Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SF Chronicle: Bears remember last year's 'embarrassing' loss

Rusty Simmons

Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins still hasn't seen video of last season's 35-18 loss to Tennessee in its entirety.  Coach Jeff Tedford, however, made Hawkins and the rest of his teammates watch a 10-minute video of lowlights before the team started its spring practices.  "We dropped balls and missed blocks," Hawkins said. "That was so embarrassing, because the whole world was watching. "We are supposed to have one of the top receiving corps in the nation and we're getting all this hoopla, and we played as bad as we could play." In those words lies the biggest shift in focus among Cal players and coaches from last season to this. The talk about Tennessee's players, history and fans has been replaced by a lot of we, us and I.

"We didn't play very well last year, and we probably got caught a little too focused on them and the environment," Tedford said. "Last year, we didn't come close to our potential, so we had no chance (of winning). It wasn't that we lost the game, it was how we lost it that was so devastating."

Bounce back: Junior linebacker Anthony Felder went from freshman All-American to reserve status last season. He went from 39 tackles and two sacks to 18 and zero. Felder, who is back in the starting lineup, hobbled through practice after practice last year but chose not to discuss his injury. He said Tuesday that he had a nerve issue in his calf muscle. "It's going to be a lot more exciting than riding the bench all season, so I'm definitely looking forward to it," he said. "It will be a good feeling to contribute to the team a lot more and to feel like part of the success of the team."

Locker talk: Tedford repeatedly has noted how much Hawkins has matured since arriving on campus, but the receiver still has one gripe.  "I'm mad at coach Tedford," he joked. "He moved my locker away from Nate (Longshore). When he was next to me, I caught 46 balls. If my receptions go down, Tedford and I are going to have a meeting." 

Tick, tock: There is a clock in the locker room that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until each game. "It hit me in the middle of July," right tackle Mike Tepper said. "When you see you have 176 days to go, you think, 'Sweet, we still have time.' Now, it's like, 'Here we go.' "

Hold the (mega)phone: Tedford challenged the fans to create a home-field advantage Saturday, and he's getting a little help from the marketing department. The first 50,000 fans will receive a megaphone.


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