Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Daily Cal: Best Earns Player of the Week Honors for Big Game Numbers


By Matt Kawahara

After turning in the best individual performance of his collegiate career in Saturday's Big Game win, Cal tailback Jahvid Best was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.  Best rushed for a career-high 201 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' 37-16 win over Stanford, and also turned in Cal's top receiving numbers with three catches for 35 yards and a score.  From the Bears' opening drive, Best seemed to be running with a little extra purpose. On the second play from scrimmage, he caught a screen pass from quarterback Kevin Riley, saw the entire Cardinal defense crashing the left side, and reversed field for a 60-yard gain down the far sideline.  "I think he just ran more confident today," Riley said after the game. "He got some things going last week against a good defense (in Oregon State) and he was just running hard, running through people. He knew he wanted to do something today."  Best carried 19 times during the game for an average of 10.6 yards. His three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put Cal up 30-3, and he exploded over left tackle two drives later for a 45-yard scamper that gave the Bears their biggest lead of the game at 34 points.

Often, the sophomore sensation found himself in open space with room to use his breakaway speed. "He got in the open field quite a bit today," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We felt like we needed to get on the perimeter today. (The Cardinal is) really good up front, but we had some things to get him on the perimeter."  It was the second time this season that Best has rushed for 200 yards and his second time receiving player of the week honors-both came in Cal's 66-3 win over Washington State in week two. Now with 1,083 rushing yards this season, Best becomes the seventh Bears running back in the last seven years-all under Tedford-to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.  Bears linebacker Zack Follett was nominated for defensive player of the week honors after recording 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, while punter Bryan Anger-who averaged 60.2 yards over his four punts and nailed three within the Cardinal's 20-yard line-was nominated for special teams.

Bears Dash Stanford Bowl Hopes

The Cardinal came into Saturday's game with an overall record of 5-6 and needing a win to claim bowl eligibility. Instead, Stanford saw its streak of seasons without a bowl game increase to seven, as its last appearance came in 2001 at the Seattle Bowl.  After the game, Cal players differed on whether or not ending the Cardinal's season prematurely added to the win over their rival.  "It does," Riley said. "It definitely does. I know they were looking forward to that, and they've waited a long time, but it feels good to get our Axe back and they have to keep on waiting."  Senior linebacker Worrell Williams agreed, leveraging the disappointment for Stanford's players against the importance of taking back the Axe.  "I said that earlier in the week-I want those guys to go to a bowl game," Williams said. "Those guys are good, smart kids. But not at our expense. It just can't happen like that."

Senior Anthony Felder, meanwhile, was reluctant to place any emphasis on keeping the Cardinal out of a bowl.  "I guess those guys, none of them have ever played in a bowl," Felder said. "I feel bad for them. Bowl experience is something everyone should get to have."  Meanwhile, the Bears kept themselves in position for a return to the Holiday Bowl. If Cal beats Washington on Dec. 6, and Oregon State defeats Oregon in the Civil War this weekend, then the Bears will likely finish third in the Pac-10 behind the Rose Bowl-bound Beavers and BCS at-large USC.

Washington Herald: Husky football notebook: UW still has one game left

As the Cougars and their fans celebrated Saturday afternoon, the Huskies looked like a broken team.  Nate Williams was face down on the Martin Stadium turf and other players walked around in a daze as Washington State celebrated a fourth Apple Cup win in five years.  In a season full of brutal losses, this one hurt the most. Given a chance to win a game, the Huskies blew it while their cross-state rivals rose to the challenge.

And now comes the really difficult part. The Huskies still have a game to play.  Saturday afternoon's 16-13 double overtime loss would have been crushing in any season, but when it was the 11th loss in 11 tries, it was the kind of game that could make players wish they could just put the gear away for the winter. Instead, they'll practice for two weeks before traveling to Berkeley for a season ending game at California.

Washington was originally scheduled to play 12 games in 12 weeks this season, but a couple of games were moved to create bye weeks, including what is now a Dec. 6 game at Cal.  "That's going to be tough, that's going to be real tough," freshman tailback Terrance Dailey said after the game. "Because the Apple Cup was a game we were supposed to win. In the locker room, people (were) pretty down about it. A lot of tears, more tears than other games. But we've been losing all season, so we're going to have to bounce back. Especially because it's the last game, try to put up a fight and do what we can."

The players who talked after Saturday's loss said they don't want the season to be over. Instead they see the Cal game as a final chance to earn a victory.  "I think we're looking at it as a way to get rid of the zero, 0-11," said receiver D'Andre Goodwin. "We're going to go out there and play hard."  And as defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim pointed out, the game gives the Huskies one more chance to play football, something that, despite the losses, the players still want to do. "Cal is a great opportunity to play football, and that's why we came here," he said. "I hope nobody is down that we're going to play another game." While many Husky fans would prefer to start looking ahead and skip what likely looks like loss No. 12, the players insist that two more weeks of football is a good thing.  "We have to get mentally right," said senior cornerback Mesphin Forrester. "We only have one game left. Unless we want to end this season with a doughnut we have to find a way to step it up and come out with a win. I don't want to end the season with no wins."

Injury report: Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said that Forrester suffered a high ankle sprain in the Apple Cup, but that the cornerback should be OK for the Cal game. Offensive guard Jordan White-Frisbee had to be helped off the field Saturday after the game ended. Willingham said the senior didn't suffer a new injury, but that he was being bothered by the foot problems that have plagued him throughout is UW career.

"He's been struggling all year with his foot," Willingham said. "That's nothing new, but we just hope it isn't any worse than it has been. In his case, he's really been a warrior, really been someone who has stepped up every week and kept himself in the lineup. Probably there's some other guys that would have what he's had and wouldn't play for the last seven weeks. He's been tough, really been strong, hasn't said a word and really battled every week."

Players of the game: Tailback Willie Griffen earned player of the game honors on offense for Washington, and linebacker Donald Butler earned defensive honors. Service team players of the week were Anthony Boyles, Bradly Roussel and Adam Long.

Monday, November 24, 2008

ESPN: For Huskies Fans, It was One Rotten Apple Cup

(Note from Blogger: This article sheds some light on just how bad Washington really is.)

By Jim Caple


In my first five autumns as a student at the University of Washington, a New Year's Day bowl was on the line for the Huskies each time they played Washington State in the Apple Cup. In my sophomore year, a trip to the Rose Bowl was on the line for both schools. The Huskies won my first two years and went to Pasadena. They lost the next two years but won the 1984 game on the road to earn a bid to the Orange Bowl. I was the sports editor of the school paper that fall, and I remember running around the field that cold night, tossing oranges around while looking for players to interview and cheerleaders to kiss. It was one of the happiest moments of my college years.

Saturday was the first time I had been on the Martin Stadium field since that too distant night, and this Apple Cup experience was slightly different. Rather than throwing oranges and opening myself up to a sexual harassment lawsuit, I found myself swept through the tunnel exit amid a mob of happy WSU students chanting: "Huskies suck! Huskies suck! Huskies suck!"    As much as I would have liked to disagree, I couldn't. My school has the worst team in college football. There's no need for a playoff system to determine that -- the title was decided Saturday in Pullman. In the first meeting of 10-loss teams in conference history, the Cougars beat my Huskies 16-13 in double overtime.

"They said we were the worst team in the country," one Cougars fan said. "Now, they're the worst."

To really appreciate how colossally, epically bad these two teams are, consider this: The Huskies entered the game 0-10 with the nation's longest losing streak and were playing their archrival on the road. Yet they still were favored to beat the Cougars by more than a touchdown. Of course, I don't know how Vegas was able to set a line for the game between a resistible force and a movable object. It would be like handicapping an Oscar for best actor between Keanu Reeves for "The Lake House" and Mark Wahlberg for "The Happening."

How bad are the two teams? Three weeks ago, they lost by a combined score of 114-0.  The Cougars had won a game before Saturday, but it was over a Football Championship Subdivision opponent. They had given up an average of seven touchdowns per game and had been beaten by an average of 34 points a game. In their previous four games, they were shut out three times and outscored 217-28. They used five quarterbacks this season and held an open audition on campus in search of a sixth. (An architecture student won.)

The Huskies had been beaten by an average of four touchdowns per game and once were called for delay of game on the first play from scrimmage. Worse yet, that game was after a bye week. So they had 330 hours or so to prepare for the game yet still couldn't get their first play off on time. The season's highlight came during the second week, when quarterback Jake Locker tossed what appeared to be a tying touchdown in the final seconds against BYU, only to be flagged for the most egregious penalty in college football history because he flipped the ball high into the air in sheer joy. (Backed up 15 yards, the Huskies naturally missed the extra point.)

Locker was knocked out with a broken thumb at the end of September and hasn't returned. Coach Ty Willingham was fired at the end of October, yet he hasn't left. And place-kicker Ryan Perkins has arthritis in his right knee. Yes, arthritis in our kicker's leg! On the one hand, the way he fights through the pain is inspiring. On the other hand, doesn't there have to be someone on campus who can kick but doesn't qualify for a handicapped parking permit?

So I can't really say I was surprised that the Huskies missed three field goals Saturday. Or that their opening drive ended in an interception. Or that they called a timeout before a Washington State punt yet still were fooled badly by the ensuing fake. And yet ... the Huskies still led most of the game and were up 10-7 with the ball and two minutes remaining. Fans were slapping hands in the stands, and players were celebrating on the sideline.

"With about two minutes to go, I started to get a little choked up," senior tight end Mike Gottlieb said. "After all we had been through, I was thinking, 'We're finally going to win one.' And then it was taken from us."

Taken away, given away -- however you want to phrase it, the Huskies blew the lead. Facing a fourth-and-3 at the Washington State 36 with 1:04 left in the game, the Huskies had a choice to make. They could try to go for the first down. If they were successful, the game would be over. (The Cougars were out of timeouts.) If they failed, the Cougars still would have to go 64 yards to score. Naturally, Willingham chose to punt to gain 16 precious yards. Seven plays later, the Cougars kicked the tying field goal. They then won in double overtime. Some coaches deliver words of comfort and inspiration to their teams, speeches that rally their spirits and inspire them to perform great feats. Willingham, meanwhile, had these words for his team after the loss: "Let's go home."  When I asked linebacker Donald Butler what students on campus have said to him about the awful season, he got a little defensive and said they don't bring up the subject. I asked whether he found that a little odd, and he replied, "It's self-explanatory. They're pissed. We're pissed. We haven't won a game. What is there to talk about?" Fair point. But the worst part of this season is that even after 11 losses, it still isn't over. The Huskies played their first game in August, and their final game is in the first week of December. Not many football teams can play games in five separate months yet not win any of them. Of course, I'm jumping the gun a little there. The Huskies still have to lose at Cal (7-4) to keep their record unblemished.

"No, that loss is for sure," said student Jon Danforth, whose face was painted purple and gold as he watched in the stands. "People tell me, 'At least you know you'll never see them this bad again.' That's a fat load of comfort to me now."  I feel for Danforth and his twin brother, Nick. They're seniors, and the Huskies have been 11-36 (soon to be 11-37) since they entered school. When I was at Washington, the Huskies were 48-11, went to a bowl game every year and made a strong claim for the 1984 national championship. (They finished second in the polls behind BYU.) Saturday afternoons were the source of joy, excitement and pride. Now, Saturdays bring only embarrassment and disbelief. It's at the point where even the possibility of a victory over one of the worst teams in the nation almost reduces big men to tears. And the Danforths won't pass roses and oranges in the stands, nor will they swarm onto a field and take photos of the scoreboard for posterity, nor dance with a cheerleader on a crisp November night under the glow of the stadium lights and feel so thoroughly, deliciously content that they won't even think about their student loans. Said Danforth as he looked out at the Cougars celebrating their victory: "Our team must really suck."

U of W Daily: Willingham laments after Apple Cup loss


Tyrone Willingham’s first game as Washington’s coach told Husky fans everything they would need to know about the next four years. UW lost that game, 20-17, to Air Force at Qwest Field, despite taking a 17-6 lead with 10:43 left to play. The Huskies played with poor, weak defense down the stretch, didn’t make crucial plays when they needed to and lacked confidence when the game was on the line. So it makes sense that Saturday, late in a competitive game — a rarity this season — against its archrival, the UW folded like a frugal poker player with the game on the line. Most frustrating for Husky fans is the fact that the biggest mistake late in the 16-13 loss to WSU was one that UW practices frequently — the two-minute drill. “It’s something that we felt like we should have been able to make the right plays in there to win the football game, and we didn’t do that,” Willingham said. The Cougars hadn’t even attempted to take a shot downfield all day, and when they did on their final drive, the Huskies predictably crumbled. Jared Karstetter somehow got behind the UW secondary, hauling in a 48-yard pass that set up the eventual game-tying field goal.

“You just remind them of the situation, what you have to do and what you need to do,” Willingham said. “Obviously we lacked in that area of execution and they made a play that we felt like — I felt like — should have been an easy interception for us and we really shouldn’t have even been threatened.” Willingham insisted yesterday that his message is the right one, even though his team still doesn’t execute properly in close games. “We’ve got to keep working every day, instilling what’s right, what we should be doing, with the hope that at some point, the connection is made and you don’t have those disconnects at the most critical times,” Willingham said. The Huskies have one chance remaining to transform Willingham’s message into a victory: a trip to California in two weeks that has about as much intrigue as a rerun of Friends.

“What we need to do is just maintain our rhythm, not get out of form,” Willingham said, adding that his players will have adequate time off to celebrate Thanksgiving. “Then you come back and you get back on track to win the next one and that’s something that you always preach from day one. Win the next one.”

They may preach it, but it’s something the Huskies certainly haven’t practiced.

AP: Huskies get 2 weeks to mull finale at Cal

On his way out at Washington, Tyrone Willingham keeps revisiting the past. And in the process he's taking shots at the Huskies' program he inherited four years ago, one that certainly doesn't appear in any better shape as Willingham heads for unemployment after Washington's season finale Dec. 6 at California.  "Only time tells that. That's the only thing you measure by is time. Hopefully there are some things in place that in time will show themselves better than written," Willingham said on Monday. Yet only two days earlier, after the Huskies' stunning 16-13 double overtime loss to equally woeful Washington State in the Apple Cup, Willingham avoided taking full responsibility for his 11-36 record in four seasons at Washington, bringing up mention of the Huskies situation in 2004. "Obviously, if you're the head coach at this time, you take responsibility for what is going on — but, it should also be noted, the day that I arrived, what the state of the program was," Willingham said after Saturday's loss.

Willingham made a veiled comment about the state of the program when he arrived following his firing at Notre Dame. After the Huskies lost to UCLA on Nov. 15, Willingham said he was told by current players that the senior class had quit on coach Keith Gilbertson, who was fired during the Huskies' 1-10 season in 2004.

Asked Monday why he continues to make reference to down state of the program in 2004, Willingham simply questioned "is it not a fact?" then ended his news conference.  What is likely to be debated over the next two weeks leading to the finale at California is the Huskies status among the all-time worst Pac-10 teams. A loss to the Golden Bears would make Washington (0-11, 0-8 Pac-10) the first 0-12 team in Pac-10 history. The Huskies became the second conference team to ever be 0-11 following Saturday's loss, joining the 1980 Oregon State Beavers.

The only other Pac-10 team in the last 50 years to be winless and have at least 10 losses was Stanford in 1960, when the Cardinal were 0-10. And there are plenty of other accolades — all negative — the Huskies can still add with a loss at California. There's the chance at the first winless season for the school since 1890 when Washington went 0-0-1; extending their losing streak to 14 games, one short of the Pac-10 record; and the opportunity to become the 22nd Football Bowl Subdivision team since 1996 to go winless.

"You go out and try and win a game. That's all we can do at this point," linebacker Donald Butler said after Saturday's loss. The Huskies appeared poised to get out of the winless column on Saturday leading 10-7 with less than a minute to play and WSU at its own 20. But Washington defensive backs Quinton Richardson and Tripper Johnson were beat on a 48-yard reception by Jared Karstetter that setup Nico Grasu's 28-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to force overtime.

Willingham said Monday the pass from WSU quarterback Kevin Lopina to Karstetter should have been intercepted. Instead, the teams went to overtime and Grasu hit the game-winner from 37 yards in the second extra session after Washington's Ryan Perkins had missed wide right from the same distance. It was a shocking conclusion for the Huskies to accept. "We should have been able to make the right plays there to win the football game, and we didn't," Willingham said.

Daily Cal: Of Anyone, Davis Deserves To Hoist the Axe

Three tackles, 1.5 third-down sacks, reads Rulon Davis' line. Clap it up for Cal's unsung hero, its consummate team player as proved by the following quote:  "It was a team effort," Davis said of his success tracking Tavita Pritchard. "It wasn't just me."  When next fall rolls around, the senior will be gone. Past 2008, who knows what Davis will do.  So let's take some time to pay our respects because it's clear what he's done for this team.  Asked what comes to his mind when he thinks about the Bears' season finale against Washington-his last home game in college-predictably, his answer had nothing to do with sentiment.

 "Just," he paused, "let's do this again. Keep it moving. Let's keep going."  Cal probably will, being pitted with the winless Huskies. Still, he mentioned nothing about his injury-riddled career and how he feels about ending it in good health.

What has been remarkable for this year's team is its rare collection of leadership. There's the emotional guy in Zack Follett. There's the quiet guy, Syd'Quan Thompson. There's the bullish guy, Alex Mack. Worrell Williams, Anthony Felder and Tyson Alualu also merit mention.  And then there's Davis.  It's unclear whether Davis is any of those types. He doesn't talk much to the media, but I wouldn't dare label him quiet. He's bullish all right, but there's a lot more depth to Davis than the simple small-town, blue-collar phenomenon types like Mack.  Is he emotional? Probably. Does he let you in on it? No.  Let Felder, whose family shares a military background similar to Davis', explain.  "Rulon's a high energy guy," says Felder. "No matter the situation, he's gonna be making noise and trying to lift guys up. Before the game, halftime, between the quarters, timeouts, you can always count on him to try to get guys going, and you really appreciate that because you need a lot of different types of leaders to be successful."

The Bears were without Davis for four games this season, losing once on the road to Arizona. There's no saying whether Davis' presence would have flipped the outcome-though the run-stopping specialist, who's not too shabby at rushing the passer either, may have helped in a game where Cal conceded 179 rushing yards to the Wildcats.  I'm not saying backup tailback Keola Antolin, a freshman, would have been intimidated by the insufferable fear Davis puts on opponents. But the Bears could surely have used his physicality, something that even the most seasoned veterans on this Cal squad admire. "Passion and a motor that goes 100 miles an hour," Williams said to describe Davis. "I love it. I love watching him play. He's a good physical guy out there, and I kind of try to take his physicality and put it to my game." Adds Felder: "I remember sometimes, when he wasn't back out there yet, I remember wishing, 'I wish we had Rulon back right now.' It's great to have him back."  If you rushed the field on Saturday, you might have seen Davis clutching the Axe. Neither the police nor coach Jeff Tedford could rip the trophy out of his hands.

"I wasn't gonna let it go," says Davis. "I was keeping it, letting everybody know that we won this Axe, holding it tight. Last year, when we lost to Stanford, they grabbed the Axe from us, did all their hoopla, so we had to get them back, get our Axe back."  And if you were nearby, perhaps you felt his presence, something that can't be explained in a mere 800 words.  Perhaps you were a bit scared, too. At 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, Davis surely scares reporters, though that's not saying much.  "He scares everybody," explained Williams.  During the season, fellow end Cameron Jordan told a story of an instance when the sophomore actually hung out with Davis under casual, non-football circumstances. He admitted that it was then when he found out Davis was intense, and intense all the time.

It's clear, though, that for Davis, it's team above self, not self above team. He's never too cool for anybody, unless you're shoving a recorder up his face.  "You know, even in the offseason, before the season started, he was trying to organize team events," says Felder. "Get guys up to Tahoe for a little beach trip. He's 100 percent a team guy, team above self. "I think that comes from his background in the Marines. That's the philosophy, and I think he took it to heart when he was there. He takes it to heart over here."

Contra Costa Times: Cal's Progressed Under Tedford


By Gary Peterson

The quarter isn't over, but progress reports are in. Looks like another smiley face for Jeff Tedford. He's had better report cards, no doubt. On the other hand, he has met the ambitious standards we have come to expect during his seven seasons as Cal's football coach — a winning record, a bowl bid and a big win in the Big Game. It's a good life, if not idyllic. The Bears were not listed in Sunday's Associated Press poll, and they are 1-2 against ranked opponents this season. While those are nits ripe for the picking, they are footnotes to the big-picture view of the work Tedford has done at Cal.  Since he arrived here in 2002, the Bears have:

Won 57 games, second among Pac-10 teams to USC's 79.

Played in five bowl games going on six, second only to USC's six going on seven.

Won four bowl games, second only to USC's five.

Earned three top-3 finishes in the Pac-10, second only to USC's six.

Gone 6-1 in the Big Game.

Take a snapshot of any moment in time, and you can find a blemish or flaw. Tedford is 1-6 against USC. Last season's astonishing collapse still defies explanation.  And Joe Montana heard boos during a home game against Cincinnati in 1984 — the year the 49ers won 18 of 19 games, including the Super Bowl. Clearly over-reaction is part of the sports fan's bill of rights.  But it's not the best way to pass judgment on a body of work. We can think of three criteria that work much better in Tedford's case:

One, is he competitive within the conference?  He is, especially when you recognize the unique nature of Pete Carroll's preposterously successful run at USC. While Tedford has been winning close to two-thirds of his games at Cal, Carroll has been winning nine out of 10 in South Central. If you judge every head coach at the FBS level by Carroll's standard, there are 118 guys out there just stealing money. Recall that basketball coach Ben Braun was invited to leave Cal last spring, even though his overall record was defensible. The problem was that Braun's teams were no longer competing well in conference play. Tedford has won 60 percent of his conference games. His trio of top-3 Pac-10 finishes equals Cal's total for the 30 years preceding his arrival. This leads us nicely to:

Two, does he compare favorably on a historical level?  Next month Cal will appear in a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season. That equals the school's total for the 52 years preceding Tedford's arrival. That's a jaw-dropper even considering how the bowl landscape has changed over the past few decades.  Tedford ranks fifth in school history in games coached and fourth in victories. A couple of 10-win seasons, and he'll be top o' the heap. Three, have Tedford's results lived up to his mission statement? Let's revisit his acceptance speech from nearly seven years ago:

"I have a goal and a vision," he said, "that the University of California, through hard work and dedication, can get to where we are competing for the Pac-10 championship and at a national level."  That part of it remains open to interpretation. Cal has made two legitimate runs at the conference title in Tedford's seven seasons. Nationally, three of his first six Cal teams finished in The Associated Press Top 25. That's better than friends of the program had been conditioned to expect, but falls just short of the working definition of "perennial powerhouse." Then there's the whole Rose Bowl thing, which we should probably save for our next session. Tedford is low-key, well-mannered and hard-working. He understands football's place in the Cal culture, and that understanding hasn't chased him off. From a macro perspective, which we should probably employ more often than we do, he's done about as much as could be reasonably expected given the parameters of this time and place. In other words, if you want more from a football program than he's delivering, you're looking for something that doesn't grow here. Medical marijuana pun not intended.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

San Jose Mercury: Cal proves its dominance

This was billed as the Big Game that finally would prove there is parity in Bay Area college football. That Cal and Stanford are evenly matched. That there no longer is one dominant program. Well, it turns out that wasn't true. Not at all.

"We don't belong on the same field as those guys," said Cal linebacker Worrell Williams. "We have way more athletes. We're better than those guys. When we play our game, they can't compete with us. "And we showed it today."  Yes, they did. Saturday, the Bears slapped down Stanford's aspirations in a Big Game performance that was far more dominant than the 37-16 score. Though Stanford outplayed Cal for much of the first half, the Bears exerted their superiority with a 20-point third quarter that told the Cardinal who still is the boss of Bay Area football. The loss knocked Stanford out of a bowl berth — something the Cardinal hasn't had since 2001 — which made it even sweeter for Cal. "Not at our expense," Williams said. "Not on our field." "We know they've waited a long time," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said. "It's sweet to not only get the Axe back but to have them keep on waiting." While Stanford's season is over, Cal's is not. It has one more regular-season game in two weeks, against hapless, winless Washington. And then Cal will go to a bowl game for the sixth consecutive year. The Bears' dreams of the Rose Bowl remain unrequited. The top-25 ranking has vanished. But Cal still is among the elite of the Pacific-10 Conference while Stanford still is aspiring to get near there. After the beating, Jim Harbaugh, the Crown Prince of Stanford Football, spoke — bravely? foolishly? — of getting to a bowl next year. Not just any bowl game, but a BCS bowl.  Harbaugh recently has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension on the basis of his first two seasons at Stanford. He has given the Cardinal a face, an attitude and some buzz. And in his debut season, he scored huge upsets of USC and Cal.

But though the Cardinal improved by one win this season, its only signature victory came in the opener in August against Oregon State. For most of the season, Stanford — owners of the coveted Axe until Saturday — hacked itself to pieces.

Harbaugh seemed appropriately subdued by the time he wandered into the Cal club room to congratulate Jeff Tedford. In the sea of overjoyed blue-and-gold-clad students who flooded the field at Memorial Stadium, the coaches hadn't found each other for the traditional handshake. "There were too many deal-breakers," Harbaugh said when asked if there was a turning point in the game. "There are a dozen things I can think of right now."

But when he shook Tedford's hand, he mentioned only one thing: "trickery."  Tedford's hook-and-lateral, which he put in the game plan Thursday and was practiced only three times, produced the second of Cal's three touchdowns in the third quarter. It added to the highlight-reel day of Jahvid Best, who rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 35 yards. On Saturday, all around the Cal campus were stacks of bogus Stanford-produced newspapers with the banner headline "Jahvid Best Out With Ankle Injury." The Old Blues who came upon the fraudulent publications while wandering from tailgate to tailgate were understandably panicked. Because Best makes the Bears go. Stanford's Toby Gerhart got most of the pregame publicity because USC had such a tough time with him last week. But just as Cal outclassed Stanford, Best proved he was the superior back Saturday. "Jahvid has the X-factor called speed," Williams said. "He's 10 times faster and he hits the hole at 100 miles an hour." Best ran for 60 yards on the second play of the game. But that drive produced only a field goal. Stanford outgained Cal in the first half, but both teams derailed in the red zone. Riley threw an interception. Gerhart fumbled. And in the final seconds of the first half, Cal's defense stuffed Gerhart on two plays from the 1-yard line.

"That created a lot of momentum," Tedford said. Cal's defensive momentum carried through halftime. On the first play of the second half, Tavita Pritchard threw a pass that Cal intercepted and returned to Stanford's 28. Cal scored a touchdown six plays later and the rout was on. "I guess they've been playing better," Riley said grudgingly of Stanford. "But we thought we were the better team and we wanted to show we were the better team." Mission accomplished. In a big way.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

ESPN: Not just any game, the 'Big Game'

By Ted Miller


Everyone loves the Big Game between Stanford and California. Everyone. Why?  Because without the Big Game, you wouldn't have "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football."  That, of course, is longtime Bears announcer Joe Starkey's lovably befuddled call of "The Play," the miraculous five-lateral kickoff return in 1982 that concluded with Cal's Kevin Moen weaving through the Stanford band, which had prematurely taken the field in victory, and punctuating the winning touchdown by flattening trombone player Gary Tyrrell in the end zone.  Other than Stanford quarterback John Elway, whose heart was broken that day, who can possibly turn away while "The Play" is replayed on television?  Stanford and California first went nose-to-nose on March 19, 1892 in San Francisco. Former president Herbert Hoover was the Stanford team manager that afternoon on Haight Street grounds when Stanford beat Cal 14-10. The annual matchup earned the nickname "Big Game" in 1900. It's the 10th-longest rivalry in FBS football and the oldest on the West Coast.

The Stanford Axe became the victor's prize in 1933, though the axe itself has a colorful history of being at the center of the rivalry since 1899. In 1930, Stanford's "Immortal 21" stole the axe back after 31 years of captivity in Berkeley with an elaborate subterfuge that involved disguises and smoke bombs. Stanford leads the series 55-44-11. It won last season 20-13, breaking a five-game Bears winning streak. Today, both Cal coach Jeff Tedford and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh say the rowdiness of the past has been replaced by respectful dislike between the academically elite schools. "I'd characterize it as very, very intense but not a bitter rivalry," said Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback who probably knows a little about bitter rivalries.

Said Tedford, "It's a pretty healthy tradition, healthy rivalry. You have a lot of people who work together and I think there's a lot of respect there. To me, it's not a nasty rivalry with the fans. Obviously, it's pretty heated with the players, but with the fans I don't see the bitterness that, say, the Civil War had.   "They coexist pretty well in the Bay Area, I think."  Of course, Stanford needs to win Saturday to earn its first bowl berth since 2001. And California, which has lost two in a row, needs to win to avoid losing consecutive games to the Cardinal. So the stakes remain high, even if the fans maintain a level of decorum.

Oregonian: Bowl Predictions

The Oregonian has an interesting article that touches on Cal’s bowl prospects.  Click here for the whole article.



Presuming Oregon State is in the Rose Bowl and, say, the Fiesta Bowl picks USC to fill an open berth, the Ducks will be 6-3 in conference. If California (4-3, 6-4) closes the season with wins over Stanford and Washington, the Golden Bears also would be 6-3.

The Holiday Bowl then would have its choice of Oregon or Cal. If the Holiday picked Cal, the Ducks would fall a slot, and the Sun Bowl is next in the pecking order. But the Ducks played there last year, and the Sun could choose to exercise its no-repeat clause and grab, say, Arizona (6-4, 4-3). That would drop the Ducks to the Las Vegas Bowl.

If the Beavers lose their last two and Arizona finishes with a victory over Arizona State, OSU and Arizona would tie for third. Cal could be there too with two victories.

Under this scenario, look for the Sun Bowl to grab Arizona, the Las Vegas Bowl to pick OSU and Cal to wind up in the Emerald Bowl.



California quarterbacks Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore have been sacked 19 times in the past five games. They were sacked five times in the first five games. ... Over the last four seasons, Cal is 4-8 in November games

Contra Costa Times: Cal's offensive line focused on blocking out troubles

By Jonathan Okanes


One of Alex Mack's goals was to have Cal's offensive line not allow a sack for the entire season. These days, it seems like an accomplishment when the Bears go a whole quarter without letting the opposition get to the quarterback.  Cal's injury-ravaged line is struggling, and its performance will be key in the 111th Big Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Bears are playing without three projected starters from the beginning of the season, and it's catching up to them. After allowing just seven sacks during their first five games, the Bears have given up 19 in the past five. That's almost one per quarter, which won't cut it against a Stanford defensive front that is tied for the Pac-10 lead in sacks with 33.

"It's going to be a really good challenge to see how much work we can do this week and see how much better we can get," said Mack, the All-America center who is one of only two original starters left on the line. "Stanford is a really good team. We'll come out this week with a lot of motivation to get better and really play the best game we can. We're really taking this seriously and really looking at ourselves in the mirror and seeing where we need to fix things."  When Mack made his preseason proclamation about sacks, you could tell he was partly joking. But only partly. The Bears went into the season with one of the best-regarded offensive lines in the Pac-10. But projected left tackle Mike Tepper has missed the entire season recovering from pectoral muscle surgery, left guard Chris Guarnero lasted only three games because of a toe injury, and right tackle Chet Teofilo went down in Week 7 with an ankle injury that required surgery. Right guard Noris Malele also missed most of three games with a sprained ankle. In their stead, the Bears have redshirt freshman Mitchell Schwartz at left tackle, walk-on sophomore Mark Boskovich at left guard and sophomore Donovan Edwards at right tackle. Edwards is a transfer from Diablo Valley College who didn't join the team until right before fall camp. "It's always tough when you have some injuries," Mack said. "You want your best guys on the field. You want to have the best team you can. It's been a pretty good challenge. It's difficult. We've been really trying to get better every week."

The Bears allowed five sacks in a 34-21 loss at Oregon State last week and four to USC the week before that. The question is how much better Cal's offensive line can get in one week, because it will have to improve against the Cardinal's potent pass rush.  Head coach Jeff Tedford and offensive line coach Jim Michalczik both said the Bears can do some things schematically to make things a little easier on the line. Otherwise, it's simply up to Cal's players to focus on technique and fundamentals in an effort to improve.

"You're dealing with young guys," Michalczik said. "You take things for granted when you have veteran guys. There's not too many freshmen playing out there in this conference. Obviously, we have to get better individually. The good thing is they're competitive guys, they want to win and they want to do things the right way. They're just going to get better and better." The Bears also are lacking depth along the line. Schwartz is part of Cal's heralded offensive line recruiting class of 2007, but two of the other players from that group — Todd Huber (knee) and Sam DeMartinis (shoulder) — are out with injuries.  Michalczik refuses to consider how things could be different if his line were completely healthy. Lack of pass protection arguably was the Bears' biggest pitfall in their last two losses, defeats that knocked them out of the conference race. "You never know," he said. "If I had everybody back from last year, I'd be in really good shape."

San Jose Mercury: Stanford, Cal both have a lot to lose

Jon Wilner


There's no question which team has more to gain in the 111th Big Game. A Stanford victory would result in the Cardinal's first bowl appearance since 2001. A Cal victory could be the difference between two mid-level bowl games — the Bears have already clinched a spot in the postseason — or it could be no difference at all.

But which team has more to lose Saturday? Depends on whether you prefer the big picture or the small.

In the short term, Stanford has more to lose. To get this close to the postseason and whiff, just two years after going 1-11, would be deeply disappointing.  But a loss to Cal wouldn't alter the perception, both within the Bay Area and without, that Stanford is a program on the rise. A loss wouldn't change the program's arc, wouldn't affect recruiting — a stellar class is all lined up and waiting for signing day — or hinder fundraising.

But a second consecutive defeat to Stanford, especially at home, would be costly to Cal's reputation and quite possibly its psyche. It would greatly undermine the perception locally that the Bears have the superior program and that Jeff Tedford is the superior coach. It would lay waste to any lasting notion that they have the No. 2 program in the Pac-10. And it would bolster sentiment within league circles — and on recruiting trails — that the program has plateaued.

Hired after the 2001 season, Tedford needed just two years to transform the Bears from gutter dweller into the primary challenger to USC's dominance. The Bears won 10 games and finished second to the Trojans in 2004, and they tied USC for the conference title in 2006. A few months later, worried about overtures from the NFL, Cal gave Tedford a contract extension worth nearly $2 million per season. But the past two years have not gone as Old and Young Blues hoped. Last year, after rising to No. 2 in the nation, Cal was waylaid by a lack of leadership from its upperclassmen and its head coach, who later admitted to being so involved in watching film that he failed to recognize attitude problems. The Bears dropped six of their final seven and finished tied for seventh in the conference ... with Stanford.

This year, the Bears started 4-1 and once again entered fade mode. They've dropped three of their past five, have little chance to reach a top-tier bowl game and, with a loss Saturday, would most likely finish tied for fifth "... with Stanford. But the repercussions would not end there. A loss would deepen their plunge from No. 2 dog to the middle of the Pac: In the past two seasons, Cal has seven league wins — fewer than everyone save Stanford and the Washington schools. A loss would add to their growing reputation as slow finisher: In the past four Novembers, Cal is 4-8. And a loss could impact recruiting: Cal's past four classes have been ranked (in order) Nos. 9, 23, 12 and 32 by scout.com. (This year's group isn't even in the top 50, although it's still very early.) But more than affecting Cal's reputation in the Pac-10 and the Bay Area, a loss could damage Cal's sense of self. The '07 meltdown took a heavy emotional toll on the players and coaches, and they vowed to avoid another collapse.  Although their chemistry is much improved this fall, how would they handle another disappointing season, another losing November and another defeat to a Stanford program they dominated as recently as two years ago?

Asked to describe the Bears' attitude entering the Big Game, senior linebacker Worrell Williams said: "Let's do this right and not make it into last year. Because if we lose the last two, it could be perceived that way."

The Bears are not likely to lose to Washington, and they are nine-point favorites to beat Stanford (and render these 700 words pointless).  A victory Saturday won't remake the Bears into what they were in 2004-06. It won't catapult them past the Oregon schools and back onto USC's tail. But it would go a long way toward stabilizing their reputation.

SF Examiner: Cal's Big Game opponent looks like 2003-04 Bears

By Rob Calonge

When Jeff Tedford took over head coaching job for Cal back in 2002, he accepted a position at a school that had won only 16 games in the previous five years.  Now in his seventh year, it's very easy to forget just how bad the Bears were.

Prior to Tedford taking the job, Cal had to beat a lowly Rutgers team (2-9, 0-7 Big East) in order to prevent going winless for the first time since 1897.  The game was the season finale to a tumultuous year in America.  Originally, the game was scheduled for September 15, 2001.  In case there aren't any bells ringing for you, that's four days after 9/11.  There was scoffing about the rescheduling of a game that had no relevance in the rankings, standings, the college football world, or the students of either school probably.  The Bears came out on top, 20-10 in Piscataway, NJ.

Read the rest here.

Daily Cal: Tedford, Seniors Still Feel Pain of Losing Axe

After taking back the Axe in his first season as the Cal football team's coach in 2002, Jeff Tedford will try on Saturday to repeat that feat for the first time since his arrival.  Through 2006, the Bears were 5-0 against Stanford under Tedford after dropping their previous seven. All of that changed on Dec. 1, 2007, when the Cardinal topped Cal with a 20-13 win.  "It becomes more special when you lose the Axe," Tedford said. "I feel that after having it five years straight, you really can feel its loss. You feel the pain that comes with not having it and the pride that goes along with it."  Following the Bears' 34-21 defeat against Oregon State last week, senior linebacker Zack Follett claimed that he was "not going to lose this game." Others made it clear how bitter it's been to live with a Big Game loss for a year.  "It definitely means a lot to me," senior offensive guard Noris Malele said. "I take a lot of pride in every game, especially a rivalry game. We've been living without the Axe for a whole year now, so we still have that sour taste in our mouths. We're going to come out and do what we can and this being my last run at it, I'm going to make it a special one for me."

But it's not as if Cal didn't want to win last year. Following a 1-5 slide, the Bears could have gone a long way toward salvaging the 2007 season with a triumph over the Cardinal.   "We came into that (2007) wanting to win it," senior linebacker Worrell Williams said. "But intent to win is not good enough if you are not doing the little things or focusing on what you need to do to get the job done.  "Everybody wants to be successful in life, but if you don't get out of bed in the morning, trying to be successful isn't going to cut it. It was a big letdown, but now we get a chance to get at them again, so let's hope we can get back on track."

Tale of Two Runners

The weather forecast sees clear skies for Saturday afternoon, but the Big Game is set to feature a lot of thunder and lightning-in Stanford's Toby Gerhart and Cal's Jahvid Best.  The 228-pound Cardinal bruiser has emerged as one of the Pac-10's premier tailbacks, tallying 1,033 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground in 11 games. The Bears' speedster, meanwhile, has 882 yards and seven rushing scores in nine games. Tedford seemed wary of the challenge that Gerhart poses to a stout Cal defense.  "You really need to gang tackle him," Tedford said. "He's a big, physical back with great balance. He runs at good pad level. He has surprising speed for a big guy when he gets into the open field, and he can take it the distance.  "It's going to be very important that we wrap him up and that we get more than one hat to him to make sure we bring him down because it's very hard to tackle him one-on-one."  Perhaps it's comparing apples to oranges in juxtaposing Gerhart and Best-two backs with two very different styles. The guys blocking in front of them, however, share a clear distinction-healthy and injured.

The Bears lost tackle Mike Tepper to a torn pectoral muscle in the preseason, guard Chris Guarnero to a broken toe several weeks ago, and then tackle Chet Teofilo to an injury before the Oregon game. All of them had been first-team starters coming out of fall camp.  "We've lost five scholarship linemen this year, but the guys are competing hard," Tedford said. "They'll give it their best effort this week I'm sure. They'll prepare well through the week and go out there and cut it loose."

Johnson Doubtful

Brett Johnson, who has started the last eight games for Cal at strong safety, is doubtful for the Big Game, Tedford said on Tuesday. Johnson has been wearing a red jersey in practice and has a sore shoulder. Senior Bernard Hicks, who lost the starting job after week two, will definitely play against Stanford, Tedford said.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

San Jose Mercury: Where Have the Big Game's Big Time QBS Gone?

There was a jam-packed Big Game news conference in San Francisco this week, with Jeff Tedford and Jim Harbaugh, plenty of media and several amiable, interesting Cal and Stanford players.  There was buzz. There was energy and anticipation about the happy double bowl implications entwined in Saturday's meeting in Berkeley. But through it all, you couldn't help but wonder: What happened to the big-time Big Game quarterbacks? What happened to John Elway vs. Rich Campbell? How about Kyle Boller vs. Chris Lewis?

At various times over the past 30 years, Stanford vs. Cal has included those memorable throwers plus Steve Stenstrom, Todd Husak, Troy Taylor, Mike Pawlawski, Gale Gilbert, Aaron Rodgers, Chad Hutchinson and Trent Edwards. The point here: In the Bay Area, the amount of attention we give to Cal, Stanford and the Big Game, for good or bad, is largely determined by whether their QBs are good or bad. Last year, however, it was Stanford's T.C. Ostrander vs. Cal's Nate Longshore. Not quite marquee level. This year, it's Cal's Kevin Riley vs. Stanford's Tavita Pritchard, who both have strengths but are sketchy enough that their coaches openly talk about job competition when they come back for 2009. As usual, there are bright prospects on both teams for the coming years — Stanford's red-shirting Andrew Luck and Cal with Riley competing against Brock Mansion. But almost all of the schools' recent bright prospects have failed to fully bloom, including Longshore, Kyle Reed (now at San Jose State after transferring from Cal), Ostrander and Stanford's Jason Forcier, who transferred from Michigan with laurels but could not win time this season.

For all of Tedford's many triumphs in his seven Cal seasons — and his well-deserved reputation as a QB mentor — it's odd that QB has probably been the worst-managed position the past few years.

And for all of Harbaugh's pizzazz and program building, in addition to his many years as an NFL signal-caller, it's notable that the one thing the Cardinal does not do well is challenge defenses through the air.

So yes, this is possibly the bleakest era of Cal-Stanford quarterbacking in recent memory. When I asked Tedford about his QB situation this year, seesawing between a declining Longshore and an up-and-down Riley, Tedford spoke in measured terms about the "back and forth." My follow-up: Does this offense severely miss Boller- or Rodgers-level of QB play?  "Yeah, well, you're talking about first-round draft picks," Tedford said with a shrug. "Of course. Of course, those were great players. And I'm not going to put our quarterbacks down. Of course, Kyle (Boller) did a lot of great things for us. And he had his struggles through his career. And he gave us one great year. Then Aaron, of course, had a very successful time here.

"Those guys were great players. So you're always looking for quarterback play like that, yeah." It's not Harbaugh's style to admit even that much. He talked about Pritchard's improved play throughout the season, he said Pritchard "missed one throw the entire USC game" on Saturday, and he said that Stanford's offensive philosophy is to do whatever it takes to win. To Harbaugh's credit, he has gotten much better play out of his entire team than another supposed QB guru — predecessor Walt Harris — ever got. "(Pritchard) saves our butt," Harbaugh said. "Countless times in games where nobody sees it, he gets us out of a play, gets us to the right play, handling the snaps, handling the reads." But running back Toby Gerhart is the star of this team and the offensive line is the backbone. Mention Luck and Harbaugh begins to give us hints about 2009. That's if — despite the recent reports of an extension — Harbaugh is still at Stanford. And if Luck wins the job in competition with Pritchard and Forcier, and if Luck is as good as Harbaugh thinks he is.

"We've had him on our campus now for five months — he is the real deal," Harbaugh said. "Our players call him 'the Truth'. I feel that that's a good thing. "I would compare him, from what I've seen, to Tom Brady, because of how smooth he is in his mechanics, his accuracy, his ability to see the field." So maybe next season, Luck turns the Cardinal into an aerial dynamo again. And maybe Mansion or Riley looks more like Rodgers than Joe Ayoob. Maybe next year's Big Game will be a QB derby. We don't know. That's the problem — for the first time in a long time, Cal and Stanford are both in a QB rut and there are no guarantees that it'll come to an end soon.

Daily Cal: Midweek Notebook, Week 13



Even the dense fog rolling down through Strawberry Canyon on Tuesday evening couldn't put a damper on the Cal football team's first practice of Big Game week, as the Bears seemed a little more vocal during team drills and the usual chants of "Whose house?" during stretching lines was augmented by "Whose Axe?"

"We had a great day of practice," coach Jeff Tedford said. "A lot of bounce in everybody's step, a lot of focus, lot of intensity. I thought it was a great day."  Tedford said the promise of playing Stanford had something to do with that, but that a number of factors were playing into the increased intensity. Cal has lost two straight and is trying to avoid a second-half slide akin to last season's. Meanwhile, Stanford continues its resurgence under coach Jim Harbaugh, who has the Cardinal within striking distance of its first bowl appearance since 2001.  "(We're) eager to bounce back, get on track, and eager to prepare for a good team," Tedford said. "I think there's a lot of motivation, a lot of eagerness to make sure we're prepared for this game."  That much started becoming clear immediately after the Bears' loss to Oregon State last Saturday. Several players spoke about the team's need to maintain focus despite sustaining consecutive defeats for the first time since 2007.  "What happens to a lot of teams is that they fall apart when a certain goal seems like it can't be reached anymore," wideout Jeremy Ross said. "But like the coach was talking about, we're not going to fall."

Going into this season, there was much speculation about how Cal would rebound from last year's second-half performance. The Bears' general consensus was that the mentality of this squad is different from last season's, and the team upheld that belief after falling to the Beavers.  Linebacker Zack Follett said that nobody in the 2007 Cal locker room wanted to talk to each other "when the stuff was hitting the fan," but that current players are more willing to discuss the reasons behind their current slump.  Tailback Jahvid Best added that he couldn't define the team's mood, but that the difference from his freshman year is obvious.

"I don't really know the mood, but I know a lot of guys are mad, ready to work, so that's a good thing," he said.  "People are yelling and screaming. Nobody likes losing, obviously, but it doesn't sit well with this team."

Keep the Cameras Rolling

Cal's final regular-season game against Washington will start at noon and be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net, it was announced on Tuesday.  This means that, for the second year in a row, every Bears game will have been televised live.  After Tuesday's practice, Tedford commented on the effects of that exposure on recruiting.  "I think that's definitely something, you know, when you can talk to the recruit about how you're going to be on TV and your family's going to be able to see you and so on," he said. "It's a very good thing to know there's going to be exposure there."

Kickoffs in the Air Again

Kickoff duties, which plagued the Bears for the early part of the season before freshman Giorgio Tavecchio appeared to lock down the starting job before the Oregon game, could be in flux again this week after another inconsistent showing against Oregon State.  Cal averaged 20.8 net yards per kickoff against the Beavers. Tavecchio bounced the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds, after which he was replaced by senior Jordan Kay.  Tedford did not confirm who would be handling kickoff duties after Tuesday's practice.  "We'll compete through the week," he said. "See how the week goes."


SF Chronicle: Cal Likely to Play at Candlestick While Memorial is Renovated

Here’s the link.


SF Chronicle: Stanford's offense must adjust to Cal's defense


Cal's 3-4 defensive alignment isn't foreign to Stanford. Notre Dame played it earlier this season. Heck, Stanford played it for much of the past few seasons before making a full switch to the 4-3 this season.

But the Bears' defense ranks among the best in the Pac-10 - fourth in total defense (315.0 yards per game), third in scoring defense (21.9 points per game), fourth in rush defense (124.3 yards per game) and fifth in pass defense (190.7 yards per game). Cal is second in the nation in interceptions with 18.  Stanford struggled against Notre Dame's defense for much of its game Oct. 4, scoring just seven points through three quarters and eventually falling 28-21. Quarterback Tavita Pritchard was sacked a season-high five times. "Cal's 3-4 is particularly strong," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "They are particularly good up the middle. They have tremendous personnel to play the 3-4. I think that was a very wise move for their team, and it's helped them very much." Center Alex Fletcher said it's an adjustment for the offensive line, but a manageable one. "We have a bunch of older guys who've played against our 3-4 at practice for years, so we have experience, that helps," Fletcher said. "But their defense is the strength of their team, no question. Their front-seven is very good."

Home for the holidays: Gary Cavalli, executive director of the Emerald Bowl, has looked at all the scenarios and concluded there is a good chance either Stanford or Cal will wind up in the Dec. 27 game at San Francisco's AT&T Park. "We would love to have either one," Cavalli said. "It would be a dream come true."

The Emerald Bowl matches the fourth- or fifth-place Pac-10 team against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Discounting the unlikely possibility of USC losing either of its final two games or of Cal losing its Dec. 6 game against Washington, Cavalli said there are 24 different scenarios of how Pac-10 teams could finish. In 12 of those scenarios either Cal or Stanford would end up in the Emerald Bowl. "It fills the place and gives us a lot of local exposure," Cavalli said. Cavalli diplomatically sidestepped the question of whether he would take Cal or Stanford if both were available to him.

Feeding the Ravens: Harbaugh said that he is hoping that his brother, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, will take a look at some of his players in next spring's NFL draft. "My brother follows our team very closely; he watches, listens, watches tape when he can't see the game live," Jim Harbaugh said. "He's very tuned into our team, and he's asked me about guys. I am very hopeful that we can get a few guys on the Ravens." Harbaugh named Fletcher, running back Anthony Kimble, cornerback Wopamo Osaisai, kicker Aaron Zagory and left tackle Ben Muth as potential NFL talents. "We've got some guys," Harbaugh said. "Hopefully we get them playing in Baltimore."

Cal commitment: Alex Logan, a three-star defensive back from Denver's Mullen High, verbally committed to Cal late Monday night. Logan is among the top 25 safeties in the country, according to most recruiting Web sites. Cal sophomore offensive guard Chris Guarnero, who also attended Mullen, was the first Colorado native to sign under coach Jeff Tedford.

Giving thanks: Family and friends of former Cal and current Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch will be giving out free turkeys at 3 p.m. Sunday at Oakland Tech High. Birds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis in the front of Lynch's former high school. Although Lynch will not attend because the Bills are playing the Kansas City Chiefs, a personalized note will be given out with each turkey.

TV: Saturday's USC-Stanford game was the most-watched football game ever on the Versus cable network. The game earned national rating of a 1.0, which means it was watched by more than a million viewers nationally. The Bay Area rating on Versus was a 3.0. ... The Cal-Washington game on Dec. 6 will kick off at noon, and be shown on CSNBA.

Briefly: Cal sophomore tailback Jahvid Best was a full participant in Tuesday night's practice, a rare occurrence since he injured his foot Oct. 18. ... Cal safety Brett Johnson (shoulder) sat out practice. ... A man running bleachers in Memorial Stadium was forced to remove his red shirt because it is Big Game week.


SF Chronicle: Cal needs more from offensive line

Rusty Simmons


Cal was looking for a miracle, down by six points with less than a minute to drive from the shadow of its own goal line.  Instead, it got more of the same, allowing Oregon State's defensive line to rush quarterback Kevin Riley, who threw an interception. The Bears allowed the Beavers on Saturday to get consistent pressure on Riley, and they know it can't happen again in this weekend's Big Game. Stanford is tied with Oregon for the conference lead with 33 sacks for losses totaling 237 yards. "We know our offense starts with the guys up front, and we've got to get better," senior right guard Noris Malele said. "You're either getting better or you're getting worse. We take pride in pass blocking and opening holes for our running backs, and we're going to work our tails off to get back to that." Cal has allowed nine sacks in the last two games after allowing 13 in the first eight. Last year's offensive line yielded only 11 sacks, and the 2006 unit allowed 13. Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti did everything he could to stop Oregon State's exploitation of the Cal offensive line. He designed plays that included a moving pocket, called for draws and screens in hopes of beating the over-pursuit and even used tight ends as extra blockers at times.

Still, Oregon State's front was dominant. On the 34 pass plays called, Riley was pressured 21 times. He was forced to scramble once, was sacked five times, hit seven other times and hurried eight times.  In fairness, the Bears aren't exactly lining up the players they thought they would be for the stretch run of the season. They lost tackle Mike Tepper to a torn pectoral muscle before training camp, lost guard Chris Guarnero to season-ending toe surgery in Week 3 and lost tackle Chet Teofilo to season-ending ankle surgery four weeks later. With Malele sidelined by an ankle injury for the majority of the last four weeks, Cal has been forced to start two redshirt freshmen, a walk-on sophomore and a junior-college transfer. "You've got to play the cards that you're dealt," Malele said. "It's been tough, but you can't take anything away from the guys who are filling in. They've stepped up and they're competing." Redshirt freshmen Mitchell Schwartz, a tackle, and Justin Cheadle, a guard, were part of a highly decorated recruiting class that is paying off earlier than expected. Schwartz was so good early in the season that the coaches moved him to the left side to protect the quarterbacks' blind sides. Coaches say Cheadle has been steady in his efforts.

Mark Boskovich, a walk-on guard from St. Francis High-Mountain View, has had his struggles. He was passed on the depth chart by Guarnero and walk-on Richard Fisher during the offseason, only to find himself back in the rotation. After a good game against UCLA in his first extended playing time, sophomore right tackle Donovan Edwards was abused by Oregon State's Victor Butler. Cal actually wanted Edwards to stay at Diablo Valley College to gain another year of experience, but they offered him a scholarship when one opened right before camp. Butler bulled and motored past Edwards time and again, and Edwards also got beat by backup Ben Terry on the game-clinching interception. "Those guys are getting in there and battling, and their growth and development will continue," coach Jeff Tedford said. "They all work hard, and they all care. Each week, they'll continue to improve."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chuck Muncie Autographed Ball

Big high and bid often. Here’s the link.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Cal ignored Gerhart once; that won't happen in Big Game

On Saturday, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart will be the best running back on the field at Memorial Stadium. This is quite a distinction because both Cal and Stanford have terrific running backs, but Gerhart is special. He is a powerful tailback who runs with a certain amount of finesse and when he slams into a tackler he is likely to run right over him. He is faster than people give him credit for. He falls into the stereotype of tough white kid — slow but durable, etc. — but he routinely outruns linebackers and even defensive backs. He is what they call the whole package and if Cal knows what it’s doing, it will gear its defense toward stopping Gerhart. It does and it will. It was interesting to learn at a Monday luncheon previewing the Big Game that Cal never showed much interest in recruiting Gerhart. He and his parents had visited Stanford and the Stanford folks made a big fuss over him and then the Gerharts drove to Berkeley and what happened? Nothing. The Bears’ people didn’t even know who he was.

Most Pac-10 schools came after him hard, even USC. But the Trojans, being the Trojans, said they’d give him a scholarship — but only as a fullback. There’s that stereotype again. The Trojans also said Gerhart could play football but ixnay on his baseball career. Gerhart happens to be one heck of a corner outfielder and he plays on Stanford’s team, and more on that later. Only two Pac-10 schools said he could play tailback and the outfield — UCLA and Stanford. It took him a year and a half to make a choice and when he chose, it was right before the signing deadline. He said he doesn’t hate Cal coach Jeff Tedford. “It’s all good,” Gerhart said. When I attend a Stanford football game and write my play-by-play, I pun on Gerhart’s name because there’s something onomatopoetic about Gerhart. Sometimes I write: Brave Heart up the middle for 10. Or it might be: GrrrHeart around right end, seven yards. Sometimes it’s just Grrr.

The puns have something to do with how rough and fearless he is. He’s always sore after games and has trouble getting out of bed on Sunday because of all the hits he gives and takes. He likes contact, seeks it out, wants you to know that. “You have to (like it),” he said. “I’m more of a physical runner. I create contact. You play football for pride and respect. If I knock a guy down, I feel I gained a little respect from that guy.” Given his straight-ahead running style, it is surprising that Gerhart’s face turns tomato red when he’s asked questions by the media. His answering style is the exact opposite of his running style. He hesitates. He considers his options. He dances around the holes and refuses to commit. If he did this on a football field, he’d be knocked for a loss. He gives the impression of being shy or maybe cautious or maybe humble. Take your pick. Asked the difference between a Cal player and a Stanford player, his face turned scarlet and he looked away and said nothing, as if he might be shot at dawn in the Quad for giving the wrong answer. Finally he said, “Stanford is excellence, the best combination of athletics and academics in the nation.” That’s the standard answer, but he left out the Cal part. And there’s a lot to say about Cal, no slouch university, either.

Later someone said, “Stanford is blue collar with a red tie,” and Gerhart grinned and turned red and said yes, that was it, although take my word, there’s very little blue collar at that idyllic campus west of El Camino. Gerhart was hurt at the beginning of the past baseball season but hit .356 his final 11 games and homered in the College World Series. Someone familiar with the Cardinal baseball team said he’s likely to hit 20 home runs next season.  And that’s the rub. What does Gerhart pursue in a life after Stanford, football or baseball? You and I should have such hard choices. If he gets drafted high after next baseball season, he said he might take his chances with baseball. Then he turned red and said he wasn’t sure because, honestly, he also loves football, loves whichever sport is in season. Between us, baseball is usually the better choice if a guy can hit a curveball. Left fielders have longer careers than running backs, where it all can end on a single play. Salaries are higher in baseball, unless you’re a quarterback, and baseball has a better players’ union. None of that matters right now, not with custody of The Axe at stake. On Saturday, Gerhart travels up to Cal, which never wanted him but may get more of him than it can handle.

San Jose Mercury: Finally a Big Game that feels big

Ann Killion


What a relief.  Finally a Big Game that means something. On both sides. We capitalize this game. We circle it on the calendar. We interrupt our perpetual hand-wringing over the local NFL teams. So it's nice when the Big Game means something more than just legacy. When the moniker isn't tinged with irony. When there's something actually at stake. With a win Saturday in Berkeley, Stanford becomes bowl-eligible for the first time in seven seasons. With a loss, the Cardinal season ends with a thud.  "It's like a NFL playoff game," said Toby Gerhart, the Cardinal's junior running back. "It's do or die. This is by far the biggest game of the year." With a win Saturday, Cal re-establishes itself as the alpha dog in Bay Area college football. Last year's loss at Stanford was a final insult to a team that once held BCS aspirations. "They can psyche themselves out," Cal senior linebacker Worrell Williams said about the Cardinal's motivation, "but they don't have the edge. We don't have the Axe right now, so if there's any edge, we have it. "We lost the pride and respect that comes with it. If anything, it evens out." This game is more evened out. Both teams are motivated and hungry. Both teams are competitive. It has been a long time since the teams were on such equal footing, and it's refreshing.

The recent history of this rivalry is that one team is more talented and dominates while the other meekly rolls over. From 1995-2001, Stanford — under Ty Willingham — won seven straight Big Games while Cal fell into chaos. Then, under Jeff Tedford, the Bears won five straight Big Games while Stanford went through its hapless Buddy Teevens/Walt Harris stage. Last year was the exception to the rule that the better team typically dominates. Cal fancied itself elite yet lost to a Stanford team that managed to win just three other games. It was a wakeup call for both teams.  For Cal it was a realization that there's no coasting in the Big Game. "It weighs heavily on the players," Tedford said Monday. "I think it becomes more special when you lose the Axe. We had it five years straight. Then you learn what it's like not to have it and the pain that goes along with not having it." For Stanford, the 2007 win was a huge confidence-booster. "We feel like we can play with anybody this year," Gerhart said. "I would definitely say we're their equal. I feel like our confidence is better than maybe it was in the past. We would want to win, but, to be realistic, our chances were smaller than they are now. Now we feel that we're the better team." Cal's Williams would beg to differ. "I think we have a better team than they do," he said. Cal has more wins and is the favorite (by nine points). Cal already is bowl eligible. The Bears still haven't gotten to the promised land — the Rose Bowl — and won't again this year. But Tedford has made a bowl berth an annual event.

For Stanford, a bowl berth would punctuate the Cardinal's newfound confidence. "It means the program is going in the right direction," Gerhart said. "That the culture of Stanford is changing. Stanford football is on its way back. It feels like the program is starting to get some respect again." Recently the Big Game has been a matchup of the respected vs. the afterthought. This Saturday's game is a little more equal. "I don't think there's anything equal about us," Williams bristled. "They wear red and we wear blue. They say they're blue collar, but I don't know how." Yes, yes, it's still the Big Game with all the perceived cultural and traditional differences. But even Williams will concede that there are more similarities this season than in the recent past. "It is more competitive," Williams said. "They're definitely not the same Stanford team when I first came in, when we felt we'd blow those guys out. "It feels a lot better when there are two good teams on the field. It makes the game that much sweeter."

Santa Clarita Signal: Nate Longshore has come a long way from Canyon Cowboy to Cal Bear


By Cary Osborne

There is no outward show of pain.  No grimace or grievance. But pain must be somewhere.  The last four years of Nate Longshore's life, his ankle, his heart, his ears and his head have all been injured.  The way he answers one question might give some insight into how the Canyon High graduate and Cal Berkeley quarterback feels. Is he happy? Longshore, having just watched his team lose 17-3 to USC Nov. 8 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, pauses. He searches for the right way to give an answer, evident by a mumble that delays it. Then he doesn't truly answer the question. "You can't take that home with you," he says. "I've learned a lot. Your loved ones don't deserve to be treated like that - no matter what."  "That" is the flow of nasty words and boos Longshore has received over the course of his four years at Cal. "Nate Longshore sucks." "I hate Nate Longshore." It can be heard from Berkeley to cyberspace.  Yet many of the one-sided fans who have questioned Longshore have ignored his personal struggles. They forgot Longshore had to redshirt in 2005 after he nearly broke his ankle in the second quarter of his first career start.

They didn't sympathize with Longshore after the death of his father, Todd, prior to the 2006 season. They cared little of his performance in the 2006 Holiday Bowl, when Longshore was named Co-Offensive Player of the Game with Marshawn Lynch.  Nor do they think playing with bone chips in his ankle in 2007 was particularly heroic. They think of the interceptions, the losses and the missed opportunities. When freshman quarterback Kevin Riley came in to relieve Longshore late in the 2007 season, it was a breath of fresh air for many Cal fans. Many of those same people hoped Riley would unseat Longshore from his starting job in 2008, and he did.  Yet injuries and inconsistency have forced Riley in and out of the lineup.

But some are still satisfied that Longshore has less opportunity than in the past. Longshore struggled mightily in the season opener against Michigan State. He threw just five passes in the game. Two of them were interceptions. He has bounced back, though and has thrown for 846 yards and eight touchdowns to four interceptions in eight games. But he's lost a step. It forced him out of the game against USC. Longshore started and was an 11-of-15 for 79 yards, but he was sacked on the last play of the first half. To match up better with the athletic USC defense, Riley took over in the second half. Longshore has accepted his role with dignity, according to Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "Nate's been solid," Tedford says." He's been through a lot of ups and downs, but he's a team-above-self guy. He always hangs in for the team, does what you ask him to do, very supportive of his teammates as well. He's a quality kid - great leader on our team."

Longshore's reaction to Tedford's comments is swift in delivery. "I don't know what that means," he says. "I don't know what all that coach talk means. I just know I care about my teammates. We've been through a lot together. No matter what happens, I'm always going to care about my teammates." So much so that Longshore and his new wife Rachel invite players over their home for dinner. Valencia graduate and Cal running back Shane Vereen is one of those players. Vereen acknowledges that Longshore has been under fire, but he says his teammate has taken the criticism in stride. "He's always himself," Vereen says. "You'll never know if he's down or not. He's always up, always picking everybody up, very enthusiastic, very encouraging. My hat's off to him because he comes in week in and week out and gives it his all. He's facing a lot of adversity and still comes out and does his thing." The future is very uncertain for Longshore.

Prior to this season, he was a definite National Football League prospect. He has the size (6 feet 5 inches and 233 pounds) and strength (he owns the Cal quarterbacks record with a 370-pound bench press) that would seem to entice pro football general managers. But with a string of injuries and his playing time diminished, there is doubt. "Who knows?" Longshore says. "Time will tell." He's used to the doubts by now, though.

It seems that what no matter what others say and all the pain that's been caused, there's a place where Nate Longshore can go where people love him. A place where no one questions him about missing a receiver on a slant or lambasts him for a team's loss.  A place called home.  Longshore married Saugus graduate Rachel Gibson May 10. He says he always had his eyes on her. That she wouldn't give him the time of day so he lied to people, saying she was his girlfriend anyway. "I tricked her into marrying me," he joked.

Happiness? Not all athletes find it on the field. "I think it's all about having loved ones you can count on," he says. "My wife has been great support. It's all about family. "Things always don't go as you plan. You go with it and try to make the most of it"

SF Chronicle: Bears are spiraling - can they avoid drain?

Jake Curtis


As Cal's opportunity for a Rose Bowl berth, a national ranking or any other highfalutin achievement vanished Saturday with its 34-21 loss to No. 23 Oregon State, the issue now becomes the team's 2008 identity.  The Bears have lost two straight, both times showing excellence on defense and limitations on offense, and they desperately want to avoid the kind of collapse that scarred the 2007 season. "What happens to a lot of teams is they sort of fall apart when they can't reach their goals," Cal cornerback Darian Hagan said.

The Bears know that first hand. Last year, an upset loss to Oregon State in their sixth game sent the Bears on a downward spiral that resulted in six losses in their final seven regular-season games after a 5-0 start that had then ranked No. 2. "We've got to see what we are as a team," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said. "We don't want the same thing as last year." How do the Bears avoid a similar collapse? "I would love to have a manual for that," Cal center Alex Mack said. The Bears have two games left - against Stanford on Saturday and Dec. 6 against Washington, both at home - to squelch thoughts that this team is similar to last year's. They are confident this team is different, and there were no outward signs of dissention after Saturday's loss. That is becoming increasingly difficult with the defense continuing to play well enough to win and the offense unable to make enough plays.

Riley played the entire game at quarterback and had very little time to create much of a passing game. He was 11-for-25 for 117 yards, had a few passes dropped and was sacked five times behind the Bears' injury-weakened offensive line. "I thought Kevin played pretty well with what he had to work with," coach Jeff Tedford said.  Penalties and 10 plays that lost yardage put Cal in difficult situations all day, playing into the hands of Oregon State's aggressive defense. In the fourth quarter, down six with the game there to be had, the Bears netted one yard of total offense. Tedford did not hesitate to say Riley will remain Cal's starter for next week's Big Game, making him the focal point - deserved or not - in the Bears' effort to avoid another precipitous decline. This situation is not entirely comparable to last year, though. The past two weeks the Bears (6-4 Pac-10, 4-3) lost on the road to ranked teams that are competing for a Rose Bowl berth, USC and Oregon State. And both times, the Bears had opportunities to win and were in the game until the closing minutes, so they certainly did not embarrass themselves.

The only defeat for Oregon State (7-3, 6-1) in its past eight games was a three-point road loss to Utah, currently ranked No. 8, and the Beavers will be in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 44 years if they win their final two games against Arizona and Oregon. The Beavers' defense and special teams made sure they got past the Bears.  An 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by James Rodgers a little more than two minutes into the game stole all the momentum the Bears had garnered by scoring a TD seconds earlier, largely because of Jahvid Best's 51-yard return of the opening kickoff. Later in the first period, Sammie Stroughter returned a punt 56 yards to the Cal 2-yard line. From there, Jacquizz Rodgers ran it in for the score, and the Bears found themselves behind for good, 14-7, even though Cal's defense had yielded virtually nothing. "Our defense played a heck of a game," Cal linebacker Zack Follett said. The Bears did allow Jacquizz Rodgers to rush for 144 yards, but that's about all. Meanwhile, Best rushed for 116 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter that cut the deficit to 27-21. But Best's rushing total accounted for half of Cal's total offensive yardage, and that's not what the Bears needed to win.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oregonian: Cal defense knows all about Quizz, but Tedford says trick is to stop him

By Paul Buker


“here is some of what Cal coach Jeff Tedford said to his media on Tuesday as he addressed Saturday's crucial Pac-10 game:

Cal coach Jeff Tedford says the Bears will have a difficult time stopping the Pac-10's leading rusher, Jacquizz Rodgers.

On the atmosphere at Reser: The last time we were there, I know it was one of the more hostile places that we have played. It ranks right up there with the Coliseum (USC) and Autzen Stadium (Oregon). I hear it is going to be a record crowd, and I expect that they will be amped up and ready to go. We are going to expect a hostile environment. Last week, we had pretty good training with it as we played in a pretty wild place. Hopefully, we can take some of the lessons and experiences from playing in that atmosphere last week into this week.

On which QB he might face: I think that Moevao is a little bit better of a runner than Canfield is. I think they both run the offense efficiently. Moevao is a guy that can scramble a little bit more. I don't who is going to play. Canfield played last week, obviously. You just don't know if Moevao is going to get the work in practice this week to be ready to play.

On Cal QB Kevin Riley putting last year's game in the past: I think that was very disappointing last year when that happened, obviously. But I thought he shook that off very well. As a quarterback, you are going to run into those things. There are going to be times where you wish you had a play back here or there. That is not the first and it's not going to be the last that he is going to encounter as a quarterback of, `hey, I wish I would have done this or wish I would have done that differently.' I know there was a lot riding on that play, but I think he did a nice job of putting that behind him. I know I am going to have that question a lot this week, but I think that it is pretty much in his past as far as I know.

On OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers: He is a great player. I do think as the season goes on he continues to get better. I think he just becomes more comfortable each and every week. He does a great job of using his blockers and staying behind his blockers. He is so quick that when he hits it, he is through the hole very quick. He is strong enough to run through arm tackles and you don't bring him down very easy. Even though he is a little shorter, he weighs 190 pounds, so he is very strong. He is built very low to the ground with great balance. He has great quickness and is very elusive. He catches the ball very well and holds up in pass protection very well. He is a great player. I think the numbers speak for themselves there. He is very hard to tackle in the open field, as well.

Easier to prepare for Quizz, after seeing what he did vs. USC? You can prepare for him all you want, but you still have to stop him. You still have to tackle the guy. You simulate through the week. They are good up front. They do a good job of staying on their blocks, so you have to shed blocks. They do a good job with the play action pass, so they keep you off balance. If you try to pull everybody to the back, then they pull it out and throw a play action pass against you. They do a really nice job of mixing that up.


Sportings News: No. 23 Beavers Not Thinking Past Cal


As whispers of the Rose Bowl swirl around the Oregon State Beavers, they are wary that their opponents will be eager to spoil their aspirations.  The first of those opponents is California, which visits Reser Stadium on Saturday.  "We don't need to be thinking about anything but the next game, and being ready for the next game, and performing well in the next game," coach Mike Riley said. "We should be obsessed with the next game."  Oregon State (6-3, 5-1 Pacific-10 Conference) and No. 6 USC each have one conference loss. But because the Beavers defeated the then-No. 1 Trojans 27-21 on Sept. 25, they would have the edge for the Rose Bowl should they win out.  After Cal, Oregon State visits Arizona before hosting Oregon in the Civil War rivalry game.  The Golden Bears (6-3, 4-2 Pacific-10 Conference) have won their last two games in Corvallis, while Oregon State (6-3, 5-1) has won the last two in Berkeley. Last season the Beavers defeated the then-No. 2 Golden Bears and kept them from reaching the top of the rankings for the first time in 56 years, after then-No. 1 LSU lost earlier that day.

"It's a huge game for us and we know it. We all know what's at stake, but they have had success here in the past. The upset last year, there are probably some bitter feelings about it, but it's a football game and we are going to approach it the same way," Oregon State right guard Gregg Peat said.  Oregon State had not named a starting quarterback. Lyle Moevao was throwing in practice this week after missing a game with a strained muscle in his shoulder.  If he's not ready to go, Sean Canfield has stepped in admirably, leading the Beavers to a come-from-behind 27-25 victory over Arizona State after Moevao was injured, then a 34-6 victory over UCLA in Pasadena last weekend.  Against the Bruins, Canfield made 16 of 22 passes for 222 yards.   “I look forward to playing this week, but it's all up to Coach Riley and how he feels, how comfortable he is with me going in with what he sees during the week. It's all on him, I'm sure his decision is probably the best, just like it's been in the past. We are behind him 100 percent," Moevao said.

It has become abundantly clear that Oregon State's best weapon on offense is freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers. The 5-foot-7 Texan leads the Pacific-10 Conference and ranks 10th nationally with an average of 121 rushing yards a game.  Quizz, as he is known, has already run for 1,089 yards this season, a conference record for a freshman previously held by Stanford's Darrin Nelson, who rushed for 1,069 yards in 1977.  "He's a little guy, but he's hard to tackle. If you go high on him or don't wrap up, he'll slip through and bust a big one on you. A lot of people get in trouble because you can't see him behind all of the linemen. Then, they jump out of their gap and he bursts through," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "He always keeps his feet moving. Even as he's falling down, you see his feet churning to get that extra push. He's really relentless."

Cal will start Oregon native Kevin Riley, who won the job over Nate Longshore. Both of Cal's quarterbacks have started this season, but have been inconsistent.  Interestingly, Riley made his first career start last year against Oregon State. He drove Cal well within field-goal range in the final minute of a 31-28 game, made an ill-advised attempt to run the ball with no time-outs, which allowed the clock to run out before the Bears could get their kicking team on the field.  "I thought he shook that off really well," Tedford said. "As a quarterback, you're going to run into those things. There are going to be times when you wish you had a play back here or there. ... I know that there was a lot riding on that play, but I think he did a good job of putting that behind him. I know he'll probably have to answer that question a lot this week, but I think that's pretty much in his past."

Riley has thrown for 1,124 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, with four interceptions. California tailback Jahvid Best averages 157.6 all-purpose yards, ranking him 10th in the nation. He's averaging 95.8 yards on the ground.  Cal's defense has a league-high 17 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. In the last six games, the D also has 41 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback sacks and has forced 19 turnovers.

Oregon State's defense has held opponents to an average of 14.3 points and 260.3 yards over the last four games.