Friday, August 31, 2007

WVLT Volunteer Television: Vols Arrive In Northern California

Here is the link.

Berkeley, CA. (WVLT), Your Sports Overtime crew has wrapped up it's (sic) second day in Northern California. Much of it was spent in beautiful San Francisco. Be sure to click on video links to our coverge (sic) here in California on's Sports Overtime page. As UT AD Mike Hamilton put it to us yesterday, it is incredibly motivating to see all the orange out here.

Vol fans from all across the country have made it to the Bay area for Saturday's shown (sic) at Berkley (sic). When asked about his favorite team's chances, Vol fan Mark Jernigan of Knoxville told me he thought both team (sic) might be a little anxious early on, but he expects the Big Orange to prevail in the end. I also encountered UT fans from Nashville and even a family from as far away as New Jersey.

Our tour of the world famous city by the bay revealed lavish architecture and those amazingly hilly streets. Our vantage points also included picture postcard views of the Golden Gate Bride (sic) and Alcatraz.

Certainly a memorable day which concluded with a visit to the UT team Hotel, the Clairmont resort in Berkeley. The vols arrived just before 1:00PM ET Thursday. While awaiting luggage and room assignments, the players were afforded an opportunity to check the breathtaking view out behind the hotel. The team will walk through it's (sic) final preparations for Saturday's opener, tomorrow at approximately 6:30PM ET at Cal's California (sic) Memorial Stadium.

As for the match-up, Erik Ainge, who practiced back in Knoxville on Thursday and is still expected to start against the Golden Bears, says another quick start like last year would be nice, but it's usually a couple players here and there which decide the outcome. He says how his team finishes will be key. As for the defense, Junior Vol DT Demonte' Bolden is anxious to get after cal quarterback Nate Longshore saying, at 6'5" he's a big target. "I feel like a kid at Christmas."

The Vols are hoping Christmas comes in September in the form of a win over Cal. By the way, if you're wondering how close this group is, the players all wore t-shirts which read, Together We Will. Our coverage from Berkeley continues tomorrow with reports at 5:30, 6:00, 7:00 and 11:00 on Volunteer-TV. See you then and Go Vols!

The video is in two parts.

Part One.

Part Two.

WATE Television: Vol fans arrive in California for season opener (With Video)


6 Sports Director

SAN FRANCISCO (WATE) -- UT fans have started pouring into the San Francisco area and they're ready to cheer on their team Saturday.  The Vols sold all of their 7,500 tickets to the game. In all, about 10,000 Tennessee fans are expected to be on hand to watch the Vols kick off the season.  Some of the Tennessee fans are staying in the San Francisco, across the bay from Berkeley, where the game is being played. That presents a bit of a problem. The usual mode of transportation across the bay is the Bay Area Bridge. An estimated 250,000 cars a day use it to cross from San Francisco to the East Bay. But starting Friday night at 8:00 p.m., the Bay Bridge is going to be shut down for major construction work.  Despite massive publicity and news coverage about the bridge closing, some fans have been caught by surprise.  Some fans have decided to take the BART train, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, to and from the game. There are other ways to get there. A couple other bridges are available, but swimming is not recommended. The water is cold. The current is strong. And it's been said there are sharks in San Francisco Bay.

Here is the video.

Lindy's: Two National Match-Ups Hightlight SEC Opening Week

By Ken Cross

The opening week of the football season usually calls for non-conference games against creampuffs, "budget games" for smaller schools. They go, they take a beating and they cash a big check.  For the most part, that's the way it looks this year. There are a couple of exceptions in the Southeastern Conference, however. There are two games of national interest including one that will have immediate Top 25 repercussions.  The Tennessee Vols will travel to Berkeley to play the Cal Bears. Both teams are highly ranked and most of the nation will be watching the Saturday evening match-up. Also, Oklahoma State of the Big 12 visits the Georgia Bulldogs in the first week of play.


Here are picks for the rest of the major conferences starting with the SEC:


@ Cal 24, Tennessee 21 – Lots of pressure on Phillip Fulmer to start the season since the Vols' first three outings are treacherous.  The Golden Bears remember last year's 35-18 embarrassment in Knoxville. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be a handful for UT.

Read the article here.

AP: Golden Bears ready for redemption against Tennessee


Syd'Quan Thompson knows cornerbacks must have short memories. He still has no plans to forget what happened in California's awful trip to Tennessee last year — at least until he replaces it with something sweet.   Thompson was three months out of high school when injuries thrust him into Cal's starting lineup in Knoxville for the Golden Bears' highest-profile nonconference game in several years. The fans, the heat, that incessant "Rocky Top" song — everything contributed to a handful of mistakes that left Thompson looking like the goat in the Volunteers' 35-18 victory. Yet when Thompson takes the field for a season-opening rematch back home in Berkeley on Saturday night, he hopes to repay a debt of gratitude to the Vols. He shares his teammates' resolve to show Tennessee just how much they learned that day about expectations, attention and resilience. "I kind of needed that game," said Thompson, now the Bears' most experienced cornerback and a rising Pac-10 star. "That game really woke me up and let me know what I had to do. I don't want to make this next game too personal ... but I thought about that game dang near every day this summer."  No. 15 Tennessee's visit to 12th-ranked Cal is the opening weekend's only matchup between ranked teams. It's also an unusual clash of conferences, styles and geographic regions — and just the type of challenge that most of the Golden Bears love about their sport.

Yet most of the game's national attention focuses on the debate about the legitimacy of West Coast football outside of Southern California. LSU coach Les Miles' disparaging remarks about the Trojans' opponents voiced an oft-unspoken, but widely held perception about Cal and the Pac-10. "In their mind, they think California football is soft," linebacker Zack Follett said. "I don't take kindly to that, being from California. The SEC is a physical conference, but the Pac-10 has never really got the respect it deserves just because we pass a lot. I think we've just got to prove to them that our style can beat anybody."  The Bears looked as bad as most SEC fans hoped in last year's loss, and even their blowout win over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl didn't erase that image. With homefield advantage in Strawberry Canyon and 50,000 megaphones in their fans' hands, the Bears believe they can run with anybody in the nation — and they're not the only ones aching for validation. "It's on and off campus, everywhere you go," linebacker Anthony Felder said. "If somebody finds out you're a Cal football player, their first question is, 'Are you ready to beat Tennessee?' It seems like they're even more passionate about it than the Big Game."

When the Volunteers rolled into the Oakland hills on Thursday evening, their four-bus convoy stopped traffic on a hillside freeway. Thousands of their traveling fans could have transportation problems if they're staying in San Francisco, since the Bay Bridge will be closed throughout Labor Day weekend for repairs. And when the fans finally get to the game, they'll see a charmingly rundown stadium, temporary floodlights and another Berkeley phenomenon: Activists have been sitting in a small stand of oak trees on the hillside below the stadium since last year in protest of Cal's plans to build a new training complex on the site.  Sure, there's a bit of a culture clash. But the teams could be quite evenly matched on the field.  Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer doesn't share his fans' dismissal of the Bears' abilities. Cal's offense lost tailback Marshawn Lynch, but otherwise seems deeper and more experienced than last year's unit behind quarterback Nate Longshore, who was pulled from his second collegiate start at Tennessee last year. "As you look at the tape and the improvement that they made during the course of the year, they're an outstanding football team," said Fulmer, who's taking his team to the West Coast for the first time since visiting UCLA in 1997. "The quarterback will be as good as we will play during the course of the year. He can make all the throws." And Longshore might even have a target who could end up feeling the same way Thompson felt after last season's matchup. Marsalous Johnson, a sophomore cornerback who was suspended for last season's game, is expected to make his first Tennessee start against speedy receiver DeSean Jackson, Cal's top playmaker.

While Fulmer has tried to keep his team even-keeled for the tough SEC season ahead, Cal coach Jeff Tedford can't deny his players' eagerness for another shot at the Vols. Tedford repeatedly has described the game as a chance for "redemption, not revenge."  "If we're successful in this game, it would just validate that we're a good football team," Tedford said. "We're not out to make a statement for the Pac-10. We're out to play the best we can play, and if that makes a statement, then that's our statement."

SF Chronicle: Tree-sitters lose court round - Cal can keep them fenced in

Carolyn Jones,Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writers

UC Berkeley does not have to tear down a fence it erected around tree-sitters protesting plans to cut down an oak grove outside Memorial Stadium, an Alameda County judge ruled in advance of Saturday's nationally televised Cal football game.  Siding with attorneys for the university, Judge Barbara Miller of Alameda County Superior Court said late Thursday that the fence was a safety measure and did not constitute development at the site. The tree-sitters had been marooned for hours without food or water until UC police allowed supporters to give them supplies beginning Wednesday evening. Earlier that day, the university erected the barrier around part of an oak grove near the stadium, where tree-sitters have perched since December to protest UC's plans to cut down the trees to make way for a $125 million sports training center.

Attorneys for the tree-sitters argued in court Thursday that the university should take down the 6-foot-tall, chain-link fence because a judge's order earlier this year banned any development outside stadium before opponents' challenges to the training center work their way through the courts.  The new fence is a "change to the physical environment," but the tree-sitters haven't shown any evidence that it was ever part of the construction project, Miller wrote. Miller said she was not making any ruling as to whether the protesters can remain in the trees, nor on whether supporters could continue to supply the sitters with food, water and other necessities. UC officials said they put up the fence to provide a buffer between the tree-sitters and more than 70,000 football fans who will descend on the area for Saturday's game against Tennessee.

Officials said the fence was built to protect the tree-sitters from overzealous football fans, some of whom have expressed displeasure with the protesters for what they consider to be interference with the progress of Cal football. The team is ranked No. 12 in the nation in preseason polls. The campus plans to keep the fence until the football season ends in November. The tree-sitters and their supporters described the fence, which covers a 200-foot perimeter around their roosts, as a tactic to starve the current group of 10 protesters out of seven tree houses. On Wednesday, police cut a rope that protesters had configured to hoist provisions to the tree-sitters, causing a brief melee in which two protesters were arrested for battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest. During the scuffle, a protester sprayed paint on Assistant UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya.

CSTV: Adam Caparell Picks Cal over Tennessee

Cal (-6) over Tennessee

Tennessee should be a very good team and they're going to give the Bears a run for their money in this one, but I like Cal to exact a little revenge for the spanking they were handed in last season's opener. Tennessee has some holes on defense that I think Nate Longshore and company can really exploit. I would expect a big effort out of running back Justin Forsett.

Here is the link.

Sports Illustrated: Cal's Sharp Offense Will Prove Too Much for Tennessee, Predicts Cal 34, Tennessee 28

By Luke Winn

It comes in with a whimper, this 2007 season, offering a single battle between ranked teams on opening weekend. Not on a pale blue afternoon in a venerable college football town, either, but rather under lights, in Berkeley, with a busted pinkie -- a pinkie! -- as the most intriguing game-week development. Why, though, should any of us complain? This is not a point in the year where the sport needs to sell itself. It's been eight months. We're starving. We'll take anything. And this -- Rocky Top meets Tightwad Hill -- ain't bad for our first Saturday night.

Three things you should care about

1. The result of this game -- a rematch of the Vols' 35-18 throttling of the Golden Bears -- will resonate well beyond Berkeley and Knoxville.

Bragging rights are of paramount importance in college football, especially in the SEC. And this is the SEC's lone regular-season shot at the Pac-10, a conference that has been the subject of some highly publicized derision in the south. (See: Miles, Les, and his views on "juggernauts.") Imagine a scenario on BCS Selection Sunday that forces voters to choose between a USC team with one loss (to Cal) and an LSU team with one loss (to Florida in October) for the remaining spot in the national title game (against say, undefeated West Virginia). If Cal has been throttled by Tennessee, and Florida is the SEC runner-up, advantage LSU. If Cal has beaten Tennessee, and Florida is just so-so, advantage USC.

Impressions left in Week 1 can linger for an entire season, and -- unfairly or not -- go a long way in defining the public perception of not just a team but an entire conference. Don't agree? Golden Bears coach Jeff Tedford, when recently asked by the L.A. Times what people remember most from the Bears' 10-3 run in '06, said, "it seems they always come back to Tennessee."


2. Are too many problems adding up for Tennessee?

Erik Ainge torched the Bears' inexperienced secondary for four TD passes in '06, but now all three of his best wideouts are gone ... and this week, X-Rays revealed that he has a busted pinkie on his throwing hand. Unless the release of the news is a ploy to throw off the Bears' preparations, it doesn't look good for the debut of the no-huddle offense installed this offseason by coordinator David Cutcliffe. The Vols' backfield issues don't end with Ainge, either; their leading rusher from '06, LaMarcus Coker, is suspended for the opener -- and their running game wasn't exactly inspiring last season anyway, ranking 96th in the nation. Cal's biggest complications, meanwhile, are the tree-dwelling protesters in the Oak Grove next to Memorial Stadium, who are attempting to block construction of a new, $125 million training center. The resilient hippies, who have been living in branches since December, are only digging in deeper after cops put a fence around their trees this week, in anticipation of confrontations with angry football fans.


3. Cal wideout DeSean Jackson has been hyped to no end this offseason, and he's talented enough to deserve it. But remember the names Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins. They're liable to do as much, if not more, damage than Jackson does on Saturday.

Jackson is perhaps the nation's top play-maker and a darkhorse Heisman contender, but the Vols -- unlike most of Cal's opponents -- are equipped to keep him at least partially in check. Senior safety/defensive back Jonathan Hefney is a potential All-American who had five interceptions in '06, and has the wheels to keep Jackson from having a monster Week 1. After Hefney, though, it gets ugly: Cal is not the team against which you want to be throwing three new defensive backs into the fire. Jordan and Hawkins each had 46 catches last season to complement Jackson's 59. The Bears' auxiliary wideouts, even if they're both 5-11, could easily be No. 1s on a team that didn't have DeSean. They'll be feasting on limited coverage against a Vols trio -- Antonio Gaines, Marsalous Johnson and Jarod Parrish -- making their first starts. Longshore, who essentially went into the fetal position in last year's loss (he threw for only 85 yards and zero TDs, and was picked once) has progressed as a passer to the point where he can exploit such an advantage.

Read the rest of the story here.

San Jose Mercury News: Are the Bears tough enough?

By Jon Wilner

Here is the link.  Note that Jon Wilner will be live blogging from the came, which can be accessed through the preceeding link.


When I think of last year’s Cal-Tennessee game, I think of one play: the first play, the play Cal lost tight end Craig Stevens.  I don’t know if Stevens is the strongest player on the roster, or if he’s the guy you’d least like to fight in a dark alley. But I know this: he’s Cal’s toughest player, its heart and soul in many ways.  And when he got his clock cleaned on the opening kickoff (ie: concussion), Cal was finished. Toast.  “The opening kick-off last year, it was a train wreck,'’ Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said. “There was a bunch of big, fast people running at each other and there were a lot of collisions happening out there.'’   That play — as well as the 100-something that followed it — showed that Tennessee was tougher than Cal. Mentally tougher, but especially physically tougher. Essentially what happened that day in Knoxville was: The Vols smashed Cal in the face, and Cal did not hit back. Sure, that fits the stereotypes. The SEC is all about toughness and defense, the Pac-10 about skill and finesse. This blog post is not about the relative merits of the two conferences.

It’s about Cal and whether the Bears are tough enough this season — tough enough to handle Tennessee on Saturday, USC on Nov. 10 and all the opponents in between. It’s about whether Cal is mentally tough enough to stay focused, to win the games it’s supposed to win and rise to the moment in the games it’s not supposed to win (USC). It’s about whether Cal is physically tough enough to handle the smash-mouth teams on its schedule, like Tennessee, Oregon State, Arizona and USC. Based on what we’ve seen from the Bears over the years, I’m not sure they are. They might be, but we don’t know it, can’t assume it, can’t predict it. The Bears certainly weren’t tough enough in Knoxville. They were intimidated by the crowd and the atmosphere, and they were beaten up by the Vols. They looked like they didn’t belong. “It’s a very physical football game, that’s for sure,'’ Tedford said. “The speed and the “physicalness” that they bring is about as good as it’s going to get.'’  If the Bears go out with a wimper Saturday in front of the home crowd, with all that’s riding on the outcome, they might as well pack it in. But I’d expect them to play well, to feel comfortable and confident and take it to the Vols — or at least match the Vols blow for blow. But that will only be the first test. To achive what Cal wants to achieve this season, to overtake USC and/or reach the Rose Bowl, the Bears cannot afford any clunkers. They can’t do what they did at Arizona last season, against a .500 outfit, and pull an el-foldo. They cannot have a letdown at home against a mid-level conference foes that they assume they’re going to beat, the way the No. 18 Bears had a letdown two years ago against Oregon State. And when Nov. 10 arrives, with USC and all the hype and attention and stakes, they cannot recoil from the moment. USC thrives in games like that; Cal doesn’t (or at least hasn’t). I don’t know if it’s the way the players are coached, or their natural state-of-mind, or the fact that Cal hasn’t been successful — Rose Bowl successful — in so long … or maybe it’s just that USC is better … but in two huge games against the Trojans, in 2004 and 2006, Cal didn’t rise to the occasion. When plays had to be made, USC made them, especially in the second half last year. And when mistakes were made, it was usually Cal making them.

That’s mental toughness, but to beat the Trojans, Cal will also need physical toughness. It’ll need to control USC at the line of scrimmage, smash USC in the mouth occasionally, rattle the Trojans’ receivers, run over a linebacker — maybe even take an early personal foul penalty that says: “We’re here, and we’re not backing down.” Hey, one of the Bears might want to try that Saturday. It would send a message to Tennessee, and the country, and his teammates.

ESPN: Cal players have revenge on mind even if Tedford doesn't

By Ivan Maisel

Here is the link.

Coaches believe that revenge is the junk food of motivation. A player competes against himself, regardless of the opponent.  In the case of No. 12 California, which opens the season at home on Saturday against No. 15 Tennessee (ABC, 8 p.m. ET), what that means is simple. The Golden Bears should not fill up on the 35-18 loss they suffered to the Volunteers in last season's opener in Knoxville.   That 35-0 deficit the Golden Bears endured midway through the third quarter last season is nothing but a big bag of Doritos. The Bears shouldn't wash them down with the Mountain Dew of 106,009 fans at Neyland Stadium roaring in derision.  As all good teams do, Cal should nourish itself with the celery sticks of personal growth. The team should focus on the seven-grain bread of making themselves better.  To which the Bears say: Yeah, right.

Cal rebounded to finish 10-3 and win a share of its first Pacific-10 Conference championship since 1975. But that accomplishment is not what got the Bears out of bed to lift weights on cold winter days. The 45-10 romp over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl pales beside the memory of the plane ride home from Knoxville, which lasted slightly longer than Moby Dick.  "It's been a burn in our soul," Cal safety Thomas DeCoud said.  Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge threw touchdown passes of 12, 42, 80 and 50 yards. Montario Hardesty scored on a 43-yard run.  "We have definitely devoted a lot of hard work … for Tennessee and making sure we protect our house," DeCoud said.

"That is going to stick with you every workout, every run," linebacker Zack Follett said of the loss. "It sticks in your mind. We went in bright-eyed. … It was hard on the young guys."  Quarterback Nate Longshore began the game as a sophomore with about one half of collegiate experience playing under a new offensive coordinator (Mike Dunbar, since departed for Minnesota). He completed 11 of 20 passes for 85 yards with one interception before watching most of the second half from the sideline.  Longshore went on to finish second in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (141.3) and touchdown passes (24). The numbers provide the outline of the improvement Longshore has made under head coach Jeff Tedford, a coach known for creating a college quarterback out of a pile of high-school clay. Tedford, probably not quoting Cole Porter, said the difference in Longshore is "night and day."  "It's always going to be there," Longshore said of the Tennessee loss. "At the same time, we had a great experience. We got some work at a pretty sweet stadium. … We learned a lot that game, even though the outcome didn't [look] that way."  The experience, Follett said, prepared the Bears for the Holiday Bowl and the Aggies, a game as lopsided as their opener, only with Cal in a different role.  "The size of their athletes," Follett began, referring to the Vols. "Big, strong and fast guys. They have it all. In the South, they are bred that way. We are a different type of athlete. The Pac-10 is a little more finesse."

Finesse can be an ugly word in some regions of college football. A year later, Cal is ranked higher than Tennessee, just as the Bears were a year ago. The snorts from Rocky Top can be heard across the country. Tedford put chivalry in the same motivational wastebasket as revenge.  "We're not out to make a statement for the Pac-10," Tedford said. "We're out to play our best that we can play. … If we had played our best and gotten beat like that, you can make that statement. We didn't even come close to how we play."

Tennessee comes to Berkeley with a question mark surrounding Ainge, who broke the little finger on his throwing hand in an exchange with center Josh McNeil early this week. Fulmer said as early as Tuesday that he had full confidence in sophomore quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who played like, well, a freshman last season (31-of-66, 401 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions).  None of that matters to the Cal players or their fans, 50,000 of whom will be armed with megaphones on Saturday, courtesy of the athletic department. If the Bears beat the Vols, it will taste sweet no matter who wears the white uniforms with orange numbers. Even Tedford admitted as much.  "If we're successful in this game, it will just validate that we're a good football team," Tedford said.  Waiter, a round of Twinkies for the Cal locker room. Just don't put it on the coach's tab.

CBS Sports: Uptight? Come on, it's California

By Dennis Dodd

Here is the link.

There was a lot of time to think on Cal's flight back from Knoxville a year ago. Hours to contemplate a deflating, embarrassing, blown-back-to-the-stone-age loss to Tennessee in the season opener.  The 35-18 gutting reinforced every stereotype about Pac-10 football: soft, too much finesse, pretty boys.  Tennessee pushed Cal around from the opening kickoff. Cal pushed back only enough to make the final score cosmetic.  "I remember that five-hour plane ride home," linebacker Zack Follett said. "That's going to stick with you."  Cal gets the return game Saturday night with barely a visible scar. Total recall? Yes. But the shame factor is gone.   "No, not at all," said quarterback Nate Longshore who asked about lingering effects from arguably the worst game of his career.  "We're still getting asked about it. The sheer size of the stadium got to us. At the same time we had a great experience there. It was a pretty sweet stadium to play at. We learned a lot that game even though the outcome didn't go our way."

It seems another stereotype has emerged. These California kids really are laid back. Not sure, but there probably aren't too many SEC foes who have called Neyland Stadium "sweet."   The Bears rebounded from the humiliation to win 10 games and grab a share of the Pac-10 title. In the past five seasons, the only school to so much as share the top spot with USC was Washington State in 2002. (USC did beat Cal head-to-head last season, but the Trojans' losses at Oregon State and UCLA allowed the Bears to tie at 6-2 in the league.)  In terms of sexy, this season-opening weekend is somewhere between breakfast in bed with Joan Rivers and Joan Collins without makeup. Kind of blah. Tennessee-Cal is the only game featuring two ranked teams. Neither is in the top 10. Neither is projected to challenge for the national championship or even win its conference, but there are plenty of reasons to care.

• How will the teams react in this manhood game? Cal's was questioned last season in Knoxville. LSU's Les Miles made this more of a national game when he ripped the Pac-10 in the offseason. There's enough pressure on Tennessee already. A loss to a West Coast team it handled easily a year ago will not be taken well by Vol Nation.

• How will Erik Ainge's knee/finger hold up? The numbers suggest Tennessee's quarterback is about to become one of the school's best. Tennessee needs their quarterback locked and loaded. Torn knee cartilage was removed earlier this year. Monday, Ainge broke the pinky on his throwing hand (he'll still play). Throw in two injured tight ends and questions about the tailbacks and receivers and ... let's just say Mr. Ainge ought to get an armed escort into Memorial Stadium. Nothing else can go wrong.

• Can Cal really challenge USC this year? The Trojans come to Berkeley. A season-opening win over a ranked opponent would send a message. The Rose Bowl remains a nice consolation prize for the Bears if USC gets to New Orleans for the national championship game.

• Is this Jeff Tedford's best team at Cal? Receiver/returner DeSean Jackson is a Heisman candidate. Longshore is established and refined. The team is coming off a bowl romp over Texas A&M.

• Phil Fulmer turns 57 on Saturday. What better way to celebrate than blow out the Bears and the candles? Barbecue and sweet tea would be nice, but this is Berkeley. Might we suggest some sushi and green tea?


The Berkeley Daily Planet: Cal Bears Kick Off Football Season on Saturday

By Steven Finacom

Each August, fans of many top-ranked college football teams sit down to scrutinize an all-important statistic.  How many first-string players on their favorite squads are confronting criminal or academic troubles serious enough to prevent them from playing in the home opener?  Berkeley has to do things differently, though. Here, the players on Cal’s team—ranked 12th nationally in pre-season—are legitimate, but the future of the stadium is in court.  2006 seemed to be the last season before major change at Memorial Stadium. All expectations were that construction would begin on the first phase of a multi-stage expansion and retrofit of facilities.  Little did I expect that following the 2006 Big Game, protesters would climb into oak and redwood trees next to the stadium, that some of them would still be there as opening day approached a year later, that construction would still be in the future—although a lot of actual trenches have been dug and symbolic lines in the sand drawn—or that a former Cal football player would, as Mayor of Berkeley, be leading the lawsuits.  I’m not going to speculate about the legal issues, which seem headed for their next court hearing in mid-September, nor discuss the changes to the Stadium. (Disclosure: I work for the university in an office that has been involved with the stadium planning).

I am interested, though, in how Golden Bear football is evolving beyond facilities. Cal football now seems to be a consistent national contender for the first time since Coach Pappy Waldorf hung up his sport coat five decades ago.  A Sports Illustrated writer labeled Saturday’s Cal-Tennessee contest as the “the best game on college football’s opening weekend” and ranked both it and this season’s Cal-USC match-up as among the top 20 games to watch in 2007.  In five seasons at Cal, current Head Coach Jeff Tedford and his staff have raised expectations that high. Tedford teams have beaten formidable opponents, never lost to now hapless Stanford, and compiled a respectable 43-20 record including two seasons with ten wins each.  A pre-season Top-20 ranking and a post-season bowl game—and bowl win—for Cal are now annually expected and there are localized fevered eruptions of speculation about national championships.  But, after last year’s season-opening loss to Tennessee and a third consecutive loss to USC in 2006, Cal fans can’t indefinitely dine out on the glory of ten-win seasons or having been one of the last teams to beat USC (in 2003).  If Cal doesn’t beat one of the two, and preferably both Tennessee and USC, this season perfectionist critics may carp that the Bears still can’t win the biggest games, not withstanding their recent dominance of the Big Game.

The Big Game, of course, remains the sine qua non for any Cal fan older than, say, 25. Even when the rest of the season goes south, a Big Game victory is still counted upon to ease the disappointment. Here, Tedford is on especially solid ground. The last Cal head coach with a good overall record is still regarded by some Cal fans as Bruce “couldn’t win a Big Game” Snyder. Tedford’s teams, in contrast, have run all over the Cardinal in recent years and a full Stanford class has come and gone without getting near the Axe trophy.

As Cal’s star as risen, Stanford has gone into eclipse. A significantly scaled down new Stanford Stadium still doesn’t fill up and an eleven loss Cardinal season in 2006 was preceded by a 2005 death march when Stanford lost to not one, but three, UC schools; Cal, UCLA, and UC Davis. Still, Stanford leads in overall Big Game wins and points scored, and Cal has a long way to go to even the long-term record. And Stanford has had one form of enduring revenge this season. For most of the 20th century many individual Cal fans held to a cherished tradition, “consecutive Big Game attendance” (my attendance at 28 of the past 29 Big Games is very unremarkable as these things go).

By shrinking its stadium and limiting the number of tickets available to the visiting team, Stanford has now permanently shut out tens of thousands of Cal fans. Most will not be able to make the trek to Palo Alto every two years unless they buy both Cal and Stanford season tickets, and “consecutive Big Games in Berkeley” might become the default standard. In recent years I’ve also heard Cal students speak heresy; compared to winning a national championship or beating a #1 team the Big Game is just another game. If the Golden Bears continue to win, that talk will increase, as will expectations for the rest of the schedule.  Tedford, in his sixth season, is approaching an important milestone. Pappy Waldorf was the last—and only—Cal coach to have several consecutive seasons of great success.  From 1947 to 1952, Waldorf teams won no less than seven times a season and twice posted 10-1 and 9-1 records.  Andy Smith might have achieved a higher pinnacle but he died not long after coaching the best five seasons in Cal history, a staggering 44 game winning streak from 1920 to 1924, flanked by otherwise quite respectable 6-2, 6-2, and 6-3 seasons.  Waldorf and Smith coached Cal for ten years apiece. If Tedford reaches a decade continuing his success to date, he will have reason to claim to be the best long-term coach in Cal history, although some might still put an asterisk after that until his teams win not only a clear-cut Pac-10 championship but also make a Rose Bowl appearance.  (Waldorf’s teams had three conference championships and three Rose Bowl losses. Smith’s teams went to the Rose Bowl twice, lost once.)

Current success has literally come at a price for Cal fans. Ticket costs have risen. Cal was asking—and got—a whopping $66 each for now sold out single-game USC and Tennessee tickets this season. But price increases don’t seem to have dampened sales. This year, mid-August more than 40,000 season tickets had been purchased, a fourth consecutive year of record sales. Average game attendance exceeded 64,000 last year, meaning Memorial Stadium was nearly full for most games.  And how will those crowds behave? This season Cal fans need to show they can handle consistent success gracefully, not edge towards the sort of Ugly Athleticism and arrogance that accrues around many top-ranked teams.  Cal is in a unique situation. No other American university—with the possible exception of Cal’s “Brother Bruin”, UCLA—can claim, this decade at least, to be consistently top ranked in academics and football. In other words, it’s Nobels but No Bowls, except at UC campuses.  One mixed result of football success has been the near demise of the afternoon home game at Memorial Stadium. For West Coast teams, getting television exposure often means accepting late day game slots.

The earliest announced starting time for a 2007 home game is 3:30 p.m., and some appear likely to start at 5:00 or even 7:00, meaning that homeward bound fans may be clogging the streets of Berkeley as late as ten or eleven on a Saturday night.  While I mourn the loss of sunny September and October Saturday afternoons at Memorial, many Bay Area Cal fans seem to appreciate having Saturday morning to do other things, like soccer games for the kids, before heading off to Berkeley for late afternoon or evening football.  Last Thursday evening I sat in Memorial Stadium after a special practice, as a Cal player lead hundreds of student rooters in chants of “Whose House? Our House!” Just beyond the Stadium wall a “Save the Oaks!” tree house was visible atop a truncated conifer.  Come tomorrow, the new season kicks off and Berkeley will eventually see which vision has built a more durable home.


SF Examiner: Tedford looking for a Rocky Top feeling

by Glenn Dickey, The Examiner

Jeff Tedford wants Cal football fans to be just as nasty toward visiting Tennessee in Saturday’s season opener as the Vols’ fans were to the Bears in Knoxville last season.  “I’m asking the fans to create a special environment for us,” Tedford said. “When they’re huddling on offense, be as noisy as you can. When we’re on offense, quiet down so we can hear the signals.”  To help the cause, the Cal marketing people are handing out megaphones to the first 50,000 fans. Tedford admits he didn’t know quite what the Bears were getting into last season. College football in the South isn’t life or death. It’s more important than that. And Tennessee’s home stadium is as partisan as it gets, with 108,000 orange-clad fans screaming for their team.  Both Tedford and his team were overwhelmed, with the Bears trailing 35-0 at halftime before rallying to make the final score a more respectable 35-18.  “It was a real learning experience for me,” Tedford said. “I had never coached a team that was trailing 35-0 at halftime.”

He heard about it for the rest of the season.  “It seemed that game was all anybody talked about,” he said. “We won 10 games, but it was all ‘What happened in Tennessee?’ and ‘Oh, yeah, nice job in the bowl game.’” Tedford never makes predictions, and he especially shies away from one for this game.  “You never quite know what to expect in the opening game,” he said. “The NFL has preseason games, but in college ball, you just start the season. We know Tennessee will be fast and physical, but there’s no way you can practice for that because you can’t practice at game speed without getting players hurt.”   Early in his Cal coaching career, Tedford welcomed the chance to play top teams — it was his idea to get the Bears into the Black Coaches Association game against seventh-ranked Kansas State in 2002 — but like all coaches, he’d prefer starting against a weaker opponent, as Cal did in 2004 and 2005. But he’s playing the hand he’s dealt.  There’s no reason to feel sorry for the Bears. Tedford has consistently said since spring practice that this is his fastest and strongest team yet. He stops short of saying that it’s his best, but that conclusion follows naturally.

The Bears should have an explosive offense, with quarterback Nate Longshore throwing to receivers DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins, for whom Tedford had special praise in the spring. Longshore knows the system thoroughly and Tedford will be calling the plays again, aftter the one-year experiment with Mike Dunbar. Though Marshawn Lynch is gone, Justin Forsett is a strong replacement at tailback, and freshman Jahvid Best will be an eye-opener with his speed and moves. The Bears lost some good defensive players, but they still have big playmakers. I especially like linebacker Anthony Felder and cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson. Last year, there was much talk about the great traditions in Tennessee football, which Tedford thinks was a distraction. This year, the focus has been on what the Bears can — and will — do. Since I’m not a coach, I can make a prediction: With their fans spurring them on with amplified voices, the Bears will beat the Vols, a great start for what will be their best season yet under Tedford.


WBIR: Ainge's workout gives Vols relief

A couple of hours before the players boarded their plane, the Tennessee football program learned a couple of more reasons to feel confident about Saturday's game.   

Starting quarterback Erik Ainge had his heaviest workload of the week Thursday after breaking his pinkie finger on his right (throwing) hand Monday. The senior threw several short and long passes to receivers and was accurate on the majority of the throws during the first 30 minutes of practice, when the media is allowed to watch workouts.

Ainge also had his pinkie finger and his ring finger taped together and did not appear to be in any pain. Coach Phillip Fulmer still expects Ainge to start the Vols' season opener at Cal on Saturday.  "Erik is fine," Fulmer said. "He took every snap in practice. He threw the ball well. I didn't see any issues with that. I appreciate his toughness. We took a couple of days to let it settle down, and it's worked out well."

Kicking update: The Vols got some more good news on the injury front. Kicker Britton Colquitt has been resting a quad injury but participated in workouts on Thursday.  Daniel Lincoln will handle placekicking duties while Colquitt will only punt. "If Daniel wasn't there, I asked (Colquitt) if we had to come down and kick a field goal to win the game at the end," Fulmer said. "He said, 'Coach, I'd kick it if I had to kick it left-footed,' and I believe him."

Terrific teens: The freshmen continued to leave positive impressions on the coaching staff, and more than a few are expected to see playing time Saturday. Freshman Denarius Moore will handle kickoff duties with junior Arian Foster. Fellow freshman Eric Berry will see action at cornerback and could line up against All-America receiver DeSean Jackson.

"It's probably as good of a freshman class we've ever had here as a whole," Fulmer said. "Now I don't know if there's a Peyton Manning or a Jamal Lewis in it, necessarily, but man, what a good group of young men. They're talented and skilled."

TV info: UT's home opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 8 will be televised on a pay-per-view basis. Fans can contact their local cable company for ordering information. The game is also expected to be available to DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers on a pay-per-view basis. Randy Smith will handle play-by-play duties with former Vol quarterback Pat Ryan as the analyst.

Former player dies: Leonard Coffman, the last surviving starter on Tennessee's 1939 football team coached by Robert Neyland, died Thursday. He was 92. Coffman, a fullback who was born in Middlesboro, Ky., died in Greeneville.  Coffman played on the undefeated 1938 team that won a national title and on the 1939 team that didn't allow a point until losing to USC 14-0 in the Rose Bowl.



Daily Cal: Name of the Game: Redemption

BY Steffi Chan

Last season, when the Cal football team entered Neyland Stadium, home to perennial powerhouse Tennessee, 106,009 rabid fans, and only orange and white as far as the eye could see, the Bears walked onto the field confident and anxious to show off what the nation had judged to be dominating talent.  A few hours later, they trudged off the field, dazed, humiliated and humbled—a feeling that stayed with them for the next five hours on the plane, the next four months of the season, and the next eight months of the offseason.  A year has passed, and as No. 12 Cal heads into Saturday’s season-opening rematch against the No. 15 Volunteers, this time at Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m., it has not forgotten.  “I still have that bitter taste in my mouth,” tailback Justin Forsett said. “And having that long five-hour plane ride back to Berkeley wasn’t that fun.”

It didn’t matter that the Bears went on to win their next eight games, the Big Game, and their bowl game over Texas A&M—in dominating fashion, no less—to end the season with 10 wins.  The thrashing that Cal received at the hands of the Vols remained a blemish that it could not forget—perhaps until now.  “It’s not really revenge—I think if anything, it’s redemption,” Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. “We didn’t play very well last year when we were there.  “It wasn’t that we lost the game last year, I think it was the way we lost the game last year that was the devastating part of it, that hung with us so long.”  The devastation was evident when, midway through the third quarter, Tedford looked up to the scoreboard and saw his team trailing 35-0 for the first time in his coaching career at Cal.  The final score, 35-18, hardly reflected the extent of dominance that the Volunteers had asserted over the Bears. The loss was taken by the nation as sufficient reason to write off Cal as a legitimate football power, something many players look to rectify with Saturday’s game.  “Just because we lost the first game of the season against a really good opponent doesn’t mean we are a joke of a team,” offensive lineman Mike Tepper said.

But the Bears would be wrong to think that they’re the only ones entering the matchup with a need to redeem themselves.  Tennessee, a perennial top-10 team, finished the 2006 season with a 9-4 record—one that was, though a marked improvement from its 5-6 record in 2005, still anything but acceptable by the Volunteers’ standards.  Add onto that the fact that Phillip Fulmer’s team is coming off a 20-10 loss to Penn State in the 2007 Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day, and there is little doubt that they’ll be entering the season opener with an agenda.  “It’s a huge game for either of us, no matter how you look at it,” Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge said. “We’re six-point underdogs and we beat them pretty good last year. I think both teams have a little something extra that they’re upset about, a little chip on their shoulder.”

The game may have particular significance for Forsett, who will have something to prove as he takes over the reigns with Marshawn Lynch gone to the NFL. Forsett will be relied upon to execute a running game that finished last year’s contest with 64 yards.  But if anyone is in need of redemption, it’s sophomore cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, who was burned by Vols wideout Robert Meachem last year to the tune of 182 yards and two touchdowns.  However, with Meachem and fellow graduated receivers Jayson Swain and Bret Smith gone, in addition to the suspension of last year’s leading rusher LaMarcus Coker, the Tennessee offense will hardly resemble that of last season.  The new batch of wide receivers will be Lucas Taylor, Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe, who have 29 career catches combined.  Tailback Arian Foster, who picked up 322 yards on 91 carries last season, will be taking handoffs from Ainge, despite the broken pinky Ainge suffered on his throwing hand in practice Monday. He practiced yesterday for the first time all week.  “The issue with my finger is being pain free,” Ainge said. “But this is football, and we’re never going to be completely pain free. So I’m ready to go.”

San Jose Mercury News: Cal, SJSU and Stanford football: A HUGE weekend for the locals

By Jon Wilner

If you’re a fan of the local college football teams, Saturday is the day you’ve been waiting for. Not for a few weeks, or a few months. Forever.  It’s the best opening day in Bay Area history, with all three teams playing important games against big-name opponents.  No. 12 Cal faces No. 15 Tennessee in prime time in the marquee game of the week nationally, the only one matching ranked teams. Stanford plays a conference game against a ranked team, No. 14 UCLA, in new Coach Jim Harbaugh’s debut.  And San Jose State takes its show on the road to face a Pacific-10 Conference foe. No, Arizona State isn’t ranked, but the Sun Devils are a bowl contender with a coach you might have heard of, Dennis Erickson. The Spartans couldn’t ask for a much bigger stage. To find anything like Sept. 1, 2007, you’d have to go back to Sept. 9, 1978. That day, Cal opened against Nebraska, Bill Walsh led Stanford against Oklahoma and SJSU faced Idaho. But that Cal team wasn’t ranked, and SJSU-Idaho can’t compare to SJSU-Arizona State.

And here’s more good news for local fans: By about 10:30 p.m., when the SJSU game winds down, we should know what the next three months will bring. What happens Saturday will go a long way to shaping each team’s season. We’ll know if Cal is a Bowl Championship Series contender or a second-tier team, if Stanford is grasping for mediocrity or downright awful, and if SJSU is headed for another nine-win season or will finish closer to .500. The Spartans’ schedule is much tougher this year than last. How they fare at ASU should be a pretty good indication of how they’ll fare at Kansas State, at Fresno State, at Boise State and against Hawaii.  “If you play your first game against a weak opponent, you don’t know much at all,'’ Spartans Coach Dick Tomey said. “But with a team like ASU, we’ll know a lot about us.'’

Tomey wants to play as many Pac-10 teams as possible, even as openers, and has scheduled a trip to USC in 2009. The games provide terrific recruiting exposure for his emerging program and are essentially no-lose opportunities, since no one expects the Spartans to beat an ASU or USC.  But up in Berkeley, Cal Coach Jeff Tedford isn’t nearly as eager to face Tennessee in the first game. Sure, it will tell the Bears exactly where they stand — whether the rebuilt defense is ready for prime time, whether Justin Forsett can carry the running game — but the risks are high.  Win the game, Tedford’s thinking goes, and the Bears would still have to win the next one (and the next one and the next one) to achieve their goals of a BCS bowl. But a loss could waylay Cal’s grand plans and damage confidence for weeks to come.  There’s a reason no other top programs are opening against ranked opponents.  “If you don’t win, then that stays with you for a long time, at least it did last year,” Tedford said. “I’m just going off of last year’s experience, so that’s why I say that.”

It took weeks for the Bears to recover emotionally from their 35-18 loss in Knoxville and even longer for the criticism to abate.  No matter what Cal did, no matter how many games it won, its season was shaped by the performance in Knoxville.  “We won 10 games last year and I think the question that gets asked the most is Tennessee and maybe you might get a little bit, oh, by the way, good job in the bowl game,'’ Tedford said. “That what comes out of last year, but that’s the worst we’ve ever played.'’ Stanford also opened the 2006 season with an embarrassing loss - the difference being that the 48-10 defeat at Oregon wasn’t an abberation but a harbinger.  That could the be the case again this season. If Stanford gets bombed, then we’re probably looking at another atrocious season. (The schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.)

But if the Cardinal wins - or if it’s competitive for most of the game - then we can expect mediocrity, or something approaching it, in Harbaugh’s rookie season. “There’s no kind of evaluation you can get quite like a ball game,'’ he said. Especially a big game on the first Saturday in September. Opening days like this one don’t come around often.

Contra Costa Times: Cal's cornerback wants redemption in rematch

By Jonathan Okanes

BERKELEY -- Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson became the poster boy for what went horribly wrong at Tennessee last season, but defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said there was plenty of blame to go around.  Thompson, playing in his first college game, was burned twice by All-American wide receiver Robert Meachem for long touchdown catches. On both plays, Thompson took a gamble on short passes from quarterback Erik Ainge, and each time Meachem broke free and raced up the field for the score.

The touchdowns went for 42 and 80 yards, with most of the yardage being consumed on the ground by Meachem. Which begs the question: Where was the rest of the defense?

"We should have done a better job giving him help," Gregory said. "Certainly, he wanted to make the play, but that's on me to make sure we get the guys in the right spot. We could have given him a little bit more help, not leave him out there by himself. That goes for anybody, having guys in the right spot." Thompson, Gregory and the Bears get their chance at redemption Saturday when the No. 15 Volunteers visit No. 12 Cal for the 2007 season opener, 364 days after last year's 35-18 disaster in Knoxville.  Thompson once again will line up at cornerback, with a full year of experience to his credit and healthy dose of motivation in reserve. The soft-spoken Thompson downplayed the revenge component, but teammates say memories of last year's game will be with him when he takes the field Saturday. "He's been working harder than anybody to get ready," linebacker Anthony Felder said. "He probably has more of a goal to redeem himself more than any individual on the team."  Added free safety Thomas DeCoud: "I think that game has become his motivation for the duration of his career."

Thompson entered the game as a redshirt freshman who wasn't even expected to start. But when projected starter Tim Mixon went down with a knee injury during training camp, Thompson was thrust into a starting role. It wasn't exactly a recipe for a successful college debut. Not only did Thompson play his first game in front of 106,009 fans at Neyland Stadium, one of the more hostile environments in college football, he played with a cast on his left hand because of a fractured thumb.  "He's got two hands this year," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He had a great year last year. He just took a chance on two plays, and it didn't work out for us. I have a lot of confidence in Syd." The Bears flew home immediately after last year's game and arrived in the Bay Area late that night. Thompson was at Memorial Stadium the next morning going over the plays with Gregory.

"I'm a competitor. I felt like if there was something wrong that he had seen, I would want to know from a coach's point of view what it was, so I could come out and practice and correct it," Thompson said. "I was just out there trying to make a play for my team. Things didn't happen the way I expected them to happen at the time, but I think that game really woke me up for the rest of the season." "That's a huge credit to him because he wanted to find out how to get better," Gregory said. "He was in the tank, but he did what he had to do to get better. It's not like he slept in for eight hours. He was in here asking to go over all those plays."

Just like last year, Saturday's game will feature two teams ranked in the top 25 and will appear on national television. Just as the country saw Thompson's struggles last season, it will get a chance to see how far he's come this year. "I just want to start off better as a team than we did last year," Thompson said. "It just made me come to each game focused and playing at a high level. You never know what's going to happen on the next play. Whatever does happen, you have to be able to erase good or bad plays and play hard the next play."


Contra Costa Times: Ainge's pinkie causes no changes

QB's status doesn't figure in preparations for Tennessee's offense

By Jonathan Okanes

BERKELEY — Cal coach Jeff Tedford said the uncertainty surrounding Tennessee's quarterback situation won't alter how the Bears prepare for Saturday's season-opener at Memorial Stadium.   Tennessee starting quarterback Erik Ainge broke the pinkie on his throwing hand earlier in the week, but coach Phillip Fulmer said Ainge will still start against the Bears. But backup Jonathan Crompton has been getting more reps with the first team this week in case Ainge can't go or is ineffective.  "We have to prepare for the team," Tedford said. "I'm sure they'll run the same offense. (Crompton) has some experience. I would assume they are going to do the same things they do."  Ainge torched Cal for 291 yards and four touchdowns during Tennessee's 35-18 victory last season. Crompton, who was a top recruit coming out of high school, got into seven games last year, including one start.  Although Ainge has been limited in practice this week, he has said he'll be ready to go Saturday. Tedford, a former Canadian Football League quarterback, said the injury shouldn't hinder Ainge too much.  "The pinkie doesn't do that much when you're throwing the ball," he said.

DRAWING THE LINE: One of the challenges of a season opener is that players don't have any previous games against the speed and strength of a real opponent. Considering Tennessee is one of the fastest and strongest teams Cal will face all season, it makes for tough decisions for Tedford.  How often in practice this week does he play the first team offense against the first team defense, and tell them to let it loose like a real game? Certainly, it helps with preparation, but it also makes for an increased risk of injury.

"Right out of the gate you're playing a team that is so fast and so physical," Tedford said. "It takes you a little while to get used to that. You're going right into pretty much a bowl game the first time out. We simulate as much as we can, but you're always at risk of injury, if you're going live in practice.  The Bears went with what Tedford calls "high tempo" Monday and Tuesday, but did not the rest of the week.  "But we practiced physical through camp," he said. "We got after each other pretty good. But it's just not the same."

HURTS SO BAD: Before spring practice started, Tedford showed the players a 10-minute clip of everything that went wrong last year against Tennessee. That's about as much of the game that wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins can stomach to watch.  "I can watch about one quarter, and that's it," Hawkins said. "It hurt me so bad that we played so bad. It was so embarrassing. The whole world was watching. There was all this hoopla, and we played as bad as we played. I can't watch it."  Hawkins also said the Bears let the rest of the conference down, because the loss added ammunition to the debate between the Pac-10 and the SEC.  "You hear a lot about the SEC being really physical and fast," Hawkins said. "They say Pac-10 guys are soft and all that other stuff. ... Man, I can't say what I want to say."

Chicago Sun Times: Cal needs to avenge rout vs. Vols to show it can challenge USC in Pac-10

BY HERB GOULD Staff Reporter

Don't tell California coach Jeff Tedford that the 12th-ranked Golden Bears' opener Saturday against No. 15 Tennesee is about revenge.  ''This isn't revenge,'' Tedford said. ''It's about redemption. Revenge has nothing to do with it.'' Whether it's a chance for a payback, or a chance to diminish the pain of last year's trip to Knoxville, there's no question about one point: It's a golden opportunity for Cal to take the next step. Even though they've been awfully good in recent years, the Golden Bears have been living in the shadow of Pac-10 giant USC. And they have a lot of pieces in place for another strong run. Cal might even be good enough to set up a big-time showdown when the Trojans come to Berkeley on Nov. 10. But it has to take care of business against the Volunteers, who built a 35-0 lead in last year's opener against Cal before settling for a 35-18 thrashing.

It all starts here -- in the biggest game of college football's opening weekend. If the stakes are high for Cal, they also are big for the Vols. While the Golden Bears have only two other preseason-ranked teams on their schedule (No. 1 USC and No. 14 UCLA), Tennessee faces a mine field that includes No. 2 LSU, No. 6 Florida, No. 13 Georgia and No. 21 Arkansas. A slip Saturday would reduce the Vols' margin for error down the road. In another potential complication for Tennessee, senior quarterback Erik Ainge, who threw four touchdown passes vs. Cal last year, broke the pinky on his throwing hand in practice Monday. ''Just one of those things. I'll be all right,'' said Ainge, who injured the finger taking a snap. Just to be sure, the Vols decided to limit the practice exposure of their often-injured leader.  Ainge shouldn't look for sympathy from Cal. Whether you call it redemption or revenge, the Golden Bears are determined to get this season off on the right foot by easing a painful memory.

''We've been thinking about that game since that day,'' safety Tomas DeCoud said. ''It's been burning in our souls. We've definitely devoted a lot of hard work and attention to getting ready for Tennessee and making sure we protect our house when they come to Berkeley.'' Beyond motivation, the Golden Bears have a lot of other things going for them this time around. They'll be playing in cozy, 67,000-seat Memorial Stadium, rather than that Rocky Top horror show, 106,000-seat Neyland Stadium. And junior quarterback Nate Longshore has a year of experience under his belt. Longshore has dropped 10 to 15 pounds, which should help him run Tedford's offense. The Cal coach has coached seven quarterbacks who have gone on to start an NFL game. Add a nice set of skill-position players -- including electrifying wide receiver/kick returner Desean Jackson -- and a promising defense, and Cal could be primed for a breakthrough season. Still, Tennessee figures to be a tough opponent. Although the Vols haven't won the SEC East outright since 1998, playing in the nation's toughest division will add losses that can subtract from a team's image. Blowing fourth-quarter leads last year against Florida and LSU cost them a chance for a spectacular season. It all adds up to an intriguing rematch, especially on an opening-weekend schedule that's short on major showdowns.

The line: California by 6.

Herb Gould's pick: Cal, 31-28

Thursday, August 30, 2007

SF Chronicle: What's real, what's not from ol' Rocky Top

Rusty Simmons, Chronicle Staff Writer

Here is the link.

The throwing-hand pinkie of Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge was sore, then jammed and then broken.  It happened Monday while taking a snap, or maybe it occurred on a handoff. Some players claim to have known the severity of the injury that day, or at least by Tuesday, but somehow the break wasn't revealed by X-ray until Wednesday.

Ainge is definitely going to play. At least, coach Phillip Fulmer hopes so. Sophomore Jonathan Crompton will be ready if Ainge can't finish what he starts. There's a font of misinformation coming out of the Tennessee camp, and it's probably by design as the team prepares for Saturday's national showcase game against Cal in Berkeley. On top of his obsessive study of game video, Cal coach Jeff Tedford also reads every piece of information he can find about opponents. "We get all the articles from all the papers," he said. "We're always looking for something to help us." Fulmer is providing plenty of fake fodder, and his players are helping. Ainge talked around the injury when addressing Tennessee newspapers Wednesday.

"I'm not concerned about being able to play and being ready to play," he said before quickly turning his tone. "You never know. You're always one play away. Anything could happen, but right now I feel confident that I'll be ready to play." Ainge was 11-of-18 for 291 yards and four scores in the Volunteers' 35-18 win over the Bears last season. He had an ankle injury that limited his practice time before the LSU game and played only three series. He missed the entire Arkansas game the following week. Crompton filled in by going 27-of-58 for 357 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, but Tennessee lost both games. The cant doesn't stop there.

"We'll be looking for a lot of answers to a lot of questions Saturday at California," Fulmer said. "I'm anxious to see our team on the field against somebody else." All-SEC punter Britton Colquitt has a strained quad in his kicking leg. "Certainly I'm hopeful that Britton will be 100 percent when we get to game time," Fulmer said. "My first thought right now is that he'll do only the punting. Extra points, field goals and kickoffs will be done by Daniel Lincoln." The offense reportedly has toyed with some no-huddle and double tight end sets and has a flock of inexperienced receivers. "People are saying that their receivers are young, but they're still Tennessee," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "They don't recruit bad players, so they'll be really good." Fulmer has also relayed and expounded concerns about the defensive line and secondary.

"The defensive front, as I've said a number of times, has been a concern, particularly defensive tackle," he said. The secondary "is probably an area that we're going to be the most tested in. We'll find out a lot about where we are there." As part of the plan, those answers won't come until Saturday.

Briefly: Starting fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou, who sprained his medial collateral ligament, practiced at full speed Thursday and is expected to play Saturday. ... In the interest of public safety, Gates 2-4, the Memorial Stadium entrances closest to the tree-sitters will be closed Saturday, a Cal spokesman said. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and use the north or south entrances.

UC Berkeley Public Affairs: Judge rules in university's favor in challenge to fenced safety zone around tree protest at stadium

BERKELEY – Rejecting all claims that a recently constructed temporary fence had any purpose other than public safety, an Alameda County Superior Court judge on Thursday (Aug. 30) rebuffed an effort to remove the fence surrounding protesters encamped in trees next to UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium.  In a ruling issued Thursday evening, Judge Barbara Miller allowed the chain-link fence, erected Wednesday morning, to remain in place around some of the oak trees west of the stadium, where activists opposed to the university's plans to construct a new student-athlete high performance center have been staging a treetop vigil since last December.

In a declaration submitted earlier Thursday to Judge Miller, UC Police Chief Victoria Harrison cited more than 155 violations and 98 arrests or citations of protesters outside the stadium since December as she outlined in detail the need for erecting a temporary fence at the site in advance of Saturday's season-opening football game.  "Safe management of the site requires a physical barrier between protesters and visitors to the site," Harrison said in her five-page declaration. The university plans to build a student-athlete high performance center at the site, immediately west of the stadium.  The declaration noted that the protesters are in violation of state trespass laws and university policies regulating time, place, and manner of public expression.  The protesters, some of whom are occupying trees that will need to be removed to build the student-athlete facility, had sought a temporary restraining order to remove the fence.  Among the protesters' claims was that the university's actions were depriving them of food and water. The campus's attorney told the judge that the protesters in the trees have adequate supplies of food and water.


In her declaration, Harrison cited the following:


·         her staff have individually reported over 155 violations, of which 98 resulted in arrests of or citations to protesters at the site.

·         numerous reported incidents of individuals in drive-by vehicles heckling and throwing items at the protesters.

·         numerous reported incidents of protesters heckling, spitting, and pouring urine and excrement on officers and others standing underneath the trees.

·         individuals in the trees currently have buckets of feces, urine, and rotted food

·         hostility expressed on YouTube, blogs, and Internet bulletin boards between protesters and football fans.

·         Further, she said that protesters have "vandalized trees, disrupted classes, conducted unauthorized events... In addition, the protesters became increasingly uncooperative with police and refused to follow lawful directions which resulted in protesters physically resisting officers. Also various protesters were involved in thefts and unauthorized removal of property from the International House and Memorial Stadium."

·         The first football game of the season is Saturday. More than 70,000 spectators are expected to attend the game, which "potentially creates a very volatile situation," said Harrison.


Fans attending Saturday's game are urged to use the north and south entrances to Memorial Stadium to avoid any possible congestion on the west side, where the fenced safety zone blocks some of the normal approaches to the stadium.

Sports Illustrated: Bring on the Vols

Cal relishes another shot at Tennessee in Week 1


At the end of a 20-minute chat Wednesday, California quarterback Nate Longshore circled back to emphasize a point he'd made earlier. "I have nothing but respect for Appalachian State," he repeated. "Those guys have great players, and they're the champions of their division."  This had not prevented Longshore from tweaking Chad Henne over the summer. The Cal and Michigan quarterbacks worked together at the Elite 11 quarterback camp in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. When the subject of opening-day opponents arose, Henne informed Longshore that the Wolverines would face the Mountaineers of Appalachian State.  "Must be nice," rejoined Longshore. "Will you guys wear your game jerseys for that one?"  Longshore (who went out of his way to point out that ASU is coming off its second national title in the Division formerly known as I-AA) has some room to talk. On Saturday, the junior from Canyon Country, Calif., will lead the 12th-ranked Bears against No. 15 Tennessee -- the only matchup between ranked teams in Week 1.

I know that today's schedules were drawn up in the mists of time, in a previous millennium. But it sure seems as if we're kicking off the season with fewer and fewer meaningful games. For every Cal and Tennessee, there are 10 squads willing to cut a six-figure check to whatever cash-strapped program is willing to play pet-shop mouse to the home team's boa. Gazing upon college football's opening weekend, one sees a bakeoff, a cavalcade of confectionary with a theme song on loan from the neck-tied minstrel of the Snickers commercial.

Read the entire article here.

SF Chronicle Podcast: Can Cal Bear Weight of Great Expectations?

For the second consecutive year, the California Golden Bears kickoff the season against Tennessee with fans and football pundits expecting a golden season. So beat reporter Rusty Simmons and Chronicle sports editor Glenn Schwarz kick off another Cal Football podcast season with a look at the team's strengths and weaknesses.  Simmons gives some insights into what Head Coach Jeff Tedford is doing differently this year to avoid a repeat of last season's embarrassing opening day flop against the Volunteers.  He also talks about how star wide receiver DeSean Jackson is dealing with the media hype and attention he is receiving, and what the team plans to do to shore up the defensive line.

And what does the hoopla behind freshman running back Jahvid Best mean for the team this year?

To access the podcast, please click here.

Tennessean: Vols football: Players studying Cal receivers closely


KNOXVILLE - Rarely do football players in the Southeastern Conference watch film of opposing players and become speechless, especially when it's a non-conference opponent.

That hasn't been the case this week.  Each time Tennessee defensive players pop in a tape and watch the Cal receivers, a little more respect is gained.  "When you watch them on film, you say, 'Wow'" UT cornerback Antonio Gaines said. "They're great receivers."  DeSean Jackson is the receiver who stands out most. After Jackson caught 59 passes for 1,060 yards and nine touchdowns last season, national outlets immediately began labeling him the top junior receiver for 2007. The Sporting News went as far to rank Jackson the No. 1 overall receiver in the country entering this season. But Jackson is at his best on special teams, and UT has devoted special time the past 10 days to limit his big-play ability. It's a must considering Jackson led the nation in punt return average (18.2 yards) and punt returns for touchdowns (five) last season.

Jackson was recently featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine and received a five-page spread. It's the kind of exposure usually reserved for Southern Cal or SEC stars.

"He's an outstanding player," UT defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "He had a great year last year, and I'm sure he's ready to have a great year this year. But we play talented guys every week. When you line up in the SEC, that's what you're going to see." It's unclear who will cover Jackson. The Vols return only one starter in the secondary (All-SEC safety Jonathan Hefney), but Vols coach Phillip Fulmer has been more than pleased with the play of Gaines, a senior, and former Smyrna star Marsalous Johnson, a sophomore. The two cornerbacks will receive some help from true freshman Eric Berry. It's not just Jackson that Tennessee needs to worry about. Cal's receiving corps is deep, fast and full of playmakers, including seniors Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins. The two combined for 92 catches, 1,276 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2006. "You can't just zero in and say, 'Hey, we're going to stop DeSean Jackson'" Vols secondary coach Larry Slade said. "You've got those other guys that are pretty good, too. They are going to get the ball to those guys. They are exceptionally quick - outstanding speed - so it's a tremendous challenge." Hefney believes it could be a little easier than most think. He said in order for the Vols to limit the play of the receivers, they need to first limit Cal's running backs. "Once you stop the run, it's going to be pretty much easy," Hefney said. "They can't do too much if we're stopping the run because we know they can only pass then. And we'll have people set up for that."




Modesto Bee: Moye, Bears ready for visiting Vols


Justin Moye remembers the knots in his stomach and the insults he heard as he walked off the field a year ago in Knoxville. Never had Cal played in front of a larger crowd (more than 106,000). Seldom had a Golden Bear team been more embarrassed on national TV. In what was supposed to be a season-opening matchup of national powers, Tennessee rolled Cal 35-18 and it wasn't that close. Moye, the Central Catholic product and the son of a Golden Bear, reacted much like his team -- disappointed, shocked, humbled. "I looked around the stadium and couldn't believe the feeling in my gut," he recalled. "The fans were yelling about how horrible the Pac-10 was and that the SEC was real football. It's kind of stuck with me all year."  Moye will release the pent-up frustration Saturday night when the Volunteers visit Strawberry Canyon. For he and his mates, it's payback time and a chance to regain nationwide respect. The game carries even deeper meaning, however, for Moye, the product of Central Catholic who's risen from walk-on to contributing linebacker and special-teams star. He'll begin his senior season while his family and friends take their usual tailgating place at the corner of Channing and Piedmont near Memorial Stadium. That party will be led by Jeff Moye, Justin's father, the scrappy defensive back on Cal's Pac-8 co-title team in 1975.

The parallels are hard to miss: Both father and son were ex-CC Raiders, both annexed league co-titles at Cal and both threw their bodies around the field like commuters at rush hour. "He just tells me to play every play like it's your last," Justin said. The advice was hard-earned. Jeff's career was abbreviated when he was struck by an East Bay motorist as he was crossing a street. "Above everything else," Justin says, "my dad told me to not have any regrets." Saturday night also will mark the first time in six years Moye takes the field without friend Byron Storer. In some ways, Moye is Storer's successor. Storer, who's trying to win a job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a fullback but forged his identity by doing the dirty work on special teams. Moye, a backup linebacker, follows the same M.O. "Justin is a great team player and a great leader for our program. Byron had a lot of the same qualities," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "I really believe that Justin can fill that role."

Moye started three games at linebacker last season, saw action in all 13 games, and totaled 23 tackles (nine solo). Watch him closely, however, when Cal punts, kicks off and returns kicks. One of Moye's primary goals is to forge an opening for a coast-to-coast return by Cal's exciting Heisman Trophy candidate DeSean Jackson. Then again, the Modestan doesn't wait until game day to make his impact. Football practice, a dreary exercise by definition, often is spiced by Moye. Senior running back Justin Forsett, whose locker stands next to Moye's, has both seen and felt Moye's intensity more than once. They're fellow seniors and together they jump to center stage at Cal. Moye bounces from Storer's shadow while Forsett tries to replace the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year Marshawn Lynch. "Moye's motor is always running. He never takes a play off. You're never going to get a break from him," Forsett said. "He and Storer are two quiet, down-to-earth guys, but on the field there's a little Jekyll and Hyde going on. Byron was a borderline lunatic. He was possessed on the field and the same thing goes with Moye."

The two Justins actually are good friends. "He (Forsett) is going to be a beast. I can't wait to see what he can do as the starting tailback," Moye said. Moye has added muscle to his 6-foot-1 228-pound frame. "He (Moye) has gotten bigger over the years," Forsett said. "He's got a six-pack now." Abs aside, Moye will rely on his memory against Tennessee. He and the Bears responded to the Vols wipeout with eight straight wins and, eventually, a romp over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. That didn't erase, however, some unfinished business. A long year of waiting is almost over.


San Jose Mercury: Usually, you'll find Cal's Jackson in the end zone

By Jon Wilner

DeSean Jackson often gets compared to some of the greatest players in Cal history - to Tony Gonzalez for his big-play ability, to Deltha O'Neal for his sensational return skills, to Marshawn Lynch for his knack for turning nothing into something.  But when it comes to Jackson's ability to inspire, former Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski mentions two names familiar to college football fans everywhere. "He's like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus rolled into one, because he makes you want to believe," Pawlawski said. "Every time he touches the ball, you want to believe that he's got a chance to do something incredible. And that's what fans love." Jackson is an All-America receiver, one of the best punt returners in NCAA history, a Heisman Trophy candidate and a primary reason Cal is ranked No. 12 in the country entering its season-opening showdown Saturday against No. 15 Tennessee. He also fills the highlight reel as well as anyone in Bay Area college football history - a 172-pound junior who keeps fans on the edge of their seats, waiting, hoping, believing they'll see something spectacular.

Few Cal, Stanford or San Jose State players have had his breathtaking speed, flair for the dramatic and strike-from-anywhere arsenal. Sure, O'Neal and Lynch are in the discussion. Same with Cal's Russell White and Stanford's Darrin Nelson and Glyn Milburn. But what separates Jackson is his ratio of touchdowns to touches. For example, Lynch scored once every 17 times he touched the ball last season. Jackson scored once every seven. In that respect, Jackson reminds Cal receivers coach Dan Ferrigno of another former Bear with a knack for big plays. "I know they are different, but I liken DeSean's playmaking ability to Tony Gonzalez," said Ferrigno, who was on staff during Gonzalez's brilliant career. "When you needed a play, Tony made it. That's what DeSean is like."

It's more than his speed Jackson has scored 21 touchdowns in 24 games at Cal. He scored on his first collegiate catch and his first collegiate punt return - both in the 2005 opener. Last season, he averaged 18 yards per touch and had 28 plays of 20 yards or more, including a 95-yard punt return against Arizona. "He split us faster than any human being I've ever seen," Arizona Coach Mike Stoops said. Jackson isn't only fast, he's quick - possessing the ability to go from standing still to full speed in half a blink.

But there's more to his success than a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. Jackson understands how to leverage that speed, how to make cornerbacks and safeties think he's going one way when he's really going another. "A lot of guys try to do it like DeSean," Pawlawski said, "but their body doesn't listen to their mind." Jackson, whose brother Byron played receiver at San Jose State and for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, also understands the art of route-running in a way many collegians do not. He sets up defenders, leans with his shoulders, plants and turns precisely. And he has taken to studying film on his own, not just of defensive backs but also of an opponent's punt coverage. "He understands the craft," Ferrigno said. Jackson also has tremendous field vision. At Long Beach Poly, he used to jog off the field and tell the coaches what was happening. He processes movement so quickly, according to legendary Poly coach Don Norford, that he can spot seams in the secondary or punt coverage just as they are forming.

That allows Jackson to set up big plays, especially when returning punts. The best example came last season against Oregon, when Jackson fielded a punt and took a few steps to his left, luring the coverage in that direction. Then he reversed field, found the wall in front of him and darted 65 yards for a touchdown. In two seasons, Jackson has taken five punts back for touchdowns in a mere 26 returns - an astonishing 19.2 percent touchdown rate. "I visualize a lot," he said. "And I don't think too much." Building himself up

Jackson learned the game by playing with and against older kids. When Byron's career ended, in 1993, he made sure his little brother stayed involved in the game. "Some players, like myself, get to a high level and are surprised they're there," Byron said. "But DeSean thinks he belongs, so that when the lights are on, he's comfortable. A lot of guys tense up in situations like that." Jackson spent part of his summer at Cal and part working out with Byron in Southern California, focusing on core strength so that, even at 172 pounds, he can run through arm tackles. He reported for training camp in the best shape of his life and, despite all the media attention - he was on a regional cover of ESPN The Magazine - is focused on making an impact as a receiver, punt returner or even as a decoy.

In previous seasons, Jackson would occasionally get frustrated when the ball wasn't thrown his way. "He has matured quite a bit because the attention has forced him to do that," Bears Coach Jeff Tedford said. "He understands his role in the offense. He knows the ball is going to go different places." Much to the chagrin of Cal fans. "People can't wait for this guy to touch the ball," Ferrigno said, "and neither can we."

San Jose Mercury: Cal football preview: By position




If it weren't for teammate DeSean Jackson and USC quarterback John David Booty, Longshore might be getting more preseason national recognition. He threw for more than 3,000 yards in his first year as a starter, improving as the season went on. He should be even better this year. If Longshore were to get injured, there would be a big drop-off in backup Kevin Riley, who has never taken a college snap.



The Bears have the deepest corps of tailbacks in the Pac-10 save for USC. Senior Justin Forsett is ready to start, and although backups James Montgomery and Jahvid Best are inexperienced, they both came to Cal with big-time press clippings. Fullback Will Ta'ofu'ou, who is expected back soon from a knee injury, is solid.



The trio of DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and Lavelle Hawkins has been rated by some as the best group of wide receivers in the country. Throw in Craig Stevens, who might be the Pac-10's best tight end, and it makes for a potent passing game. Opponents may be reluctant to double-team Jackson, a preseason first-team All-American, because of the quality of the other targets.



Center Alex Mack is one of the country's best, but the Bears must replace Andrew Cameron and Erik Robertson on the left side. Mike Gibson has moved from right tackle to left tackle, and Brian De La Puente, who started three games on the right last season, is at left guard. Noris Malele is back as a starter at right guard, and Mike Tepper is the new starting right tackle. Talented freshman Chris Guarnero is in the wings if someone gets hurt.



Cal lost three of its four starters, including All-Pac-10 first-teamer Brandon Mebane, who was picked in the third round of the NFL draft by Seattle. Junior Rulon Davis is raw but athletic and will start on one end. Sophomore Tyson Alualu played a lot as a freshman and will play both inside and out. Returning starter Matt Malele anchors the interior. Sophomore Tad Smith had some good moments during camp, and freshman Cameron Jordan could make an impact.



All three starters are All-Pac-10 candidates. Worrell Williams started on the weak side last year but moves to the middle to take over for Desmond Bishop, the Pac-10's leading tackler in 2006. Strong-side linebacker Zack Follett didn't start last season but got as many reps as one and is considered an All-America candidate. Anthony Felder was a freshman All-American two years ago but was hurt last season. Greg Van Hoesen, Justin Moye and Mike Mohamed are capable backups.



Senior Brandon Hampton gets first crack at replacing Pac-10 defensive player of the year Daymeion Hughes at cornerback. Sophomore Syd'Quan Thompson could become one of the conference's top corners on the other side. Cal returns both safeties in Thomas DeCoud and Bernard Hicks. Backups Darian Hagan and Chris Conte give the position some depth.



The Bears have one of the best units in the country, with punt returner DeSean Jackson, punter Andrew Larson and kicker Tom Schneider all considered among the best at his position. Even long snapper Nick Sundberg is considered a potential NFL player.