The pre-game scene in the Cal locker room Saturday was not pretty.
“Guys giving up their breakfast,” said coach Justin Wilcox, noting that linebacker Evan Weaver and offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso both were feeling ill in the hours before the Big Game.
The post-game scene in the same locker room was almost beyond description.
Cal beat Stanford 24-20 in the 122nd Big Game to end a nine-game losing streak in a series that began in 1892, and Weaver was feeling markedly better. Especially when he got the chance to embrace The Axe.
“Just to be able to hold it in my hands,” he said, “instead of thinking of it as something out there.”
The nation’s leading tackler, Weaver added 13 more to his total that now sits at 164. He needs four more next week at UCLA to eclipse Hardy Nickerson’s 1985 single-season Cal record of 167.
Weaver and Cam Goode combined to make the Bears’ final stop, holding Stanford running back Cameron Scarlett to no gain on a fourth-and-1 play from the Cardinal 34-yard line with 41 seconds left.
Wilcox had no doubt about the availability of Weaver and Daltoso.
“The doctors cleared them,” Wilcox said. “There was no way those guys weren’t going to play.”
Asked what it would have taken to keep Weaver on the sideline, Wilcox virtually shrugged.
“He’d probably have to be incapacitated,” Wilcox said. “There’s just not an illness that’s going to keep that guy from playing in any game, let alone this game.”
Weaver and Cal’s seniors had waited their entire college careers for Saturday. They’d never beaten Stanford and this was their final chance.
“I had the flu a bit there. I was kinda dying,” Weaver said. “We came out and got the win and that’s all that matters. It’s not about me.”
Asked the same question reporters posed to Wilcox, Weaver admitted only extreme circumstances would have kept him out of the game.
“I would have had to lose a limb of something,” he said. “Even then, I don’t know, they’ve got good prosthetics now.”
Weaver was thrilled to share the moment with everyone who showed up to support the team. “That was awesome just to see all the fans. The Cal fans took over the stadium - there was blue and gold everywhere.”
During the post-game mayhem on the field, Weaver’s primary objective was to find his parents.
“I ended up finding them after I got mugged by about 100 people in a good way,” he said.
Winning the Big Game and earning bowl eligibility would have been exciting in Berkeley, Weaver said, but there was a silver lining to pulling it off at Stanford Stadium.
The outcome also ends Stanford’s impressive run of 10 straight seasons playing in a bowl game.
“It was awesome to take it away from them on their home field,” Weaver said. “To see all those sad fans, it was perfect.”