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Heartbreak City

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OCTOBER 03, 2011

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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OCTOBER 03, 2011