Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SF Chronicle: Cal's next three are key

Ron Kroichick

Sunday practices are usually low-key affairs at Cal - players wear T-shirts and shorts and mostly try to shed their soreness from the previous day's game. They rarely spend more than a half-hour on the field. So it was striking for coach Jeff Tedford to watch the Bears emit an altogether different vibe Sunday, with their Pac-10 opener at Oregon lurking on the horizon.  "There was a little bit of an edge to them," Tedford said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. "It was very serious, almost like we lost the day before. I noticed a lot of intensity about what we're getting ready to do. "You can throw the three wins away. It's a brand-new season starting right now."

Cal steams toward Saturday's game against the Ducks on a gathering roll - 3-0, ranked No. 6 in the nation and already ahead of USC in the conference standings. The Bears crushed Maryland and Eastern Washington, then survived some mid-game sluggishness to pull away from Minnesota in the fourth quarter.  Jahvid Best has scored nine touchdowns and planted himself deeper in the Heisman Trophy race. Kevin Riley still hasn't thrown an interception. The defense has played stoutly against the run and respectably against the pass. Even so, Cal's fast start will become wholly irrelevant if the Bears stumble in the coming weeks. They've been here before - bursting out of the gate, rising in the polls - only to plunge out of sight during Pac-10 play (see 2007 season).

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