The Worst: The Big Game


I decided to spare you all from me writing about these horrible moments for the week. However, I’m back, and it’s time to make some people suffer. Unfortunately, we will feature Cal once again. I’m sorry, Cal fans (no I’m not).

On the plus side for you, Golden Bears faithful, your rival Stanford fans get to take part in this, too.

That’s right, for this week’s edition of the Worst, we’re covering the Big Game. To make this fair, we will NOT include the 1982 game. That’s right, we won’t even mention that a marching band ran on the field and helped Cal win the game. So don’t worry about it!

Just ignore the fact that the Stanford Band marched on the field in celebration and helped the Golden Bears win the football game. That might have happened, but I assure you “The Play” is not part of this list.

Would I lie to you?

5. Stanford defeats Cal 41-0; changes nickname less than a week later- 1930

There really isn’t a lot on this game. In fact, a lot of these stories won’t have much in terms of game content to them.

Stanford came into the game having won three straight. They were 7-1-1, with a loss to USC and a tie to Washington State. Pop Warner had the team running smoothly. They marched into Berkeley and destroyed the Golden Bears. Stanford’s offense kept attacking. In the end, it was the biggest win for Stanford over Cal in the rivalry.

The loss was so bad that Cal Head Coach Clarence “Nibs” PriceĀ resigned just days later from the program. He stayed on as the coach for the basketball program.

And that was that…oh wait!

You might have noticed I didn’t mention Stanford’s nickname in this post and that’s for good reason. Stanford seems to have a history of going through different nicknames.

For the game against Cal, Stanford was known as the Cardinal, which is what they started out as in 1891. Three days after the win against Cal, the Executive Committee of Associated Students voted to make the new nickname the Indians. The name had long been an unofficial part of Stanford. However, those at the school felt the time was right to make the change.

Stanford would change the nickname back to the Cardinals in 1972, thus ending the problematic portion of this column. Please don’t ask me about the tree mascot.

4. Ferragamo wins it for Cal in final seconds of Mud Bowl– 1972

Vince Ferragamo made a pretty good name for himself in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams. He also became a household name in Nebraska. However, before he went to Nebraska, he played for the Cal Golden Bears. He was a freshman in 1972 and got quite a bit of playing time.

Indulge me and imagine this scenario. You’re 18-years-old and playing in front of 68,000 fans. There is 1:13 left in the game and you have 62 yards to go if you want to help your team win its final game of the season. Ferragamo faced this exact scenario. It’s crazy, I know.

The thought didn’t deter Ferragamo. He drove his team down the field, getting them to the Stanford seven-yard line with three seconds left. As time expired on fourth down, Ferragamo dropped back and connected with Steve Sweeney for the win. Cal won 24-21.

As the Stanford Daily pointed out, it was the worst offensive output for the Cardinals all season long. Thanks to the mud, they had a total of 169 yards in the game.

The win for Cal guaranteed them to finish 3-9 overall and 3-4 in the conference, good enough for fifth place. Meanwhile, Stanford finished 6-5 overall and 2-5 in the conference. They would tie for sixth with Oregon.

3. Cal denies Stanford a chance at winning a game thanks to comeback win– 1947

In 1947, Stanford was not a good college football team. Marchy Schwartz’s team averaged 8.1 points per game that season. Opposing teams shut them out twice.

Stanford came into the final game of their season risking their first winless season in school history. Schwartz proclaimed before the season Stanford would win a game and the Cal game would be their last chance.

On the flip side, Pappy Waldorf had his Cal team playing some terrific football. Their only loss coming into the game came to eventual Pacific Coast Conference Champs USC.

According to the Stanford Daily, Stanford came into the game as 10-1 underdogs. Maybe this would be the time. Stanford led for most of the game. They had an 18-14 lead well into the fourth quarter.

With less than four minutes left in the game, a trick play by Cal in which quarterback Bob Celeri pitched it to fullback Jack Jensen, who threw it diagonally across the field to Keckley on an 80-yard touchdown pass.

Yes, Jensen threw across his body and it led to a touchdown pass. Of course, it wasn’t a very long pass either. Football clearly wasn’t that advanced in the 1940s. Cal would go on to win the game 21-18.

Stanford finished the season 0-9. The good news for Schwartz is they would win a few football games next season.

2. Hogan/Montgomery torch Cal– 2013

In 2013, Stanford had a pretty good football team. The same can’t be said about Cal, which entered the game with just one win and none against FBS competition.

Cal found themselves tied 7-7 in the first couple of minutes with Stanford. However, it didn’t stay close for very long.

Ty Montgomery caught two touchdown passes to help Stanford pull ahead. He already had a rushing touchdown prior. Cal would score two more field goals as the Stanford offense exploded for points and yards.

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan threw five touchdowns in the game, with four going directly to Montgomery. Stanford had 603 yards of total offense in the game, compared to 383 for Cal.

The Cardinal would win the Pac-12 and play in the Rose Bowl. Cal, meanwhile, went 1-11.

1. Undefeated Stanford rallies from 14 down to force tie– 1924

The 1924 Stanford football team was arguably one of the best teams in program history. They went 7-1-1, won the Pacific Coast Conference and played in the Rose Bowl. They also had future Hall-of-Famer Ernie Nevers. At one point, Stanford recorded a shutout win in three straight games.

Cal was also pretty good in its own right. They came into the game with a 7-0-1 overall record. It was the Golden Bears who jumped ahead early on Stanford, getting up as much as 20-6. Stanford rallied with scoring two touchdowns into the fourth quarter to force the 20-20 tie.

The game itself has been declared one of the best ever in the series. At that time, it was one of the big college football games.

Unfortunately for Cal, it cost them a chance to win the PCC outright and it also cost them the chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Granted, that Rose Bowl was against Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen (no NOT THAT ONE!) But that shouldn’t matter.

Maybe Cal and Notre Dame could have been the rivalry.

See, we made it all the way through without talking about the band running on the field. I told you it was possible. But hey, at least we don’t have to worry about that happening this weekend, right? Right?