Sports News

THE BIG GAME, A THRILLER



The football season started with a top-25 ranking and high hopes. And when Stanford reached a 4-1 record, including a win over Notre Dame, things looked rosy. Then everything fell apart ­ five losses.

But here came the 100th Big Game, and nothing has more clout than this rivalry. A sellout audience of 85,000 saw Stanford proving the point with a 21-20 victory. That made it three in a row over Cal, and seven of the last nine. As happens so often, it came down to a nail-biting final few seconds. Only four previous Big Games had been decided on the final play. This year Stanford had a 21-10 halftime lead. Late in the second half, a Cal pass made it 21-18. With only 2:58 left, Stanford had to punt, and two pass plays took the Bears to Stanford’s 33. With 1:22 remaining (and a penalty that sent Stanford to its 14), it was heart-attack time as fullback Greg Comella fumbled ­ and recovered ­ and, on fourth down, Coach Tyrone Willingham elected to take a safety, using up 6 of 19 seconds left. Cal, with no timeouts, took the ensuing kick and returned it to the 40, the clock read 0:00, and once again Stanford kept the Axe.

Post-game was as dramatic as expected after pre-game displays of animosity had reached dangerous levels: Both Stanford and Cal fans broke through fences, invading the field to charge each other and tear down Stanford Stadium goalposts. At least six people were arrested and 23 treated for injuries. The aftermath prompted President Gerhard Casper to urge campuses nationwide to restore a friendlier tone to intercollegiate athletics or reconsider the rules of the game.

“It is one of the delusions of our time that being gross and obscene can be equated with being satirical,” he told the Faculty Senate Dec. 4, referring to some of the most deplorable incidents post- and pre-Big Game. “It is also one of the delusions of our time that civility is a virtue to be prized less than epithets.” He also read a letter from a Stanford alumna who was seated in the middle of the Cal rooting section and who was screamed at, “pushed, shoved and kicked by Cal students.”

Big Game (Plain text)

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1998

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