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Thursday, November 17, 2011
The Big Game: A history of unpredictability

By Kevin Gemmell

In looking for a historical perspective on the Big Game -- which will be played between Stanford and Cal for the 114th time on Saturday -- who better to ask than Jim Rutter -- archivist for Stanford athletics.

The Play
The Stanford band goes wild on the field at the end of the California-Stanford game in 1982, thinking Stanford had won.
He's a fourth-generation Stanford graduate, and his mother, grandmother and great-grandfather are Cal grads.

"I've gone to almost every one since I was born and my freshman year at Stanford was 'The Play,' Rutter said. "I didn't talk to anyone for 24 hours."

He understands -- as do most people who grew up or live in the Bay Area -- what this rivalry is all about.

"This isn't LSU or Alabama where they are both Top 5 every time they run into each other, or Oklahoma and Nebraska in the old days," Rutter said. "It's not like that. But at the same time, the rivalry itself is pretty unique. These two schools are not neighboring states. They are in the same community basically if you look at the Bay Area. You have a unique interaction of the alumni working together, living next door to each other. How often do you have two conference schools that are less than an hour away -- maybe USC and UCLA -- and they have a great rivalry, too. Other than that, it's pretty unique."

Here's a look at some of the best games in the history of the series, and a little insight from Rutter.
"If you talk to the real old-timers, they will say that was the best one," Rutter said.
"It came down to a wobbling duck," Rutter says. "Paul Keckley and Jackie Jensen saved Cal's [butt] because Stanford was like a 10-1 underdog."
"There were a lot of unusual things in that one," Rutter said. "Tremendous back-and-forth and it came down to a phenomenal exchange at the end. For some, it healed some of those wounds from The Play."

And then there are a couple of notable upsets:

Riding a 9-0 start in 1951, Stanford had locked up the Rose Bowl, but lost to Cal 20-7. Again in 1970, Stanford had clinched its Rose Bowl berth and then lost to Cal in the season finale, 22-14.

"You don't ever want to get a big head going into this game," Rutter said. "In fact, I'd probably be more scared if Stanford had beaten Oregon (last week). It seems like that's always the perfect time for Cal to get up and bite."

As the saying goes with the Big Game, anything can happen, and usually does.

"That's what makes this game so exciting," Rutter said. "You don't know what is going to happen."