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Hunting season began on Saturday November 13th, as the Oregon Ducks visited Berkeley to take on the California Golden Bears in a Pac-10 showdown. Cal entered this game with no expectations, other than to keep it close to avoid embarrassment. Oregon however, arrived as the #1 team in the nation but had not won in Berkeley in their past 3 tries. Either #1 was going down and I was rushing the field, or the 3 game home winning streak against the Ducks was coming to an end.
We took BART from SF but were amazed by how many Oregon fans permeated the scene. Oregon fans love to rock their obnoxious yellow jerseys and I almost felt like we were playing in Eugene as we made our way through campus to Henry's. The tailgate at Henry's is always a lot of fun, and Saturday was no exception. With fans fully decked out in Cal blue and gold and Oregon green and yellow, it made for a great atmosphere of pre-game trash talk. While the Bears don't have much to talk about this season, it's amazing how important Oregon fans feel! From talking to them, you'd think they were part of the nation's elite for the past century...rather than the past year. While enjoying the ambiance, we scarffed down on some famous Top Dogs and started to ramp up for the 72,000 we'd see at Memorial.
Once inside Memorial, the atmosphere was electric. The Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a Shane Vereen TD and believe me, we used that time to get our trash talking in because we weren't sure how long it would be before Oregon was putting up double digits against us. Oregon countered with a 64 yard punt return but to our surprise and joy, the Bears defense had the Oregon offense (scoring 50+ per game) on lock. The game turned when reliable Shane Vereen fumbled on the Cal 29 yard line and the very next play Darron Thomas threw a strike to Jeff Maehl for the first and only Oregon offensive score. The defense came up huge again though with a fumble recovery in the end zone to give the Bears a shot at the tie. A failed two point conversion left us down 15-13 with time to go in the 4th. LaMichael James couldn't find a hole to run through all day, and if Brock Mansion and the Bears' offense could have been a little more active, the #1 team in the nation would have been sent back to Eugene with their title hopes dashed.
But of course, this is Cal we're talking about. With the score at 15-13 our offense did just enough on a nice drive deep into Oregon territory to setup a 24 yard field goal attempt. Let me remind you this this game is being played in Berkeley, and Oregon fans were relegated to two sections of the stadium; hardly a hostile environment. Placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio took the field to attempt the 24 yarder, but decided to get a head start before the snap, resulting in an illegal motion penalty. Great, back it up 5 yards and try it again. Now a 29 yard attempt is hardly at any college kicker's limits and should be a simple task. Tavecchio, who has already cost Cal the Arizona game (10-9 loss on a last second FG miss) that changed the season, out-does himself buy pushing the ball wide right. On a 29 yard field goal attempt. At home. His response...."it was pretty loud". Really?! Take a seat, you're done.
Needless to say that was the Bears' best shot at defeating the Ducks, as they took over and in very un-Oregon like fashion, muscle-milked the final 8 minutes of the game away by churning out first downs and controversial catches. I'm not bitter here, I'm just disappointed that the Bears' awesome defensive effort was squandered on poor special teams coverage and a missed 29 yard field goal. With this season pretty much down the drain, I really wanted an opportunity to rush the field and tear down some goalposts.
I guess I'll have to wait till Saturday the 20th when Cal hosts Stanfurd for the Big Game.