Before the Cal football team set foot in a wilting Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon, a number of players approached quarterback Kevin Riley with a message of support. "We told Kevin before the game that we had his back no matter what," tailback Shane Vereen said.
So Riley went out and showed his teammates that he had theirs as well. After Jahvid Best danced his way to the sideline on his 93-yard touchdown run, with one man to beat near midfield, there was Riley about 40 yards from the line of scrimmage, throwing the block to free him the rest of the way.
Asked about it later, Best said that seeing Riley in front of him didn't surprise him at all. But it was representative of a game in which the Bears rotated multiple personnel groups to deal with the heat and received big contributions in every facet. As coach Jeff Tedford said afterward, the biggest positive to come out of the 45-26 win was that it was a "team effort."
"Our preparation the last two weeks was that we need to stick together," Tedford said. "As naysayers and critics step up, the people in that locker room are the ones who believe in each other. I thought we did a nice job of playing hard for each other." Saturday showed that, more than schemes practiced or reps taken, rest had or psyches re-steeled, the most important thing to come out of Cal's bye week may have been a team-wide revitalization of the concept of team. "Throughout these couple weeks, we just bonded," said receiver Marvin Jones, who caught two touchdowns. "We do things that involve more team."