Seniors Have Unenviable Legacy





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For the 16 seniors on the Cal football team, Nov. 18 was supposed to be day the Bears ended years of futility against Stanford.

Cal hadn't won its final game of the regular season against its hated rival since 1994, and all week long, the message posted around the locker room was simple: GTA - Get the Axe.

But as the tears streaming down the faces of tight end Brian Surgener and fullback Keala Keanaaina so aptly demonstrated after the game, the Bears seniors did not receive their day of reckoning this past Saturday.

They will leave Memorial Stadium as they came - without a Big Game victory.

"It's devastating, I admit it," said Andre Carter, Cal's senior defensive end. "I honestly thought we had this game on lockdown."

Instead, the seniors were locked out - denied of a victory against the Cardinal, and denied a chance to redeem a 3-8 season that, inexplicably, saw Cal come within a few better-played quarters of a 9-2 record.

"We needed this win bad, we really did," said Bears head coach Tom Holmoe after the game. "It makes it harder in the offseason. It makes it harder for me, for the staff, for the players. But we will be back."

Just not all of them.

Not Carter, who came back to Cal for his senior season and a chance to lead the Bears to a bowl game and Big Game victory.

Not Jacob Waasdorp, who had an interception in his final collegiate football game, but couldn't intermit Stanford's recent dominance over the Bears.

And not Nick Harris, who set two NCAA punting marks during his Cal career, but would trade both in for a win over the Card.

"It's hard to look at those guys in the face and know they haven't beaten Stanford," said sophomore safety Nnamdi Asomugha. "Those guys - you're a family with them."

The seniors were visibly upset after they saw their final collegiate game end with yet another loss to Stanford. But the prevailing emotion in the locker room was not one of bitterness.

It was hope that their younger teammates, like Asomugha, would learn from their experiences.

"It's not a good feeling, but I'm a positive person," senior offensive lineman Reed Diehl said. "I think the offense has laid a great foundation for next year."

Big Game aspirations aside, the fact of the matter is that the Bears - despite taking significant strides in their final six games of the season - recorded just two victories.

And while Carter may have passed off the losing notion as something he's "seen too many times here," he and the outgoing seniors did make one thing clear.

The torch, the burden, of six-straight seasons without a winning record, has officially been passed on to their teammates.

With the glaring departures of Carter, Waasdorp, Harris, and Diehl, the Bears of 2001 will look to this year's crop of sophomores to lead Cal next year.

"Guys like Jemeel Powell, Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Ball - it's up to these guys to find a way win," Carter said."

Waasdorp's final words to his teammates were eerily reminiscent of what Sekou Sanyika and Matt Beck told their younger peers just a year ago.

"I hope they move on and start winning and some day, we can look back and say this senior class built this foundation," Waasdorp said.

WARD MAKES RETURN

Lost in the hoopla of the Big Game was the return of Cal sophomore LaShaun Ward.

Ward suffered internal bleeding from a fractured rib in the Bears' triple overtime victory over UCLA on Oct. 14, and had been sidelined since the game.

But team doctors gave him a clean bill of health Saturday, and Ward saw action not only on special teams and defensive plays, but on offense as well.

Ward's return proved timely, as senior cornerback Chidi Iwuoma was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. X-rays taken after the game ankle were negative.

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