If the NCAA allowed the use of instant replay in 2002, then coach Jeff Tedford probably wouldn't be winless at the Coliseum. Instead, the Trojans orchestrated an 18-point comeback to nip the Bears, 30-28, in one of the most controversial games in Cal football history. The Bears roared out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter and a half, but with a five minutes remaining in the second quarter, USC quarterback Carson Palmer threw a pass to wide receiver Kareem Kelly in the endzone. As Kelly fell, the ball also slipped out of his grasp. He hit the ground with nothing in his hands. The play, nonetheless, was called a touchdown. It was also the difference in the game. The Bears ultimately could not stop the offensive onslaught of the victorious Trojans, but the game reinvigorated a long-comatose rivalry between the two teams.
For those who were there that dusky evening at Memorial Stadium, the sight of a football sailing through the uprights into the sunset sky will live on forever. So will that feeling. The Bears' triple-overtime victory over No. 3 USC was like a scene scripted for a movie. There was the redemption angle: kicker Tyler Frederickson had two field goals blocked before nailing the game-winning 38-yarder. There was the feel-good angle: future star Aaron Rodgers quarterbacked until the third quarter, when the selfless, team-first fan favorite Reggie Robertson was put in. He threw the Bears' final touchdown. And then there was the birth of a rivalry. Cal's win was the first over the Trojans at home in years and, though the Bears haven't won since, they've played every game tough, regardless of ranking. Because you never know when you'll recapture that feeling.