Ahhh, the Oregon game. While certainly USC and Stanford are the tops of the rivalry charts, Oregon has wormed its way in. It’s not that Tedford came from there (though that does bring something to the table). But just that we have barely beaten them in recent memory. There was the classic game 2 years ago where we were lucky to win off of a missed XP and a dropped pass on 4th down. Very exciting win. And, of course, last year’s game where Marshawn had the Sisyphean challenge of pushing Ayoob up a hill. In my humble opinion, if we had even a mediocre QB that year we would have won. But that is in the past. 2006 was a new year. ASU had seemed like the big test game, but that turned out to be false.
It seemed that Oregon would then be the first big challenge since the revelation that the state of Tennessee was, in fact, not Bear Territory. Night game. National TV. Disturbing sense of fashion (but hey we won everytime we wore those yellow jerseys, so let’s keep it going!). The atmosphere was very electric. The Ducks travel very well and they had a lot of hope for this season. So, the campus was just packed with people of all shapes and sizes. It was Homecoming, so many Cal alums were back.
Also, it was smack dab in the middle of the baseball playoffs. The As had just won the ALDS over the Twins in smothering fashion the day before, so many As/Cal fans were uber energetic. Too bad As colors and Ducks colors are the same! During afternoon tailgates, the Tigers defeated the Yankees to move onto the ALCS. Nothing makes As fans happier than the Yankees losing. This added energy of the baseball playoffs only made the atmosphere that much more special going into the game. It was the Perfect Storm of fandom.
Excitingly enough, on a personal note, I would run into Ken Macha (manager of the As at the time) while sneaking into the student section. Confused by the light blue coloring of my hat, he asked who I was rooting for. Then, I congratulated him and wished him good luck in the ALCS. He apparently coulda have used the luck as the As got swept in the ALCS and he got fired amidst reports by the players that they, more or less, hated him. The lesson here? If you take a photo with me, expect to be fired within a week.
My friend took the photo about 10 seconds later than I thought he did, which is why I’m itching my nose. I think I need to work out and tan. Anyway, the point is that it was a very intense atmosphere. People on both sides expected a close hard fought battle a la the past two years.
How wrong we all were! Yay! Big Cal victory. Here are the game stats.
The tone for this game was set early. Very early. On Oregon’s first play from scrimmage, Cal intercepted Dennis Dixon’s pass. We had the ball at the Oregon 7 and it took a few plays, but we quickly scored on a pass from Longshore to Stevens. By the end of the 1st, the score was 14-3 on a 35 yard TD pass to Jackson that was disturbingly easy. With DeSean, you come to expect great plays like that.
The 2nd qtr started EXACTLY as the 1st had. An interception of Dixon. Bishop dove for a tipped ball. It was a truly amazing interception. The D really played amazing in this game. Dixon was picked 3 times, leading Oregon to briefly use backup Ryan Leaf Jr. Oregon had less than 90 yards rushing. Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart probably could have rushed as well against Cal’s D.
Which brings us to one of the most amazing moments of the season, but also one of the most nerve-wracking. Marshawn’s run from about the 30 to the 1 with the World’s Most Incomprelievable Stiff-Arm. He stiff arms the dude from about the 10 to the 1. He just keeps running dragging the guy along. The look of determination of Marshawn’s face, while he stiff arms the Oregon player is amazing. Below is a great photo of it.
Unfortunately, Marshawn injured himself on the play. He took a while to get up and then jogged to the sideline, doing a somersault along the way. People were nervous until the somersault. But then I remember seeing him crawl around on the sideline to get medical attention. He looked massive. They looked at him for a while, but then he went to the lockerroom. Breath holding time there. I don’t believe he came back into the game. He only had 7 rushes for 50 yards and 1 amazing catch for over 20 yards. I do remember that Marshawn was suited up and ready to go, if he was needed. However, quickly after that rush play, Cal made it 21-3 on a Longshore 1 yard TD run.
I think by the time Marshawn emerged from the lockerroom it was 28-3 on a DeSean Jackson TD return. You NEED to watch that video. He runs to the left, then cuts it ALL the way to the right then is gone. The best (and you need to watch the latter portion of the video to truly see this) is that right before he cuts it back to the right, he basically stands still and jukes an Oregon player with his legs and then is gone. That might have been the game to put DeSean on the map (with 2 TDs).
With all the scoring, there was a whole lot of TD Celebration Crowd Surfing. It’s odd how these traditions get started. People must think that they have been going on forever. But I do not remember them before the 2001 USC game. We were down something like 50-7 with a few minutes left and were knocking on the door. A micman, who I believe was named Chad, pled with the remaining fans (and it was mostly empty due to a steady rain) to treat the potential TD score as if it was to win the National Championship. That is the first time I can remember it taking place, just 5 years ago. But oh how I love it. There was a whole lot of this:
And even some of this:
That guy musta been too fat or something. Remember others when you decide to crowd-surf. Just be considerate!
Oregon scored at the tail end of the half to make it 28-10 at half. Didn’t matter! The rout was on!
Interestingly enough, the Cal Band’s halftime show was very exciting. It wasn’t their normal formation creation with popular songs from at least 3 years ago style. They just created 1 giant formation (a box) and constructed a storyline. The Stanford Tree stole the Ax from Oski while he slept (why would you do that to us, Oski!). Rally Comm, along with some Cal Band people, had to track it down. They chase the Tree around formation while the Band moved around just enough to continually stymie Rally Comm. Until finally, success!
The Tree(s) are in the upper left hand corner of the box here, while Oski and Co. are outside of it on the lower left side:
Then, the band FINALLY decided to help out by opening the middle up for the fateful battle:
Which we, of course, won!
The Marshawn-less 2nd half (as so many had been early in the year) was not quite as exciting. The final score was 45-24, so there was more scoring to be had. But the game was basically over by half. DeSean’s runback was the stake in Oregon’s heart. Oregon just kept throwing and throwing and throwing. Sometimes it was successful, but mostly they had to punt:
With DeSean back there, punting is always a nerve-wracking thing for any team.
But most of the 2nd half was dedicated to cheering on our team.
You can tell by the reaction of the team how important beating Oregon has become. When the game ended, they all streamed onto the field to celebrate:
A very, very exciting game. Oregon is a big foe and any chance to beat them is huge. They have had our number in recent memory and we always want to get revenge for past slights. Especially last year’s EPICALLY painful loss. Another big game, another test passed. And, of course, anytime you can see one of these, life is good:
Next up is the Wazzu game, which, while technically an away game, many thousands of people gathered at Memorial Stadium to watch it simulcast on the big TV. So, I’ll count that as a home game experience. GO BEARS!