OK, it’s been a tough year and it’s not going to get any easier.  Did you hear Cal has a few players hurt on defense? So listen, you can either hang  your head and give up or embrace the season for what it is (I’ll have a post regarding that later).  So you know me… annoyingly positive.  Yes, a proud member of the Loyal Order of Sunshine Pumpers.

pumping sunshine!

But UCLA is UCLA.  They stole Cal’s fight song. They stole Cal’s colors.  And they made a phony bear mascot!  So so apropos for LA.  You can book this – when the UCLA band strikes up the Mickey Mouse version of BIg C, inevitably you’ll hear a UCLA student say “Why does Cal has the same fight song as us…”

So with all that in mind, as we head into our game with UCLA, I want to update a post I did for the good folks at California Golden Blogs a couple of years ago.  As you remember Cal crushed UCLA last year in Berkeley.

That has become par for the course in both football AND basketball!

But it wasn’t always that way.  Not all that long ago, beating UCLA in any sport was considered a season making achievement for CAL.  Ask some Old Blues they’ll tell you the horror of 25+ straight years without a victory against the Southern Branch in hoops… or 18 straight years of losses on the gridiron…  This run of futility helped define the two program’s fan bases…  strike that.  All it did was instill in Bruins fans the obnoxiousness that still inexplicably exists today… You see, to them, beating CAL was a birthright, like having blond hair, or making deep and penetrating social commentary on achieving racial harmony!

But enough of that. For a Throwback Thursday post let me tell you about the 1991 game.


In 1990, after 18 years of futility in football against the Bruins, the California Golden Bears finally put the world right by beating UCLA 38 – 31 in a thrilling game at Memorial Stadium.  The night before, after the bonfire rally, Coach Snyder let me in on a little secret; the team would be entering through the student section!  He told me to keep it quiet and just make sure people were ready… So sure enough, with no fanfare, suddenly a river of big, burly blue started cascading down each side of the student section… as people realized what was happening the student section absolutely exploded as did the rest of the stadium!  The entrance worked as the Bears raced out to a 27-10 halftime lead and would eventually hold on for the great win.  In the closing seconds the crowd let out with a Bear Territory chant that reverberated through Old Memorial Stadium and was repeated in the victorious locker room!.  As the game ended a delirious student section rushed the field to celebrate.  That part’s important because the perpetually uptight head coach of the Bruins, Terry Donahue, took offense at this show of joy and promised to not have to witness a CAL victory again!

Entering the 1991 season there were great expectations in Berkeley.  After starting off 3-0 with a last second victory in Tucson over the Wildcats, The LA Times summed up the feeling in Berkeley perfectly when it wrote in its preview:

It’s early October, and the Pacific 10 football season is barely under way. However, unusual significance has been attached to today’s game between UCLA and California at the Rose Bowl.

There is a sort of crusading fervor in much of the Bay Area, where the Bears, after years of residency in the lower echelon of the conference, are regarded as a championship-contending team.

What you need to know about that early October day at the Rose Bowl is that it was hot.  I mean it was HOT!  And humid… and smoggy… oh was it smoggy…  look, you can barely see the other end of the stadium through that smog.  (now remember, these are OLD photos that were taken with one of those disposal cameras – which were cutting edge in 1991 – and then stored in some shoe box, then scanned, then converted from tiff to jpeg… then uploaded, you get the idea)

cal band ucla 1991 smoggy

This would have an impact because our star running back, Russell White would have an upper respiratory infection, which made it hard for him to breath…  additionally he would need intravenous fluids at halftime!  Here’s a great shot of the end zone pylon!! Oh, if you look closely you can all see Russell White fielding the opening kickoff too!  Good work by the groundskeepers at the Rose Bowl that year….

russell white cal ucla 1991

Cal fans showed up 15,000 strong at the Rose Bowl that day.

Did I mention it was hot?

cal ucla 1991 me

Yes, that’s an incredibly geeky looking FiatLux…  And that box I’m standing on… that black box…. was INSANELY hot. I had to keep pouring water on it and my shoes!  But man did the CAL section rock the Rose Bowl that day!

By the way, here’s a good way to make me feel old.  Take someone with whom I was in college, say, Brian Treggs.   That’s him in the picture there   313623_10150436044782835_612382834_10348303_988853621_a_medium

then tell me his kid is going CAL and we follow each other on twitter… BRB, going to take a glucosamine tablet…

The game was tied 14 at the half… the CAL band put on a great show… but what’s that in  the background?

calband ucla 1991b

Those poor UCLA students can’t even get their card stunts straight….  Little did they know how prescient they were being as CAL was about to turn their whole world upside down!

Let’s fast forward to the 4th quarter… CAL was down 24-14 with about 6 minutes left and UCLA had the ball… This was not going like it was supposed to… it was going to be a looooonnnng drive back up 5.  But that CAL team was special… and before you knew it, Jerrott Willard forced a fumble, Mike Pawlawski hit Brian Treggs for 24 yards down to the 3 and Russell White would then carry two hapless UCLA defenders with him into the end zone to tie the game.  The CAL defense would hold again and Doug Brien would kick a 47 yard field goal to win the game for CAL!!!

There was joy all around!!!

cal ucla 1991 HAPPY

And poor Terry Donahue had to go midfield a loser again.

This game gave me one of my all time favorite quotes from Mike Pawlawski…UCLA players had said after  the previous year’s game that is there had been a 5th quarter they would have won.  I told you they were obnoxious and delusional… to that Pawlawski had this:

“When we beat them last year,” he said, “they started wearing T-shirts about a fifth quarter, like they would have beaten us if we could have kept playing. Well, looks like today they should have been thinking about the fourth quarter, instead of the fifth, because that’s when they needed to play.”

They just don’t make ’em like that anymore!

One last thing.  At half time of the game, Jerrott WIllard came over to me and said “Ken, you got to keep the crowd going… they’re making so much noise and we get totally fired up and feed off it!”

So listen, I’m no fool… I know it’s a long shot.  We’re going to be using some offensive players on defense.  But man, you can’t call yourself a fan if you’re just in it in the good times. This isn’t a pro team.  This is YOUR team.  You went to school at Cal, or grew up with Cal… these guys are students, classmates, friends, dates… they represent the greatest university in the country in a way in which we can all take pride.  So if you’re a student, get the RVs ready for the drive.  If you’re in Southern California, head out to the Rose Bowl on Saturday.  Because while the odds are long, you never know… we could see a repeat of this from 2009!

cal beats ucla at rose bowl


  1. I was at that game in the Rose Bowl as well, and there was no better feeling than looking at the dejected, surprised, and entitled faces of those identity theiving little expansion campus dwellers after they lost.

    Of course, things haven’t changed. uclol fans are still the most annoying pricks around – even when placed in context with $C and stanfart fans. They are arrogant without cause, maintain a willful ignorance of their own history, and hold on to an insufferably silly justification for their blatant plagiarism.

    Mr. Joe (above) is a shining example. But he does raise an interesting question … what’s a bruin, anyway?

  2. Funny . . . apparently there are Bear fans that stay awake at night thinking about UCLA, gloating over some few past victories, fuming over some imagined sleights committed in some by-gone era. Meanwhile, down here in LA . . . we hardly ever even think about Cal. Why would we??

    • David, in both basketball and football Cal has beat UCLA 3 of the last 4 times we’ve played. We don’t really think much about UCLA except of course the week when we play you. And even though we beat you (repeatedly) in football it’s USC we care more about. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Ken: Love the post, and the history. Thanks for bringing out the Cal/UCLA shirt. I was the one who wrote it. We did it as a Senior Class Counsel fundraiser. We had to do 2 extra printings, because it sold so well. The school used it again in subsequent seasons, although someone changed the language in later years (the issue being whether UCSF and Hastings counted as separate campuses).

    Tough game to watch last night. We were in it longer than we should have been, and if we could have just generated some consistent offense, it would have been pretty close.

    • Greg!! Great hearing from you. Our mutual friend David told me about this. So great to meet you. I’ll look for you on linkedin to connect. Always great to me fellow bears of that era! Last night didn’t bother me at all because i just know what this season is. It’s all building for the next few years so we just have to keep the faith. Go Bears! Ken

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