Sorry about the sporadic posting but I am going to do my best to post 2-3 times per week from now until the team reconvenes. Until then there will be a bunch of posts using all too easy to write rankings. Today, I begin with the top 5 individual performances by a player on offense during the Tedford Era.
5. Adimchinobe Echemandu v. USC, September 27, 2003: Not the most statistically dominant game, particularly by a running back. But, Echemandu was the engine behind Cal’s 34-31 over then #3 USC. He ran the ball 34 times for 147 yards and found a way to move the chains time and time again. While sentimental favorite Reggie Robertson is better known for his OT touchdown pass to Jonathan Makonnen, I’ll always remember Echemandu as the real star of Tedford’s greatest victory as head coach of the Golden Bears.
4. JJ Arrington v. Southern Miss, December 4, 2004: On ESPN, with the Rose Bowl on the line, JJ Arrington put in one of the finest performances ever by a Cal running back. JJ carried the ball 31 times for 261 yards and almost single-handedly destroyed the Golden Eagles. It capped off a regular season where Arrington ran for over 100 yards in every game, totaling 2,018 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. Finishing 8th place in Hesiman voting was no consolation prize for Arrington who watched Texas slip past Cal in the final polls and rip roses out of Cal’s hands.
3. Marshawn Lynch v. Washington, October 21, 2006: The signature Marshawn performance. It was a game that should have never been close but then #11 Cal was down 17-13 in the fourth quarter. Marshawn would have none of that. With 1:52 remaining in the game, Lynch scored on a 17-yard run to put Cal ahead by 7. Amazingly, Huskie backup QB Carl Bonnell connected on a 40-yard hail Mary with no time remaining to send the game to overtime. Lynch scored on the second play of overtime and it proved to be the game winner. In celebration, Marshawn attempted to ghost ride the injury cart and ended up a favorite for a lot of YouTube users.
2. Steve Levy v. Stanfurd, November 19, 2005: The 2005 quarterback controversy seems quaint compared to the current Longshore-Riley imbroglio. After terrible performances against Oregon and USC, Cal fans were clamoring for change at quarterback. With presumptive starter Longshore injured and Kyle Reed redshirting, Tedford was reluctant to put former fullback Steve Levy at the helm of Cal’s offense. Tedford relented and Cal bounced back to win perhaps the most satisfying Big Game victory of his tenure. Levy’s individual statistics were pedestrian, 10 of 18 for 125 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. But, they were remarkable given it was Levy’s first collegiate start after the team dropped their previous two games and faced their cross-town rival.
1. Aaron Rodgers v. USC, October 9, 2004: Rarely do teams earn the sort of respect Cal received in the wake of their 23-17 loss to the Trojans in 2004. Rodgers drove the Bears to the precipice of greatness only to fail with four chances at goal-to-go. Out-gaining the seemingly invincible Trojans 424 yards to 205 and taking them down to their goal line officially put Cal on the national map. What made the individual performance so noteworthy was the 23 straight competitions Rodgers threw to begin the game, tying the NCAA record – and, against one of the best pass defenses in the country.
Geoff MacArthur v. Stanfurd, November 22, 2003: Macarthur’s 2003 season stands alone as the greatest ever by a receiver at Cal. He broke Big Game records with 16 catches for 245 yards and 2 touchdowns. It completed a season that saw MacArthur gain 1,504 yards receiving and break single season records for 100 yard receiving games and 150 yard receiving games.
Aaron Rodgers v. VA Tech, December 26, 2003: On national television and in Cal’s first bowl game since 1996, Rodgers completed 27 of 35 passes for 394 yards, threw 2 touchdowns and ran for 2 more. Cal’s 52-49 victory set the stage for the team’s 2004 preseason ranking at #14 and for their eventual run toward what should have been a Rose Bowl. The game itself is perhaps one of the most exciting since Tedford arrived. Cal initially fell behind 21-7, but the Bears stormed back to take a 42-28 lead into the fourth quarter only to cede the advantage with 3:11 left in the game. On the subsequent FG winning drive Rodgers completed all three pass attempts, for 51 yards, leading Cal to its first bowl victory in 11 years.
Marshawn Lynch v. BYU, December 22, 2005: Surprisingly, 2005 was Cal’s third most successful season, despite up and down play at the quarterback position. Much of the reason for that success was came from Cal’s ground game led by Lynch and Forsett. In the Las Vegas Bowl Marshawn was at his finest, running for a career-high 194 yards and scoring 3 touchdowns. Cal’s strong end to the 2005 season made up for some of the emotional letdowns and setup yet another high preseason ranking the following year.
Desean Jackson v. Oregon, September 29, 2007: Jackson had several memorable performances and plays; but, as a receiver, he was at his best against the Ducks this past year. He caught 11 balls for 161 yards and scored 2 second-half touchdowns. The performance vaulted Jackson to the top of a lot of Heisman and was probably, for most of us, our last great memory of Desean in a Cal uniform.
Kevin RIley v. Air Force, December 31, 2007: To be honest, I thought of including Riley’s performance against Oregon State instead. The Beavers were a more formidable opponent than Air Force and Riley’s fourth quarter is both legendary and infamous. However, it’s impossible to ignore how effective Riley was against Air Force, leading Cal back from a 21-0 first-half deficit. Riley was 16 of 19 for 269 yards, threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for another. Just what Cal needed, more fire added to an already smoldering quarterback controversy and Tedford avoided his first losing season as Cal head coach.