Up Close and Personal: Expect the Unexpected

By George Edmonston Jr.


When Oregon State traveled to the Bay Area in 1905 to play the University of California for the first time, the Golden Bear senior class made a decision that may be unparalleled in the annals of college football.

Noticing the boys from Corvallis had no rooters, they voted to become Aggies for a day. They would cheer for the Orange.

Was this a case of supreme overconfidence, or sheer stupidity? Did they know something Aggie boss Allen Steckle didn’t? Whatever the case, their cheers went for naught. So did the 26-hour train it took Oregon State to make the trip. Final score: 10-0, Cal.

On this late October day, Cal, for sure, got its money’s worth. Not only did they provide OAC with instant fans, they also paid for the trip, train ride, hotel rooms, meals, the works.

To be sure, times have changed, but there’s one thing you can fairly count on happening in this afternoon’s game between these two historic rivals. Expect the unexpected. In this 56th meeting in the 98-year old series, throw the record books out the window.

Steckle learned this the hard way.

It was an undefeated team he had taken to Berkeley in ‘05, and it would be another 21 years before OSU would chalk-up its first win over the Bears, a 27-7 victory on the road in 1926 by a powerful Paul Schissler squad which included All-Americans Jim Dixon, Wes "Ironhorse" Schulmerich and Howard Maple, and All-Coast selections Lewis "Hippo" Dickerson, Dallas Ward, and Lloyd "Slim" Balcom.

The next Beaver win would not come until 1939. Thirty-four years with but a single "w" makes for a lot of frustration.

For the history-minded, the OSU-Cal series is about as good as it gets. Both programs are charter members of the old Pacific Coast Conference, forerunner to the Pac-10. Formed on Dec. 15, 1915, at the Portland Hotel (now Pioneer Square), the other schools joining that day were the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies.

Within three years, Washington State and Stanford would hold memberships, with USC, Idaho, Montana and UCLA added during the 1920s.

So much of the lore that surrounds Bears vs. Beavers football centers on how competitive the series has been. In spite of OSU’s rather dismal showing in the beginning, Cal is the only team with PCC or Pac-10 affiliation the Beavers have never tied.

The 1996 contest did end in a deadlock, but thanks to new rules for overtime play instituted that same year by the NCAA, the two teams battled through four OTs before a winner could finally be decided.

OSU had pushed the game into overtime with two fourth quarter TDs to tie the score at 35 each. In the second overtime period, the Beavers blew a chance to turn the lights out by missing a chip-shot field goal after forgoing a third-down from the 3-yard line. The snap was low, Randy Lund’s kick was blocked, and Kato Serwanga of the Bears scooped up the loose ball and ran 71 yards before being tackled just short of paydirt. In the third OT, Lund’s 49-yard attempt was short. In the fourth overtime period, Cal quarterback Pat Barnes scored from three yards out to push the final tally to 48-42 in favor of the Bears. Expect the unexpected.

Many OSU fans still remember the 1988 game as possibly the most bizarre yet contested by the two rivals.

Trailing 16-3 going into the fourth quarter, the Beavers scored twice to pull off a narrow 17-16 win. After the game, some Bear fans would claim the victory was a result of a little Corvallis "home cooking."

Somehow, the clock at Parker Stadium had malfunctioned during the last quarter. This resulted in an extra minute being added to the game, or enough time for the Beavers to pull off thier amazing comeback. That the screw-up went undetected, by both the officials and the 25,256 fans who were there, is still a source of discussion among Beaver trivia buffs, who often refer to the affair, appropriately enough, as the "61 Minute Game." Expect the unexpected.

To be sure, the OSU-Cal series has been a celebration of back-and-forth over the years, but with an interesting twist.

Wins and losses for both schools have come in clusters.

As we’ve already seen, from 1905-1938, Oregon State had but one victory to show for its efforts. Starting in 1939, the tables turned. OSU rattled off five straight victories before losing 42-0 in 1948, the first of six in a row for the Bears.

In 1955, the Beavers won 16-14 and would not lose again until 1960. From 1961-1968 the two teams did not play. The series resumed in ‘69 with back-to-back OSU wins. In 1971 the Bears went on a tear until 1983, suffering defeat only twice during the long stretch.

From 1984-1989 it was Oregon State’s turn for the prize before going on a six-game losing streak from 1991-1998. With an historic 17-7 win on Nov. 6, 1999, at Reser Stadium, OSU finally had its first winning season in 28-years.

Despite the score, it was a game contested on fairly even terms. Each team had 14 first downs. OSU was an amazing 1-16 in third down conversions, while Cal was even more amazing at 1-17. Beaver linebacker Tevita Moala picked up a Bear fumble and raced 24 yards for a score, and a national Fox Sports Net television audience watched OSU’s Mike Fessler earn Pac-10 special teams Player of the Week honors with 14 kicks for 593 total yards and a 42.4 average.

OSU has not lost since and currently holds a four-game winning streak. If history counts for anything, it may be time for the start of another Cal win streak. But this, after all, is the Beavers and Bears.

Expect the unexpected.