“Absolutely, unbelievably disappointing. Just absolutely, unbelievably disappointed.” -Jeff Tedford following Cal's 10-9 loss to Arizona
I apologize for the delay, for the people who actually visit this site. Despite your presumptions that I have been in hiding while bemoaning Cal’s 10-9 loss in the desert last Saturday, things have actually just been crazy. You know, that little thing called life outside Cal football.
In now actually commenting on the game, Cal’s last-minute loss to Arizona was nothing short of absolutely heartbreaking. The Bears’ defense put on an epic performance in shutting down Arizona’s potent offense to just 301 total yards of offense and 10 points. However, 77 of those yards, and 7 points came in what would be the game-winning drive for the Wildcats in the final minutes of the game.
I will confess that while I’m far from being an “Old Blue,” I’ve seen my share of gut-wrenching losses as a Cal fan. And to some level of self-credit, I’ve prided myself in the ways I’ve matured as a fan the last few years in the ways I’ve been able to more easily swallow tough losses.
This past game still feels like it’s lodged in the back my throat however, and at the very least leaves an awful taste in my mouth.
As Ken Crawford over at Excuse Me For My Voice noted, it’s one thing to lose big time to a team you expected to beat, it’s another to lose narrowly to a team you expected to lose to.
[By the way, credit to the guys at EMFMV for their composure in recording a podcast almost immediately following last Saturday’s game. I think even the most reserved Cal fans would be much more emotional than those guys were. I feel like someone could crap on their shoes and they’d simply respond, “Man…well this sucks.” Kudos to you guys.]
But yes the game hurt, and not solely because of the implications it had on Cal’s Rose Bowl chances, which are still not squashed by any means. Rather, it was the combination of the Bears having fought so valiantly against a team they were expected to lose to, and the painful missed opportunities that ended up costing them the game in the end.
And to provide some context, you have to understand the circumstances that surrounded me while watching the game.
Here's the Story
The scene was Saturday night at the Australian Bar in New York City, surrounded by a host of Cal Alum and a number of friends who happened to be in town.
The Bears start off on defense as if their collective and proverbial hair is on fire. They had hassled Arizona quarterback Nick Foles entire half and forced two turnovers while shutting out the Wildcats to zero points.
“We’re going to win this F***ing game!” yelled an exuberant and inebriated Cal fan.
“Hmm, he must be a recent graduate,” I thought. I was absolutely giddy with the way our defense had played, but was disturbed by our missed chances on offense.
The game wore on as an unexpected but refreshingly entertaining defensive slugfest. Fast forward to the 6:58 mark in the fourth quarter, and Arizona’s kicker Zendejas had just missed a 48 yard field goal. The Bears started at their own 31 yard line, up 9-3, and one sustained drive would put the game away if the Bears could come out with any, I mean ANY points.
However, in order to do so, the Bears would need to pound the ball, and impose their well in the running game. Something they had struggled to do all year really.
Vereen rushes for 9 yards to the 40. Nice start.
Another Vereen rush for 3 yards for a first down. What I like to see.
Kevin Riley incomplete pass to Anthony Miller. Milk the clock gentlemen.
Vereen for 19 yards to the Arizona 38 yard line. Holy crap! The bar breaks out into a “Roll On You Bears!” chant, and deservedly so!
Vereen rushes for just 1 yard, but the Bears can put themselves into amazing position with another first down.
Isi Sofele gets a toss to the outside and burns Arizona for 8 yards. Atta kid. So close.
Nice playcall as fullback Eric Stevens gets the carry to the Arizona 27 yard line. Oh my god, we’re a field goal away from putting this game out of reach.
Vereen rushes for 3 yards. Timeout Arizona. Nice, if we can get a first down while keeping the ball on the ground, we won’t need the field goal.
The Bears try the toss to Vereen this time, but it’s sniffed out for a loss of one. The Wildcats use their second timeout. Suddenly an impending sense of doom begins to pervade into my consciousness.
Does Tedford trust his offense to pick up the first down, or Giorgio Tavecchio to put the game away with a field goal? Either option scares me. Then it slowly dawns to me as I watch Mike Stoops nearly explode while pacing the sidelines that it’s going to come down to Tavecchio. Oh my god.
Shane Vereen cuts to the right on his run and is cut down after picking up just 3 yards. The Bears are on the Arizona 24 yard line and the Wildcats have used their final timeout. There is just 2:41 remaining. Just five yards for a first down and the game is over. But we all know where this is headed. And I know. I begin hyperventilating and begin rubbing my temples.
A friend of a friend (who happened to be an Alabama fan) tries to console me.
“Dude, it’s a 40 yarder. You make this and it’s over. Relax.”
“Clearly, you’ve never seen a Cal game before. This isn’t going to end well.”
“Hey, have faith!”
“Sorry, the lack of championships has a tendency to jade a fan.”
“Alabama was like that until just a few years ago. It wasn’t until recently that we were really dominant.”
“Please don’t ever compare us to Alabama again. Ever.”
Giorgio Tavecchio trots out to the field and “Viva Italia!” is heard somewhere in the background while the rest of the bar settles into a low hush.
The ball is hiked. The snap is good. The kick is wide right.
The shocked silence is followed up by the inevitable collective “F***!” from the crowd.
I stare at my beer and bite my lip.
“Wow. That was what, 40 yards?” The ‘Bama friend pats my back and says, “It’s ok. One defensive stop. Your defense has been kicking their asses all night. You need just one stop.”
I don’t even look at him. While I know what he is proclaiming is absolutely true, I can’t shake the sick sense of what is to come. “I’m going to throw up.”
Bama friend laughs. I’m not kidding.
Arizona picks up a first down on a Grigsby rush to the 37 yard line. Then the pain comes. Foles completes a 51 yarder to Juron Criner who was supposed to be freaking gimpy heading into the game. He’s not supposed to be playing! First down Arizona at the Cal 12 yard line.
A few plays later, Cameron Jordan is called for offsides giving the Wildcats a 3-1 on the Cal 3 yard line.
This can’t be happening.
Oh it happens. Foles throws off his backfoot, completing a pass to Criner (again!) for a touchdown in the back of the endzone.
I’m dry heaving into my hands while shaking uncontrollably.
“Wow, what a lucky pass.” ‘Bama fan says. “Well hey, you guys have got over a minute, two timeouts, and you just need a field goal. You guys got this.”
I slowly turn my head to face him. “Please stop talking.”
The Bears start their drive on their 23 yard line.
Riley completes a 7 yarder to Vereen. Golf claps follow.
Riley hits Keenan Allen (where have you been?) for 9 yards as Allen runs out of bounds. The Bears are spotted at the Cal 39 yard line.
Tavecchio reportedly has a 50 yard leg in him, so the Bears would need just 30 yards in less than a minute to give ourselves a chance. Hope begins to rise again in the room. This would be epic. This would clear so much of the Tucson—
--Riley’s pass goes off Marvin Jones’ hands (wait, what?) and right into an Arizona defender’s.
Michael Calvin desperately forces a fumble. But it’s promptly recovered by the same player. Of course.
The game ends with a shocked team and bar crowd watching Foles taking a knee. Stoops is seen shooting infants out of a canon into the crowd in jubilation.
The game is over.
“Wow. That sucks. Who would have thought it’d end like that?” says incredulous looking ‘Bama fan.
I did. I knew it would end like this all too well. And it hurt like hell.
“To come back off of that Nevada loss, where, I know we were embarrassed, to show an effort like this, it’s a great feeling, but to come short like that, man, it hurts, bad. I’ve never been a part of a football game that hurts more than this game. Not in my life. Never. This is the worst I’ve ever felt after the game, by far.
“I just, I just did what Coach Pendergast wanted me to do. I tried to execute, and I felt like I played a pretty good game, and then, to lose like that, man, it makes it hurt. It makes it hurt really bad.”
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