Wong: Cal’s 50–17 win at home in 2010. In the pouring rain, an offensive team of veterans (including Kevin Riley, Shane Vereen, and Marvin Jones) with a superstar freshman in Keenan Allen managed to score 50 points before that became a thing. Allen even nearly returned a punt for a touchdown, but it was called back on a penalty. But more impressive than special teams nearly was or the offense actually was, the true highlights go to the defense. The Cal defense didn’t allow a single touchdown—ASU nailed an early field goal and scored touchdowns after blocking a Bryan Anger punt and by returning a fumble by back-up quarterback Brock Mansion. The unit was led by seniors Darian Hagan, Mike Mohamed, and Chris Conte (who was a revelation after switching to safety in Clancy Pendergast’s scheme) and they held the Sun Devils to a mere 3/15 for third-down conversion. Bonus points because this is one of the few Cal games I saw in-person.
Best Cal upset
Ohio Bear: 1987. Cal 38, Arizona State 20. Cal didn’t have a great season in Bruce Snyder’s first year as Cal coach (the Bears finished 3–6–2), but the Bears seemed to pull it all together in a late-season win over the defending Pac-10 champions. ASU would go on to finish finish 20th in the final 1987 AP poll, but on this November day, Cal got to play Palms of Victory. Cal sophomore QB Troy Taylor threw three TD passes (one of them after he broke a finger in his throwing hand) to lead the Bears to the win. Unfortunately, the broken finger kept Taylor out of the Big Game the following week.