Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Coaches make game seem 'friendly'

Jake Curtis, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
When Jeff Tedford and Steve Mooshagian were Fresno State assistant coaches about a dozen years ago, Mooshagian noted that his longtime friend was, well, thrifty.
"His wife, Donna, used to pack his lunch, and I remember he had a sandwich that was just one slice of cheese," Mooshagian said this week. "So when I saw him after he got that big contract at Cal, I asked him, 'Are you going to get a slice of baloney with that now?' "
Tedford, whose Bears will play their season opener on Saturday against a Sacramento State team coached by Mooshagian, grinned when reminded of the story.
"Who would remember a sandwich?" Tedford said.
Mooshagian remembers a lot about his relationship with Tedford, whom he met when both were teenagers in Downey (Los Angeles County). Mooshagian was a senior at Downey High and Tedford was a 15-year-old sophomore at crosstown rival Warren High when Tedford stepped up to Mooshagian and congratulated him on a one-handed catch he had made.
"I like to joke that he went to the rich school and I went to the poor school," Tedford said.
Mooshagian preferred to call Warren the "tough school," but did not dispute that his was the more affluent section of Downey.
They were teammates at Cerritos (Junior) College in 1979, when Tedford was the team's freshman quarterback and Mooshagian was its star sophomore wide receiver.
"I used to always tell him I was open," Mooshagian said.
Mooshagian then headed to Fresno State, and a year later, Tedford was his teammate again. Mooshagian even helped recruit Tedford to Fresno State, and they were roommates on the road during the 1981 season, when Tedford became the Bulldogs' starting quarterback and Mooshagian was a prominent member of a Fresno State receiving corps that featured three future NFL wide receivers (Henry Ellard, Stephone Paige and Tony Woodruff).
Mooshagian recalled Tedford as a "Doug Flutie-type quarterback," whose greatest skill was making plays on the run. Tedford described Mooshagian as a "reliable receiver with good hands and above-average speed."
They both remembered the Bulldogs' upset of Arizona in Mooshagian's final college game. Tedford had become the Bulldogs' starting quarterback four games into that 1981 season, and Arizona had upset No. 1 USC five weeks earlier. But with the help of a tricky lateral that Mooshagian launched for a big gain in the third period, a 5-5 Fresno State team upset the Wildcats 23-17 in Tucson.
"The locker room was going crazy after that game and I remember (coach Jim) Sweeney talking to us about '55,000 disappointed fans,' " Mooshagian said. "So when Jeff was leading the chants of '75,000 disappointed fans' when Cal beat Washington (in Seattle in 2002), I knew exactly where that came from."
They teamed for a third time as coaches when both were assistants at Fresno State from 1992 through '94. The highlight then was an upset of USC in the 1992 Freedom Bowl.
"His son and my son had been best friends through elementary school," Mooshagian said, "and I remember after that game, grabbing our sons and all four of us being on the field together."
Mooshagian credits Tedford for teaching him the pass-protection schemes he uses at Sac State, and Mooshagian says he helped sharpen Tedford's recruiting skills, even accompanying Tedford on some recruiting trips when they were at Fresno State.
"He used to be more shy than he is now," Mooshagian said.
Now, of course, Tedford is one of the most respected college coaches in America, good enough to be rewarded with a new contract that pays him $1.5 million annually.
"But he hasn't changed at all," Mooshagian said. "He's just like he was as a player -- very focused -- and I still consider him a close friend."
Their friendship had nothing to do with Cal scheduling Division I-AA Sacramento State, a matchup arranged a few years ago when San Jose State asked out of its scheduled game with Cal. Whether friendship prevents the Bears from running up the score remains to be seen.

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