Winless Cal Awaits Big Game
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ While Stanford focuses on the complicated formulas that will determine its place in the Pac-10 standings and the postseason, California’s miserable season comes down to one simple equation.
``If we win the Big Game, that equals a successful season,″ Cal linebacker Scott Fujita said. ``That’s the way it’s always been at both of these schools.″
No. 13 Stanford will face winless Cal in the 104th Big Game on Saturday. The Cardinal (6-2, 5-2 Pac-10) _ a 24-point favorite on the early Las Vegas line _ will go for their seventh straight victory over the Golden Bears (0-9, 0-7), which would be the longest winning streak ever in the West Coast’s oldest rivalry, which dates to 1892.
Given the turmoil and terrible play surrounding one of the worst seasons in Cal’s history, it’s easy to see why oddsmakers would consider Stanford a prohibitive favorite. Those who know the rivalry intimately have other suspicions.
``History shows that strange things have happened in this game,″ Cal coach Tom Holmoe said. ``There have been times in the past that the team that’s been a heavy underdog has come in and won. That’s what we’re hoping for.″
Holmoe, who never has beaten Stanford’s Tyrone Willingham, has announced his resignation, effective after next week’s season finale at Rutgers. His players would love to win one for their departing mentor, but they haven’t been able to do it all season.
Cal hasn’t had much success in Holmoe’s five seasons, but the Bears never expected things to turn out this way in 2001. They were blown out in their first two preseason games before their meeting with Rutgers, another dismal team, was postponed by the terrorist attacks.
During their tough Pac-10 schedule, the Bears nearly upset No. 16 Washington, but haven’t threatened many of their other opponents. Neither the offense nor the defense has played well, with quarterback Kyle Boller’s persistent injuries and inconsistency setting the tone for the entire roster.
``We’d like to have a lot of things back about this year _ about the last few years _ but we can’t do that,″ said Boller, who sustained a hard hit to his jaw during last week’s loss to Southern California. ``Now, it’s at the point where we just want to send (Holmoe) out on a good note. He hasn’t had a win over Stanford. That would be something he can remember for the rest of his life.″
To win, the Bears must get a better game out of the defensive secondary that has been shredded by Illinois, BYU, UCLA, Washington State and others this season. Stanford averages more than 445 total yards per game, including 243.9 yards passing.
The Cardinal also might get quarterback Randy Fasani back in the lineup. Fasani has missed the past 3 1/2 games after injuring his knee, though backup Chris Lewis has performed admirably in his place. Fujita has three years of experience against Stanford’s aerial attack, so he knows the challenge.
``They’re a very active, very aggressive offensive team,″ Fujita said. ``They don’t like to sit back and pick away at you. They go right at your weaknesses, and that’s what makes it fun.″
The Bears’ underclassmen are playing for experience and for the chance to impress their yet-to-be-hired new coach, but everyone in a Cal uniform understands the importance of the school’s biggest rivalry.
``This is our whole season, right here,″ junior defensive lineman Daniel Nwangwu said. ``We can give ourselves a good memory.″