No need to fear, Underdog Bears are here

In one soon-to-be iconic photo, our very own Sean Goebel captured the essence of Berkeley in one of its finest moments. With heralded professor Robert Reich on the microphone before thousands of listeners, Reich addressed an attentive crowd about the importance of strength, solidarity and the role of public education.

All opinions aside, the sight was breathtaking: Thousands gathered in front of an inspiring orator clamoring for the survival of public education. Right now, Berkeley’s foundation is an underdog in the face of rising tuition and a flailing domestic economy.

But what gives us school pride? How is it that we continue to find ways to combat the seemingly impenetrable market forces that are eviscerating public education as we know it?

It’s because we are one damn fine underdog. Our underdog status is one of the defining qualities of our predecessors and one to which I will cling tightly when my undergraduate status expires in a month’s time.

And that’s why in the face of occupations, protests and cries for equality, we can stand solidly on Saturday night. We must stand strong on the rival campus whose students fundamentally do not maintain the collective vigor and power in the face of struggle that defines our identity.

Because we are Berkeley. We are the galvanizing force that campuses nationwide aspire to emulate. We love being the proletariat.

And as 17.5-point underdogs entering Saturday night’s Big Game, I say it’s about damn time for the revolution to commence on the gridiron.

Stop the privatization of the Pac-12. Occupy Stanford Stadium. It’s time for their (Andrew) Luck to run out.

On Saturday night, we paint Palo Alto blue.

The chances are slim. I recognize that. Stanford is awfully good. But it’s time the public reigns over private.

And while I may be corrupted by years of blind faith despite recurring heartbreak, I will tell you this much: Those Bears have a legitimate shot to take the axe back on Saturday night.

For starters, it is a rivalry game. All bets are always off with bragging rights at stake.

Cal reached as high as No. 2 in 2007, and Stanford had three wins entering Big Game. An unprepared and seemingly unmotivated Cal team walked into Stanford Stadium thinking it could merely tote the axe back to Berkeley. The hungry Cardinal snatched it from our feeble grip for their fourth win of the year. It was horrifying.

This year, it was Stanford that had its national championship dreams derailed by a more athletic and disciplined Oregon side. Some would think the Cardinal are mad. Given their laundry list of injuries and inability to execute last week, I’d say they are vulnerable.

Secondly, Cal’s defensive front seven is one of the finest in the conference. If Stanford’s loss to Oregon proved anything, it proved that even the seemingly infallible quarterback Andrew Luck struggles under pressure. The Cardinal are wildly efficient but not especially athletic.

If the Bears do not miss assignments on play-action reads, quarterback draws and wildcat snaps, they can stifle Stanford’s offensive production. It won’t be easy, especially after how Luck embarrassed the entire Cal defense last season, but it can be done with discipline.

Luck is nothing short of tremendous, but the neckbearded prodigy has flaws — albeit few. Those few were exposed on Saturday. Oregon kept defensive pressure high all game, mixed up blitz packages and exploited the absence of Stanford’s sole big play threat, Chris Owusu. In turn, Stanford turned the ball over, dropped passes and trailed the entire game.

Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast struggles with gimmicky offenses like UCLA’s and Nevada’s pistol formations, but the grizzled veteran knows how to defend pro-style sets; Stanford’s offense is exactly that.

If the Bears can stop the run early and keep Luck under consistent pressure, they can keep up for all 60 minutes with the vaunted Cardinal. On offense, the Bears need to establish the ground game like they have the past two games and play audaciously. The hard-running duo of Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson plus the sometimes overly-physical offensive line should open up the offense. And then it will be on coach Jeff Tedford to bounce on the double and put the pedal to the floor.

Tedford has always been an offensive guru, and it is time for the notoriously conservative coach to get dirty with the back of the playbook. Use Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones like the weapons they are. I’m talking end-around handoffs, fly sweeps, reverses, screen passes, maybe a halfback pass.

It’s because we have the balls. We ain’t afraid. Never have been.

We are Berkeley. We stand strong. And today we are the underdog. Now let’s bring back the axe.