Looking back on 2006: The Big Game

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with the Big Game.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State, Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State, Washington, UCLA, Arizona and USC).

The storyline:
In a game that was predicted to be a blowout, an uninspired Cal squeaked out a 26-17 win over the normally hapless Stanford. 

The reality:
While the game was far closer than it should have been, it was not nearly as close as the final score indicated.  Cal never trailed in the game.  Whether Cal played uninspired or they were merely out of their rhythm, perhaps because of the difficult wind conditions, is difficult to say.   What can be said is that, outside of some unlikely Stanford heroics that never came, the outcome of the game was never in doubt.  Additionally, Stanford scored far more points than their play deserved.  Outside of Stanford’s first drive that resulted in a field-goal, Stanford was never able to sustain a drive.  Stanford’s first TD was sparked by a kickoff return late in the 2nd quarter that gave the Cardinal a very short field (25-yards).  Their second TD, and the last of their scoring, was off of a deep pass where an offensive pass interference call should have been thrown for pushing off.  Otherwise, Cal’s defense stifled Stanford’s offense.  On the other side, while Cal was able to sustain a number of long drives, too often they stalled resulting in field-goals (they scored 4 and Schneider shanked a 5th), keeping the score far closer than it should have been.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was the nasty wind that blew throughout, although less so in the 2nd half.  This allowed both teams to emphasize slowing the run game without too much fear of getting beat deep.  Also forgotten was that Stanford’s first drive used fully half of the first quarter and that two additional Stanford possessions, although not very successful in moving the ball down the field, did take significant time off the clock, significantly shortening the 1st half and keeping the ball out of Cal’s hands.

The 2006 learnings:
By this point in the season, there was not much to be learned about the team.  About the only learning was a question: where was Cal’s prolific offense?  Now that we know the results of the Holiday bowl, the question has faded, but at the time, after both the Arizona and USC games, many were starting to ask questions after the Big Game.

The 2007 learnings:
Schneider didn’t have many field-goal attempts in 2006 because of the prolific Cal offense.  This was one of his few games to shine, including a 55 yard field-goal.  With him coming back in 2007, the kicking game continues to look in very good shape.  At this point, it wasn’t much of a learning but Zack Follett and Syd’Quan Thompson both had a great game.

The Conclusion:
In many ways this game was reminiscent of the Arizona game in that all that could go right for Cal’s opponent did.  Despite that fact, Cal was able to not only win, but also to never leave the outcome in doubt.  After 5 consecutive victories, many Cal fans have forgotten that the Big Game always defies expectations.  There have been more Big Game upsets of unbeatable teams than one can count on their fingers and toes.  In the Big Game, a win is a win.  Style points do not matter.

One Response to “Looking back on 2006: The Big Game”

  1. Joshiemac Says:

    I’ve been going to Memorial for over 20 years and I’ve never seen it as windy as it was for this game.