Long before Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma teams ran off their record-breaking 47 straight wins in the 1950s, the longest reign of Division I terror was that of Andy Smith’s California “wonder teams” of 1920-25.
Between a loss to Washington at the close of the 1919 season and a setback by the star-studded Olympic Club team in the third game of the 1925 season, the Golden Bears ran off an incredible streak of 50 straight games without a loss, a run that included two Rose Bowl appearances and four wins over Stanford by a combined score of 117-7. A particularly sweet win during that stretch was a 42-7 walloping they delivered to the Cardinal in 1921 at the dedication of Stanford Stadium.
So when the Golden Bears hosted Stanford at the dedication of their own California Memorial Stadium in 1923, the Cardinal were looking for a bit of revenge. Having righted themselves from the doldrums of the previous few years, the Palo Alto 11 stormed into Berkeley for the Big Game with but a single loss to its name, and the Golden Bears knew that they were in for a rough afternoon.
But when the 72,609 paying fans and the 10,000 squatters on Tightwad Hill headed for their frat houses and the speakeasies at the end of the afternoon, the streak was still alive. Cal center Babe Horrell blocked a second quarter Ernie Nevers punt in the Stanford end zone, and recovered the bouncing ball himself for the touchdown that was all the Golden Bears needed. A fourth quarter safety was merely the frosting on the cake, as the mighty Cardinal offense was stymied all day in a 9-0 calcimine job. The latest version of the “wonder team” had proved itself to be wondrous once
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