Top 50 Cal Sports Moments – No. 30: Frightening Fall, 2009

Jahvid Best, one of the best running backs in Cal history, took a fall in 2009 that silenced the crowd and scared everyone who saw it
Cal running back Jahvid Best (4) runs for a 60-yard touchdown during the third quarter against the Washington Huskies in 2008
Cal running back Jahvid Best (4) runs for a 60-yard touchdown during the third quarter against the Washington Huskies in 2008 / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As the Pac-12 Conference era comes to a close after more than a century we count down the top 50 moments involving Cal athletics.

THE MOMENT: Not all of the most memorable Cal moments are pleasant, and we debated about including this scary play. But it is a moment etched in the minds of Cal fans, which required it to be part of the series.  With 6:07 left in the second quarter of a game in Berkeley against Oregon State on Saturday, November 7, Cal star running back Jahvid Best leaped toward the goal-line, at which point he was propelled farther into the air by a Beavers defender. Best landed on his back and head in the end zone for a touchdown that reduced the Cal deficit to 14-6.  But Best did not move after hitting ground, and after a long delay and some frightening moments, Best was taken off the field in a stretcher and sent to the hospital.

THE STORY: Jahvid Best, who was blessed with world-class sprinter speed, was one of the best running backs ever to play at Cal and certainly the best big-play back in Golden Bears’ history.   He had rushed for a school-record 311 yards against Washington in 2008, finishing that season with 1,580 rushing yards, then a school record and still the second-most in Cal history, while averaging 8.1 yards per carry.

He came into the 2009 season as an All-America candidate.  Best had sustained a slight concussion in the October 31 win over Arizona State, causing him to sit out two days of practice before participating fully in practices the rest of the week heading into the Saturday, November 7, game against Oregon State. 

The Bears, ranked No. 20 in the BCS standings with a 6-2 record, fell behind 14-0 to the Beavers, who were 5-3.  But the Bears got back in the game on a play starting from the 7-yard line when Best produced an athletic leap over the goal-line. He was sent even higher when he was hit in midair by an Oregon State defender. Best crashed into the end zone, landing on his back and head, causing his helmet to fly off.

The cheering quickly stopped when it was apparent Best was not moving and was seriously hurt.  The game was delayed about 15  minutes while Best was attended to as Cal and Oregon State players knelt and prayed.  Best was eventually strapped onto a gurney, wheeled out of the stadium and taken to the hospital.

It was later revealed that he had movement in his extremities and had suffered a concussion.

Cal lost the game to Oregon State 31-14, and Best did not play in Cal’s four remaining games, finishing the season with 867 yards.

Best was a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2010 NFL draft, and he played two NFL seasons (22 games, 15 starts) before concussion issued forced him to retire.

Best competed in the 100 meters in the 2016 Olympics, representing Saint Lucia, and was the first former NFL player to participate in the Summer Olympics. Best ran in the same first-round heat as Usain Bolt, who finished first in that heat and ultimately won the gold medal. Best finished seventh among the nine runners in his heat in a time of 10.39 seconds and did not advance to the semifinals.

He was a member of Cal’s coaching staff in 2014, was the head coach at Saint Mary’s College High School for one season in 2021 and is currently the running backs coach at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School.

*Top 50 Moment No. 31: Serendipity Rodgers, 2002

*Top 50 Moment No. 32: Triumphant Defeat, 1991

*Only specific acts that occurred while the team or athlete was at Cal were considered, and an accomplishment of a season or a career was not included unless it can be identified in a particular moment.

*Leslie Mitchell of the Cal Bears History twitter site aided in the selection of the top 50 moments.

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Jake Curtis

JAKE CURTIS

Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.