It had been 20 years since Cal last played in a bowl game, but the faithful who waited two decades to see their beloved Golden Bears play in a bowl game in 1979 had to fly across the country to see it in person. Cal played in the 1979 Garden State Bowl in Giants Stadium on December 15, 1979. Their opponent was another team not typically known for making bowl appearances, the Temple Owls.
Cal’s journey to the postseason in 1979 was a struggle. After starting the season with three straight wins against Arizona State, Arizona and San Jose State, the Golden Bears were narrowly defeated in back-to-back games by Michigan and on the road at Oregon. Cal would later be awarded a win against the Ducks due to the use of an ineligible player by Oregon, but Cal would get to a six-win season without it anyway with road wins at Washington State and Stanford. Those final two games were must-win games for Cal after a three-game losing streak against UCLA, USC and Washington put postseason hopes on the edge. Cal lost on the road against UCLA by a single point and was clipped by four points by Washington to drop Roger Theder’s bunch to 4-5.
There may need to be some double checking, but the 1979 Garden State Bowl may have been the coldest game Cal ever played. Game time temperatures were recorded at a blustery 29 degrees in the Meadowlands. This was weather Temple was a bit more equipped and prepared to handle, but there was certainly nobody enjoying playing in that kind of cold in a postseason bowl game. Although over 55,000 tickets were sold for the game, just a few more than 40,000 showed up. If the weather was a factor, it clearly gave Temple an edge. The Owls scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions in the game as Cal dug a quick 21-0 hole in the first quarter.
Cal battled back in the second quarter of the game when Rich Campbell tossed touchdown passes to Matt Bouza and Joe Rose to cut Temple’s lead to 21-14 entering halftime. Cal tacked on three more points with a field goal by Mick Luckhurst in the fourth quarter, but temple sealed the game with a 78-yard touchdown drive capped by a touchdown pass from Brian Broomell to Gerald Lucear. It was Temple’s running game that powered the Owls to victory, with 300 of 381 offensive yards coming on the ground against Cal’s defense. The loss turned out to be the most lopsided of the year for Cal. Traveling across the country for a cold weather game took Cal out of their element, and Temple took advantage of that.
This year, Cal will have a shorter distance to travel for its bowl game and the weather will be much warmer this time. Cal takes on Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on December 29.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.