Monday, November 13, 2006


During Rose Bowl Week, we'll be selectively reviewing some of the great contests between the Golden Bears and Trojans. Our list is selective - it has to be since USC owns a 58-30-4 advantage in the series, which stretches back to 1915 and has been played each year since 1926. We're not about to introduce bad karma by reviewing any of those 58 losses. Yes, 2004 was an epic contest, I was there - but it still counted as a loss. Enjoy:

1937 - California 20 USC 6
Stub Allison's 1937 version of the Golden Bears was known as the Thunder Team, and they won 10 games including a shutout victory over Alabama in the Rose Bowl. The Bears carried a #1 ranking in the polls into its October 23 contest with USC, which was ranked 11th under its legendary coach Howard Jones. The prior year, Stub Allison's club had upset USC in the Coliseum on an unusual lateral play in which center Bob Herwig carried the ball into the end zone for the winning score. SC craved revenge in '37, but the Bears would not have it. Cal dominated the first half 20-0 and would win 20-6, having rolled up 418 yards of offense (an enormous sum in those more conservative days).

1948 - California 13 USC 7
Cal football waned during the war years, and USC ascended, shutting the Bears out in four consecutive years from 1943-1946. For these and other reasons, Cal lured Northwestern coach Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf to restore the program's fortunes. Think of him as the Tedford of his day, with greater success. In his first year, Pappy took the Bears to a 10-1 mark, but the one loss was a 39-14 pasting by the Trojans, who would go on to yet another Rose Bowl.

In 1948, the tables finally turned. Cal visited the Coliseum to face a Trojan team that had already lost to Ohio State and Oregon. Cal had won all six of its games, three by shutout. Junior RB Jackie Jensen took the game's opening kickoff down to the USC 32, which set a pattern for the entire game. Jensen carried 27 times for 132 yards, and Cal kept the ball away from the USC offense. The final score was 13-7 - Cal had the monkey off its back and would go on to qualify for the first of three consecutive Rose Bowls under Waldorf.

1958 - California 14 USC 12
The previous year, Joe Kapp had led the Bears to a 12-0 upset of USC in Berkeley, the Bears' only victory in coach Pete Elliott's first season after taking over for Waldorf. Despite the poor record, Cal lost five of those games by a total of 18 points, giving Bear fans some reason for optimism. In 1959 the rematch was in Los Angeles, and Kapp again led the way with his running and occasional passing. USC handed this one to the Bears, though, with sloppy ball-handling that led to several turnovers. The final score was 14-12, proving that the Bears were finally winning the close ones. They would go on to win four more, including nail-biters against UCLA and Stanford, to qualify for Cal's first Rose Bowl in eight years.

1970 - California 13 USC 10
Once John McKay established USC's second (post-Howard Jones) dynasty, Cal victories were hard to come by. 1970 was the exception. Cal was stocked with talent on both sides of the ball with Sherman White at DT and Ray Youngblood prowling the secondary. Dave Penhall was a more than capable QB, and Isaac Curtis - a future pro star with the Cincinnati Bengals - averaged more than 25 yards per kick return. Like so many notable Cal-SC games, this one was a defensive struggle, ended by Ray Wersching's 46 yard field goal with less than five minutes remaining that broke a 10-10 tie.

1975 - California 28 USC 14
In a game with eerie parallels to this year's contest, Cal met #4 USC before a national TV audience in 1975. While the Bears had the nation's most explosive offense led by QB Joe Roth and RB Chuck Muncie, they were coming off a difficult loss to UCLA and most experts predicted a Trojan victory. A rare sellout crowd at Memorial watched in delighted shock as the Bears controlled the game from the middle of the first quarter on. Muncie had 143 yards on the ground, but it was FB Tom Newton who had the game's most memorable score on a 10-yard blast up the middle. Cal would go on to share the conference championship with UCLA.

1977 - California 17 USC 14
A lifetime had truly passed before USC visited Berkeley again on October 29, 1977. Joe Roth, the All-American QB who engineered that 1975 victory, died of cancer in February of that year. His death shocked Berkeley and the college football world, who were unaware that Roth had played the 1976 season while quite ill with the disease. In a fitting tribute, Cal dedicated the '77 USC game in Joe's memory, and planned to retire his jersey at halftime. The Bears played an inspired game, capped by Anthony Green's interception return for touchdown in the 3rd quarter that gave them the 17-14 advantage.

1991 - California 52 USC 30
Trojans fans had gotten a rare chance to look down their noses when Russell White - the most decorated prep in California history - signed with Cal in 1989. It is true that White did not qualify academically for USC - Cal at that time accepted Prop 48 students and SC did not. The Trojans' woofing, though, ignored the fact that White was an undiagnosed dyslexic who simply couldn't read at a college level. Russell took advantage of Cal's academic bridge program, received special tutoring, and graduated in four years with a B average in social welfare. Oh, and he played extra hard against SC, racking up 229 rushing yards in the 1991 blowout of the Trojans. The 52 points Cal scored that day is the most ever surrendered by USC.

2003 - California 34 USC 31
After a near-miss in 2002, Jeff Tedford had his Bears ready to face the undefeated, #3-ranked Trojans. Cal shot to a 21-7 first half lead behind Aaron Rodgers' oustanding QB play and a surprisingly stingy defense. Just before the half, though, Rodgers was hit hard on a quarterback keeper, and then threw an interception to miss the chance to go up three TDs on the favored Trojans.

The second half was a nightmare - Matt Leinart drove USC quickly down the field for a score to make it 21-14, and then Rodgers was picked by Lofa Tatupu, who returned the ball 27 yards for the tying score. Rodgers yielded to backup Reggie Robertson, and all seemed lost. Cal's defense rose to the occasion, though, shutting down the powerful Trojan offense throughout the third and fourth quarter. Tyler Fredrickson's 51 yard field goal put the Bears up by 3, but his second attempt of the 4th quarter was blocked, and Ryan Killeen booted a 33 yard field goal with 0:16 left to send the game to overtime tied at 24.

Cal had a chance to win it following a Herschel Dennis fumble in the first overtime, but Fredrickson was again blocked. After both teams traded touchdowns in the 2nd OT, Killeen missed from 39 yards to open the 3rd period. Fredrickson grabbed his chance at redemption, hitting a 38-yarder that introduced Tedford's Bears to the country, and denied USC a spot in the Sugar Bowl.


At 11:01 AM, Blogger T. said...

1991 - Big Bad Cal Mauls Poor USC was the headline in the LA Times that morning, and that, combined with Jason Kidd signing to go to Cal, combined with my rejection from 'Furd made Cal my #1 choice for schools.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Pete Morris said...

1985: Cal 14 USC 6
Thanks for the memories--and the history lesson, too! But you're missing a game that is unforgettable, at least to me, because it came in my freshman year at Cal. Fellow freshman, phenom Marc Hicks--the kid who we all thought then was going to save Joe Kapp's job and maybe even lead him to the Tequila-drenched promised land of Pasadena--had probably the best game of his short Cal career. This included one of the few plays that is forever etched in vivid color in my memory, when Hicks picked up a loose ball in the backfield and then rumbled around the end for one of Cal's two scores. (Anyone out there got a saved video clip they can post to YouTube?) Jealous of the upperclassmen at the time who had witnessed Big Game 1982 in person, Hicks's miracle touchdown became my personal "Play" and forever hooked me on my lifelong Cal addiction.

Go Bears! And to Joe Kapp, I've got a bottle of tequila with your name on it, just in case we'll need it Saturday night.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

Pete, I was there in '85 as well and I almost included it - the post was already too damn long. I've got the tequila ready too - El Tesoro Silver, a personal fave.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

T. -

Do you remember LA Trojan fans complaining about Cal running up the score in the 1991 loss? Hilarious..lot's of letters to the LA Times from whiny Trojan fans.

Followed by many more letters from Cal, UCLA, Oregon, OSU, etc fans that had watched the Trojans roll up the score time after time under McKay and Robinson.

Great stuff! I still love the FG at the end of the game.

Hopefully we can rejoice in another victory over Troy. It was the one thing Holmoe seemed to be able to do....

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