Carter, Harris among class without win over Stanford
The football game between Stanford and Cal this Saturday will be the 103rd installment of the Big Game. But you can bet that the Cal seniors on the team only care about the last three.
Stanford has beaten the Bears five straight times, meaning no one on the Cal roster has beaten Stanford. Neither has head coach Tom Holmoe, who came to Cal in 1996. In fact, not a single coach on the current staff was around in 1994, the last time the Bears won the Big Game.
But for the 16 seniors on the squad, this is their last chance. The coaches will probably be back next year, but players like Andre Carter, Nick Harris and Chidi Iwuoma won’t.
“For us seniors, there’s no coming back,” Iwouma said. “This is the last big game we’ll play in, ever. So we’ve got to leave everything on the field.”
Iwouma, like many Cal players, is from southern California, and came to Cal without a real understanding of the passion that rests on the Big Game every year.
“After the game my redshirt year, it really sunk in how important this game is to everyone connected to it,” he said. “Now that I’m a die-hard Bear, I definitely have more sense of the impact the game has.”
The younger players on the team feel the urgency of the seniors, and they want to send them out on a winning note.
“It would be great for our seniors to go out with a win,” said sophomore quarterback Kyle Boller, another southern California guy. “I feel we owe it to our seniors to get them a win. If I was a senior going out without a win, I’d be pretty upset.”
But Stanford senior Emory Brock, whose class could finish without losing to Cal, said both teams have a lot on the line.
“People will always remember you for your last game, and that’s what you’ll always remember,” the running back said. “It’s important for anyone to go out on a winning note, whether you’ve won before or not.”
Both Holmoe and Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham said the Big Game is like no other matchup they’ve ever seen.
“It just makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” Willingham said. “It generates a lot of excitement, and you keep reference to it all throughout the year.”
“We’re really fortunate to be part of something that’s so special to so many people,” Holmoe said. “Your pride gets bare and exposed, and it means more to me than any other game we play.”
Boller will have a huge impact on whether Carter and the other seniors get one last great memory. After missing last year’s Big Game with a shoulder injury, Boller is the key to the Cal offense. If he plays well, the offense should roll over the porous Stanford defense that gave up more than 30 points four times this season.
Holmoe said his quarterback has to be careful not to get too overworked in the buildup to the final game of the year.
“He gets really amped up for games, sometimes a little too much,” Holmoe said. “He just has to find that spot without going past it.”
Stanford’s quarterback situation is more fluid. Starter Randy Fasani has been hampered all season with a knee injury, and now has picked up a case of turf toe. He will start the game, but freshman Chris Lewis will be ready if he goes down as he has several times this season. The present different problems for the Cal defense: Fasani is a traditional drop-back quarterback, while Lewis is more mobile and elusive.
Cal linebacker Scott Fujita said the Bears are preparing for both quarterbacks.
“It’s actually a lot like when we prepared for Washington, but that was only one guy, Marques Tuiasosopo,” he said. “We’ll have to prepare for a drop-back quarterback, but also for a guy who can scramble and run with the ball. Those are the elements we have to be ready for.”
All strategy aside, Willingham has a very simple reason for his team’s five straight victories over their hated rival.
“We’ve been lucky,” Willingham said. “You have to have the breaks come at the right time, and the ball has bounced our way.”
Holmoe said his seniors don’t care about luck, they want to win their last game.
“It means everything to them. They haven’t been to a bowl game, and the highest prize they can go for is to win the Axe back.”