"A 40-Year Anniversary Special" - Celebrating the 1975 California Golden Bears

(Via our friends at the "California Gridiron Collection")

40 Year Anniversary Celebration - Week 5
California vs. Oregon
October 11, 1975
Autzen Stadium – attendance: 18,500

By California Gridiron

Following a stunning, come-from-behind victory over San Jose State in Week 4, the Golden Bears traveled to Eugene to take on the Ducks. With Joe Roth ailing, Fred Besana was given the start in front of 18,500 fans inside cold and rainy Autzen Stadium.

Oregon entered the game with the fifth best pass defense in the country but surely the Ducks secondary would be no challenge for the Bear's high-powered passing game. Well, that would not be the case on this day. The Bears offense sputtered in the first half and with the halftime score only 10-7 in the Bear's favor, Joe Roth came off the bench to spark the offense – the running game offense. Both Besana and Roth struggled with the passing game as they combined to only complete 7 out of 17 passes for 107 yards.

Yet, while the Ducks figured out a way to slow down the Bear's passing attack, they had no answer for All-American candidate Chuck Muncie (and the rest of Cal's running game). Muncie ran 26 times for 207 yards (8 yards a carry) and three TDs. Muncie's big day combined with the defense's eight takeaways allowed the Bears to soundly beat the Ducks 34-7.

(Via our friends at the "California Gridiron Collection")

40 Year Anniversary Celebration - Week 4
California vs. San Jose State
October 4, 1975
California Memorial Stadium – attendance: 32,788

By California Gridiron

Returning home after a thrilling 33-21 victory over WSU in the Palouse, the Golden Bears faced a strong non-conference opponent in the Spartans from San Jose State. The Spartans had already beaten Oregon and Stanford on the road and were looking for their third victory over a Pac-8 school. Entering the fourth quarter, the Bears had a comfortable 20-10 lead. But in true Golden Bear fashion (as evidenced the past two weeks of the 2015 season), Cal squandered a double-digit lead by allowing San Jose to score two touchdowns in the fourth period.

Ahead 24-20 late in the final period, Spartan fans could almost taste victory in Memorial. But Spartan fans, and Cal fans for that matter, had no clue that they were about to witness the emergence of an elite, big play quarterback. Starting his first game for the Golden Bears, Joe Roth jogged onto the field with 3:10 remaining and did what all great clutch quarterbacks do – calmly hit their playmakers.

Facing a third and 23 situation deep in Cal territory, Roth hit Chuck Muncie over the middle for a gain of 25 yards. Next, Roth targeted dependable wide receiver Steve Rivera for a 23 yard gain down to the San Jose 42-yard line. After running back Tom Newton lost four yards, the Bears had a third and 14 situation when Roth decided to air it out. Roth hit speedster Wesley Walker, who beat Gerald Small on the play, for a 46 yard touchdown with 1:06 left on the clock.

With a 27-24 victory in week four of the 1975 season, Cal evened its record at 2-2 and the mystic of Joe Roth, the big play quarterback, began.

(Via our friends at the "California Gridiron Collection")

40 Year Anniversary Celebration - Week 3
California vs. Washington State
September 27, 1975
Martin Stadium – attendance: 24,500

By California Gridiron

Rarely do you get a chance to look back 40 years and see one photograph that captures a seminal moment. The California Gridiron is pleased to bring Cal football fans one such chance.

The first picture below shows Cal trailing Washington State 21-20 with 14:31 left in the 4th quarter. Walking to the line of scrimmage with a confident stride to take the ball from center Duane Williams is Cal's reserve quarterback, Joe Roth. Roth is seconds from taking the snap and plunging 1-yard on a QB sneak for the go ahead and decisive touchdown giving the Bears their first victory of the 1975 season.

In the Cal media guide, the September 27 contest between the Bears and the Cougars is simply listed as a 33-21 victory in Pullman. What’s not mentioned and what every Cal football fan should know is the backstory to this game and why a reserve quarterback was able to come off the bench and lead his team to victory. The events of that Saturday afternoon were a major turning point for the Bears and the history of Cal football.

In the first quarter, the Bears were beating the Cougars 7-0 and Cal's starter, Fred Besana, was having a great day as he hit on 6 out of 7 passes for 98 yards. However, staying true to their game plan, head coach Mike White and offensive coordinator Paul Hackett turned to their backup quarterback from Grossmont College to start the second quarter.

From Cal's sideline jogged a lanky 6’4”, 205-pound quarterback who loved wearing white cleats and the #12 jersey like his idol Joe Namath. The backup shined in the second quarter and as the Bears ran to the locker room for halftime White and Hackett are seen discussing the quarterback situation. Both coaches agreed that "it was time to make a change" and that Joe Roth should be promoted to the #1 spot.

Joe Roth would be the Bears #1 quarterback for the rest of the 1975 season. Cal had their first win but more importantly there was a feeling that something different was in the air surrounding the Bears. The football team returned to Berkeley with a 1-2 record, a new starting quarterback, and a challenging San Jose State opponent waiting for them in the fourth week of the season.

(Via our friends at the "California Gridiron Collection")

40 Year Anniversary Celebration - Week 2

California vs. West Virginia
September 20, 1975
Memorial Stadium - attendance: 23,875

By California Gridiron

Following the road loss to Colorado in week one of the 1975 season, the Golden Bears returned home as heavy favorites to take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia. Led by legendary coach (ok, he wasn’t a legend quite yet) Bobby Bowden, West Virginia beat California 28-10 playing smash mouth football. The Mountaineers rushing attack went for 337 yards behind their two running backs Heywood Smith (146 yards on 24 carries) and Arthur Owens (123 yards on 16 carries).

The Bears' offense sputtered all day due to penalties, dropped balls, and a turnover but there was one bright spot. Cal's backup quarterback, Joe Roth, made his first appearance at quarterback in the second quarter and led the Bears 67 yards in 13 plays for their only touchdown of the day.

The Bears were now 0-2 and headed to Spokane (not Pullman) in week 3 to take on Washington State in their Pac-8 opener. It was still early in the season but the winless Bears needed to figure out things quickly or the season might get away from them. Would they regroup and right the ship against the Cougars or would the Bears get beat again? Find out next week here on the California Gridiron.

40 Year Anniversary Celebration - Week 1

California vs. Colorado
September 13, 1975
Folsom Field - attendance: 46,211

By California Gridiron

Opening their 1975 season against a powerful Colorado team, the Bears found themselves heavy underdogs entering the game.

However, Cal showed signs of what was to be a great offensive machine in 1975 as they matched the Buffalos point for point through the first three and one-half quarters. Colorado scored on a 61 yard punt return early in the first quarter and that miscue by the Bears proved to be the determining factor in the game's outcome.

Quarterback Fred Besana got Cal on the scoreboard with a one yard plunge that was set up by Chuck Muncie's 62 yard romp in the first quarter. Muncie and teammate Tom Newton each gained over 100 yards for the Bears. Muncie gained 112 yards while Newton picked up 106. Muncie scored two second quarter TDs which kept Cal's hopes alive and on both accounts the scores were set up thanks to Newton: first on a 58 yard run and then on a 39 yard screen pass.

Colorado mounted an awesome display of offense gaining 545 yards to the Bears' 408. However, the Buffs lived up to their name as they ran like their mascot. Under the guidance of quarterback Dave Williams, Colorado picked up 437 yards rushing. Despite the ball control, the Buffs could only penetrate the Bears goal line twice via the run. Williams once found wide receiver Emery Moorehead for a surprise 45 yard touchdown pass and twice the Buffs had to rely on the accurate foot of Tom McKenzie for field goals of 20 and 45 yards.

A 53 yard touchdown pass from Besana to Wesley Walker tied the game in the third quarter only to see Dave Williams give the Buffs the lead with a 12 yard scoring run. Besana then got the Bears rolling again by penetrating the Colorado territory with less than a minute remaining only to have one of his passes picked off and insure Colorado the win by the final score of 34-27.

#40 Year Throwback

Here's a glimpse of how the season ticket booklets have changed in 40 years...

By California Gridiron

As the CAL Bears settle into their 133rd season of football in Berkeley, the "California Gridiron" is providing us with a look back to the magical season that took place in 1975. The #40 holds historical significance this season as it was in '75 (40 years ago) that the Bears were co-champions of the Pac-8 Conference.

During the course of this season, the California Gridiron will take you back to the mid-70s as we chronicle one of CAL's most special seasons on a weekly basis. Fans of the California Gridiron will get to relive each game of the 1975 season as we share with you programs, ticket stubs, game recaps, and newspaper clippings. 

Section925 Podcast Episode 69 - Texas 44, California 45

Photo by Cooper Neill 

The Section925 Mobile Podcenter travels to Texas to chronicle the Bears' thrilling win over the Longhorns. The Section takes to the streets of Austin before kickoff to hear what fans of both teams have to say. We also hear what San Francisco Giants President and CEO Larry Baer has on his mind about the Bears. Finally, we head down on the field to catch up with former CAL quarterback J Torchio to get his thoughts on the Bears' huge one point road win.