50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #38 - BENNY LOM#38 - BENNY LOM - HALFBACK (1927-1929)
Benny Lom was Cal's greatest triple threat (running, passing and kicking) player who became nationally famous for his part of college football's most infamous play.
Lom and captain Irv Phillips (another great player who just missed our cut) led the Bears into the 1929 Rose Bowl against Georgia Tech. In the second quarter of a scoreless game, Lom delivered a hard tackle to a Tech ball carrier, jarring the ball loose on their 40-yard line. Cal defender Roy Riegels snatched the ball but got turned around in the scrum and started running for his own end zone. Lom ran after Riegels, shouting for him to stop, but he could not be heard over the roar of the crowd. Finally he caught Riegels from behind on the one-yard line and dropped his teammate with his second tackle on the play. The resulting safety proved to be the difference in a 8-7 loss to Rambling Wreck. Despite the loss, Lom was named Player of the Game for throwing a touchdown pass to Phillips late in the game, and for leading the Golden Bears' to 271 yards of total offense (Lom also ran 68 yards for a score that was called back on a penalty).
In each of his three years on the Cal varsity, Lom was named at least Honorable Mention by one or more of the major All-America surveys. After his junior and senior seasons he was named All-Coast at halfback. He was regarded by football historians as perhaps the greatest passer of the pre-war era on the West Coast and, because he also handled punting duties for the Bears, he made Cal a constant threat to score from a punt formation. To wit, his greatest moment came in 1929, when he ran 85 yards on a fake punt against USC for the deciding touchdown in a 15-7 victory.
Benny Lom died on his birthday - June 29, 1984 - at the age of 78. He is a member of Cal's Athletic Hall of Fame, as well as the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.