Saturday, September 27, 2008
California's 42-7 win over Colorado State wasn't nearly as good for
the Bears offense as it sounds. First, Cal only gained 348 total
yards, a good but hardly spectacular total. QB Kevin Riley only
completed six of 13 throws for 59 yards and he's still not in sync
with his receivers.
But the worst part is that running back Jahvid Best left the game with
a dislocated left elbow early in the third quarter. Coach Jeff Tedford
said that Best will have an MRI on Sunday, but there were no broken
bones. Best, who entered the game leading the Pac-10 with 112 yards
rushing per game, had 85 yards on 11 carries when he was hurt.
By Jake Curtis
Cal's seemingly routine 42-7 victory over Colorado State on Saturday left Jeff Tedford questioning two arms and a leg - the right arm of his quarterback Kevin Riley, the left arm of running back Jahvid Best and the leg of his kicker. He has no answers at the moment, but he might have replacements for all three for next week's game against Arizona State. Best's problem is a dislocated left elbow he sustained while trying to brace himself for a fall in the third period with Cal (3-1) comfortably ahead. "The good thing is there's no break, which is as positive as a dislocated elbow can be I guess," Tedford said. Best will undergo an MRI exam today to determine the extent of the damage. Tedford was unwilling to make a guess, but the ugly twist of Best's elbow on the play makes it hard to imagine that he will be ready for next week's game.
Riley's right arm is fine, but he had trouble locating his receivers with it. He was so ineffective - 6-for-13 for 59 yards - that he was replaced by Nate Longshore in the third quarter, and Tedford said he is not sure who will be the starter Saturday. "We'll see," he said. "We weren't sharp in the passing game." Longshore played when the game was out of reach, making it difficult to gauge his performance, but his numbers - 9-for-13, 100 yards, two touchdown passes - were better than Riley's. He and Riley apparently will compete for the starting spot during the week.
"If a guy did not play well, you have to look at adjustments," Tedford said. Then there's kicker David Seawright, who had his only field-goal attempt blocked and kickoffs that were short and off target. Tedford said he was "very" concerned about his kickoff efforts. "We may put it out on campus to see if we have any soccer players who can kick," Tedford said. All that clouded an otherwise solid performance. The Bears' special teams produced plays that changed the complexion of the game. The defense throttled Colorado State (2-2), barely missing its first shutout in three years. And Cal is on its way to erasing notions that it would collapse after a disappointing loss, as it did a year ago. Then, with the Bears cruising along with a 28-0 lead in the third quarter, Best tried to brace himself with his left arm as he hit the ground. His left elbow twisted in a manner that elbows are not designed to twist, and the Bears' leading rusher left the game with an injury that did not look good.
Now the Bears head into the meat of their Pac-10 schedule with questions at running back and quarterback, but knowing the conference's runner-up spot is very much up for grabs. Maybe even the title is within reach after USC's upset loss to Oregon State. Cal had to consider itself lucky to take a 21-0 lead at halftime, gaining just 146 yards of offense and turning the ball over twice. Mychal Kendricks facilitated the first score, breaking through to block an Anthony Hartz punt. The ball bounded backward, and Bryant Nnabuife snatched the bouncing ball in stride and ran the final 30 yards to make it 7-0 with 4:54 left in the first quarter.
"That was a game-changing play right there," cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson said. Forty-eight seconds later the Bears scored again. This time defensive end Keith Browner deflected a Bill Farris pass at the line, and Brett Johnson intercepted. No Rams player was near Johnson, who scampered 43 yards for the touchdown to make it 14-0. The defense made that more than enough, sacking Colorado State quarterbacks four times and keeping the Rams from scoring until late in the fourth quarter. "We seemed real fast today," Thompson said. The Bears offense put together a scoring drive late in the first half, although it was aided by a questionable interference call that gave the Bears a first down at the Rams' 11-yard line. The Bears ended any doubt early when Thompson returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown, spinning out of tackles and using most of the field to produce the score that made it 28-0. Longshore came in for Riley at that point, creating a bit of a quarterback competition for next week.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
By Ted Miller
California running back Jahvid Best said one word to describe the Bears as they prepare for a visit from Colorado State is "hungry." That's good because Best and Cal's last performance at Maryland wasn't terribly appetizing. The then-23rd-ranked Bears threw up on themselves figuratively in that 35-27 defeat, while Best did so literally, becoming a YouTube phenomenon after a devastating hit from cornerback Kevin Barnes had him leaving a technicolor pizza on the Terrapins' Byrd Stadium turf. For a human highlight reel player like Best, who's produce a pair of 80-plus yard TD runs this year, it's fair to say that's not his favorite viral video. "I've heard a lot of about it," he said. "Hopefully I'll be able to have another highlight and put that thing in the past." Another thing the Bears want to leave in the past: Talking about last year's second-half implosion. Yet it's impossible to avoid this week after the upset defeat to an inferior team.
Cal was unable to rebound after a couple of disappointing losses last year and dropped six of its final seven regular-season games. There was talk of locker room dissention, and when the disappointing season ended coach Jeff Tedford dropped his play-calling duties in order to be more involved with the overall management of the team. So, after dropping out of the rankings, will the Bears duplicate last year's flop or will they refocus and return to the Pac-10 and national picture?
"It's totally different from last year," Tedford said. "We were 5-0 and No. 2 in the country [in 2007]. This year it's not that way. A totally different situation. That being said, I think the leadership and chemistry is a little bit different than last year. I have been pleased with how they have responded at least through the week of practice last week." Tedford made sure things held together during the bye week by increasing the intensity of practices. Live contact tends to prevent complacency because the complacent often end up seeing stars on their rear ends. "It was a lot more physical," LB Anthony Felder said. "We went live a couple of times, we had tackling drills, etc. I think the emphasis from the coaches was on physicality -- we needed to get into a physical mentality." Another obvious angle is the Mountain West Conference's 5-0 record thus far vs. the Pac-10. While reporters found the shocking record interesting and worthy of discussion, conference pride didn't seem to be high on Tedford's list of concerns. "We have enough to worry about taking care of our stuff," he said. "I don't think we need to worry about trying to carry the torch for the conference."
Best, however, was more than willing to wave the Pac-10 flag. "We definitely feel like we're representing the Pac-10 as well as ourselves," he said.
By Jim Benton
To heck with winning one for the Gipper. The California Golden Bears will be trying to win one for the Pacific-10 Conference on Saturday when they play host to Colorado State of the Mountain West. Mountain West teams are 5-0 this season against the Pacific-10, but California coach Jeff Tedford refused this week to get caught up in a blitz of questions about the Pac-10 vs. MWC. "It's (Saturday's game), not so much for the conference as it is ourselves," Tedford said. "We have to get back on track. We lost a tough one at Maryland. So we are focused on what we need to get done." He was referring to a 35-27 loss Sept. 13 that knocked the then-No. 23 Golden Bears out of the national rankings.
"It's mainly about how we play (against CSU)," Tedford said. "We go into every game not so concerned about who the opponent is as if we can play to our potential. So it's not so much about the Mountain West or whoever we play, it's more about that we have to take care of our business, and that's how we try to motivate ourselves. I don't think that we need to say that we're trying to carry the torch of anything." He almost took the words out of Steve Fairchild's mouth.
The CSU coach also is downplaying the matchup of conferences, probably with good reason because the Rams are 7-17 overall against the Pac-10. Six of CSU's wins have come on the road; the Rams have played Pac-10 teams at home only three times. "I'm glad for the Mountain West teams that have had success against the Pac-10," Fairchild said. "But we're Colorado State, they are Cal, and this is a separate game. It will take a great effort on the road on our part to be in this game."
Worrell Williams, California's starting outside linebacker, is the younger brother of Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams. Worrell Williams, a 250-pound senior, is the Bears' second-leading tackler, with 17, including two for losses. For the record, D.J. went to the University of Miami. The brothers grew up in Sacramento, Calif.
By Rusty Simmons
Sophomore tailback Jahvid Best said he's still getting grief about vomiting on national television after taking a big hit in the Sept. 13 loss to Maryland. On the play, Best was lined up in the slot, backed up two steps at the snap, and was crushed by Maryland cornerback Kevin Barnes as he reached for the quick screen. "I've heard a lot about it, and I know I've got to take it," Best said. "I know they're going to play it and it's going to get publicity, but it's all right. Hopefully, I'll be able to make a different highlight this week and put that thing in the past." Best, whose sternum was bruised, crawled toward the sideline before lying down on his back. After a couple of minutes, Cal's medical staff rolled Best on to his side, and he vomited a neon green liquid. The video found its way to YouTube before the game's conclusion. The most popular four versions of the video have been viewed by more than 200,000 users, but one question had gone unasked until Wednesday's teleconference.
ESPN's Ted Miller said, "I've got to ask. What did you have for breakfast?" For the record, Best says it was a mix of blue Gatorade and yellow Cytomax. Colorado connections: Cal left guard Chris Guarnero has missed the last two practices with a sprained toe, but he promises he'll be ready for Saturday's game against Colorado State. He gives the impression that he'd tough it out for any opponent, but this week means a little more. "Any time you play a hometown team, there's something pretty special about it," said Guarnero, who grew up in Arvada, Colo., about 45 minutes south of the Fort Collins campus. "I was a bigger fan of Colorado, but growing up that close, I heard a lot of news about Colorado State, too."
Guarnero, a sophomore who backed up center Alex Mack last season, forced his way into the lineup by moving to guard during training camp. He received a game ball after making the key block on Best's game-opening, 80-yard run against Washington State on Sept. 6. "I'm not really into individual things," Guarnero said. "The win was a great win and to get a game ball was a nice personal award that means a lot, especially early in my career." Coach Jeff Tedford said he doesn't expect Guarnero to practice this week, but Guarnero should be available Saturday. In his absence, Mark Boskovich has practiced with the first team.
Briefly: Tedford said safety Bernard Hicks' thigh bruise, which has kept him out of practice, shouldn't cause him to miss the game. ... Defensive end Cody Jones (ankle) is trying to rehab instead of having surgery that would sideline him through spring practices, according to Tedford. ... In an attempt to prove his health, defensive end Rulon Davis made a point to jump in the view of Tedford during Tedford's post-practice media address. Davis didn't start against Maryland because of a leg injury.
By Jack Ross
Corner Continues to Improve as He Prepares to Face Old Demons
Most who watched last year's game against Colorado State would have a hard time believing that then back-up cornerback Darian Hagan would be a starter only 12 months later. Hagan got beat for touchdowns late in the second half in the 34-28 win in Fort Collins, Colo., and carried some of the burden for keeping the game closer than expected. But a year later, Hagan has propelled himself to the top of the depth chart and settled into his role as a starting corner after beating out Chris Conte for the job late in fall camp. On Saturday, he gets an ample chance to erase that sour memory. One major turning point in Hagan's ascent may have been his own recognition of a need to work harder-evidenced by a phone call he placed to veteran linebacker Worrell Williams this past summer. "One time (Hagan) called me up out of the blue and said, 'Worrell, I need you to stay on me,'" Williams said. "That was it right there. Having the sense of urgency and awareness to know that I need to be on top of my things, so let me reach out to one of my teammates and make sure that he stays on top of me." Hagan himself pointed to the leadership secondary mates Syd'Quan Thompson and Bernard Hicks as legitimate factors towards his improvement. Not to mention Williams, who has been there every step of the way. "(Worrell) is a great leader," Hagan said. "When I'm doing wrong, he's there like a father figure to put his foot up my butt. If I'm down, I can look forward to him to pick me up and get it going." Coach Jeff Tedford cited Hagan's run defense as one area of improvement. Still, his overall talent shines through-a talent which is now complemented by sincere dedication.
"The talent's always been there, the skills have always been there," Williams said. "But he's really matured as a player. He understands the responsibilities and is accountable. It's a set-in concept for him. Now he takes it personally and is getting the job done."
Big Plays Could Play Big Role
It may not quite be an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, but the collision of the Cal offense and Colorado State defense does put forth an interesting parallel. The Bears' offense is about making big plays, particularly on the ground, as running backs Shane Vereen and Jahvid Best have combined for three runs spanning 80 or more yards. Meanwhile, the Rams' defensive side is about curbing big plays. In their opening three games, no opponent has turned in a play longer than 40 yards. "They keep everything in front of them," Tedford said. "I think they are doing a good job of eliminating the big play. They are putting themselves in the position to make plays."
Bye Week Draws Mixed Reaction
Having a bye after a loss was met with mixed feelings from the Cal players. Some didn't mind having an extra week to prepare after losing at Maryland. Senior wide receiver LaReyelle Cunningham was not one of them. "After a loss, I'd rather get back out there and play," Cunningham said. "I don't like losing and it's a bad feeling to go into a bye week with a loss, so we're all ready to get back out there." At the very least, though, the extra week of preparation led to a more lively and spirited practice at Memorial Stadium. That was immediately on display last Tuesday, when in the first practice after the loss, linebacker Worrell Williams set a serious tone by steamrolling reserve running back Peter Geurts in the backfield. "It was a lot more physical," senior Anthony Felder said of the recent practices. "We went live a couple of times, we had tackling drills ... I think the emphasis from the coaches was on physicality. We needed to get into a physical mentality."
By Mike Brohard
Jahvid Best is fast. Really fast, and Ivory Herd has seen it up close and personal. The Colorado State defensive back who leads the team in special teams tackles watched Best — Cal’s explosive running back and return man — win a state title in the 100 meters in a blazing 10.31 seconds. With that, Herd was glad he was a hurdler. With that type of speed at hand, coaches like to use it, and Best will see the ball a lot this weekend. “If he’s touching the ball in space — which is going to happen both on offense and in the kicking game — the guy’s a dangerous player,” CSU coach Steve Fairchild said. “There’s no question about it. It’s a lot like when we played CU, we’re going to be tested athletically in space this game. We’ll see where we’re at.” As Herd noted, the Rams need to see where Best is at all times in the kicking game, as he enters the contest averaging 234.7 all-purpose yards a game, 29.8 per kickoff return with a long of 54. That doesn’t present any special tactics this week for Colorado State, however. “I don’t think so. We know he’s a great athlete, we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, our assignments,” Herd said. “It’s basically back to assignments. The first week, our assignments were a little messed up. After that, each week has been getting better. Our coaches are pleased with us, so we just have to keep improving.” Colorado State has given up some returns, including a 93 yard score by Colorado’s Josh Smith. Special teams coach Larry Lewis said he’s seen improvement, but admitted Best does make one think. He feels a key is to keep Best wondering what exactly is coming.
“I look at that every week,” Lewis said. “I think the more you keep a return team off balance, the better off you’re going to be. Now, saying that, you also can’t screw your kids up. It has to be kind of within your scheme. With this guy, you might want to kick it into the bleachers.” That’s choice No. 1. Jason Smith may be the best option to get that done, but Lewis basically said he’d have to run off the field to protect his healing broken right arm, so it’s not much of an option. Freshman Ben DeLine has kicked off 14 times this year — all in the state of Colorado — and has registered just four touchbacks. Cal has traditionally been strong in the return game with Pete Alamar running the units, and head coach Jeff Tedford says credit goes to him and the players involved. Best — who Tedford said is completely healthy after a rib injury — has taken over in kick returns what DeSean Jackson did for punt returns last year. It all comes with work, Tedford said.
“I don’t think you ever fall into a comfort zone like that. You want to expect you’re going to do good things, but I don’t think it’s something you just roll it out there and say this is going to happen,” Tedford said. “You have to pay attention to details, people have to play hard, people have to be in position to make good decisions. In special teams, decision making is huge and critical as far as not blocking people in the back and so on and so forth. So it’s not something you take for granted; it’s something we really need to work hard on.” Something the Rams feel they need to work equally hard to stop. “I believe that if we do things right, use the proper techniques, anything can happen,” Herd said.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Coach Jeff Tedford had the same message as last year after the Bears lost their first game of the season. "The only thing we can't do now is go undefeated," Tedford said after the Bears' 35-27 loss at Maryland. The major difference this season is nobody actually thought they could. When the Bears suffered their initial loss last season, they had emerged as a possible national-title contender. Cal was 5-0 and No. 2 in the country before falling to Oregon State. Expectations weren't nearly as high heading into this season, so when the Bears lost to the Terps on Sept. 13, there wasn't quite the letdown as last year. That has allowed the Bears to cope with their first loss much better than last year. Cal fell hard and fast after losing to Oregon State in 2007, winning only one more game during the regular season and falling out of the national picture before finishing 7-6. The Bears say they've learned from last year's setbacks, and a new brand of on-field leadership has emerged that has allowed them to handle their first dose of adversity. "It's a totally different situation," Tedford said. "But that being said, I think the leadership and the chemistry is a little different than last year. I've been pleased with how they've responded."
Just minutes after the loss to Maryland, Cal linebackers Zack Follett and Worrell Williams stressed this year's team was better equipped to respond to a loss than last year's. After a bye week, the Bears are preparing to host Colorado State on Saturday and seem confident the Maryland game is a thing of the past. "I think we're good," Williams said. "Guys don't seem down at all. Enthusiasm doesn't seem down. Camaraderie is still there. I think we're going to bounce back in a strong way." This time around, the Bears had to contend with a bye week after their first loss. Some players said they would have preferred to play again right away, but the coaching staff handled it by putting the team through a much more demanding bye week of practice than usual. Cal wore pads all week, and the offense competed against the defense each day. "It was a physical bye week," quarterback Kevin Riley said. "We couldn't go into a bye week after losing and just take it easy. Everyone's goal last week was to get better, and I think we did." Linebacker Anthony Felder said one of the primary reasons the Bears had a more intense bye week than usual was to improve on their physicality, something he said was missing against Maryland. "When we got in Tuesday for practice, they changed the schedule around to full pads," Felder said. "Everyone knew then what was coming up. I don't think we played as physical as we should have in Maryland. That's what the emphasis was in the bye week, to make sure we have a physical mentality going into next week."
By Rusty Simmons
As Cal prepares for a bounce-back game against Colorado State on Saturday, it has an extra burden on its shoulders. The Pac-10 is 0-5 against the Mountain West Conference, having been outscored 177-89. "We have enough to worry about in taking care of our stuff," coach Jeff Tedford said. "I don't think we need to worry about trying to carry the torch for the conference." Arizona State lost at home 23-20 in overtime to heavy underdog UNLV on Sept. 13, the same day three other Pac-10 teams fell to squads from the non-BCS conference: Arizona lost 36-28 at New Mexico, Stanford lost 31-14 at TCU and UCLA got pounded 59-0 at BYU. The prior Saturday, BYU beat Washington 28-27 in Seattle. "Damn, I didn't know that," senior right guard Noris Malele said. "First and foremost, it's about us and our program, but anytime you play out of conference, it's great to represent the Pac-10." Other than the nation's No. 1 team, USC, the Pac-10 has become the pundits' whipping boy. Oregon lost at home to non-BCS Boise State, Washington State's only win came against FBS team Portland State and Cal lost to a Maryland team that struggled with Delaware and lost to Middle Tennessee State.
"It sucks, but the Pac-10 is going to be competitive no matter what," sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley said. "Teams are going to bounce back and step up for league play."
Briefly: Tailback Jahvid Best (chest) took part in full drills for the first time since being injured Sept. 13 at Maryland and was deemed healthy by Tedford. ... Tailback Shane Vereen (ankle) continued to progress, making cuts but not participating in contact drills. ... Receiver Marvin Jones (knee) has been ruled out for Saturday's game.
By Rusty Simmons
Sophomore Darian Hagan stands near midfield, dancing from his right cornerback spot and imploring the fans to get louder. Never mind that it's a midweek practice and the crowd noise is piped in through speakers. Hagan is all about swagger.
"Confidence is the biggest thing for Darian and probably any corner," senior inside linebacker Anthony Felder said. "They're out there on an island, and, regardless of their talent, if they're not confident, they're going to have problems. ... Every play and every game, he's getting more confidence in himself." Hagan, a 6-foot, 181-pounder, is proving to be a capable first-time starter with 12 tackles, including 10 solos, and a penchant for pass coverage. He's often targeted by opponents because he plays opposite shutdown corner Syd'Quan Thompson, and he expects it again Saturday from a Colorado State team that offers a deep-threat offense. "I can't wait," Hagan said. "They'll try to attack me, because of what happened last year, and that's what I hope for." With Cal leading 34-14 at Colorado State last season, Hagan was a late replacement. He got burned for two big passes, including a 66-yard touchdown play. He was pulled and didn't play any snaps at corner in the final 11 games. "I've got redemption on my mind," Hagan said.
"For a young guy at that position, that's a difficult thing to come back from, but he's starting to realize that he can play with these guys," Felder said. About once a week for the rest of last season, Hagan would miss an assignment in practice or feign hustle, and defensive coordinator Bob Gregory would shout, "That's why you can't get on the field, Darian." The consistent refrain from Gregory this season has been, "Darian is playing the best football he has since he's been here."
Senior inside linebacker Worrell Williams saw the light come on for Hagan over the summer. "He called me out of the blue and told me to stay on him," Williams said. "That was it. He had found that sense of urgency and the awareness to get on top of his stuff." That's not always an easy thing for someone who dominates in high school without ever knowing what it is to push himself. Hagan was an All-America selection at Crenshaw High-Los Angeles, ending his career with a state-record 25 interceptions and averaging 21 yards on 30 catches just for good measure. He redshirted in 2006, sitting behind Daymeion Hughes and Thompson. Last year, he was the odds-on favorite to win the job opposite of Thompson, but miniature Brandon Hampton and true freshman Chris Conte pushed past him.
"That was hard, but I know I was just hurting myself by not putting in the effort that I needed," Hagan said. "It was a learning experience and a situation I had to overcome." Lesson learned. Hagan asserted himself as a starter this training camp and hasn't disappointed, nearly intercepting a handful of passes and three recording pass break-ups in the opener against Michigan State. As a measuring stick, Hughes had 11 pass break-ups in 2006, the year he won the Ronnie Lott Trophy. Hagan undoubtedly will have chances to add to his statistics against Colorado State, which averages 261.3 passing yards a game and has a propensity to run deep patterns. First-year coach Steve Fairchild brings a little bit of the St. Louis Rams' deep-threat offense from his seasons (2003-05) as their offensive coordinator. In receivers Rashaun Greer and Dion Morton and tight end Kory Sperry, Fairchild has the talent to make it work. They offer the speed to run deep digs and comebacks and the hands to make plays when the ball is delivered down field. "They really stretch the defense very well," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "I think our secondary has done a pretty fair job, and I'm anxious to see how we match up with routes that are farther down the field." If Hagan is still waving to the crowd after Saturday, chances are he held up pretty well.
Injuries have forced UCLA, Oregon and Washington State to plumb the depths of their depth charts. Stanford and Washington have struggled through the air while California Coach Jeff Tedford calls his starter, Kevin Riley, "a work in progress."
One for the Gipper
Coming off an upset loss to Maryland, Cal plays Colorado State on Saturday. It's a chance for the Pac-10 to gain revenge after losing to five Mountain West opponents earlier this month. Tedford couldn't care less about revenge.
"It's not so much for the conference as it is for ourselves," he said. "We've got enough concerns of our own."
Intricate Colorado State Passing Game Has Williams Gunning for Quarterback
By Andrew Kim
During the Cal football team's 35-27 loss to Maryland, quarterback Kevin Riley often missed his targets early in the game. Whatever the case may have been--off throws, blown routes or simple miscommunication--Riley said during Tuesday's media luncheon that he and the wideouts have used the bye week to key in on their timing issues. Asked whether there have been improvements in those facets of the game, Riley answered: "Definitely." "You knew it was going to come more in games, like game situational things, and going live last week helps," he continued. "You know, you've got to go full speed or else it's not going to work live. Plus, going live against our defense is different than going against the scout team. I think we improved last week, and we just have to continue." Receiver LaReylle Cunningham, who led all Bears with seven receptions for 138 yards against the Terrapins, remained relatively mum when asked to reflect on his performance, saying he "really couldn't glorify (himself)" after a loss. But he also asserted that Riley and the wideouts have dedicated themselves to working out the kinks in their on-field chemistry. "That's what we've been out here practicing all week throughout this bye-week-just the timing, route running, getting everything fine-tuned," Cunningham said.
Rams' Offensive Scheme Has Cal Salivating
Coach Jeff Tedford and middle linebacker Worrell Williams agreed on at least one thing upon reviewing film of Colorado State: When the Rams do pass the ball, their wideouts tend to run intricate routes. "They look good," Tedford said about the Colorado State offense. "They stretch the defense very, very well. They double move you a lot, they keep you off-balance and the quarterback throws the ball down the field well." Tedford partially attributed that to the system brought on by new coach Steve Fairchild, who spent seven years in the NFL--mostly as an offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills--prior to joining the collegiate Rams in the offseason. "I think the (St. Louis) Rams were that type of team where they're down the field with deep digs, deep comebacks," Tedford said. "They run some routes that take a long time--switch routes, where they're switching stems and coming back in and quite a bit of that. You can see where there's some carryover from what he's done in the NFL." Williams, meanwhile, sees the thought-out Colorado State offense as a prime opportunity to get to the quarterback. He said he feels comfortable with the secondary and particularly cornerback Darian Hagan--who has returned a different player in 2008 after getting absolutely torched on a couple late plays during last year's 34-28 win over the Rams--and is looking forward to attacking the pocket. "We're gonna apply some pressure to him, that's what we're hoping," Williams said. "I don't know how we're gonna get there, or how that's going to come about, but definitely as a front seven, we're gonna try to apply a little bit of pressure. So if they tend to go downfield, we're gonna try to get after the quarterback a little bit."
Kevin Riley already understands what's at stake as the Bears go into their fourth game of the season, the final non-conference game of the regular season. The returning Cal Bears haven't forgotten last season yet. That's why the Bears need to avoid a second loss in a row when they face another inferior opponent in the Colorado State Rams (2-1).
The Bears will look to the Sophomore's leadership when they come home to face the Rams who have gotten wins over Sacramento State and Houston while losing to Colorado in their season opener. Can this match up look any more similar to the Maryland game?
Prior to Cal going to Maryland and losing, the Terps schedule and results looked very similar to what the Rams will be bringing into Memorial stadium on Saturday. The major difference in this game and the game with Maryland is that the Bears will be back on their home turf, playing at a more appropriate time (for a West Coast team), and not playing in the humid weather of College Park.
Cal still hasn't gotten over the loss, but not in a 'hangover' way. Instead, they've become more determined and practiced harder. Friday, Jeff Tedford wrote in his blog, "We have had a good bye week; the players have been working hard and have been very focused on getting better every day. The bye week is always a great opportunity to get the younger guys some more reps and see what they can do, and it gives some of our bumps and bruises a little time to heal. That being said, we have been more physical, have gone live more this week than any other bye week."
"[The loss] rubs off on the coaches, the way they coach us. We’re still feeling the effects. The little things are magnified more. It’s not a bad thing. They’re just one us more. It’s a little harder getting through practice."
- Zack Follett on how practice has gone since the loss to Maryland
Both the players and Coach Tedford have attributed the humid weather as one reason for their poor play in Maryland. If that is the only reason, they shouldn't find that a problem for the rest of the year. Tedford has made sure to be clear that the Bears need to execute their assignments if they expect to be a contender for a Pac-10 title.
While there has been a lot of talk about the time difference, I'm not sure that had as much of an effect on us as the humidity did.
- Jeff Tedford on the effect the humidity had on Cal's performance
I know a lot of guys weren't expecting this weather. That's the most I've sweated in my life. My shoes are gushy.
- Kevin Riley after the loss against Maryland
Regardless of the reasons, Cal will need to control the trenches for now on. They were beaten on both sides of the ball which was surprising given the fact that they had played adequate to outstanding in their previous two games. Mike Tepper, the original starter at left tackle is expected to miss time until at least November. For most teams, losing an all-conference left tackle could be a death-blow, but for Cal it's just a minor adjustment. By the time Tepper is ready to play, there might not be anywhere for him to go with the young talent starting on the line.
On the defensive side of the ball, they'll be without Freshman defensive lineman, Kendrick Payne. Payne is a very talented big man that the Bears will miss while he recovers from a minor knee scope. He'll likely be out for the next two games.
While Cal's victories have come with little need for big plays from their wideouts, they will still be without third wide receiver Marvin Jones while he recuperates from a knee sprain suffered in practice. That means that Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen will need to find the magic that they had in the first two games in order to give the Bears a real shot over the next couple of weeks as the passing game improves.
Nobody has really separated himself. They’re all contributing and they’re all playing hard.
- Tedford on how the receivers are performing in practice
However it pans out, if the Bears can make a statement over the next two weeks, they'll undoubtedly get another opportunity to prove they can handle the limelight. If and when that time comes, they are going to have to deliver. If they continue to improve and stay focused like Tedford preaches, they should do alright.
By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Coach Jeff Tedford had the same message as last year after the Bears lost their first game of the season. "The only thing we can't do now is go undefeated," Tedford said after the Bears' 35-27 loss at Maryland. The major difference this season is nobody actually thought they could. When the Bears suffered their initial loss last season, they had emerged as a possible national-title contender. Cal was 5-0 and No. 2 in the country before falling to Oregon State. Expectations weren't nearly as high heading into this season, so when the Bears lost to the Terps on Sept. 13, there wasn't quite the letdown as last year. That has allowed the Bears to cope with their first loss much better than last year. Cal fell hard and fast after losing to Oregon State in 2007, winning only one more game during the regular season and falling out of the national picture before finishing 7-6. The Bears say they've learned from last year's setbacks, and a new brand of on-field leadership has emerged that has allowed them to handle their first dose of adversity. "It's a totally different situation," Tedford said. "But that being said, I think the leadership and the chemistry is a little different than last year. I've been pleased with how they've responded." Just minutes after the loss to Maryland, Cal linebackers Zack Follett and Worrell Williams stressed this year's team was better equipped to respond to a loss than last year's.
After a bye week, the Bears are preparing to host Colorado State on Saturday and seem confident the Maryland game is a thing of the past. "I think we're good," Williams said. "Guys don't seem down at all. Enthusiasm doesn't seem down. Camaraderie is still there. I think we're going to bounce back in a strong way." This time around, the Bears had to contend with a bye week after their first loss. Some players said they would have preferred to play again right away, but the coaching staff handled it by putting the team through a much more demanding bye week of practice than usual. Cal wore pads all week, and the offense competed against the defense each day. "It was a physical bye week," quarterback Kevin Riley said. "We couldn't go into a bye week after losing and just take it easy. Everyone's goal last week was to get better, and I think we did." Linebacker Anthony Felder said one of the primary reasons the Bears had a more intense bye week than usual was to improve on their physicality, something he said was missing against Maryland. "When we got in Tuesday for practice, they changed the schedule around to full pads," Felder said. "Everyone knew then what was coming up. I don't think we played as physical as we should have in Maryland. That's what the emphasis was in the bye week, to make sure we have a physical mentality going into next week."
Homecoming Game Against Arizona State Will Be Televised on ABC
When the Cal football team welcomes Arizona State to Memorial Stadium on Oct. 4, with a chance to avenge last season's 31-20 defeat to the Sun Devils in Tempe, Ariz., it will do so in front of a semi-national television audience.
The Pac-10 conference announced on Monday that the game will kick off at 12:30 p.m. and be televised on ABC. It will be the third time that the Bears have been featured on national television this season, and it continues a rising trend of televised games for the program since the beginning of the Jeff Tedford era in 2002.
Cal has played before a television audience 60 times since Tedford came to Berkeley-a significant jump from just 35 in the five seasons prior to his arrival. Of course, the last national broadcast didn't quite help the Bears' image, as they were upset by Maryland back east on ESPN. Cal tumbled from the national rankings after one week at No. 23. Still, the odds of the Bears and Arizona State showing up on TV across the country are slim. Right now, the marquee game scheduled for that time is a Big Ten clash between No. 22 Illinois and unranked Michigan in the Big House. Although the Wolverines are floundering in their first year under Rich Rodriguez, that telecast will more than likely dominate viewership in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Meanwhile, this weekend's home game against Colorado State will also be televised, albeit to a smaller audience. Like the Washington State game in week two, Saturday's tilt is being broadcast by Comcast SportsNet West. Although CSN West is included with basic cable in most of Northern California, the channel is available only on digital cable in the Bay Area. However, Comcast subscribers can access the game broadcast on cable Channel 99 beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
By Ted Miller
Stadium projects are often portrayed as excessive expressions of vanity by athletic departments -- gaudy proliferations due to the big-time football arms race that betray the fundamental mission of universities.
And they sometimes are. Perhaps more often than not.
But California's situation doesn't fit that description (Washington's doesn't much either, but this entry is about Memorial Stadium, not crumbling Husky Stadium).
Strawberry Canyon is one of the best places in the nation to watch a game. Under coach Jeff Tedford, the Bears have become a big-time program, packing the stands every Saturday.
But Memorial Stadium is an absolute mess (this linked story from Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle does a great job of explaining just how much of a mess).
What the story also shows: This project isn't about luxury boxes for fat-cat boosters -- none are planned -- but it will be expensive and time consuming, with a tentative completion date set for 2014 (and we know how firm those things typically are).
The Tree Sitters are down, so the circus is over. But the issues -- and fundraising -- ahead are considerable.
Which means that even though Tedford is the second-highest paid coach in the Pac-10 behind USC's Pete Carroll and the highest paid California state employee, his name will be floated this winter when a handful of marquee jobs -- in and out of the Pac-10 -- open up.
Monday, September 22, 2008
By Jonathan Okanes
Cal's passing game still is very much a work in progress, even after a contest in which quarterback Kevin Riley threw for the third-most yards in school history. Riley amassed 423 yards during the Bears' 35-27 loss at Maryland, but the major chunk came in the hurry-up offense while the Terps nursed a big lead. Riley and his new corps of receivers have yet to find any consistency during the early stages of the season, something that will need to change moving forward. "It's not really something to evaluate off of," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "You have to do it throughout a game; you can't just do it in a two-minute type drill. But it did give our young receivers a chance to catch the ball in a game situation." The Bears turned over almost their entire wide receiver corps this season, and the coaching staff has trotted out several pass-catchers in search of productivity. Six receivers have caught at least one pass so far, and none has more than nine on the season. Senior LaReylle Cunningham had a big day against Maryland with career highs of seven catches for 138 yards, but again most of that came during the Bears' frantic comeback effort.
Tedford said the Bears will continue to use several receivers in Saturday's home game against Colorado State. "Nobody has really separated himself," Tedford said. "They're all contributing and they're all playing hard." Redshirt freshman Michael Calvin, who was expected to be Cal's top wideout this season, has yet to get untracked with just six catches for 81 yards. Calvin has been bothered by a painful sprained toe, which isn't completely healed. "He's a little fresher this week," Tedford said. "We let him off last week to make sure he heals up. He's been three-quarters speed."
Test results on freshman wide receiver Marvin Jones confirmed he has a sprained knee. Tedford was unsure how long Jones would be out, other than to say that he'll miss Saturday's game. "... The Pac-10 announced Cal's game against Arizona State on Oct. 4 will begin at 12:30 p.m. and air on ABC. "... Offensive linemen Mitchell Schwartz and Chet Teofilo continue to practice on opposite sides of the line, with Schwartz moving from right tackle to left tackle and Teofilo going the other way. "We're going to continue to look at it," Tedford said.
Colorado State at California, 4 p.m.
For the record: Cal is 2-1, 1-0 in the Pac-10.
Streaking: TB Jahvid Best has three straight games with more than 200 all-purpose yards. He exploded for a 64-yard TD run against the Rams last season.
Who's hot: Sophomore QB Kevin Riley has overtaken last year's starter, Kevin Longshore. Riley completed 33-of-58 passes for 423 yards and three TDs in a comeback effort that fell short at Maryland on Sept. 13.
Who's not: The Pac-10 is 1-5 against non-BCS conference teams in the last two weeks, including 0-4 vs. the Mountain West.
Key stat: Best averages 112 yards on the ground and leads his team with 11 receptions.
FYI: Cal is coming off a bye week after its 35-27 loss at Maryland. . . . Cal starting left guard Chris Guarnero of Arvada is a Mullen High graduate.
Coachspeak: "It's nice that we're 2-1 right now. We're going to keep pressing on and try to get better every time we go out onto the field. I'm glad that we're finding ways to win close games." — CSU coach Steve Fairchild
Injury report: CSU CB Brandon Owens (ankle) and offensive tackle Mark Starr (knee) are questionable.
By Ted Miller
COLORADO STATE (2-1) at CALIFORNIA (2-1) - Sat., Sep. 27 - 3:00 PDT - CSN West local cablecast - The Series: California and Colorado State have split the two previous meetings with the road team winning both games. Colorado State won, 23-21, at Berkeley in 2003; California won, 34-28, at Fort Collins last year. . . . Last Year: Freshman TB Jahvid Best broke off a 64-yard touchdown run to give California a 34-14 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the game, but the Bears had to hang on late to get out of Fort Collins with a 34-28 win. CSU put up 301 passing yards and outgained Cal 458-391, but were hurt by three turnovers. The Bears played turnover-free ball and piled up 245 yards on the ground.
By Matier and Ross
Berkeley's infamous tree-sitters have been hit with a rude surprise since they came down to earth: Judges are socking them with thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. Ironically, much of the money - which could total more than $10,000 per sitter - is going straight to the University of California, the very institution the tree-sitters were protesting as they tried to save a grove of trees outside Memorial Stadium. "It's really vindictive," said an attorney for some the sitters, Dennis Cunningham. "They don't have this kind of money."
Maybe, but university lawyer Michael Goldstein isn't making any apologies. "We've asked the judge to throw the book at them," Goldstein said flatly. UC Berkeley estimates it spent more than $800,000 on police and other security measures during the 22 months sitters were up in the trees. The university spent $40,000 alone on the scaffolding that went up around the final tree during the last day of the protest this month.
Now, the school wants its pound of flesh. So far, most of the 15 to 20 protesters arrested in the past year have been hit with fines of about $100 for trespassing and little or no jail time. Once they were back on the street, however, the university hauled them back into court on contempt charges for violating an order issued in October by Judge Richard Keller of Alameda County Superior Court that banned people from sitting in the trees or doing anything to help the protesters already up in the branches. Protesters Eric Eisenberg, Michael Schuck, Gregg Horton, Terri Slanetz and Matthew Taylor were found guilty last month of violating Keller's injunction. Each was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and two were sentenced to serve five extra days in jail. The university is also seeking as much as $10,000 from each of them for its attorney fees. Five more protesters are to go to trial on contempt charges Oct. 1, and UC plans to file a contempt complaint against six others later this month - including the final four tree-sitters who came down Sept. 9. Lawyers on both sides said the tree-sitters' chances of beating the contempt charges are slim. As Cunningham noted, "You were either up in the trees or not. What's to argue?" To which Goldstein added, "Who said free speech is always free?"
By Sam Whiting.
California Memorial Stadium may be the best place in America to watch a football game, but it's the worst place to dress for one. Or to be carted off the field with an injury if you are a player. Or to visit the restroom if you are a fan. And definitely the worst place to be, as a player or a fan or anybody else, during an earthquake. These conclusions were drawn after studying Memorial Stadium operations and infrastructure, starting four hours before kickoff on Aug. 30, when 63,000 people climbed up into the elbow of Strawberry Canyon. To open their 85th season in the chipped and splintered colosseum, Cal's Golden Bears hosted the Michigan State Spartans, who last played here in 1957. The visitors must have been charmed to find that the structure hadn't changed in the 50 seasons since. As one Spartan was heard to comment upon entering the primitive visitors' locker room, "This is like high school."
Any spectator who has sat on the benches of rotting wood or cold aluminum would agree. The seat numbers are measured to the width of a skinny teenager. When the place is packed there is no leg room. There is no back room. There is no side room. "This stadium was fine when the team was no good and it wasn't that full," season-ticket holder Jim Branson said. "When they get the big crowds like in the last few years, they really can't handle it." It is unknown when this will improve or by how much. The construction project that caused protesters to live in trees for nearly two years is Phase I: the Student-Athlete High Performance Center. Major construction will start in January and will cost $140 million, but it doesn't address the experience of the paying customer. That comes with Phase II, retrofitting and modernizing the west side of the stadium, which won't start until summer of 2010 at the soonest. Phase III, the east side, follows, but no start date has been set.
Originally scheduled to follow Phase I, there is now talk of doing Phase II concurrently to lop a year off the timeline. The retrofitting will require Cal to play the 2011 season elsewhere. The entire project is expected to be finished in 2014. This much is known: The Beaux Arts bowl - John Galen Howard was the architect - dedicated to "Californians who gave their lives in the World War" (Phase I not II), will not be compromised, nor will the proximity of seats to the playing field. They aren't going to pop on an upper deck to double the seating. The bowl may lose 10,000 seats for code requirements, but they aren't going to sacrifice capacity for comfort by lopping off thousands more seats. There will never be luxury boxes. There will be 4,000 stadium chairs and special seats in the press box for donors, but there probably won't be backrests or armrests for the other 55,000 or 60,000. They will have to settle for more restrooms and access to concessions, and avenues of egress in the event of a major eruption. The Hayward Fault enters the stadium in section KK, at the Prospect Street entrance, directly under the restroom closest to Jim Branson's aisle seat.
"I have this recurring dream that I'm going to be standing at the urinal when the earthquake hits," said Branson, Class of '67, who has been playing the odds for 40 years. "There is concrete in front of me and a thousand people behind me. They're going to find me days later." Still, he's in his seat two hours early for the Michigan State game and he'll be there for Colorado State on Saturday.
To take the playing field, the Cal team emerges from a set of double doors and fans can reach out and touch them from the concourse. The players can reach out, too, and grab the dirt of the embankment while coming down the cement stairs. They leave the field at the same time the Cal marching band is attempting to take it. All that blue meets head on, plumed hats against helmets. This collision should be alleviated in Phase I of construction. To reach the field, players will come upstairs onto the plaza and walk 40 feet outside the stadium to the tunnel.
Visiting players eager to get out of the claustrophobic clubhouse find things worse on the stairs leading to the tunnel. The doorway is the width of one lineman's shoulder pads. They come out single file and down steps that sag with the weight. There is an immediate left turn then a hard right. If traffic isn't controlled at the doorway, they bunch up as they cross the bridge over a spectators' tunnel. Cal rooters know this and stand here piling the verbal abuse onto visiting players stuck on the steps. But at least there is plenty of time for reflection on the history of the place. "How many Heisman Trophy winners have come through this door?" assistant athletic director Bob Milano Jr. mused. (Ten, with seven from USC.) Once they reach the safety of the tunnel it is a downhill walk to another stairway below grade. This prevents them from making any type of charge onto the field. The 1920s design was brilliant if intended to prevent opponents from being fired up for their entrance. Stanford has solved this by avoiding the tunnel and taking the stadium stairs down through their own fans for Big Game.
Visiting team's locker room
The boxy build-out inside the Prospect Street gate would never be taken for a football dressing room. A break room for concessionaires maybe, or a police substation separated from the south end zone plaza by a curtain. Behind the curtain and through double doors is a dank vault furnished in long blue benches. While loading gear into lockers that look like orange crates, Michigan State equipment coordinator Bob Knickerbocker thought back upon his 35 years humping gear to stadiums and admitted that this visitors facility was the most cramped and antiquated he had seen. To make it all fit, he put the lockers of his smaller players - quarterbacks and kickers - in the closet-sized anteroom. The adjacent shower room became the training room, where players were taped and massaged while admiring the pro-Cal graffiti left on the walls. "Bear Territory," it read, and not far off in its description. "I've never seen anything like it. It's like a meat locker in here," said Michigan State equipment manager Dylan Marinez as he unloaded trunks full of gear. He'd have to load it all back onto a truck parked outside the gate during the first half so the shower/training room could be turned into a halftime meeting room. By game's end it was a shower room again, if players didn't mind waiting. There are only 12 overhead nozzles. Offense showers first, then defense.
Despite or because of its discomforts, the visiting locker room is not part of Phase I of the Student-Athlete High Performance Center. Guests will continue to endure. But the women's lacrosse team and men's rugby team, who also use these facilities, will get moved into the new facility. The visiting football team will have the 1923 vintage locker room all to itself until Phase II.
Cal training quarters
Memorial Stadium was built for football games, not football practices. Historically, the team was headquartered in Harmon Gym, at the bottom of campus, and practiced on the outfield of Evans Diamond. Game-day quarters consisted of an old tar-roof shack under the bowl of the stadium, one story up from the north end zone. It was improved over the years, but not by much. "It was very concrete and bleak, but it was all we knew" recalled Matt Bouza, a wide receiver from 1978 to '80. "As far below the standards as the locker room is now, it is a country club compared to what we had." The football program relocated in the early 1980s when Astroturf was installed at the stadium, making it usable for both practice and games. Locker rooms, physical therapy areas, meeting rooms, coaches' offices, weight rooms and a team dining hall were jammed into the concourse starting at the south end zone and following the curve of the bowl to the 35-yard line on the west side. To get from, say, the dressing room to the coaches' offices, a player must go up and over and around and through and down narrow hallways, all of which are invisible to fans walking the concourse on the other side of the stucco wall. It was inconvenient but doable in the years that football, rugby and soccer were the only sports headquartered at the stadium. But 10 or 11 other varsity sports have been added with all their gear and all their needs.
On any given afternoon there are 105 football players wending their way through this maze, plus 300 athletes representing softball, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, soccer, gymnastics and golf. Look into the sports medicine room and you'll see a half-naked football player on a table getting treatment next to a gymnast or field hockey player. The uniforms are all stored together in a cramped mezzanine. Softball has even more uniform combinations than football. Two industrial-sized washers and dryers are going around the clock, even on game days. It is right there along the mezzanine and if you get bored by the game, you can always come watch the washers spin. The medical room is next to the laundry room and if a player gets seriously injured during a game he must be carted up a ramp and brought right through the gridlock of fans.
"One game, I think it was Colorado State. The quarterback broke his leg," recalled assistant athletic director Bob Milano Jr. "They brought him up here through the crowd, and he was just crying. It must have been humiliating for him."
There is one, and probably only one advantage, to the training quarters and that is the view. While dressing, a player can step out onto a balcony and look across Berkeley to the bay. From the weight room, up against the rim of the stadium, the view is even better, though it was made worse by the tree-sitters. "One guy used to get fully naked while the guys were in here working" said John Sudsbury, associate director of media relations.
West side of the stadium
The concourse, which runs from end zone to end zone on the west side, is about 10 feet wide, pinned between the stands and the training facilities. It would be passable if there weren't concessions along the way. Standard procedure is to form a line on one side of people waiting to use the restroom, and a line on the other side of people trying to move along the concourse. Between those two lines, people queue up to reach the concessions. At halftime none of the three lines moves.
South end zone
The concession area and restrooms are precisely where the Hayward Fault enters the stadium. You can follow its path by looking at the pillars, built to shift over time, in the seismic upgrades of the 1920s. Not built to shift are the door jambs of the restrooms. Some have become comically crooked as the earth moved and carpenters compensated.
East side of the stadium
On the east side, there is no concourse. There are no restrooms either. The men's room outside the stadium became the rugby clubhouse and the women's room was also decommissioned. All that remain are rows of blue outhouses. "We essentially operate the east side of the stadium on an extension cord and a hose bib," assistant athletic director Bob Milano Jr. said. "We have extension cords strapped to the fence."
Hall of Fame Room
Donors who arrive early get folding chairs. Others are seated on metal stairs, balancing lunch on paper plates on their knees, or seated on benches up against the glass memorabilia cases. The displays are nice but the main draw to the Hall of Fame is its restrooms. Outside on the concourse, the line to the women's room is already six deep, 45 minutes before kickoff.
Years ago the stadium press box, a double-length freight car with windows, was removed for seismic reasons. The replacement box looks like a row of storage containers. "Because it was temporary, nothing in it is up to what you would expect," said Joe Starkey, who has been the voice of Cal football since 1975. "We've got posts in the way. I have to look around things. They actually had to put a hole in a cardboard blockage on the window to my right so I could see the scoreboard."
VIPs and donors sit on two levels at the south end of the press box. On the first level they are on plastic folding chairs. One level up, on the roof of the press box, they get a slight upgrade to wooden folding chairs in two rows on carpeted risers. But the people in the upper riser have to stand up to see the action, and they are exposed to fog, wind and rain - and a postcard view - coming in from the west.
Also check out this article here.
Friday, September 19, 2008
By Rob Calonge
Now that the heartbreaking loss has begun to fade and the reality of lost prestige has sunk in, it's not so difficult to look ahead and see that this bye week may be exactly what Cal needed in order to refocus their energies on the task at hand, winning the Pac-10. Is it crazy to think that the Bears could run the table after the embarrassing loss last Saturday to Maryland? Even though they probably lost to a team that won't be a contender on the national stage, they still have plenty of opportunities to bounce back and become what they were before losing in 2007 to Oregon State, a national power.
There are times that a bye week is actually a bad thing. It can be bad if your team is firing on all cylinders and the time off cools the team off in any way, but this bye week will allow the team to get more of an appreciation for what it will take in order for them to succeed this season.
Tedford, in his weekly blog wrote:
We have had a good bye week; the players have been working hard and have been very focused on getting better every day. The bye week is always a great opportunity to get the younger guys some more reps and see what they can do, and it gives some of our bumps and bruises a little time to heal. That being said, we have been more physical have gone live more this week than any other bye week.
What could be considered success for this team? Is it a +.500 season that gets them to any bowl game at the end of the season? Does it require them to get into a mid-major bowl? Winning the Pac-10 and getting into a BCS would be great, but is that their goal? I subscribe to the theory that rankings won't matter, but winning their conference does. After losing a game, I don't think the Bears will be too worried about winning the National Championship any time soon, but they should still keep their sights set on winning the Pac-10 and going to a BCS Bowl.
Achieving this goal will require what this team seems to have been doing all along, forgetting about past stumbles and focusing on the next game. There are a million excuses that can be made about losing to Maryland last week, but none of them matter now. The fact that they took the Maryland game lightly, probably waited to long to make the trip cross-country, the early start time, etc.. are all excuses of a loser. While it doesn't appear that this team will sulk until they are an afterthought on the national stage, they all need to hold themselves accountable, look in the mirror, and fix what needs to be fixed prior to taking on Colorado State next Saturday.
The important thing we need to remember is that it's more about us; all of the things that it takes to be successful are in our control. It's not so much about the opponent, it's about us taking care of our business. We need to do a better job of that. - Jeff Tedford
The Rams are another team, like Maryland, that has no business making the contest a close game. Despite the 2-1 record, this Cal team is more talented than past teams and more mature than last year's team. Next year, they'll be a national story again, but only if they begin to take care of their business now. They have one last 'preseason' game before all of their cards need to be on the table.
We get the chance to get back out on the field next Saturday and try to erase this taste from our mouths. I'm looking forward to another strong week of practice and I think our guys are also ready to go. - Jeff Tedford
In college football, more than any other revenue sport, a loss often calls for alarm and major renovation - because every game really does count for so much. Amid a bye week and still somewhat stewing over Saturday's 35-27 loss to Maryland, Cal's hierarchy eschewed the idea of a negative postmortem. Without drawing on many of the normal coaching cliches and refusing to point fingers, the Bears believe the loss is just that: one nonconference loss.
Here's the state of the units:
Coach Jeff Tedford on the offense: "There are things that cost you football games - third-down conversions, red-zone opportunities, attention to detail and penalties. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how you fall short when those things go against you."
Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory: "It's never as complicated as it sounds. It's not physics, like the Nobel Prize winners are doing on this campus."
Special-teams coordinator Pete Alamar: "There's a sense of resolve, but there's no panic in any way."
Maybe more telling is the play on the field, which consisted of a number of bone-crushing hits Tuesday and Wednesday. None was more dramatic than a Worrell Williams hit on Peter Geurts in the backfield that literally made the coaches pause before calling the next play. Gregory said Tuesday's practice was the best bye-week effort he has seen since arriving at Cal in 2002. The proof won't come until a Sept. 27 game against Colorado State, and there's plenty to fix in the meantime. The offense has to start converting on third-down plays, according to Tedford, and can't forget the most dynamic player in the conference resides in its backfield. Cal was 2-for-11 on third downs against Maryland and called for passes on the final 25 plays, instead of handing the ball to Jahvid Best. "Take your pick," Tedford said. "They took turns. One time it's a blown route, one time it's pressure, one time it's something else." Redshirt freshman right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who quickly is becoming a sensation for pancake blocks on YouTube, has moved to the left to protect sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley's blind side. Left tackle Chet Teofilo is manning the right side after being outmanned by Maryland. The defense kind of gets a pass for limiting Michigan State running back Javon Ringer to 81 yards before he went for 417 yards and seven touchdowns the last two weeks. Still, Gregory didn't hide how Maryland had two 80-yard rushers Saturday. "It's get back to the basics," Gregory said. "There's no need to scrap what we do. We've got to get better at what we do." That means the defensive line and linebackers have to be fundamentally sound enough to fill the proper gaps, and that means the safeties have to erase the mistakes of the front seven. None of that, according to Gregory, happened against Maryland.
So is the case with the kick coverage, which has rewarded opponents great field position. Three different kickers have failed to boot the ball deep, and the rest of the unit fails to make up for the weakness. "Obviously, our kick coverage is a work in progress," Alamar said. "... If I'm a basketball team that has a guy who's gunning and scoring 30, I've got a chance with four other schmoes. In football, you better have 11 guys who are doing their jobs right." "We'll eliminate the mistakes." Tedford has promised to take a more hand's-on approach with the defense and special teams this season. During Tuesday's special-teams periods, he moved cones within an inch of where he wanted them, watched each player intently and hit a padded Bernard Hicks with a block. "Everything that went wrong in that game is within our control," Tedford said. "When you lose, you don't let it stick with you forever. You have to study it, learn from it and never let it happen again."
Read the rest here.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
By Doug Haller
Mercy. Last weekend was brutal. As a result, the Pac-10 is taking a national beating, perhaps rightfully so.
Arizona State loses to Nevada-Las Vegas. Brigham Young hammers UCLA. New Mexico defeats Arizona. Maryland upsets California. Texas Christian pounds Stanford. Baylor thumps Washington State. Overall, it was one of the worst Saturdays in recent memory for the Pac-10. The conference's only saving grace: Southern California, which dismantled No. 5 Ohio State. Explanations, please.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley: "Every week you're going to be surprised. There's a lot of good football out there. It's playing the best on Saturday and living in the moment and all those old coaching clichés that you guys don't want to hear, but I think it's more real than ever, and last weekend proved it."
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti: "You got to be ready anytime you play another conference or a non-BCS school just (because) of the perception of their desire to win and make a name for themselves is very great. We have to recognize that you become the target."
USC coach Pete Carroll: "Why that happened, I don't know. It was a big week for the Mountain West, man. A fantastic week. Probably the best week ever. I don't know what that means on the big scene. It really depends on how everybody responds."
Cal coach Jeff Tedford: "I wouldn't expect to see this again. It was just a weird weekend."
Words to live by
Oregon has health problems at quarterback. What's new, right? Dennis Dixon last season. Nate Costa in the preseason. And now Justin Roper, out for at least two weeks after partially tearing a knee ligament last Saturday against Purdue. Bellotti insists it's just a coincidence. "Our quarterbacks have taken less hits in the spread offense than they used to in our West Coast, pro-style offense," he said. The Ducks are taught how to avoid hits. Their motto: First down, touchdown, out of bounds or get down. It just hasn't always worked out that way, which means junior college transfer Jeremiah Masoli and freshman Chris Harper are expected to alternate Saturday against Boise State. Unless, of course, one of them gets hurt in practice.
And for your next task . . .
(Should you accept it.)
Beat USC. After defeating Hawaii, Oregon State has more than a week to prepare for the No.1 Trojans. Kickoff is Sept. 25. Both teams are off this weekend. "That team is hitting on all cylinders, and has no apparent weaknesses," said Riley, adding that this team compares to the great teams of USC past. Carroll, needless to say, wasn't hearing it. "We've played two nice football games, and that's it," he said.
Paging Mr. Neuheisel
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel ditched Tuesday's Pac-10 teleconference. He must have still been smarting from Saturday's 59-0 loss to Brigham Young. Or maybe he just forgot.
1: Four Pac-10 teams (Oregon, Arizona, California and USC) average 40 points or more. The only conference with more: The Big 12, which has seven.
2: Washington's Jake Locker is the Pac-10's only fulltime quarterback who hasn't thrown an interception. He has 84 attempts, just three fewer than ASU's Rudy Carpenter.
3: Through three games, Washington State has been outscored 150-33. The Cougars rank 113th among 119 Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring offense.
The last word
"Our offense is working about as well as it ever has. We're putting up huge numbers. We went on four drives of over 65 yards (against New Mexico). If we just don't beat ourselves, then we know what kind of football team we can have. We can score on anybody in the country. That's the mentality sometimes our players have." - Arizona coach Mike Stoops on why he believes the Wildcats will bounce back Saturday against UCLA.
By Andrew Kim and Matt Kawahara
The Cal football team had no momentum at halftime against Maryland on Saturday, so Zack Follett did his best to create some. On the second play of the second half, Follett came around the left side on a handoff to Terrapins back Da'Rel Scott and drilled him before he could tuck the ball. Scott fumbled, Keith Browner recovered, and the Bears took over in Maryland territory. Four plays later, the defense was back on the field. It was the first of two big turnovers that the senior linebacker had a hand in, as he also recovered a fumble that was stripped by cornerback Darian Hagan early in the second quarter. But both opportunities were squandered as the Cal offense failed to get a first down. "That's part of the game," defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "You've got to just go back out there and play. We just keep telling them the same thing -- play hard, play smart, try to create turnovers." Follett said after the game that it wasn't demoralizing for him to watch the offense struggle to convert those turnovers into points.
"I know when I don't make plays that other guys are making plays," Follett said. "That's why it's a team game. We made plays, but they were just a better team (Saturday)." Still, after forcing the second fumble, Follett ran to the Bears' sideline and parked it in front of the giant fan with his head down. He said, though, that he was more fatigued than anything else. "It was hot, man," Follett said. "I felt like I was running in puddles. I had ice towels on. It was a tough place to play."
Several players besides Follett admitted after the game that the heat and humidity came as a surprise.
"A lot of guys weren't expecting this weather," Riley said. "This is the most I've sweated in my life. You could hear my shoes gooshing." Still, from Tedford on down, Cal's personnel avoided attributing the loss to the elements. The Bears downplayed the possibility that any intangibles outside of their performance played a part in the loss. They maintained that stance despite repeated questions about the weather, cross-country flight and early start time. "I don't think it had anything to do with the coast-to-coast," Tedford said. "There are no excuses whatsoever about coming east. We prepared well, we stuck to the plan, the kids were up this morning focused and ready to go." This was Cal's first trip to the East Coast since 2001, when the team traveled to Rutgers, and the noon kickoff translated to a 9 a.m. start in California. In the week leading up to the game, Tedford implemented a schedule that was intended to condition the players to functioning earlier than normal. Some have second-guessed the decision to leave for Maryland on Friday rather than Thursday, which would have given the team a day to adjust. "I was like, 'Man, we're gonna have to wake up at like 5 a.m. our time,'" Riley said. "But I woke up fine. "We just weren't ready to play."
Though the Bears were stagnant in their rushing efforts, several Cal wideouts had the games of their careers. LaReyelle Cunningham led the green receiving corps with seven receptions and 138 yards and was often the go-to target for Riley, who found the senior for six first downs. The Riley-Cunningham tandem produced just one incompletion all afternoon. Also, after posting his first career catch against Washington State on Sept. 6, redshirt freshman Michael Calvin finally left a mark on the stat sheet with five grabs for 69 yards, all of which came in the second half. He was on the receiving end of four first-down conversions.
Junior-college transfer Verran Tucker had one reception for a touchdown -- both career firsts -- while tight end Tad Smith hauled in a score as well on one of his two receptions. Cameron Morrah continued his steady production with five catches for 49 yards after sitting out most of Cal's 66-3 rout of the Cougars last week.
"I think they did fine," Riley said of the unit. "When the ball was thrown their way, they caught it. They did a good job." Tedford acknowledged their progress during post-game interviews, though he did notice a few areas needing improvement. "Some of our receivers had a chance to get some action today and catch some balls, which was nice," Tedford said. "We had a couple blown assignments out there, situations where we lined up two guys on the line of scrimmage, blown route going into the end zone.
"So there's some growing pains there, and the key is that we learn from those. It comes down to communication and making sure they understand what they're doing, and I was happy to see some of them make plays today."
The first of three bye weeks has arrived for Cal, which gives the team an extra week to prepare for its Sept. 27 clash against Colorado State at home. Following their loss to Maryland, the Bears voiced a consensus on the timeliness of getting a Saturday off. "I think it's really good that we have a bye week coming up right now," Tedford said. "It's a great opportunity to study." It's also a great opportunity to heal after multiple players sustained injuries against the Terps. Tailback Jahvid Best has a bruised sternum from the hit delivered by Maryland's Kevin Barnes, and Shane Vereen suffered a sprained ankle in limited appearances. Tedford also added: "Cam (Morrah) had a hard time breathing today, so we had to hold him out a little bit in the second half," though it's likely his respiratory struggles were due to the heat and humidity in College Park.
The break should allow the Bears to continue evaluating several of their defensive starters. Saturday saw two new faces in defensive end Cameron Jordan and safety Brett Johnson, though incumbents Rulon Davis and Bernard Hicks saw as much time, if not more. Gregory said the coaches selected their man at safety the night before facing Maryland, and the evaluation period may continue for a few games. Gregory also mentioned last Thursday that neither Johnson nor Hicks has separated himself as a clear-cut choice.
In the trenches, Jordan has been touted for his pass-rushing abilities, but Cal succumbed to the Terps' running attack despite his presence as early as Maryland's first drive, which went 60 yards -- 44 rushing -- for a touchdown. Whether Jordan or Davis will start against the Rams opposite entrenched junior Tyson Alualu remains to be seen as well.
By Eric Prisbell
Entering this past weekend, Kevin Barnes was best known as a slender fifth-year senior who had a penchant for missing tackles last season in Maryland's defensive backfield. When the weekend ended, Barnes was known in select circles only as the player who delivered a hit so hard it made someone throw up. How that happened is a testament to the power of the Internet, where Barnes's image will long live because of five seconds of football that resulted in considerable, if not typical, notoriety. When he crashed his shoulder into the chest of California running back Jahvid Best in the second quarter of Maryland's 35-27 victory, Barnes had no idea he soon would be entering cyberspace lore. Nor did he realize the magnitude of the hit when he saw Best crawling on knees and hands and vomiting on the field.
Only when the game had ended, and Barnes reached the locker room, did he understand that sometimes a hit is not just a hit. Before the game's end, a video clip of the play was available on YouTube. As of yesterday afternoon, six versions of the hit garnered a total of more than 50,000 views, which surpassed the number of spectators (49,527) who watched the play live at Byrd Stadium on Saturday. The video also was linked to several sports blogs and even to a some non-sports social networking sites. "I have been kind of under the radar" in my career, Barnes said. "It is kind of cool. It's all over the place." Best missed the final three minutes of the first half after the hit, but returned after halftime and played the rest of the game. After the game, Best said it was probably the hardest he has ever been hit in his life and that he had trouble breathing the rest of the game. Asked if he felt bad for Best, Barnes said: "He's not permanently hurt, so I'm fine with that. Had he died or something, I'd have felt bad, but he'll probably be playing next week." Barnes celebrated his 22nd birthday Monday, but recent well-wishers have wanted to discuss only one thing, and it's not his age. When Barnes visited a local restaurant this weekend, at least 40 customers approached asking him about the hit. Some with iPhones replayed the hit so everyone could watch together.
Barnes said he has received 200 text messages and e-mails since Saturday afternoon, not to mention scores of messages on Facebook, the social networking site. Everyone chimed in, from former Maryland players (Josh Wilson) to former high school buddies he has not thought about in five years. Yesterday morning, Barnes found that 15 more people had e-mailed him a link to the video.
Earning sudden acclaim through YouTube is nothing new. YouTube launched the profiles of once anonymous folks such as Matt Harding, the world-traveling dancer, and Obama Girl. In the football world, everything from Reggie Bush's jaw-dropping high school highlights to occasional mascot fights has drawn heavy Internet traffic.
Barnes knows his popularity also is a reflection of the diverse, and sometimes perverse, interests of sports and non-sports fans. Barnes said the widespread interest is in the vomit, not the tackle. Dewey Hammond, an Emeryville, Calif., resident who linked the video to his blog, Yardbarker, said: "No one is interested in the actual hit. Puking up something that looks radioactive doesn't happen every weekend, unless maybe you are a sophomore in college. Vicious hits are old hat." To that end, Derek Wizzle, a 25-year-old from the Bay Area in California who posted the video on his blog D Wizzle's World, said the video is the most popular one on his blog. Wizzle said some fans think it was "cool how Barnes hit Best so hard that he puked, while others find the video nasty but fascinating. Other people just wanted to know what Best ate before the game when they saw that green liquid coming out of his mouth!"
The fascination continued yesterday, when Barnes answered few questions about Maryland's next opponent, Eastern Michigan, and a bunch about the collision. One reporter asked Barnes if he got vomit on his shoes. Another asked if fans bought him meals the past few days, which prompted Barnes to respond: "No. That's illegal." Within the Gossett Team House, all it took was a vague reference to "the hit" to elicit reaction. Asked about the video, one school official simply said, "Thing of beauty." Wide receiver Danny Oquendo said every player had seen the video at least three times before Monday's practice. At Maryland, teammates and coaches cherished the hit because it symbolized the physicality that Coach Ralph Friedgen had implored players to display. In a sense, it was a blunt message sent to California's most explosive player. "It showed that we were not just playing," defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre said. "We were playing to hit."
Barnes explained how the play unfolded, saying that Cal quarterback Kevin Riley recognized Maryland was in man-to-man coverage with no safeties in the middle of the field. So Barnes disguised his stance, moving back and forth to bait the quarterback, and Barnes anticipated the quick screen pass to Best at the snap.
After looking for the interception first, Barnes leveled Best with his left shoulder. Barnes said the hit did not make a sound. All he heard was the crowd. Barnes saw Best on the ground and Barnes "strutted off a little bit." "That was one of Kevin's better hits," Friedgen said. "I saw [Best] kind of feeling his chest after that. It affected him. The hit was an important play." Oquendo said he watched the video after the game and has replayed it twice a day since. Does it get better each time? Oquendo paused, before saying, "It gets a little sicker every time."