Friday, August 24, 2007

The Tennessean: Cal eyes payback for loss at UT

It's been almost one year since the Cal football team was thumped by Tennessee. And the Bears still haven't found a mouthwash strong enough to get rid of the bitter taste.

The two teams once again will open their regular seasons against each other in nine days, almost a year to the day of Tennessee's 35-18 beatdown at Neyland Stadium. It was one of those classic situations when the final score failed to tell the whole story. Cal, ranked No. 9 at the time, scored only three points in the first three quarters and UT led 35-0 at one point. Not that anyone needs to remind the Cal players. "It's definitely been a thorn in our sides," Cal safety Thomas DeCoud said in a teleconference Wednesday.

"We've been thinking about that game since that day. 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." DeCoud might be thinking of the Bears' California Memorial Stadium right now, but plenty of his teammates are still thinking about their trip to Neyland Stadium. Cal tailback Justin Forsett called it the best environment he ever has played in. Quarterback Nate Longshore said "we went to a pretty sweet stadium," adding he learned a lot about his team after the loss. Linebacker Zack Follett went a step further. He said he was impressed with the types of athletes in the Southeastern Conference and has a new respect for them. "They are big, strong and fast guys," Follet said about UT. "They have it all. In the South, they're bred that big. In California, I wouldn't say we're not as big, we're just a different type of athlete out here. I think one of our goals has been to match up to the kind of football they play over there. The Pac-10 is a little more finesse; theirs is a little more power."

Follett's comments about Cal trying to pattern its style like UT's illustrate how much of an impression UT made. "Obviously you take that as a compliment when they're impressed," Vols quarterback Erik Ainge said. "They were a good football team last year. Were we 35-0 better than them last year? Probably not. I think it shocked them a little bit and they started getting better as the game went on." Ainge said that most teams look at another team's strengths and try to simulate them. He said Florida was that team for UT last season, and several Vols made it a point to study the way the Gators performed to pick up tips. UT will have to wait until the third game to see if it's worked. Cal, however, gets to see their model up close in a week and a half. "I'll never forget that five-hour plane ride home," Follett said. "When you work for something so hard, and then get beat the way we did on national television, that's going to stick with you." Now Cal will try to stick it to Tennessee.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a sensible post, and not the sort of pissing-contest bravado we've so often seen when one school talks about the other. Sure, they've focused on comments that make our guys seem more awe struck than woken up, but that's fair, at least until we deem ourselves on the field.

This is going to be one hell of a game. And, with all respects, I hope we kick the sh*t out of UT. I want 35-0 to look like a close game. I want our young defense to shine, Deshaun to run back two for scores, and the *second string* offense to lay points on them. I want the whole damn word to know: This is Bear Territory.

But I'll settle for a good game.