50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #15 - MARSHAWN LYNCH#15 - MARSHAWN LYNCH - RUNNING BACK (2004-2006)
I imagine this pick might generate some debate among Golden Bear fans, because Marshawn Lynch has somehow become a controversial topic. A goodly number of Old Blues have come to the conclusion that his career at Berkeley is something of a disappointment. That reminds us a bit of what people thought about Russell White, who was merely a great back after rewriting the California high school record book.
It's a mistake to focus on what Marshawn didn't accomplish at Cal: no Heisman run, no conference championship, no senior season (which looks like a done deal). What he did accomplish was remarkable - three productive seasons in which he averaged at least six yards a carry...33 touchdowns...the most exciting highlight reel of any running back in California history.
People forget what a force Lynch was on Cal's 10-2 team in 2004. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry as a change-of-pace to J.J. Arrington and scored ten touchdowns. As a sophomore, Lynch became the main man and racked up 1,246 yards (though it's worth noting that Justin Forsett ate up 1,000 yards as well). This year, two bad ankles conspired to deny Marshawn a run at the Heisman. He still managed to earn Pac 10 Offensive POY, behind 1,245 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But Lynch was much more than his statistics. Go back and watch the second half of this year's cliffhanger with Washington - specifically, watch Cal's first drive of that half. 1st down: Marshawn bursts through right tackle for 16 yards. Next play, Longshore hits Lynch with a short pass and he takes it 26 yards to the Washington twenty. After another four yard gain, the Bears call for the halfback option. Nothing's there, but rather than run out of bounds Marshawn dances, jukes, and reverses field to bring the ball down to the two. Two plays later, Cal has tied the score and regained the momentum.
We hope that Marshawn puts it all together against the Aggies in two weeks, because we don't want to remember him sitting on the bench, sullen and confused after being pulled against LSJU. He deserves to go out as a champion, befitting the heart he showed over three memorable seasons in Berkeley.