Homecoming Weekend signals a time for the Cal community to come together and celebrate years of history, especially football history. Friends and families come from all over the country to visit students, and nothing makes the weekend more memorable than a thrilling Cal victory in an extra-full California Memorial Stadium. Looking back on the past decade reveals a handful of unforgettable October homecoming matchups.
It’s easy to remember a goal-line stand for the ages: last October, as Cal upset No. 18 Utah. Early in the game, Cal quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind a poignant passing attack in quarterback Davis Webb and his two top receivers, Chad Hansen and Demetris Robertson. But Cal’s ineffective defense — which averaged 518 yards allowed per game — was exposed, allowing for Utah’s methodical, grinding tempo to produce a ridiculous nine-minute, 21-play Utah touchdown drive. Utah continued to control possession throughout.
Yet Cal posted 14 straight points in the second half, and Utah found itself needing a touchdown as the clock wound down. After a pass interference call bailed the Utes out on fourth down in the red zone, they were poised to score from the 2-yard line. The Cal defense steadfastly denied four consecutive run plays from reaching the goal line. Defensive leadership came from defensive tackle James Looney, who came up with the tackle at the 1-yard line to seal the game and set off the crowd roaring with approval.
Back in 2015, 24th-ranked Cal put away Washington State in a homecoming game that kept the Bears’ undefeated season going. The game featured plenty of excitement, including Jared Goff breaking Cal’s all-time career touchdown pass record and a surprise onside kick that Cal successfully recovered.
Though the game stayed close until the end, it was the Bears’ defense that solidified the win, with three fourth-quarter takeaways allowing for a final score of 34-28. In the postgame, Looney made it clear that the Cougars’ gouging of the defense through the air in 2014 had been motivation for the defense that afternoon. The game kept alive the Bears’ 5-0 start — their first since 2007.
Oct. 6, 2012 featured a vehement Cal trouncing of No. 25 UCLA. Homecoming revelers enjoyed what would become Cal’s signature win of an otherwise unimpressive season (3-9). Cal closed out the game with 23 straight unanswered points, gashing the Bruin defense for 410 yards of total offense, including more than 300 rushing yards. At that point, the Bruins had not won in Berkeley since 1998, no matter their ranking.
In the era of Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan, No. 16 Cal faced No. 11 Oregon in a distinguished homecoming battle. On that day, Oct. 6, 2006, the Bears busted out their then-new, now-familiar conspicuous yellow home jerseys. Standout Jackson electrified the stadium in the second quarter with a 65-yard punt return, in which he switched field not once, but twice, on his way to finding the end zone. At that point, Cal went up 28-3, and the Ducks never truly found their way back into the game.
Marking 50 rushing yards before tweaking a problematic ankle, Lynch watched as his replacement, Justin Forsett, put on a 163-rushing yard performance. After the game, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti admitted to ESPN that the rowdiness of the crowd surprised him and his team.
With the Bears fired up on the heels of a jarring beat down of top-ranked Washington St., the Cal community eagerly waits to see the Bears back out on the field Saturday afternoon against Arizona. While a crowd-storming upset like that game may be hard to outdo, Memorial Stadium currently feels like a place where anything can happen.
Contact Armen Aprahamian at [email protected]