Heartbreak City

The setting: Memorial Stadium, Nov. 13, 2010. The game: No. 1 Oregon squeaks by Cal, 15-13. The legacy: The sports staff shares its memories.

Cal vs. Oregon at Memorial Stadium. Cal lost 13-15.
Lara Brucker/File

On the evening of Nov. 13, 2010, Giorgio Tavecchio lined up 24 yards away from the uprights. Knock through three points, and the Bears would have a 16-15 fourth-quarter lead. Tavecchio had a shaky reputation as it was, but surely, he’d nail this chip shot. But he jumped too early, and the penalty set him five yards back. By then, the Memorial Stadium crowd had so lost confidence that the ensuing miss felt inevitable.

Could the Bears have upset the Ducks otherwise? Maybe. Remember, though, that the Oregon steam train was bearing down deep in Cal territory on the game’s final drive, and had Chip Kelly not pulled the brakes, his team could have very easily charged into the end zone. Remember that the Ducks purposely chewed up 9:25 on their final drive, nearly a third of their total time of possession and almost twice the duration of their next slowest drive.

And as far was what-if scenarios go, there was also Cliff Harris’ punt return, Jeff Maehl’s touchdown, Brock Mansion’s failed two-point conversion. There’s no excusing the miss — unless hurricane winds are swirling, anything within 30 should be automatic. Just acknowledge that it might not have changed the outcome.

— Jack Wang

Eleven months later, all I remember are bits and pieces, fading memories of a nightmarish dream, one full of hope before turning desire into despair. But all the pieces matter. They’ve stayed with me, and with you.

Cal stuffing Oregon on fourth down. The Bears taking the lead. Cliff Harris speeding down the sideline. Darron Thomas finding Jeff Maehl. Derrick Hill finding the end zone. Giorgio Tavecchio missing. The Ducks stalling. Cal losing.

I recall Oregon, the top team in the country, strutting onto the field expecting exactly what everyone else was expecting — a wipeout. Cal’s defense had other ideas. The Bears’ defense shut down a Duck offense that ended the season ranked first in the country with 530.7 yards per game; Cal held them to a paltry 317 yards. Alas, with little semblance of an offense, the Bears turned to their defense for one last stop. Oregon wouldn’t relent.

Greatly exceeding expectations didn’t equate with triumph for Cal. The better team won that night. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a magical night at Memorial.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

Of course I didn’t think Cal was going to beat Oregon. The Ducks’ video game offense would surely overwhelm a defense that looked helpless against teams like USC, Oregon State and Nevada. Oregon had steamrolled everybody. Why should Cal be any different?

I had to make a prediction. Of course I wasn’t going to predict Cal to win, but The Daily Emerald’s sports editor, Lucas Clark, predicted that his Ducks win 49-13.

49-13? Come on. I’m fine with you having pride in your school but don’t slap us across the face like that. We’ve got athletes on defense and Darron Thomas isn’t that good if you force him out of the pocket. And you know what, our front seven isn’t bad either. It’s our Brock Mansion-led offense that’s the problem at the moment. So screw you and your 49-13 prediction. Your team is not going to win by 36 in a hostile road game.

I say Oregon will win 38-28. I have no idea how Cal is going to put up 28 points with Brock Mansion at the helm, but stranger things have happened.

15-13 is the final score. That’s right, Lucas Clark. You’re not that good.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

It would be easy to classify most of the experiences I accumulated my freshman year as regrets. But there’s only one thing I wish I could take back, and that’s missing the Cal-Oregon showdown.

I don’t even remember what I was doing that day. Was that the weekend I lost my phone, and was therefore cut off from society? Was it raining, and my fragile SoCal soul couldn’t handle standing in the unfortunate weather? Was I simply so hung over that I slept through a 5 p.m. kickoff?

I got nothing, save secret embarrassment.

People attach some kind of mythical status to this game — the game in which Cal tempted fate. There’s just something mesmerizing about seeing history rewrite itself right before our very eyes that makes it unthinkable to turn away.

So for me, there’s something deeply shaming about not witnessing the most pivotal game of the 2010 season.

I’ll listen whenever people bring up that game. I’ll throw in stats that I pretend I witnessed firsthand, rather than gleaned off of box scores the day after.

And I’ll ensure that my regrets are much more trivial.

— Annie Gerlach

Having watched Cal’s offense look like that of a Pop Warner team for two and a half quarters, I turned to my cousin and stated, “If we’re going to win this game, the defense needs to score — right now.” Sure enough, Derrick Hill forced and recovered a fumble in the end zone, and the Bears had hope.

Then, with an error I’ve never seen before and probably will never see again, Giorgio Tavecchio found a way to negate his own field goal with a false start. Oregon then chewed up what remained on the clock, and it was the same old story for Cal, proving that no other team is better at breaking the hearts of its fans.

But it wasn’t a completely terrible college football Saturday. At least the Oregon players didn’t punch anyone in the face. Similarly, as far as I know, none of them stole any laptops. It would be nice if those trends continued when the teams face off on Thursday.

— Connor Byrne

We were so close.

Cal had a chance to pull one of the biggest upsets in college football against then No. 1 Oregon but man, those Ducks knew how to burn that clock off.

I still remember how charged everyone in the student section became through the first three quarters. The Bears came in as the underdogs at home and were just two points behind Oregon. We stopped their explosive offense for much of the game. We were also playing in Memorial Stadium, where we torched all our previous opponents.

Who didn’t believe in Memorial magic that night? How else were we playing at par with the best team in the nation?

But after Georgio Tavecchio’s missed a 29-yard field goal, that energy and magic instantly left the stadium. I don’t think the crowd and the players ever were the same after the missed kick.

When the game ended, I remember just staring blankly at the field for good five minutes. We would have rushed the field if Cal had won, like I’ve seen so many times on SportsCenter.

We were so, so close.

— Seung Y. Lee

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  • Golden Bear

    I thought the faking injury thing was pretty clever.  It’s common practice in the NFL and seemed to help slow down the Duck offense.  It wasn’t enough, though. Momentum might have swung if that kick went through the uprights…but we will never know.

    • Anonymous

      Cheating now is clever at Cal, after all, others do it.

      Keep falling down Cal clowns

  • Duck Fan

    I remember that game clearly as one that appeared to be so close from the score, but in reality was overblown as an “almost win” by Cal.  The Ducks were driving on Cal and would have scored easily again in the 4th quarter to make it 22-13 and let’s be honest, Cal’s offense sucked (193 yards total offense) and the best defense on the field was Oregon’s.

    What I remember most was Cal players faking injury in the most comical fashion and later Cal’s coaching staff admitting that the fake injury tactic was indeed part of the game plan.  What a joke that the Cal coaching staff was “cheating” because they couldn’t deal with the Duck offense legitimately.  That was the day the Cal team lost their integrity and also started a streak of 3 straight losses ending the run of (mostly crappy) bowl games under Tedford.

    • Anonymous

      Cal players faking injury – THAT’s what you remember about this game?  It’s not the thought that your dream season almost went down the tubes that night?  The best D on the field was Cal’s that day.  They scored more points than your offense.  But, way to distract everyone by pointing at the faking injury thing.  Oregon had to justify why the vaunted offense was owned by what turned out to be a 5-7 team.

      • Duck Fan

        Yep, what I remember is Cal being made fun of by everyone in the nation for the comical faking injury stunts…although you probably have tried to erase that shame from your memory.  The truth is, the Oregon defense held California to a measly 193 yards total, far less than their season average of 337/game.  In fact, Oregon held Cal under their season average MORE than Cal held Oregon’s “vaunted” offense under their average.  Oh yeah, Cal had a whopping 13 first downs that day to the Ducks 20….hmmm….and Oregon made Cal punt 8 times versus only 5 for the Ducks….hmmm….face the facts that the Ducks defense DOMINATED the Bear’s offense!  Here’s what the AP said about the game…”the defense largely shut down Cal after its opening drive.”  Yes, the Cal defense was inspired and played great also but it wasn’t good enough….you lost.  Live with it.  Deal with it.   ‘Nuff said. 

        • Anonymous

          You do know that we were playing with a QB that was overwhelmed (not by by the Ducks D but by any Px defense) and that it was possibly the worst offense we put on the field in decades? To boast about what the Duck D did that game and cover up the fact that Oregon scored 15 points (8 from special teams) is not to see the context.

    • You don’t chew the final 9 mins of a game if you’re confident you can score at will.

      • Ryan_brennan2000

        No, you do it because you can. Then you put on the brakes (because you want to stay classy). It was a great effort by Cal- fantastic game.

        • It’s delusional to characterize that last quarter as Ducks doing whatever they wanted at will. If that was true, they would’ve scored in 1-2 mins in typical Oregon style and had their defense keep us from scoring and then score on us again. Looking at the other 3 quarters of the game, Oregon clearly did not have confidence they could do that. 

          If you run down the final 9 minutes while holding the lead, there’s nothing classy about it. It’s simply getting the win by holding the lead. To give Oregon more credit than that is delusional. Sure, Oregon gets credit for keeping the ball that long but is that really something to be admired? Running down the final 2-3 mins is pretty typical for football but the final 9? IMO they looked pretty lame, lining up in hurry-up offense, getting their play, and then sitting there for the whole play clock for a full 9 mins. Maybe you thought it was awesome because you’re a Duck fan but to any other team/fan it looks lame. 

          • Duck Fan

            Hey Peter, how do you like tonight’s game?  Your Cal Bears were pretty pathetic.

            Wait, let me see, you’re thinking “well we were leading at halftime”…..and I say so what!?!?!?!?!?  That’s why they play 60 minutes to see who the best team is at the end of the game.  I admire Tedford, and I hope you keep him forever so your team remains the insignificant, bottom dwellers they have been the last two seasons.  You might want to call up Presbyterian again next year to play to pad your stats and inflate your hopes to make you and your  delusional fans thinking you’re a decent team.

            At least you didn’t fake injuries again this year.  Since it was a blowout there was no reason to cheat.

          • Lol! You came back to a 2 week old thread to gloat? 

            Get a life.

      • Potrero

        that final drive was almost all runs. What the Ducks were most confident of was that they could stuff Cal’s anemic attack as they had all day, so they had little reason to take risks. There were no 4th down conversions rescuing the 18 play drive. They just ran it out taking a knee on the game’s final two snaps

      • Duck Fan

        The Ducks were clearly not confident they could score at will…far from it.  Cal’s defense was great that night, no denying that.  But not good enough to stop Oregon on that all important game ending drive.