Sunday, October 28, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle: Cal drops out of top 25

The Pac-10 has put two surprising teams into contention for a national championship, but Cal has become a mere spectator after its 31-20 loss to Arizona State on Saturday dropped the Bears completely out of the top 25 in all four rankings (Associated Press, USA Today, Harris, BCS). Just 16 days ago, Cal was ranked No. 2, and during the first half of Cal's game against Oregon State on Oct. 13, word came down that No. 1 LSU had lost, putting the Bears in line to rise to No. 1 for the first time since 1951. Today, however, Cal is trying to salvage the season after losing three straight for the first time since Jeff Tedford arrived as coach in 2002. The Bears' run of 26 consecutive weeks in the top 25 has ended, as Cal fell out of the rankings for the first time since the late stages of the 2005 season. "It's kind of unbelievable," Cal offensive lineman Mike Gibson said after Saturday's loss in Tempe, Ariz. "I'm just speechless." A win Saturday would have kept Cal very much in the Rose Bowl picture, and the Bears held a 20-7 lead in the first half as they dominated the early going. But ASU scored the final 24 points of the game, and Cal's final seven possessions resulted in five punts and two turnovers. For the second straight week, Bears quarterback Nate Longshore, still limping from a sprained ankle, threw two second-half interceptions. "Down the stretch it looked like they wore us down a little," Tedford said. "In the second half we couldn't protect the passer and Nate was hurrying some things." Cal led at halftime in all three of its losses, but could not put the hammer down, and now the Bears are in danger of not getting into any bowl. Cal (5-3) needs to win two of its final four games to guarantee a bowl berth, and with games against three of the Pac-10's weakest teams - Stanford, Washington State and Washington - as well as the Nov. 10 home game against USC, the Bears remain in position to get at least the 7-5 record needed to assure postseason play. Even a 6-6 record might get Cal into a bowl, but it looks like it will be the Las Vegas Bowl or Emerald Bowl in San Francisco rather than the Rose Bowl.

Meanwhile, Arizona State remains one of just five unbeaten teams and is alone in first place in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils are No. 4 in this week's BCS standings, putting them within reach of a berth in the national championship game. Much of the credit goes to first-year ASU coach Dennis Erickson, whose team was unranked in preseason. ASU is one spot ahead of Oregon in the BCS standings, and the Ducks host Arizona State in a game on Saturday that will define one of them as a national-title contender. Either Oregon or ASU could become the first team that was unranked in preseason to get to the BCS championship game.


San Jose Mercury: Down goes Cal (again): Time for a quarterback change?

Cal Coach Jeff Tedford says he looks in the mirror after every game and asks himself what he could have done better as a head coach and as a playcaller.  When Tedford looks in the mirror tonight, following Cal’s 31-20 loss at Arizona State, he should be asking himself if Nate Longshore is his quarterback. I’m not talking about next week, or the rest of this season. I’m talking about 2008.  If the answer is “Longshore is not our guy for ‘08,” or “I’m not sure if Longshore is our guy for ‘08,” then Tedford needs to get redshirt freshman Kevin Riley some playing time. Immediately. The fact is, this season’s toast. The Bears are out of the BCS race, out of the Rose Bowl race, out of the Holiday Bowl race. Their bowl destinations at this point are El Paso, San Francisco or Las Vegas. I know Gary Cavalli and the folks at the Emerald Bowl would love to have the Bears. I know some of the Bay Area media types would love for Cal to play in Las Vegas.

But any of those spots is a letdown for the Bears, who two weeks and a few hours ago were 5-0 and poised to be No. 1 in the nation. Now they are 5-3 and No. 6 in the Pac-10, a half-game ahead of Stanford. So the season is basically over, and it is basically over, to a certain extent, because of Longshore: Because of the sprained ankle that kept him out of the Oregon State game. Because of the slow recovery that has affected him for the UCLA and ASU games.

And because of his pre-existing limitations, which were made worse by the injury. When healthy, Longshore is a drop-back passer with zero mobility. When he’s not healthy, he’s so immobile it affects the entire offense. In obvious passing situations, Cal’s opponents can blitz without fear because they know Longshore can’t buy himself time by moving up or side-stepping anyone. That means his reads, throws and timing must be perfect, and they aren’t. These days, if you want to be a top-10 team at the end of the season, your starting quarterback must 1) make big plays in big games with his legs, or 2) be a terrific pocket passer. Longshore will never do the first, and right now, he isn’t the second, either. He can’t move an inch in the pocket, and he’s off target on passes of every distance. Two games in a row, against UCLA and ASU, he has made bad throws at the worst possible times for Cal. His four INTs in the fourth quarters have cost Cal a chance at victory both games.  The incompletes and INTs he’s thrown are not what veteran quarterbacks are supposed to do, especially veteran QBs whose greatest asset is their arm strength, accuracy and smarts. So Tedford needs to ask himself if Longshore is the man to lead Cal next season …

Can the Bears go another year with a totally immobile quarterback who’s prone to injury partly because he’s immobile (and then when injured becomes more immobile)?

Can Longshore beat teams with first-class pass rushes like Oregon State and UCLA?

Can he can make clutch throws in pressure situations?

Can the offense function best with a pure pocket passer?

The bottom line:

If Tedford thinks the mobile, gutsy Riley might give Cal a better chance to win, then he needs to play Riley the rest of this lost season, starting Saturday at home against Washington State. (The Bears couldn’t ask for a better situation for Riley.)  I could see Tedford, who’s intensely loyal to his players, saying soemthing to the effect of: “I’m sticking with Longshore for ‘07, then we’ll let them compete for the starting job in spring practice and training camp.”  But there are two huge problems with that approach, as I see it:

1. It automatically puts Riley at a disadvantage, and if you think Riley might be the guy next fall, then you want him to have a fair shot to win the job.

2. It means that if Riley does win the job in the offseason, then you’re sending a rookie out there.  If Riley finishes out this season having played extensively in only one game (Oregon State), then he’ll essentially be a rookie in ‘08 — and I don’t care how competitive the practice situation. As Cal found out last year with Longshore, it’s tough to win big with rookie quarterback.  Keep Riley on the bench in ‘07, and you could be ruining ‘08, too. Now, I’m not advocating that Cal bench Longshore and that Riley play every down the rest of the way. That would be foolish and knee-jerk. The official Hotline position on this matter is that assuming both players are healthy, Tedford should make sure Riley plays a significant amount (15-20 passes) in each of the remaining games.  Playing both of them — starting Longshore but using Riley — is the best way to win games this year and prepare for next year. Let Riley feel what the USC pass rush is like. Let him throw the ball in Husky Stadium in November. Let him experience the adrenaline of Big Game and a bowl game.  Unless, of course, Longshore is positively the guy for now and for next year. In that case, keep Riley on the bench.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

San Jose Mercury: Tedford, Jackson pass up controversy


Cal Coach Jeff Tedford has made sure the lines of communication are open during the Bears' two-game losing streak. After reading DeSean Jackson's comments that he thought Cal should have thrown more on first and second down during Saturday's 30-21 loss to UCLA, Tedford discussed the situation with his star wide receiver. "I just let him know that I was asked to state my opinion and I felt like we should have thrown more on first and second down," Jackson said. "It was just the way the question was asked. I didn't come out and say we need to throw the ball more. I talked to Coach Tedford about it and we have a good understanding. I have his back and he has my back." Tedford also met with Jackson and fellow receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan after Sunday night's conditioning practice. "If you pose the question to any receiver and say, 'Should they throw you the ball more on first down?' 'Oh yeah, I'd like to have the ball more on first down,' " Tedford said. "It's not that he's being derogatory or a malcontent that doesn't believe in what we're doing. It's just the way questions get posed to you sometimes." Tedford also pointed out that the Bears actually threw more than they ran on first down against the Bruins. Tedford said the breakdown was 17-10 in favor of the pass, but a review of the official play-by-play has 17 pass plays and 13 rushes on first down.

•One of the devastating wildfires just north of Los Angeles  ripped through the back yard of the family home of quarterback Nate Longshore of Canyon Country.  "My brother and uncle were out there with garden hoses fighting it off," he said. "My mom gives me updates on what's going on. It's pretty scary. At the same time, I have faith in the firefighters and everything."

• Longshore said his right ankle continues to improve and that it felt better than expected after the UCLA game. Longshore missed the previous game with an ankle sprain.

• Wide receiver Robert Jordan believes the Bears might play better now that they aren't ranked so high. "I really think it's better that we're the underdog," he said. "I know it's bad that we lost two games, but I think we play better as an underdog. We kind of tensed up. We were No. 2. We felt like we had to win, that we can't lose. We started worrying about the wrong things." But Cal guard Brian De La Puente said the Bears should welcome the higher expectations that come with a lofty ranking. "We want to win every week," he said. "If you're winning, you're going to get that bulls-eye. Essentially, we want that bulls-eye on our chest. We want to be a national force. I still think we are. Now that we lost two games, that bulls-eye is off a little bit. But we're still a great team."

• Jordan, who missed the UCLA game with a sprained shoulder, practiced Wednesday and didn't seem to be limited. Tedford expects Jordan to play Saturday at Arizona State.

• Defensive end Rulon Davis, who has missed the past four games with a sprained foot, practiced in full capacity but Tedford said he is still sore and his status for Saturday is uncertain.

• Defensive back Marcus Ezeff's quad injury has worsened, and is on crutches. Tedford said he's out Saturday but didn't know his long-term prognosis.




San Jose Mercury: Cal football: Examining the implosion


By Jon Wilner

Thursday, October 25th, 2007 at 7:10 am in Cal. Went running with Buzz and our buddy JB last night. JB attended both Cal and Notre Dame and is a passionate yet reasonable fan of both teams. When I mentioned Wednesday’s column in the Merc about Cal’s slide, he said he hadn’t seen it.  In case that’s the case for many Hotline readers, here’s the column after a quick early-morning cut-and-paste job. Yes, it mentions the conservative playcalling that I blogged about earlier in the week, but it also gets into some other reasons for Cal’s back-to-back losses:  In eight stunning, perplexing days, Cal plunged from the brink of No. 1 in the nation to fifth in the conference. From a national title contender to the outskirts of the Bowl Championship Series standings. From a Rose Bowl favorite to a Sun Bowl wannabe. And from 5-0 to … a three-game losing streak? Four losses in five games? A late-season collapse? The Bears are only now into the heart of their schedule. Having lost to unranked Oregon State and UCLA, they visit No. 7 Arizona State on Saturday. Two weeks later, it’s USC, then trips to Washington (cold, wind, rain) and Stanford (smart, plucky, resurgent). “We’re a couple plays away from being undefeated,” Bears Coach Jeff Tedford said Tuesday. “It’s disappointing to be where we are right now.”

The reasons for Cal’s plunge are numerous and somewhat unsatisfying. The list starts with quarterback Nate Longshore’s sprained ankle, which kept him out of the OSU loss and appeared to limit his effectiveness against the Bruins. The defense has been wobbly (no surprise there, given all the playmakers Cal had to replace). The Bears are mediocre against the run, not very stout on third down and last in the Pacific-10 Conference in sacks. Turnovers have played a gargantuan role in Cal’s fortunes — none in the win at Oregon, three against Oregon State and four against UCLA.  And yes, the play-calling was conservative Saturday. During the crucial stretch that began late in the third quarter and ended with the Longshore interception that was returned for a touchdown, the Bears ran on every first- and second-down play. This included runs on second-and-eight, second-and-18, third-and-18 and second-and-six, and it contrasts dramatically with the run-pass split in the first three quarters. On the possession that ended with Longshore’s interception, Tedford called for running plays on first and second down, setting up a third-and-five pass the Bruins were waiting for.  “Oh yeah, we’ve seen that a couple of times,” UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. “As a matter of fact, we’d just watched it (on Friday).”

Asked Tuesday about the play-calling — in particular, the Longshore pass — Tedford said: “We’d have to be really bad in the running game to abandon it. But you need to mix it up as a play-caller. Do I go back and think, ‘Should I have done this?’ No question. I’m not going to call a perfect game … “I’ve been awake a lot wondering if (the Longshore pass) was the right call. I heard comments that they had the play scouted. But that’s football.” That’s football might explain Cal’s eight days of hell, but not its half-century of frustration. Ask Old Blues about the October slide, and they’ll say simply, That’s Cal. Perhaps there’s something to that — not that Tedford’s program is snake-bitten, but perhaps there’s something bigger at play than a sprained ankle, a tepid pass rush and too many second-down runs. Year after year, the Bears have headed to Los Angeles with a lot on the line, and year after year, they’ve come up short. Under Tedford, they’re 0-3 at USC and 0-3 at UCLA. Never have they been wholly outmanned by the Trojans, and their talent is always commensurate with UCLA’s. Every game has been close — the outcome decided by a play here, a play there.

And yet each time, the Bears have failed to make the big plays or have made the bad plays — from fumbles on special teams to interceptions in the red zone. During Cal’s six winless years in Los Angeles, UCLA has been beaten at home 10 times and USC has been toppled in the Coliseum by Stanford. You’d think that Cal, which has had arguably the second-best program in the league over that span, would have broken through once — if for no other reason than chance. Maybe there’s something about being a Cal football player, or the type of players the Bears recruit, or the pressure of playing in Southern California, or something else entirely –something that cannot be explained. And yet, despite their October plunge, the Bears (5-2, 2-2) are not out of the Rose Bowl race. It has been all of 10 months since a team made the Rose Bowl with two losses in conference play (USC), but the climb to the top of the standings will require help.  The Bears need Oregon to lose again, they need ASU to falter, and they need UCLA to stumble at least twice. Oh, and they need to regroup emotionally, get Longshore healthy, find some answers on defense, hold on to the ball and run the table. Given all that, winning out might be the most unrealistic component of Cal’s Rose Bowl equation.

AP: Cal looking to end slide against Sun Devils

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Three weeks ago, the California Golden Bears were dreaming about winning a national title.  Now they'd simply like to win a game. Back-to-back losses have dropped the Bears to No. 17 from No. 2.   

Meanwhile, Arizona State has leaped from No. 18 to No. 7 and inherited all of Cal's national ambitions.  Two programs headed in opposite directions collide in the desert on Saturday night.

Read the entire story here.

SF Chronicle: Cal's offensive linemen claim their share of the blame

Rusty Simmons

Just about everyone, from coaches to players, has tried to take the blame for Cal's two-game losing streak.  Add one more. "The numbers speak for themselves," center Alex Mack said. "As a line, we're not doing enough to help the running game. "It's frustrating for us because our expectation is perfection. I think we're still a good line, but we're not as good as we need to be." After starting the season on a torrid pace, rushing for 198.6 yards a game and allowing only four sacks during the 5-0 start, the Bears have run for 125.5 yards and allowed four sacks in the two losses. For the third consecutive week, Cal will face a rush defense ranked among the top 15 in the country when it plays at Arizona State on Saturday.

"We have a lot to prove this week," Mack said. "We know we have a good line, and we're dying to show that this week against a good opponent." The Bears ran for 184 yards but allowed three sacks in the 31-28 loss to Oregon State, which was No. 1 nationally in rushing defense and No. 3 in sacks at the time. UCLA limited Cal to 67 rushing yards and recorded a sack. Early in the season, line play was so strong that Cal showed no signs of missing graduates Andrew Cameron at left tackle and Erik Robertson at left guard. The Bears ran for more than 200 yards in each of their first three games, including a 230-yard manhandling of Tennessee.

"We've slipped a little, but we've refocused on the little things," left guard Brian De La Puente said. "The camaraderie is still there. "We're hungry. Saturday can't come soon enough," he said. "We can't wait to get back out there and get this taste out of our mouths." The bad taste started against Oregon State, which held tailback Justin Forsett out of the end zone on four consecutive runs from inside the 2-yard line. Before the failed 4th-and-inches play, left tackle Mike Gibson shoved each offensive lineman in the chest. "I told them that this is what we're all about," Gibson said. "This is about pride. If we want to be No. 1 in the country, we've got to start acting like it. We definitely didn't play like one of the top teams in the country. "That should never happen." Coach Jeff Tedford had a more simple explanation. "We need to block better," he said. But that didn't stop him from relying on the running attack late in the 30-21 loss to UCLA, which often put eight or nine defenders in the box. Tedford trusted the line to open holes as he called for nine running plays on Cal's first 12 plays in the fourth quarter.

"If (the running game) gets shut down four times in a row, we expect to get something out of the fifth and sixth one," he said. Cal has a history of that. Offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik has mentored lines that have paved the way for five consecutive 1,000-yard backs, and Forsett is well on his way with 811 yards through seven games. "We take winning the battle at the line of scrimmage personally," right guard Noris Malele said. "All five of us have that mean streak, that edge, so we just take it as a challenge. We'll pick it up, we'll take it out on the field and we'll see what happens."

Briefly: Quarterback Nate Longshore said the Southern California wildfires didn't do any damage to his family's home in Canyon Country, but a fire did blaze through his backyard. "My brother and my uncle were out there with garden hoses," he said. "My mom gives me updates on what's going on. It's pretty scary, but at the same time, I have faith that our firefighters will do a good job of keeping everybody safe."


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Jose Mercury: Did the playcalling get conservative?

By Jon Wilner

Here’s the link.

Cal’s eight-day plunge from No. 2 in the country to the middle of the Pac has left Old and Young Blues alike — not to mention your friendly neighborhood Hotline scribe — wondering what the heck happened.  Where was the team that thumped Tennessee and made the big plays at Oregon?  How could the Bears lose at home to Oregon State? How could they lose to a team that lost to Notre Dame? What’s up with all the turnovers? Why couldn’t Justin Forsett run effectively? Where was downfield passing game? Where was the pass rush? Did the Bears manage the clock properly? And then there this: Did the playcalling get conservative in crunch time Saturday? The answer to that last question, based on my research, is an absolute, indisputable YES! From the final play of the third quarter through the interception that gave UCLA a 30-21 lead — that’s my definition of crunch time, as opposed to the post-INT desperation time — the Bears had four first downs.

They ran on first and second down every time. This included runs on second-and-eight, second-and-18, third-and-18 and second-and-six. And it contrasts dramatically with the run-pass split in the first three quarters. That doesn’t mean the playcalling cost Cal the game. You could make a case that it was the right thing to do under the circumstances, that it gave Cal the best chance to win (and I’ll make that case in a minute).  But if you’re an Old or Young Blue who sat there wondering, Have they gotten conservative, or is it my imagination? — the answer is that it wasn’t your imagination. Consider these stats an unofficial, not-100-percent reflection of what happened because 1) I have no idea when quarterback Nate Longshore checked off, and 2) I don’t know what was called when penalties stopped play. Through the first three quarters:

First down: 11 runs, 12 passes

Second down: 10 runs, 6 passes

Third down: 1 run, 10 passes

In crunch time (as defined above):

First down: 4 runs, 0 passes

Second down: 4 runs, 0 passes

Third down: 1 run, 2 passes

The four first-down runs netted 15 yards.

The four second-down runs netted 15 yards.

And lest we forget, this was coming against a UCLA defense that ranked 10th nationally against the run.  It’s worth noting (again, unofficially) that when Cal passed on first down during the first three quarters, Longshore was 10-of-12. And when Cal passed on second down during the first three quarters, he was 4-of-6. Then, starting with 24 seconds left in the third quarter, the first- and second-down passing came to a halt. Now, to the second issue here: Was the run-oriented playcalling the right thing to do?

* The first thing to consider is the nature of the man calling the plays. For all the points and highlights his team has produced this season and any season, Jeff Tedford is a conservative guy.  He loves to run the ball, think it’s the key to success, and he has built Cal into a top-10 top-20 program by using the running game to set up the downfield passes. Running the ball is who Tedford is, and he’s been pretty good for Cal.

* It looked like the crunch-time running plays were designed, at least in part, to take the pressure off Longshore, who played on a sprained ankle.  Tedford could have been so worried about his quarterback’s even-worse-than-usual mobility — and the chances of Longshore getting sacked or fumbling in a crucial situation — that he felt it was better to be safe than sorry. That’s a tough call, if it was indeed a call at all: Do you go with a severely-limited veteran quarterback or a mobile freshman (Kevin Riley) on the road, in the fourth quarter, in a must-win game, against a very good defense?

* One of the fourth-quarter drives started at the Cal 11 yardline. With a 21-20 lead, you have to play conservatively in that situation. The Bears ran on first down (Forsett for 7) and second down (Forsett for 1), then threw on third-and-two … to Jahvid Best for one yard.  If you ask me, that missed third down was a critical play. The Bears were forced to punt from the 20, and Andrew Larson’s 32-yarder gave UCLA possession near midfield — an optimal situation for the Bruins that ended in the go-ahead field goal.

* Despite the run-oriented playcalling, Cal was still in position to win thanks to Best’s 54-yard kickoff return.  Isn’t that what the Bears wanted in the first place? Put themselves in position to win, and then let one of their playmakers make a play? Down 23-21 with just under three minutes left, they had first down on the UCLA 35.  Had you offered that situation to Tedford before the game — his offense needing 10 yards for the possible winning field goal — I bet he’d have taken it.

Then again, after running unsuccessfully on first and second down (five yards total) on that drive, the Bears were forced into an obvious passing situation. UCLA’s defense was ready to hop the short routes when Longshore unloaded his ill-fated throw. … So there you have it: A look at the playcalling stats and my thoughts on the matter.  Now let me turn this over to Old and Young Blues and Hotline readers with an opinion. What sayeth you?  (See above link to read comments to the article.)

ASU: Dennis Erickson Quotes From This Week's Press Conference

On his feelings about the team heading into the final five games:

"I like where we're at. Anytime you play seven games and win them, it's a pretty good position to be in. Obviously, as we all knew going into the season, we'd have a chance to get to 7-0, because we knew the last five games were going to be a very difficult stretch, starting with Cal this week. I like where we're at. Obviously, injury-wise, we've had some serious injuries that have affected us a little bit, although we've played well. Ryan [Torain], of course, missing him for the year hurts us, but he's been gone in a couple other games, and Keegan has stepped up and done a nice job. With Brent Miller, hopefully we'll have him back in the next week or two. I like where we're at. We've improved. I guess you say it every week, but this is obviously the toughest game that we've had by far. So it will be interesting to see where we're at. We got healthy and rested up a little bit. Sometimes that helps; sometimes it doesn't."


On the national rankings:

"I really don't know. I don't know if we have worried about that around here for awhile. I really don't pay attention to them. Obviously you see them and our players see them. We're seventh here and fourth here, I can't ever figure out all that. In all seriousness, for us, what happens this week and the week after that and the week after that and the week after that, the next five games are going to tell where we end up. I'm happy we're 7-0. I'm happy that we're recognized. As we started out the year, I told our players we just have to get to 1-0, then we have to get 2-0, and that's all we've ever focused on here. That's all we're focusing on now, to try to win our eighth game somehow and then go ahead and go from there."


On Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance:

"You've seen Keegan. He brings you the explosiveness to take it to the house anytime. He's a little bit different. He's got great speed and quickness. He comes out of stuff that you wouldn't think a back could come out of. Dimitri, on the other hand, is somewhat similar to Ryan [Torain], obviously not as big or as tall, but he's more of a physical runner with great feet. He's got great vision. I've felt he's had great vision since the spring. They're different, kind of like Keegan and Ryan had been. Jarrell Woods is going to have to step up for us. He's finally healthy. Hopefully he can bring some things to the table for us. He hasn't had an opportunity to play because he's been injured. He can help us through these last five football games."


On the difficulty of the next four games:

"I've never been around a stretch like that, but I knew that going into the season. You look at where you're at going in to start out with, and you look at the last five games on the schedule, we knew what we were getting into and we knew how the schedule was. That's not going to change. That won't change at all. That was just the nature of the schedule. We all talked about having five games at home in our first seven. It was a pretty darn good deal, and now I'm not sure as I go into the next one. We're going to get tested. Our team knows that. We're very realistic about where we're at and the direction that we're trying to go in. We're playing who I think is one of the best teams in the country. Even though they've lost a couple games, didn't have [QB Nate] Longshore for one, but tape doesn't lie. When you put tape on and you watch opponents, you have a pretty darn good idea who they are. Tape doesn't lie on California. They're an extremely good football team, and obviously they can't afford to lose another game in the league if they want to have any opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl. So we're going to have play pretty good, I'm afraid."


On Cal's offense:

"They've got a great receiver, their quarterback can throw it and they've got a great running back, which means we have to stop it all. DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive players I've ever seen in college football, not just as a receiver but also in the return game. He creates a lot of problems. You've got to be aware of where he's at all the time. He's a guy that just can break a game open any time. He's a real key, but they've got a lot of weapons. [Nate] Longshore will be back, he was back but now he is back 100 percent. His ankle was bothering him, as you could tell if you watched the game. He's an experienced guy that creates a lot of problems for you, and then, [Justin] Forsett, obviously at running back. Maybe something that goes unsaid is their offensive line, a very dominant group. Their center [Alex Mack] is really a good player, one of the better centers I've seen. Jimmy Michalczik coaches the offensive line. Jimmy played for me at Washington State and coached for me at Oregon State, and he does a great job of coaching. They all do, obviously Jeff [Tedford] has proven himself time and time again. That's what fun about this. Their offensive front is really good."


On Cal's defense:

"They're very physical. Their front seven is very physical. Their middle linebacker, [Worrell] Williams, is an outstanding football player. They play really well. They're a very physical team. They're going to play eight-man front a lot of the time to take the running game. That's just a principle of their defense. Coach [Bob] Gregory does a nice job with their defense. He was at Oregon. I've faced his philosophy before. They're going to come up and stop the run, and then force you to throw it, and they're good in the secondary. So, it's going to be a real challenge for us offensively. Obviously, we've got to be able to run. If we can't run it, we've got some problems to keep them off balance. Hopefully, we can make some plays in the passing game. That's going to be a real key to having some success against them."


On missing Ryan Torain's ability to punish and wear down opposing defenses:

"I guess you can take the Washington State game, for example. We weren't playing real well as a group, all of a sudden he took the game over, and in the fourth quarter there, he ended up punishing them pretty good. He's a guy that gets better as the game went on, but I believe we can do that with our other backs too. We're going to miss him, but there's not anything we can do about that. That's just part of football, you lose guys, whether it's college or high school or the National Football League, and you've got to replace them. That's why you hope you have 105 guys on scholarship that can help you, and I believe we do, and that's how our team has approached that all year. I think Dimitri will surprise you. He does some awfully good things."


On having many players who have made big plays through the season:

"We talk about making plays. Making plays is what it's all about, whether it's a catch or a run or an interception or a sack. Teams that make plays win football games, particularly when the game is on the line. We talk about making plays all the time. With what we do offensively and defensively, it's not just one guy. It could be a number of guys, depending on what they're doing to you. Obviously, Troy Nolan has made some plays for us on defense. Robert James has made some plays. Michael Jones has made some plays. Chris McGaha has made some plays. Rudy [Carpenter] has made some plays, so if you have a lot of guys that can step up depending on what's going on, it can make a big difference."


On WR Mike Jones playing this week:

"He practiced last night. He had the concussion, but he's got the OK to go ahead and go tomorrow."


On when TE Brent Miller will return:

"I wish I had the total answer. To me, it's the old day-by-day statement that we all make when we don't know what's going on. He was around yesterday, worked out in the pool and ran last night, and did some pretty good things. Whether he'll be cleared to go on Saturday, I don't know. I would say for sure the week after that he would be ready to go."


On coming off a bye week:

"We try to get back to our regular schedule. We take the bye week, always have, as a time to take our young players and get them some turns, do the same thing that we do in spring football. They would get most of the turns, although the first and second group would get turns, just so they would keep their timing, which is what we did on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, Thursday, we worked a little bit on Cal. Then we brought them back on Sunday, which we usually don't do, and practiced. Normally, we just bring them in and run after a game on Saturday night, but because of the bye week, we brought them in last night and we practiced for about an hour and 20 minutes. Then, today is just a normal day off, and then tomorrow just like a regular week."


On whether his teams usually do well after bye weeks:

"Some have, some haven't. When you've been doing it as many years as I have, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I know one thing, you're healthier and you've got a little bit more energy. Some say, timing, did you lose your timing during the week? If you've been going for seven weeks and playing seven games like we have, I think you have less of a chance of that happening. If you had the bye maybe after the third or fourth week, it would be maybe a little bit different. But if you can make it to the seventh week or through the seventh week and have a bye, it's a pretty good time to have it. Sometimes it helps you, sometimes it doesn't. I'm sure we all can answer that question Saturday night about 11:30 or 11, whenever the heck the game ends."


Sunday, October 21, 2007

SF Chronicle: Bears now playing for pride rather than championships

Cal middle linebacker Worrell Williams still had tears in eyes and the pain of Saturday's 30-21 loss to UCLA in his gut, when he neatly wrapped up the rest of the Bears' season.

"We just have to keep fighting and never quit," he said. "We don't have anything else to play for but pride. Obviously, the national championship is out of the picture. The Rose Bowl is out of the picture. But we still have to suit up and play."  Had then-No. 2 Cal beaten Oregon State the previous Saturday, it probably would have replaced then-No. 1 LSU, which lost in triple overtime to Kentucky. When the new rankings come out today, the Bears will become a then-No. 10 team that is doing quite a bit of soul-searching. "We're trying to figure out where to take it from here," cornerback Brandon Hampton said. "People are just wondering where we stand." After losing in consecutive weeks - this time by being outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter in front of 83,494 at the Rose Bowl - the Bears (5-2, 2-2) are tied for fifth place with Oregon State in the Pac-10 standings. A Cal season that started with five straight wins, including national-arrival victories over Tennessee and Oregon, has turned into a year of questions without answers.

The Bears' once-dominant rushing attack was limited to 67 yards by UCLA (5-2, 4-0), and the Bruins continued a season-long trend of Cal opponents taking either DeSean Jackson or Lavelle Hawkins out of the passing game. Tailback Justin Forsett had his seven-game rushing-touchdown streak snapped and totaled only 76 yards on 25 carries. Jackson, who was held to 5 yards against Oregon State after posting career highs against Oregon, emerged with nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but Hawkins had only three catches for 25 yards and fumbled two kick returns on his worst day since a two-catch, 27-yard performance against Oregon. "We have to change some things up," Jackson said. "I have a lot of confidence in coach (Jeff) Tedford, and we have a lot of playmakers on this team. "We can't wait until the last minute to start rushing around and trying to make plays. We've got to start knocking people out right away."

Cal has let teams hang around this season, and Saturday was no different. The Bears led 7-0, 14-10 and 21-20, but they couldn't put away UCLA.  Cal called for runs on seven of eight plays in its first two fourth-quarter possessions, and each drive ended with a punt. The Bruins took a 23-21 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Kai Forbath, and the Bears finally had to go to the air. Playing for the first time since spraining his ankle Sept. 29, quarterback Nate Longshore ruined an otherwise great return with interceptions on back-to-back drives. The first one was the killer. Trying to get into position for a potential game-winning field in the final two minutes, Longshore tried to squeeze one to Jackson on a 3rd-and-5 play from the 30-yard line. Alterraun Verner, who told reporters he knew what play was coming, jumped the route and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown and a 30-21 lead.

"It was a great play by him, and I've got nothing else for you," said Longshore, who was 22-for-34 for 232 yards and three touchdowns. "I should've just probably thrown it away."  Cal's defensive players tried to take the blame, too. They forced two turnovers, but they also gave up 142 rushing yards to Marin Catholic grad Khalil Bell, recorded only one sack against efficient quarterback Patrick Cowan and allowed UCLA to convert 7 of 15 third-down chances.

"As a defense, we didn't play our best game," said outside linebacker Zack Follett, who had 10 tackles, including three for a loss, and a sack. "I think we need to have a gut-check time and pick it up. If we hadn't gotten lucky with those turnovers, we would have gotten beat by a bigger margin." As the story has been all season, Cal's offense and defense did not click at the same time. The Bears didn't score off either fumble they recovered, missing a field-goal try and throwing an interception. When the offense was gaining momentum, the defense let UCLA go on long, scoring drives. "It's frustrating, but we have to keep pushing," Forsett said. "We have to hold up our end and let the defense take care of their things."


LA Times: On the way to No. 1, Cal takes two big steps back

The Bears' loss to the Bruins is big for UCLA . . . and USC.

California was one play last week from possibly entering Saturday's game against UCLA as the nation's No. 1 team.  "Thanks," Golden Bears cornerback Brandon Hampton said after being reminded. "I still wish those were the goals."  UCLA might have left the Rose Bowl at No. 1 after beating Cal, 30-21, had it not Bruin-cramped against Utah and Notre Dame. "That thought is always going to be there," UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis conceded. Instead, what we got on a gorgeous day in Pasadena was a terrific Pacific 10 Conference game involving teams that are not going to win the national title but may very well affect it. Not exactly what either program had in mind in August when Cal was No. 12 in the preseason Associated Press poll and UCLA was No. 14. Any UCLA and Cal rematch played this season would have to be called the Midas Might Have Been Bowl. Three weekends ago, cuddly Bears fans screamed "We love Tedford" after the Bears beat Oregon in Eugene. "Thanks for coming," Bears Coach Jeff Tedford said to Bears fans as he touched outstretched hands over a railing.

Saturday, after Cal's second consecutive loss, Tedford was left to consider a rest-of-the-season he never imagined. "We still have goals," Tedford insisted in a hallway in the Rose Bowl's bowels. "We still want to win football games." Sandy Barbour, Cal's athletic director, back-slapped broken-down Bears as they trudged off the field to the cliché UCLA chants of "Over-rated." Cal tackle Mike Gibson later tried to conjure up scenarios in which Cal, with two conference losses, could wrangle its way back into any race. "It's real heartbreaking," Gibson said. "With one loss you can still do it. It's still in your hands. Now we've put it in the hands of other people." With three other top-10 teams losing this weekend, No. 10 Cal might have survived a loss to UCLA had time not expired on the Bears last week against Oregon State. Not to be outdone, UCLA botched up its big-picture plans with horrific, inexplicable performances against Utah and Notre Dame. "We could have been No. 1 right now," Bruins guard Shannon Tevaga said. "It hurts a lot, those losses. We should have won those games." Incredibly, UCLA now has more to play for than Cal. The Bruins are 4-0 in Pac-10 play with a clear line to the championship and the Rose Bowl bid.

It would be an amazing, if not diluted, feat. Suppose the team that lost to Utah and Notre Dame faced in the Rose Bowl a Michigan team that lost to Appalachian State? Yet, considering the apoplectic state of Bruins football only minutes before kickoff on Saturday, winning the Pac-10 title now would put UCLA in contention for comeback player of the year.  As of now, beating Cal only disrupted the Bowl Championship Series machinery. Short term, it will help USC jump over Cal in the BCS standings. With Cal, No. 2 South Florida, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 8 Kentucky all losing this weekend, UCLA only contributes to USC's getting back in the national title picture. Didn't we tell you that Stanford loss wasn't the end of the Trojans' world? If UCLA really is the team that finally showed up on the third Saturday in October, it can make chopped salad out of the national title race.  The Bruins close the season at home against Arizona State on Nov. 10 and play host to Oregon on Nov. 24 before finishing up at USC on Dec. 1.   "We're worried about our business," Davis said. "Today is the first stage on the long road to get to the Rose Bowl." Cal can still ruin a perfect season next week at Arizona State, which was idle Saturday. At No. 8, the Sun Devils are the highest ranked Pac-10 team in the BCS standings.

Cal also plays host to USC in Berkeley on Nov. 10 in a game that should still be very important . . . for USC. The Bears have to be kicking their paws after two bad endings on consecutive Saturdays. And now, the idea of playing a spoiler role is almost appalling. "We're not one of those upset teams, like Oregon State," corner Hampton said. "No disrespect to Oregon State, but that's not how we think." That is, though, Bears, what you are. Last year, Cal let a game at Arizona get away the week before facing USC. This year, after a huge win at Oregon, Cal let Oregon State and UCLA slip away. Victory could have been salvaged Saturday as Cal was driving toward what might have been a game-winning field goal. Then UCLA defensive back Alterraun Verner stepped in front of a Nate Longshore pass and raced 76 yards for the game-clinching score. What is it about both these programs when it comes to can't standing success? Last week, Cal was seconds from its first No. 1 ranking since 1951. In the first BCS standings ever released, Oct. 24, 1998, UCLA was No. 1. Remember that? That was years ago.

And losses to Utah and Notre Dame were weeks ago. What a time, though, to pull out something special against Cal. "It just shows we're a force to be reckoned with," Verner said. "Not just in the Pac-10 but in the nation." Too late for UCLA to win any trophy inscribed with "national championship," but not too late to make a season even more interesting.

San Jose Mercury: Cal notebook: Jackson wants to open up offense

PASADENA - DeSean Jackson bounced back from one of his worst games of the season to have one of his best Saturday, but there was still an empty feeling when he went back to the sideline after Alterraun Verner's interception return for a touchdown that sealed UCLA's 30-21 victory.  Jackson caught nine passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but he could only watch when Verner stepped in front of him to pick off a pass from Nate Longshore and return it 76 yards to the end zone.  "When they got that interception and scored, I was sitting over there in the worst mood ever," Jackson said. "We just weren't able to do what we need to do to win."  Jackson caught four passes for just 5 yards in last weekend's loss to Oregon State. But playing in front of family and friends from his hometown in nearby Long Beach on Saturday, he hauled in a 39-yard scoring pass from Longshore in the second quarter, then gave the Bears a 21-20 lead with a 2-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter. "He had a good day, but not good enough because we didn't win," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said.  Cal struggled to establish its run game, and Jackson said he wished the Bears would have thrown more on first and second downs.

"I can't ever go to the coaches and say that, but I honestly feel like we should open the ball up more and pass on first and second down and not just wait until third down," Jackson said. "If we open  things up, it's better for us, but we weren't able to do that."

• Tedford defended his decision to use some of the clock late in the second quarter with the Bears in UCLA territory. Cal started a drive at the Bruins' 39-yard line with 1:10 left but didn't display much urgency trying to move down the field. The Bears settled for a 44-yard field-goal attempt, which Jordan Kay missed.  "We did not want to leave a lot of time left on the clock, so we were trying to utilize clock there," Tedford said. "There was still plenty of time to run five or six plays."

• UCLA linebacker Christian Taylor was taken to a hospital after suffering seizure-type symptoms on the sideline late in the game. A CT scan on his neck and head were negative and he was moving around, according to a UCLA spokesman.

• Cal receiver Robert Jordan missed the game because of a shoulder injury. Tedford had said earlier in the week that Jordan would play.


Friday, October 19, 2007

SF Chronicle: PRESSURED DEFENSE - Once strong, unit vanishes from elite, dropping to No. 58

Rusty Simmons

Cal middle linebacker Worrell Williams had a surprising reaction to Saturday's news that quarterback Nate Longshore's iffy right ankle would keep him out of the lineup. "It made the defense go, 'Yes!' " Williams said. "Now, the pressure is on us. Now, we have to pick up the slack." The Bears' defense, often the whipping boy of a team that had risen to No. 2 without playing a complete game, finally had its chance to shine. Instead, the unit allowed 31 points to an Oregon State team that had averaged 20.8 points against Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) opponents and forced no interceptions against a team that had thrown a nation's-worst 17 picks.  The result: Oregon State 31, Cal 28.

"The emphasis was on how the defense would respond, and we didn't do our jobs," Williams said. "You can put that on us." One play - or even one unit - can never take the complete blame for a loss, but this much is clear: With the meat of the schedule looming, Cal's defense is going to have to play better. The Bears' offense has proven that it will continue to score, but question marks abound for the defense as it prepares to play at UCLA on Saturday, at Arizona State on Oct. 27 and at home against USC on Nov. 10.

"It's past time to step up," Williams said. "I'm sure those guys are sick of hearing that they're the weak link of this team," receiver Lavelle Hawkins said after Cal's defense limited Arizona to 21 rushing yards. The Bears' defense also had two fourth-quarter interceptions and forced a game-saving fumble in their 31-24 win over Oregon, but the highlights have, at times, been outweighed by the lowlights.  Cal, which opened the BCS rankings at No. 12, ranks No. 58 nationally in both yards and points allowed. Of the top 15 teams in the BCS - presumably the teams left in the national-title discussion - only Kentucky (381.29) and Oregon (392.17) give up more yards than the Bears (380.0), and 10 of the top 13 BCS teams are in the top 20 in scoring defense.

Of course, in many ways, the cards have been stacked against the Cal defense, which lost three first-day draft picks. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane drew a double- or triple-team on every play, linebacker Desmond Bishop led the conference in tackles and cornerback Daymeion Hughes was second in the nation in interceptions. Cal's current defense has lost five starters for a total of eight games because of injuries, and it has played some unusual offenses, including three that ran no-huddle sets and two forms of the spread attack. Also, the Bears' quick-strike offense and trouble on kick coverage have left the defense in some tough predicaments. "We hear that we're the weak link from a lot of various places, and it is a little bothersome to hear that the offense is carrying you," linebacker Anthony Felder said. "That motivates us, but we're not trying to hide from the fact that we need to get better." Many of the yards netted against Cal have come via the air with the Bears ranking 94th, allowing 254.3 passing yards a game. Only three of the 93 teams ahead of Cal allow a worse completion percentage than the Bears (65.46 percent), and 23 teams with a better pass defense have less than three wins this season.

Cal has its highest defensive rankings in turnovers (25th, 16 interceptions or fumble recoveries) and rush defense (36th, 125.7 yards a game). However, none of the 35 teams ranked ahead of the Bears in rush defense allow a worse yards per carry average (3.63).So, when the Bears don't cause turnovers, they have trouble finding ways to get stops.

The Bears rank 72nd in time of possession (29:21), which appears to be a stat closely related to wins. Five of the top 10 in this category are in the top 10 of the BCS rankings.

Part of the problem in getting off the field comes on third downs, which are converted by Cal opponents 36.7 percent of the time. Six of the top 10 third-down defenses are in the top 13 of the BCS, and the best third-down defense, UCLA, gets off the field 13 percent more often than Cal. In the Oregon State loss, the Bears allowed the Beavers to convert only 4 of 16 third-down chances, but those four were ultimately painful. There was seemingly no pressure on mistake-prone quarterback Sean Canfield, and he picked easy targets for first downs that led to scores.  "When you get pressure on the quarterback, he's going to make bad decisions," cornerback Brandon Hampton said. "We need to get more pressure, because it helps us out in the secondary a lot and we can get the ball back to our offense."


Press-Enterprise: UCLA's secondary up for challenge against Cal

At the beginning of this season, many people looked at Cal's wide receivers as DeSean Jackson & Co. But six games into the season, it's been much more than that for the Bears.

Led by one of the best groups of receivers on the West Coast, the Bears have put together a prolific passing attack led by the three-headed monster of Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. The three have combined for 90 receptions and spearheaded a Cal offense that is multi-dimensional and has plenty of playmakers on the outside. "These are the best receivers we will see up to this point," cornerback Trey Brown said. "Once they get the ball in the guys' hands, they are trying to score touchdowns. "In order for us to do what we need to do, we need to limit them getting the ball in their hands."

That will be a difficult task for UCLA's secondary, which is among the most experienced and best in the nation. "They are a good group of receivers, but as a defense, you are never concerned about one group of guys," safety Chris Horton said. "They have a lot of explosive players over there. They are pretty dangerous when they do get the ball."

Friendly Rivalry

As is always the case when UCLA and Cal play, there will be plenty of players on both sides who are good friends with someone on the other side. But Marcus Everett and his Cal counterpart, Jackson, take that friendship one step further. The two are best friends and have known one another since they were little kids. They grew up running track and playing Pop Warner together, with Everett as a running back and Jackson a cornerback. At a recent practice, Everett laughed when recalling the year their team, which also featured UCLA running back Ryen Carew, went undefeated and nearly weren't scored upon. "We had the best Pop Warner team in the nation," said Everett, who's not expected to play Saturday because of a nagging ankle injury. "We went the whole season without getting scored upon, and with two minutes left in the championship game, we were winning 21-0 and DeSean bites on the play-action and they score on us. "Kids were crying because we were mad we got scored upon. We still tease him about it."

More UCLA Notes

Coach Karl Dorrell confirmed that Pat Cowan will start Saturday and McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be the primary backup. Osaar Rasshan will stay at quarterback indefinitely instead of switching back to receiver. Running back Chris Markey (turf toe) may play but will be behind several other backs on the depth chart. The tests performed on defensive end Nikola Dragovic for a sports hernia came back negative. Wide receiver Gavin Ketchum has a small fracture in his lower leg and has been in a walking boot all week.


Los Angeles Press Telegraph: Homecoming for Jackson

By Bob Keisser, Staff writer

DeSean Jackson needs tickets. Anyone have 20 on the 40?  Each Cal player is allotted only two ducats for Saturday's game versus UCLA, which is quite limiting for the former Long Beach Poly star who has enough friends, family and fans to fill a section of the Rose Bowl.  What's a poor college student supposed to do? Jackson has his own website through the university, is a bullet train on NFL radar, has been featured on the cover of several national magazines and has caused the biggest buzz in Berkeley since Governor Ronald Reagan ordered the national guard to retake People's Park.  And he can't get more than two in the end zone.  "I could probably use 30," Jackson said Wednesday between workout sessions. "That's just family, too.  "It's always fun to go back home and see my family. But I don't think of who we're playing as much as I did. It's an opportunity for us to meet our goals."

His best solution: Help the Bears win the Pac-10 title and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl game, which would certainly trump an October date against their UC cousins. He could have all the tickets he wants, and pleased Cal fans would be so grateful they would likely offer to build Jackson and family their own float for Rose Parade. Fans of Cal football have had Pasadena on their mind since the day DeSean Jackson's quick feet landed on the campus in Berkeley.  It's been almost a half-century since the Bears last played in the Rose Bowl (1959), the longest drought of any of the Pac-10's anchor teams, and 70 years since the Bears won one (1938). Even if Cal fans aren't foam-at-the-mouth types like those at USC, UCLA or Washington, they're without question wistful for the fragrance of roses.  As is Jackson. When the former Jackrabbit, a two-time All-CIF choice who led Poly to the 2004 CIF title, decided to attend Cal, getting the Bears to a Pac-10 title, Rose Bowl game or BCS title game became as personal a goal as that of any old Bear. He chose Cal ultimately because he didn't want to be just another Poly product taking the Harbor Freeway to USC.

He's now mentioned in the same breath as past Bear legends - quarterback Joe Kapp, who led the team to its last Rose Bowl; former St. Anthony star Johnny Olszewski, who was part of three straight Cal Rose Bowl teams; Jackie Jensen and Sam Chapman, who went on to become major league players; and standout modern-era names like Chuck Muncie, Steve Bartkowski, Russell White and Tony Gonzalez.  "I definitely realized there were people here hoping I could help this team (get to the Rose Bowl)," he said. "When you're in a situation like that, you know every game is important and it has to be part of your mentality.  "I always felt Cal was the best fit for me. Cal gave me the opportunity to play right and Coach (Jeff Tedford) is great at developing offensive players. It was best for me to get away from home and grow up on my own. I needed to gain some independence."  Cal offered different opportunities and challenges, and Jackson has met them thus far.  As a freshman, he caught 38 passes for 607 yards and seven touchdowns, and his only punt return went for 49 yards and a touchdown. In 2006, he had 59 catches for 1,060 yards and nine scores while averaging 18.2 yards on 25 punt returns with four touchdowns to lead the nation.

Those seasons made him a preseason All-American and Heisman candidate. Tedford, who was a quarterback at Cerritos College before launching his successful coaching career, says Jackson has exceeded his own expectations.  "I never really knew until last year how fast he is," Tedford said between seasons. "There are times when you see him catch a ball and split people ... he's playing at a different speed than everybody else. There are very few guys who have the instincts like DeSean of starting one way and being able to stop, reverse their field, and cause a mismatch."  Jackson's numbers in 2007 have been muted by defenses having decided someone else will beat them. Playing most of the season with a sore thumb, he has 32 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns, but has added 109 yards rushing and scored his sixth career punt return, a Pac-10 record.

Jackson had a fantastic game in the season opener against Tennessee (143 yards on six touches, including a 77-yard punt return) and the Oregon win (11 catches, 161 yards, two scores) that catapulted the Bears into the top five. But he was shut down by Oregon State last week (four catches for five yards) when Cal was forced to start freshman Kevin Riley at quarterback.  The clampdown has been frustrating. Opponents are either doubling Jackson at all times or playing an aggressive bump at the line, and kicking away. But that attention has opened the door for other Bears. Lavell Hawkins leads the team in receiving and running back Justin Forsett is thriving. Jackson may get the Bears to the Rose Bowl through his presence more than his yardage.

"I know what I'm capable if and I don't think defenses can stop me," Jackson - who credits the Poly coaches, his older brother Byron and former Long Beach State football players Derrick Davis and Irving Booker, for getting him to this point - said. "I don't have any control over how teams defend me and the coaches have to decide to do what works best for the team. But I'm very confident of what I can do regardless of what anyone does.  "Saturday was one of those games where I didn't get many opportunities. It's just something I have to deal with."  The Bears are dealing with last Saturday as good as can be expected. They briefly were a candidate to be ranked No. 1 for the first time since 1951 but, playing without starting quarterback Nate Longshore, were beaten by the Beavers. A win over UCLA will restart the dream, and the way ranked teams have been falling, they could find themselves back in the top five by Halloween.

"You want to go unbeaten, but if you don't, you can't be mad or upset about for it for too long," he said. "College football is like that now. There are a lot of teams that can beat you, and one loss doesn't end your hopes and dreams. You just have to be strong.  "We're all anxious to get back on the field. It's good that we have another opportunity to play and win and move forward again. You have to be strong."  And maybe know a good ticket broker.

Daily Cal: Battered Bears, Bruins in Key Pac-10 Clash

BY Steven Dunst

Los Angeles-native and starting cornerback Brandon Hampton said he always gets a little extra thrill when the No. 10 Cal football team travels to Southern California.

Unfortunately for him, that thrill has always quickly turned to dread.  Coach Jeff Tedford has never won in Los Angeles and suffered a particularly heart-breaking loss two years ago to UCLA, when Maurice Jones-Drew almost single-handedly defeated the undefeated Bears.  Hampton and the entire Cal team are eager for a chance to forget recent history and recover from a crippling loss last week when the Bears take on the Bruins Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Rose Bowl.  “It left a stale feeling in our mouths,” Hampton said while reminiscing about the 47-40 loss at the Rose Bowl two years ago. “We’re not going to let that happen again. It’s make-it-or-break-it right now.”  With the national college football landscape riddled with upsets this year, Cal (5-1, 2-1 in the Pac-10) still has an outside chance of reaching the BCS title game even after suffering a 31-28 upset loss to Oregon State last week.

“The feeling after that loss is going to linger the rest of the season,” left tackle Mike Gibson said. “I don’t want to feel that again. The sky’s the limit for us.”  Gibson will have another difficult task this week matching up against UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks.  The Bruins (4-2, 3-0) as a whole return 20 starters, but their strength lies in their defensive front seven. UCLA is only allowing 81.7 rushing yards per game.  “Bruce is very athletic, very fast,” Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. “He can cause a lot of problems. He’s a guy who can really come off the edge, can really take things down sideline to sideline.”  While UCLA knows it can rely on Davis to provide pressure, it is not as sure about who will start at quarterback.  Bruins coach Karl Dorrell said he expects Patrick Cowan to start behind center tomorrow, but a torn ligament in his knee has sidelined Cowan for the past three weeks.  If he is unable to go, McLeod Bethel-Thompson—who is not even on scholarship—will likely get the nod, even though he threw four interceptions in the Bruins’ ugly loss to then-winless Notre Dame.  “We have the same goals every game no matter who the quarterback is,” said Hampton, downplaying the importance of Dorrell’s game-time decision.  Cal faces uncertainty as well.

After spraining his ankle three weeks ago against Oregon, Nate Longshore has been taking snaps in practice, but Tedford said that his status for Saturday's match is a game-time decision.  Backup Kevin Riley performed admirably last week, throwing for nearly 300 yards, but the focus throughout the week has been on the last play, when he was tackled far short of the goal line and time expired before the Bears could kick a field goal.  “Nate has such leadership in the huddle, that confidence,” Gibson said. “That’s because he’s been in the system so long. But we all really believe in Kevin.”  Whoever is at quarterback will have numerous weapons to work with, including standout receivers Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson.  Jackson, however, has been unusually quiet on the receiving front for most of this season, with defenses scheming to limit his touches in the open field.

“It’s not a situation that for our offense to be effective, we have to put DeSean in this spot or that spot for us, because all those guys are very effective,” Tedford said. Like Tedford, Hampton is much more concerned with getting a win than with fretting about which receiver gets touches.  “We’re going to prove this week we’re a championship-caliber team,” Hampton said.

San Jose Mercury: Cal backup's education took a turn onto fast track

By Jonathan Okanes

It was not long ago - only a couple of months - when redshirt freshman Kevin Riley won the job as Cal's No. 2 quarterback. He beat out Kyle Reed, who then transferred to San Jose State, to become the heir apparent to junior Nate Longshore. The idea was for Riley to spend a couple of seasons developing into the starter, but that plan hit a slight snag when Longshore suffered a sprained ankle at Oregon on Sept. 29. Suddenly, Riley was thrust into the starting lineup for the No. 2 team in the nation. His teammates weren't worried. "From the minute I met him, I knew he was going to be a leader," said tight end Garry Graffort, a close friend of Riley's. "He was born to do this. He's got that composure. You can see when you look at somebody if they're able to do this. Kevin is going to be one of the great quarterbacks at Cal." Riley left an impression in his first career start Saturday against Oregon State, for better or worse. After a shaky beginning, he threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another, and he led the Bears on two impressive drives late in the fourth quarter as they attempted to erase a 10-point deficit.

The lingering memory always will be the final play, when Riley tried to run for a winning touchdown with no timeouts remaining rather than throw the ball away to stop the clock. He was tackled at the 10-yard line, and the Bears had no time to get their field-goal unit set up, leaving Cal stunned in a 31-28 loss.  But Riley was the primary reason the Bears were in position to tie the score. He threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Lavelle Hawkins with 2:31 remaining, then took over at his own 6-yard line with just 1:27 left and drove the Bears to the Oregon State 12 before the final play. "I love the way he competed on Saturday," quarterbacks coach Kevin Daft said. "I know a lot of people are going to remember that last play, but he played a great game as a redshirt freshman in his first start. I couldn't ask for anything more. He grew up a lot."

Riley may have begun the game tentatively, but by the end he was a presence in the huddle, and the Bears rallied behind him. "It was fun, a lot of fun," Riley said. "That's what football is about, being in tough situations and trying to make the best of it. You can either crumble or try and beat it. I think everybody on the team was having a good time. I was loving it out there, just playing ball again." Riley came to Cal as a prized recruit from Portland, Ore., but with no guarantee when he would see the field. Reed also was a top recruit, and this year the Bears added highly regarded freshman Brock Mansion to their stable of quarterbacks. "I knew there were good quarterbacks here, but being who I am, I thought I would be starting as a redshirt freshman," Riley said. "Going into any type of situation, I'm thinking I'm the best quarterback there, no matter what. I came in thinking I was going to play this year." Longshore will return to the lineup when healthy enough, perhaps as soon as Saturday against UCLA. Coach Jeff Tedford will make that determination just before kickoff. If Longshore isn't ready, Cal feels comfortable knowing Riley is ready to step in.

"He's a guy who other players want to follow," Daft said. "They respect him and they respect what he went through. I think he's a guy that a lot of players are going to look up to. You could always see signs that he was going to be a good quarterback. He finally got his chance last Saturday and played well."

• Cal center Alex Mack has been named one of the 12 semifinalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, given to the country's top lineman or defensive player lining up within 5 yards of the football.




SF Chronicle: Who will QB against UCLA?

Rusty Simmons

Cal coach Jeff Tedford said it best Tuesday. "Your guess is as good as mine," he said, responding to a question about who would be the starting quarterback Saturday at UCLA.

It's been tough this week to get a gauge on the sprained right ankle of starter Nate Longshore, who shared the first-team repetitions with backup Kevin Riley on Thursday. Just a day earlier, Longshore hobbled around the field and had trouble even trying to hand off the ball. Longshore "looked a lot better today," Tedford said Thursday. Longshore has maintained that his ankle is getting better every day, but his actions have been drastically different than his words. He was still a little gimpy Thursday, but his passes were much crisper than a day before, when he struggled to push off his right ankle and hung a couple of passes up for grabs. Riley went 20-for-34 for 294 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing) in losing his first start 31-28 to Oregon State on Saturday. He continues to gain confidence in practice, but he took more second-team snaps Thursday than he has in any practice since Longshore got injured Sept. 29. "I think Kevin took a lot out of his first game, probably more positives than negatives," Tedford said. "Sure, it was a learning experience, but he played his butt off and made some plays. He wants to start, not because he wants to prove something, but because he wants to compete."

Pass protection: A week after limiting Oregon State, the nation's top pass-rush unit, to two sacks, Cal's offensive line has another stiff test this week in UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis. Davis' 121/2 sacks in 2006 were tops in the nation among returners, and he has 61/2 this year.  "Bruce is very athletic and very fast," Tedford said. "He can cause a lot of problems. He's a guy who can really come off the edge, and he can chase things down from sideline to sideline." Davis regularly lines up on the weak side and will be matched up with left tackle Mike Gibson most often. Last season, Cal ran for 167 yards and allowed only one sack against UCLA. "I'm pretty familiar with him, and, trust me, he's watching film on me, too," Gibson said. "We pretty much know each other inside and out."

Receiver injuries: Robert Jordan and Cameron Morrah, who each have a sprained shoulder, practiced for the first time this week Thursday, and Tedford expects both to play Saturday. Jordan took most of the first-team repetitions before removing his shoulder pads midway through practice, and Morrah participated in all contact drills without a hitch.

If Jordan is limited, either LaReylle Cunningham or Sam DeSa would play in three-receiver sets. Leading-receiver Lavelle Hawkins can play both his usual slot spot and Jordan's split-end position. Cunningham, who caught five passes for 112 yards against Washington State in 2005, probably has better hands and plays mostly in the slot. DeSa is the faster option and usually lines up as a split end.  "All I need is an opportunity to do what I do," Cunningham said. "I catch everything. If you get the ball in my vicinity, I'll go get it.

"It takes a lot of mental toughness waiting for your time, but I know good things will come if I'm willing to wait."

Briefly: Center Alex Mack was selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top down linemen. ... Defensive back Brandon Hampton took reps at cornerback and safety as rover Marcus Ezeff is continuing to heal from a quadriceps strain. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said Ezeff will travel but probably won't play. ... Gregory said fifth-year senior defensive end John Allen has earned his first start. ... Defensive end Rulon Davis was in a helmet, doing agility drills on the sideline and running stairs, for the first time since injuring his foot in Week 3 against Louisiana Tech.


San Jose Mercury: Can Tedford Win in LA?

In five-and-a-half seasons at Cal, Jeff Tedford has rebuilt an atrocious program, won 70 percent of his games, made the Bears a top-10 team, won three bowl games, beaten USC, beaten UCLA, dominated Stanford, beaten Oregon at Oregon, beaten Tennessee on national TV and been named conference coach of the year twice. The two things he has not done are win the Pac-10 title and win a game in Southern California. And yes, one has everything to do with the other.  Tedford is 0-3 at USC and 0-2 at UCLA.  The games have been very close — four of the five decided by a touchdown or less — but time and again, the Bears have failed to make the plays that win games. Often, they have made the plays that lose games, especially on special teams. Those losses, especially to USC in 2004 and 2006, kept the Bears out of the Rose Bowl.

So here we are again, with the Bears making their annual trip to SoCal. They must win at UCLA to stay in the Rose Bowl race and the BCS title chase. And they probably aren’t going to win without major contributions from their SoCal kids, especially quarterback Nate Longshore and receiver DeSean Jackson. Both players were M.I.A. last year at USC.

Longshore was ineffective (17-of-38 for 176 yards and two INTs). Jackson had one catch in the second half, for five yards. If Longshore (sprained ankle) doesn’t play Saturday — and play well — and if Jackson doesn’t make the kind of big plays he made at Oregon, it’s tough to see the Bears winning. And if they come up short in L.A. (again), they aren’t going to the Rose Bowl (again).


Orange County Register: Bruins plan to keep ball away from Cal's Jackson

UCLA has to determine the best way to deal with DeSean Jackson when punting the football to Cal on Saturday, and playing keep away with the Golden Bears' superb return man has been the best option for other teams.   Jackson has had a chance to return just eight punts — Cal opponents have punted 32 times — since taking his first this season 77 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee.  "We need to know where he is. We need to sometimes place the ball not exactly where he is and make him work for it," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "And we need to cover. We need to cover really well. He's a very good player and we need to do our jobs in our coverage teams and make him work real good for it. "We're going to try to do a number of things to help him not get in rhythm. We're going to pay attention to his strengths and make sure we try to neutralize those strengths." UCLA punter Aaron Perez has been working this week on directional kicking, directing the ball to specific areas of the field. Cal's opponents have had some success keeping Jackson on the move under the football. Since that return against Tennessee, he has averaged just 3.75 yards on the punts he has been able to get to and return.

Perez has had a solid season, averaging 42.9 yards on 34 kicks. But hang time has been an issue occasionally. The Bruins have had to cover 16 punt returns, the third-highest total in the Pac-10.  Before the season, Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he would find a way to keep the ball away from Jackson if he were on the other sideline.  "If we were playing against DeSean, we would probably try to keep the ball away from him somehow," Tedford told the San Francisco Chronicle. '"When we play great punt returners, we do that, and I would say that he's in the category of being a great punt returner." Tedford apparently has a short memory. The last time Cal played at the Rose Bowl, it had the Bruins down, 14-0, in the first quarter when Maurice Drew returned a punt 69 yards to set up a touchdown. Cal was up, 27-21, in the third quarter when Drew took another punt back 81 yards for a touchdown that gave the Bruins a lead. Drew also would fit in the category of being a great punt returner. He led the nation that season, averaging 28.5 yards on 15 returns and scoring three touchdowns.


The game against the Golden Bears is a sellout. It will be the Bruins' fourth consecutive crowd in excess of 70,000, the first time that has happened in one season since they started playing at the Rose Bowl in 1982. …  The Bruins have beaten the past three ranked opponents to come into the Rose Bowl — No. 2 USC last season, No. 10 Cal and No. 21 Oklahoma in 2005. …  Running back Chris Markey was able to get into practice for a few plays, but his status for Cal remains a question because of a bad case of turf toe. Christian Ramirez, though, is making progress in a back up role. "It looks like he's more confident in knowing what he's doing," Coach Karl Dorrell said. "He's doing a great job in protections, understands our run system better and he's going to get a chance to play." … Kahlil Bell, who was limited against Notre Dame because of a shoulder injury, will start and said he is ready to carry more of the load.…  Micah Reed, who was awarded a scholarship just before the season started, will start against the Golden Bears at right guard ahead of senior Noah Sutherland.


SF Chronicle: Ho-Hum About Homecoming: 'Just another football game' for Bears CB Conte

For the first time since he shunned UCLA on National Signing Day, Cal freshman cornerback Chris Conte will face the Bruins on Saturday, and he's trying to downplay the significance of the meeting.  "It's just another football game and an opportunity to go out and get another win," Conte said. "It will be cool to be playing in front of all my friends and family, but I'm not worried about anything involved with UCLA. It's not like I want to prove something to UCLA."  That's the right public answer, but probably not the true personal thought. Conte, who was a highly coveted defensive back at Loyola High-Los Angeles, switched his verbal commitment from Cal to UCLA about two weeks before signing day. Even Cal coach Jeff Tedford said he was surprised when Conte's letter of intent was faxed to Berkeley on decision day.  "I don't think anyone really knew," Conte said. "I think the decision came down to really deciding what's best for me and not thinking about the fantasy of playing for UCLA. All the things that fit me best were at Cal."

Conte had been raised as a Bruins fan because both of his parents had ties to UCLA. He said his family went to nearly every UCLA basketball game, a handful of football games and even some football practices. "They've converted," Conte said.

Schneider out: Tedford announced Tuesday that senior kicker Tom Schneider is out for the season with a torn quadriceps muscle, meaning he'll probably finish his career 32 points shy of becoming the school's all-time scorer.  "The family is contemplating surgery and getting different opinions as to what is best for him," Tedford said. "We will petition for another year, but that's never a slam dunk." The NCAA usually offers a sixth year of eligibility only to players who used their first redshirt year because of an injury. Schneider was not injured during his 2003 redshirt season.

Rankings reap recruits: Tedford said he had gotten positive responses from recruits since the Bears' 31-24 win over then-No. 11 Oregon on Sept. 29, and the benefits started showing last weekend.  Marvin Jones, a four-star receiver from Etiwanda High (San Bernardino County), and three-star linebacker Mychal Hendricks, from Hoover High-Fresno, both verbally committed to Cal on Sunday, bringing the class to 11 players. Jones is the fourth four-star recruit in the group, and the class includes four out-of-staters.  "Recruiting-wise, we're going to put our resources where the interest lies," Tedford said. "We're not going to blanket-recruit in other regions. We're going to evaluate the Western states, like we always do, and we'll individualize and recruit outside of the area where there's mutual interest between the player and our program."  Second thoughts on second-guessing: Tedford has stood behind his decision to go for one more play instead of kicking a potentially game-tying field with 14 seconds left in Cal's 31-28 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. Even after being inundated with e-mails and calls, questioning the decision, Tedford isn't wavering. "Everyone has opinions," he said. "That's the nature of sports. People can always second-guess things. I'm sure that's not the only play they second- guessed. I'm sure on nearly every play, someone in the stands thinks that you should run or throw or do the other thing.

" 'What are you thinking? Why are you running the ball up the middle? You shouldn't run the ball up the middle. You got tackled. Why didn't you run the ball outside? You should have thrown it. See, that guy's open over there?' "That's the way it goes. I'm not being naive about the weight the last play carried, but as I work here for 18 hours a day and watch tape and prepare, I make an educated decision and believe that was the right play at the time."

Briefly: Defensive end Rulon Davis (foot) is out this week, and Tedford said he'll probably miss at least one more week. ... Linebacker Zack Follett (neck) and safety Marcus Ezeff (quadriceps) are expected to play, Tedford said. ... Told that ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. moved him from a potential fifth-round pick to the second round, receiver Lavelle Hawkins said, "There are no congratulations. We need a win."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Los Angeles Times: Loss lingers, but Cal tries to focus on UCLA

Here is the link.

Bears lost another golden opportunity by falling to Oregon State.

By Thomas Bonk,

BERKELEY -- They were ranked No. 2, already knew top-ranked Louisiana State had lost, giving them a clear shot at the No. 1 ranking for the first time since 1951, and they were playing at home against vast underdog Oregon State . . . but they wound up losing on the last play of the game.  So when the California Bears started practicing again Tuesday, they still seemed to have a lot on their minds.   There's nothing like a 31-28 defeat in front of 63,995 disbelieving fans to turn your stomach, Cal wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins said.  "It really hit hard, I didn't watch any ESPN, no college football shows, didn't listen to reports on the radio, there was just so much negativity," Hawkins said.

In fact, he did the unthinkable, at least for a college student:  "I actually turned my cellphone off."

That three-point loss was clearly a wrong number for the Bears, who have made a habit of being disconnected at the wrong time in the ritual chase for Bowl Championship Series gold and glory. 

2006: Ranked No. 8 the week before playing fourth-ranked USC, Cal leads Arizona, 17-3, but loses, 24-20, thereby fumbling its chance to stay in the BCS title hunt.

2004: Ranked seventh and playing No. 1 USC, Cal misses four tries at the end zone in the last minutes and loses, 23-17, ultimately costing the Bears a visit to the Rose Bowl.

Now, there's another set of circumstances, but they begin with the unavoidable reality that nothing good is going to happen unless the Bears -- now No. 10 in the Associated Press poll and No. 12 in the BCS standings -- knock off UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.  But even before that, the Bears must scrub the Oregon State loss from their minds, and that may not be so simple, at least right away. "It still hurts my stomach a little bit," Hawkins said. "But I'm not fixing to cry about it."  Neither is Cal Coach Jeff Tedford, who has been roundly second-guessed, along with redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Riley, for the play that ended the Oregon State game. Riley, who stepped in for injured starter Nate Longshore, took off from the Beavers' 12-yard line with 14 seconds to play and was tackled at the 10 with no timeouts left. He did not throw the ball away, did not spike it, did not run out of bounds, but was stopped well short of the end zone. Tedford slammed his headset to the ground after the play. He apologized Tuesday for being too emotional, but also said he's not angry and it wasn't Riley's fault.  "It just didn't work out," Tedford said. For it to work out the rest of the way for the Bears, it's all about running the table the remainder of the season -- at UCLA, at Arizona State, at home against Washington State and USC, then at Washington and Stanford.

Of course, nothing's for certain, except. . . "The only thing for sure now is we're not undefeated," Tedford said. "It's week to week and we need to bounce back." A return to the field by Longshore would be a good place to begin, but Tedford said he might not make a quarterback choice until Saturday. Longshore is still recovering from a sprained right ankle he sustained during the Oregon game on Sept. 29.  Tedford said he was ready to focus on UCLA, but admitted he struggled with the after-effects of the Oregon State defeat, same as his players. "Any loss is very difficult to get out of my system," the coach said. "It just hangs with you, although it really helps to get on to the next opponent [but] I take those [losses] very hard." And, yes, he's thought about it, "All hours of the day and night, middle of the night, things like that." Offensive lineman Mike Gibson says the defeat is going to linger, but that the Bears can still make it into the BCS big-time if they win the rest of their games. "We're a great team," Gibson said. "I look at our schedule from here on out and I don't see a team better than us." Cornerback Brandon Hampton was a little more philosophical.

"I looked at the schedule before the season started and I didn't see a team better than us," he said. "But that doesn't hold much weight on Saturdays." Hampton said UCLA should know what to expect: "We are really going to be trying to put those guys away in the first five minutes of the game." If so, then it really is all about timing. Last week for the Bears, it was the last 14 seconds that gave them the most trouble.

San Jose Mercury News: Cal's Tedford stands by his call

Here is the link.

By Jon Wilner

In a remarkably candid press conference, Cal Coach Jeff Tedford on Tuesday stuck by his decision to go for a touchdown with 14 seconds left against Oregon State instead of kicking a field goal that would have forced overtime.  When freshman quarterback Kevin Riley was tackled on the play, the Bears, who were out of timeouts, watched helplessly as time expired.  The 31-28 loss prevented Cal from climbing to No. 1 in the polls and derailed its drives for the national and conference championships.  "I don't regret going for it," Tedford said. "There are a lot of opinions on that." Tedford also said quarterback Nate Longshore, who didn't play against OSU because of a sprained ankle, is questionable for Saturday's must-win game at UCLA.

The Bruins have one of the best defenses in the Pac-10.  "He's improving every day," Tedford said. "We'll see how he comes along. Your guess is as good as mine." There was no such uncertainty in Tedford's voice as he explained the decision to let Riley take a shot into the end zone from the 12-yard line.  But the one thing Cal could not afford is exactly what happened: Riley was flushed from the pocket and tackled at the 10, leaving the Bears with no means of stopping the clock and not enough time for a field goal.

"I'd be foolish to say I haven't debated whether it was right or wrong," Tedford said. "Yes, I've debated that, and I've come up with the answer that we would do the same thing


Tedford was comfortable with the play he called: a pass into the end zone that did not put any extra pressure on Riley - did not require him to make a difficult read or last-second adjustment.  It had only two resolutions, in Tedford's mind: touchdown or incompletion. Either the Bears win, or the clock stops and they kick the field goal and head to overtime.  "We had a great play that was matched up to what they were doing," he said. And it was nothing Riley couldn't handle, Tedford added. "Most of the skepticism is probably when you have a young quarterback and that should make the difference, but I felt the young quarterback handled the last two drives as well as anybody could have handled those last two drives," He said. "I'm not being naive, either, about the weight the last play carried. I know it was not your average first-down run up the middle.

"I understand that people can be skeptical about what went on there. As I work here for 18 hours a day, and watch tape and prepare, that has to be something that's an educated decision on our part. "No one (outside the team) really understands everything that goes into that. (The coaches and players) have to know what defense, they have to know what coverage you're facing, they have to know all that type of stuff, and I felt like we had the right thing going for that time. It didn't work out, unfortunately."

Actually, Tedford did have one regret: That he was unable to review the options with Riley before the final play.  "If I had to second-guess anything, I wish I could have gotten to him and said, 'Hey, do this or do that,' " Tedford said. "But there were a lot of things happening."

• Tedford said kicker Tom Schneider will miss the entire season because of a torn quad muscle suffered in warmups before the season opener. The Bears will petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for Schneider.

• Defensive end Rulon Davis (foot) probably won't play this week.