Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Oakland Tribune: Pete Alamar out as Cal football team's special teams/tight ends coach


Cal's football team may have been inconsistent in 2009, but there was one element about the season that was pretty regular — opponents usually started possessions with good field position.  The Bears had severe shortcomings on kick and punt coverage, and special teams/tight ends coach Pete Alamar took the fall Monday as he was not asked back for the 2010 season.  Alamar had been in charge of Cal's special teams and tight ends since 2003, but special teams coverage had suffered in recent years. With the rest of the bowl season still remaining, the Bears are ninth in the Pac-10 in kick coverage and 48th in the nation. They are 99th in punt coverage.  Last year, Cal ranked 102nd in punt coverage and 51st in kickoff coverage.

The Bears also have struggled to find a consistent place-kicker in recent years. After former Lou Groza candidate Tom Schneider suffered a season-ending injury before the 2007 season began, the Bears have cycled through Jordan Kay, David Seawright, Giorgio Tavecchio and Vince D'Amato, and all have been inconsistent.  There have been good elements about Cal's special teams as well. Punter Bryan Anger, punt returner Syd'Quan Thompson and kick returner Jahvid Best all have appeared among national leaders, and Best was an All-Pac-10 first-team special teams pick as a freshman. The Bears also blocked three kicks that were returned for touchdowns in 2008.

Alamar also has produced quality tight ends in recent years, as Craig Stevens and Cameron Morrah were NFL draft picks.  Cal coach Jeff Tedford said a national search for a replacement will begin immediately.

SF Chronicle: Cal will not bring back special teams assistant


California will not bring back special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Pete Alamar next season.

Coach Jeff Tedford announced in a statement Monday that Alamar's contract would not be renewed. A search for his replacement will begin immediately.  Alamar finished his seventh season at Cal. The Golden Bears finished the season 8-5, losing the Poinsettia Bowl to Utah last week 37-27.

Here are some of the comments from

Goodbye Pete, and good luck.  Thanks be to God!

Yea. It was obviously the special teams coach that sent Cal into oblivion.

Just don't even consider letting go the architect of that universally feared down-the-line screen. Someday that play will work.

Good luck Coach Alomar! I'm sure you'll land somewhere really good, like maybe the forty yard line of the receiving team.

I disagree with those people who think that Cal has lots of holes to fill. Here is my short list of very pressing needs:

Get rid of the special teams coach: CHECK

Get rid of the special teams: To do

Get a new offensive line coach: To do

Get an offensive line that can keep the opposition out of the QB's face for more than three seconds

Find new DB's.

Find new DB's coach

Find receivers that can catch balls that hit them in the numbers

Find receivers that can run on those few occasions that they actually catch the ball.

Ditch the 3-4 scheme. It should have gone with Desmond Bishop.

By all means keep the QB. People were screaming that He was the Savior, so save away, baby.

Please drop the "We're like Oregon!" riff. You're not, and that's generally to your credit.

Please, please please get rid of those fonky uniforms! They suck! But then, 40% of the time so do you, so maybe just wear them when you play Oregon, 'SC, UW and OSU. Otherwise, blue jerseys and gold pants work fine. Go Bears!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New York Times: Amid Budget Woes, California Coaches Are Paying a Price




Contra Costa Times: Cal's disappointing season puts pressure on Jeff Tedford

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL season began with Jeff Tedford making a curious confession. The man who once avoided outside estimations of Cal's program was now acknowledging them. Inventorying them, in fact, and using them to broach with his players the concepts of goal-setting and addressing expectations.

Just a hunch: Those conversations were a lot more enjoyable in September, when Cal was ranked 12th in The Associated Press preseason poll, than they are in the wake of Wednesday's Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah.  Cal met few, if any, expectations this season. Certainly not AP's — the Bears disappeared from the Top 25 even before their bowl game beatdown. Nor did they validate the preseason forecasts of ESPN (also 12th), The Sporting News (16th), (17th) or Sports Illustrated (20th).

During a season in which the Pac-10 race was as wide open as ever, Cal lost its first two conference games and was never a factor. While the Bears participated in a bowl game for the seventh consecutive season, the Poinsettia qualified as a tumble down the cellar steps. And there they got spanked.  As a result, Tedford finds himself in another curious position. For the first time during his tenure at Cal, he's on the clock.  Not on the clock in the "Gentlemen, start your buyout cash call" sense. There still is a lot to like about his work, starting with the school-record streak of bowl appearances. He's also produced eight consecutive winning seasons, tying the school record set from 1918-1925.

Link to rest of article.

Deseret News: Defense shakes shaky start, finds form to stop Cal

Near the end of the first quarter of Wednesday night's Poinsettia Bowl, Cal sophomore running back Shane Vereen had six carries for 72 yards, including a touchdown scamper of 36 yards when he waltzed into the end zone with nary a Utah defender in sight.  Vereen came into the Poinsettia Bowl averaging 144 yards per contest over his three-game stint as Cal's starting running back — he entered the lineup after Jahvid Best suffered a severe concussion Nov. 7 against Oregon State.

With Vereen off to such a fast start on Wednesday night, the Golden Bears' offense had the look of a unit that was primed to run roughshod over the Utes all night long.  It looked as if Utah would have to make serious adjustments to its defensive scheme if it had any hope of holding Vereen below 200 yards rushing.  Turns out, all the Utes really needed to do was just relax and play their game.  "The first one that got out of the gate, the (36-yard) touchdown, we had a gap that we didn't fill," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We had a missed assignment. That long run was a blown assignment. From that point forward, we played sound football and tackled well.

Link to rest of article.

SF Chronicle: Poinsettia Bowl: Utah 37, Cal 27

Cal's season began with grand ambitions, three consecutive wins and one heady week at No. 6 in the national rankings. It ended in a half-empty stadium two nights before Christmas, with another in a curious collection of desultory losses.  The Bears jumped ahead early in Wednesday night's Poinsettia Bowl, played dreadfully for a long stretch and fell 37-27 to Utah. The Utes won their ninth consecutive bowl game, the longest active streak in the nation, while Cal lost a bowl game for the first time since 2004.  In some ways, it was a fitting end to the Bears' utterly strange season. They put together little sustained offense - quarterback Kevin Riley faced heavy pressure, threw two interceptions, fumbled once and seemed indecisive all night - and the defense struggled to contain Utah's spread-option attack.

"This is going to sting for a while," coach Jeff Tedford said.  A crowd of 32,665 at Qualcomm Stadium watched the Utes finish their season at 10-3 and give the Mountain West Conference its second consecutive bowl victory over a Pac-10 opponent. BYU thrashed Oregon State 44-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Tuesday night.   Cal (8-5) made the final score respectable by scoring a late touchdown, but even that came with a semi-embarrassing moment. Tedford initially sent the kicking team onto the field to attempt an extra point, rather than try for two - with his team trailing by 10 and obviously needing to slice its deficit to eight (only 1:46 remained).  Tedford realized his gaffe and called a timeout before the kick. (Cal's subsequent two-point try failed.) He later said he mistakenly checked the laminated chart he holds during games, when he should have checked the scoreboard.

At any rate, Cal's players - and especially the seniors - struggled to digest ending their season this way. They were riding high Nov. 21, after an impressive win in the Big Game left them 8-3, gave them five wins in six games and put them on track for a strong finish.

Link to rest of article.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Utah Beats Cal 37-27

A disappointing end to a disappointing season.  The game was not as close as the score would suggest.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SF Chronicle: Bears, Utes used to Winning Ways

Offensive tackle Mike Tepper counts as a unique figure on this year's Cal football team, in ways beyond his size, loquaciousness and status as a sixth-year senior. Tepper also is the only member of these Bears to lose a bowl game.   It happened here in San Diego, when Texas Tech flattened Cal in the 2004 Holiday Bowl. Tepper vividly remembers the feeling, so he gathered his teammates during practice last week in Berkeley and implored them to treat tonight's Poinsettia Bowl with urgency.

"That sour taste in your mouth is the worst thing in the world, 10 times worse than spinach or whatever vegetable you hate," Tepper said. "You lose a bowl game and your offseason is terrible. All the coaches do is rag on you."   The Bears (8-4) face a sizable challenge in avoiding the ragging, despite falling into a low-profile bowl. They meet No. 23 Utah, which sports a splashy 22-3 record over the past two seasons - 13-0 last year, capped by a Sugar Bowl thumping of Alabama, and 9-3 this year.  The Utes also arrive with the nation's longest active bowl win streak, at eight games. Cal counters with bowl wins in each of the past four years, from the Las Vegas (over BYU) and Holiday (Texas A&M) to the Armed Forces (Air Force) and Emerald (Miami).

Link to rest of article.

SF Chronicle: After walking on, Holley gets carried off

Brian Holley's final practice at Memorial Stadium ended on a note fit for Jahvid Best. Cal's running backs extended a long tradition by carrying Holley off the field Friday, a ritual reserved for seniors and accompanied by much chuckling and good-natured grief.  Holley, mindful of his improbable path to this triumphant scene, wore a wide smile as his teammates hoisted him into the air. By no means does he count as a star, not with only three carries and six catches this season. Most of the periodic media attention he commanded involved talking about Best or Shane Vereen, the swift tailbacks for whom he blocks.

But as the Bears prepare to end their season Wednesday night against Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl - and Holley and 15 other seniors prepare to end their Cal careers - it's worth remembering that not every college football player wades in scholarship offers, savors splashy headlines or eyes a tantalizing future in the NFL.   There also are players such as Holley, a squat, thick-necked fullback whose story smacks of patience and persistence. He received exactly zero scholarship offers coming out of Diamond Ranch High in Pomona. UC Davis showed the most interest, inviting him to play as a walk-on.

Holley, in filling out the universal UC application online, noticed the box for Berkeley. He clicked it. Before long, he received his acceptance letter, convinced his high-school coaches to call their counterparts at Cal and found himself nervously auditioning for a spot in the 2005 freshman class alongside future stars DeSean Jackson and Zack Follett.  "I didn't know if I was on that level or not, because everybody else doubted me," Holley said. "So when I first came here, it was definitely a learning experience. It was humbling."  Holley made the team, but he seldom made it onto the field. He redshirted in 2005, spent '06 on the scout team in practice and the next two seasons as a special-teams stalwart, stuck on the depth chart behind accomplished fullbacks Chris Manderino, Byron Storer and Will Ta'ufo'ou. (Holley earned a scholarship after the '07 season.)

Even this year, with the starting job open, running backs coach Ron Gould was skeptical. He told Holley he needed to lower his body fat and improve his athleticism - so Holley spent the summer outside Atlanta, diligently working out with former Cal player Zach Smith and his father, Chip, who owns a sports performance training company.

Link to rest of article.

Deseret News: Utah Utes football notebook: Cox has filled defensive-line vacancy

When Utah starting defensive end Derrick Shelby went down with a season-ending knee injury against TCU, it was a big blow to the Utah defense.  At least it seemed like it at the time.  However, thanks to junior walk-on Christian Cox, the Utes' defense has hardly skipped a beat.  Cox has started the past two games at left end and come up with eight tackles and two sacks. On the season, he leads the team in sacks with five and in tackles for loss with eight.  "We miss Shelby, but between Christian, Junior Tui'one and Nai Fotu, we've been able to hold down the fort," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Christian has been a valuable asset for us. He's a self-made guy. He's got to where he's at through sheer determination and hard work."

It's not like Cox has come out of nowhere, this year at least. He played in every game, and got a lot of reps at both defensive end positions and ranks 13th on the team in tackles.  "I've been able to play all season," he said. "(Starting) has given me more opportunities to make plays. I credit it to my coaching. It's been a great transition."

Link to rest of article.

Deseret News: Pair of Utahns are thriving on Cal's roster

Isi Sofele and Keni Kaufusi both grew up in Salt Lake City and used to attend football camps at the University of Utah.  However, the two former Cottonwood High standouts will find themselves on the opposite sideline at the Poinsettia Bowl Wednesday night when the Utes take on Cal.  Sofele is a 5-foot-7, 170-pound running back who is one of three true freshmen to play this year for Cal and has played in every game. He's returned six kicks for 127 yards, has rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries and has nine tackles on special teams. Kaufusi is a defensive lineman who is redshirting this year.  "They are hard workers, quality guys," said coach Jeff Tedford. "Isi is a guy who has contributed for us. He's a great kid. Kaufusi has a bright future here. He's done a great job on the scout team this year."

Kaufusi committed to play for Utah in early 2008, but his offer was rescinded when he was arrested on a weapons and alcohol charge a couple of months later. The following January, he signed with Cal along with Sofele.  Whittingham acknowledged the Utes recruited both players, but said the Utes had filled their scholarships at Sofele's position and that "it didn't work out" with Kaufusi.   Former Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who has the same job for Cal, says he works with Sofele on a daily basis and calls him a "super person" and "a very good football player."

Ludwig said he doesn't work with Kaufusi, but of the two, he said, "Both are doing very well in terms of academics and socially and adapting to Division I football."  Sofele says he loves it at Cal.   "It's different, but you've got to explore the world," he said.

SECOND-BEST: At the start of the year, Cal running back Jahvid Best was considered a Heisman Trophy and all-American candidate. However, after gaining 867 yards rushing, he went down with a head injury in the Oregon State game last month and is out for the season.  However, the Bears aren't sweating much about Best's absence because they have a guy named Shane Vereen who has stepped up and hardly missed a beat.  Kind of like Eddie Wide stepping up for Matt Asiata.  In three games, Vereen has run for 444 yards on 88 carries, an average of 148 yards per game.  "In my mind, he's always been considered a starter," Cal running backs coach Ron Gould told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I'm not surprised by the performances he's produced the past few weeks."

Link to rest of article.

Sporting News: Utah's Robert Johnson: Coaches tell me to be the human eraser

Senior Robert Johnson knows a thing or two about stepping up when the spotlight is turned on him. He intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter this season and picked off two in the Utes' victory against Alabama in the BCS Sugar Bowl last season. Johnson talked with Sporting News' Ken Bradley about Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl matchup against Cal.

Utah relishes a chance to play a big-time school like Cal, Robert Johnson says.Sporting News: You had two picks in last year's BCS bowl win against Alabama. You enjoy the big games like this?

Robert Johnson: I love playing all the games. It seems like when a team really doesn't know that you're a good player, they kind of throw the ball toward you and I just try to try my hardest to make teams pay whenever they do throw the ball anywhere by me. Some of the big games we've played in this year like TCU and BYU, they didn't really have anybody throwing the ball by me. So I guess it was respect wise, I'm happy with it but sometimes it's more fun to do what I'm supposed to be doing. The coaches just tell me to be the human eraser.

SN: How big is it for Utah when it plays bowl games against BCS conference schools?

RJ: It's very big. Right now it's hard for certain Mountain West teams to even play against some of the big-time Pac-10 schools. The only time you run into them is around bowl games. Cal was ranked No. 4 early in the season. Cal is a real good team and has some real good players. Just to get the chance to play against them, that's one of the biggest things that makes this game even more special. It's a bowl game, but you're playing against an elite team so you want to get out there and really show you can play against them and give you the chance to really show that you can play.

Link to rest of article.

New York Times Picks No. 23 Utah to Defeat Cal in Poinsettia Bowl

This year’s Poinsettia Bowl may not carry the cachet of last season’s high-profile matchup (Boise State vs. T.C.U.), but the game will feature one team coming off of a B.C.S. bowl appearance and another whose preseason expectations included hopes of a B.C.S. spot of its own. Utah, as we know, rolled through the 2008 season undefeated before routing a talented Alabama squad in the Sugar Bowl. While the Utes slipped to 9-3 this regular season, Utah remains among the top 25 teams in the nation. California, on the other hand, has seen itself slide from a trendy pick for the best team in the Pac-10 in the preseason to a disappointing 8-4, sixth in the conference.

San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Wednesday, 8 p.m., ESPN


Like its more staid neighbors in Provo, Utah is in the midst of one of the great periods in program history. The Utes may not be playing in another B.C.S. bowl, but even after dropping one to rival B.Y.U. to end the season, they find themselves ranked and with a shot at a second consecutive double-digit win season. Such a finish was far from a certainty early in the season. The Utes have missed the consistency at quarterback of year’s past, though that position seems to be more settled following the promotion of the freshman Jordan Wynn, who replaced the JUCO transfer Terrance Cain in the starting lineup with five games left in the regular season. The defense has done its part (again), limiting opponents to less than 20 points and 175 yards passing per game. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley would be wise to keep an eye on free safety Robert Johnson, who leads the Utes with five interceptions; that total gives him 12 over his three seasons with the program. Utah did drop its early-season Pac-10 matchup, losing by 31-24 at Oregon in September.


Yes, losing star running back Jahvid Best could serve as a valid excuse for a significant decline in offensive productivity. (Shane Vereen, a sophomore, has actually picked up the slack in the running game quite well.) Nevertheless, there is no excuse for scoring 5 less points per game this regular season compared to last, and there is certainly no excuse for the pitiful performance Cal put forth against premier Pac-10 competion: 3 points each against Oregon and U.S.C. and 14 against Oregon State. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Golden Bears scored only 10 points in a disheartening 32-point loss to underdog Washington in the season finale. Suffice to say, this is a team heading into postseason play with confidence issues, in dire need of a win over a top 25 opponent in order to propel itself into the off-season with some semblance of momentum. The good news? Despite periods of inconsistency, Cal’s 3-4 defense has had its moments, especially against the run. Getting to the quarterback has been an issue — linemen Tyson Alualu (an all-conference pick) and Cameron Jordan are the only players with more than two sacks — limiting the defense’s ability to stop the pass.

Link to rest of article.

LA Times: Having missed out on Roses, Cal faces a thorn in Pac-10's side

The Bears' erratic season ends Wednesday night at the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. Their opponent will be Utah, which has had a lot of success lately against Pacific 10 Conference teams.

Followers of Pacific 10 Conference football hold these truths to be self-evident:

USC will go to a bowl every year under Pete Carroll.

Stanford's Jim Harbaugh will say or do something to irk one of his coaching colleagues.

And Utah will be a cactus-sized thorn in the side.

The Utes are 6-3 against Pac-10 teams since the start of the 2003 season, with two of the victories coming against ranked opponents.

No. 23 Utah (9-3) hopes to pull rank for a change Wednesday evening at Qualcomm Stadium against California (8-4) in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Bears will play without star tailback Jahvid Best, who continues to be held out because of the concussion he suffered last month against Oregon State.

Back in August, Cal was hoping for a trip to Pasadena instead of San Diego. Then the season started, and the Bears looked alternately horrid in losses to USC and Oregon and unstoppable in victories over Washington State and UCLA. The inconsistency continued to the end of the regular season -- an upset of Stanford in the Big Game, followed by a 42-10 loss to Washington.

"Some weeks they really light it up and play exceptionally well and other weeks they're not as consistent," Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said.

The Utes have been surprisingly consistent despite some key personnel losses. After finishing 13-0 last season with a victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Utah lost senior quarterback Brian Johnson, a few other players who departed early for the NFL and both coordinators. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig took the same post at Cal.

Link to rest of article.

Sporting News: Utah's Beadles: 'Leaving is going to be very bittersweet for me'

Utah's Zane Beadles is a 6-4, 304-pound tackle who has been projected to be drafted this spring in the first four rounds. The Utes will play California in Wednesday's Poinsettia Bowl — Beadles' last game for the Utes after four years of starting.


Zane Beadles: "I never thought I'd be starting in the Sugar Bowl, a BCS game."

Utah-Cal is a really good matchup and we're definitely looking forward to this game. Our season didn't end up like we would have liked it to with the loss to BYU in OT. We've had a bad taste in our mouths for a while now, so we want to finish our season right. We have an eight-game bowl winning streak on the line and we want to extend it to nine — and our senior class is the winningest in school history, so we want to close that out on a good note too.


Cal is very talented, and they've also had their ups and downs. Their losses are big losses and their big wins were really big wins. They're sort of an unpredictable team. I'm personally looking forward to the matchup with their two defensive ends — Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu. They're both very good, very talented. I wouldn't want this any other way for my last college game.

Link to rest of article.


Contra Costa Times: Cal Lands Top Recruit



Action: Cal receives a commitment from Chris Martin, the No. 3 defensive end in the country. (The Oakland native, who now lives in Colorado, had offers from Oklahoma, Florida and USC.)
Reaction I:
Given his rating and his position — top-tier defensive linemen are so hard to find — Martin is arguably the biggest recruit of the Jeff Tedford era.
Reaction II:
Then again, ratings don’t mean everything. (Kyle Reed was the No. 6 quarterback. Darian Hagan, awful for most of ‘09, was the No. 5 cornerback.)
Reaction III:
But if Martin is merely half as good as the projections, then Cal will have one of the best DEs in the Pac-10 for several years. And if he’s as good as the projections … Andre Carter?

SF Examiner: Strength of Pac-10 kept Cal from more victories

Glenn Dickey

For Cal supporters who wonder what happened to the Bears this season, I’d suggest an answer: the Pac-10 Conference.  For a number of reasons — geographical alignment, concentration of population and media east of the Mississippi, biased perceptions — the Pac-10 conference is underrated nationally, but top to almost bottom, it’s very strong.

The one exception is Washington State, which has fallen so far behind it may suffer the same fate as Idaho, which was once part of the conference but was expelled because it wasn’t competitive. With the resurgence of Washington under Steve Sarkisian, not to mention non-conference Boise State nearby, the Cougars will have even more trouble recruiting in the northwest. And geographically, Washington State is the least attractive location of the conference schools.  Otherwise, though, the conference is solid and will be even more so as UCLA improves. Every week is an adventure. The Pac-10 is the only major conference which plays a round-robin schedule, which makes it difficult to produce a national champion.

Link to rest of article.

Salt Lake Tribune: Cal coach says Utes good enough for Pac-10

Some critics might discount the No. 23 Utes because they don't hail from a BCS conference, but don't count Cal coach Jeff Tedford among those who underestimate the Utes.  In his assessment, Utah is good enough to play in the Pac-10, Tedford said during Tuesday's Poinsettia Bowl press conference.

"Utah I don't think is any different than any other Pac-10 team," he said. "Utah can play in the Pac-10 very easily and could be competitive. Playing tough competition all year long, even our non-conference games were pretty tough competition, so I think our team understands what we are up against here as far as Utah is concerned. They are a great football team and our kids have a lot of respect for them and it's going to be like another Pac-10 team for us."   Utah coach Kyle Whittingham also attended the press conference and said Tedford's comments were a "nice compliment."  The Utes are 2-2 against the Pac-10 in bowl games, 2-4 against Cal and are 18-11 against BCS teams since the BCS began in 1998. "We are competitive," Whittingham said. "Our track record speaks for itself, the win-loss record in those situations. Good football is good football whether it's in the Pac-10 or MWC or whatever the case might be."  Despite their recent success and ranking, the Utes are three-point underdogs going into tonight's game against the Bears.

Whittingham acknowledged that often being the underdogs gave the Utes a "chip on their shoulder and an us against the world mentality." "Those guys who are making the point spreads get paid to get it correct most of the time, but I hope it's not correct this time," Whittingham said.

In the stands

A crowd of 30,000 to 33,000 is anticipated for the Poinsettia Bowl, with Cal and Utah both hoping to sell between 3,000 to 4,000 tickets, organizers said. To help bump up the ticket sales, Utah is working with former Ute Eric Weddle , who plays for the San Diego Chargers, to distribute tickets to local charities.

Weddle has spent some time hanging out with the Utes, but will miss the Poinsettia Bowl because the Chargers leave Wednesday for their game at Tennessee on Friday.

Recruiting ties

The Utes and Bears often cross paths in recruiting since California is a priority state for the Utes, who have 27 players with California ties on their roster.   Among those is Utah defensive back Kamaron Yancy , who originally signed with Cal but couldn't attend because he was a class short of meeting the academic requirements. During the year he was taking the class, Yancy decided Utah was a better fit for him.  Cal has two players from Utah on its roster, both of whom prepped at Cottonwood High. One is Keni Kaufusi , whose scholarship offer was rescinded by the Utes after he was involved in an altercation in Salt Lake City. He is now a freshman for the Bears.   The other is freshman running back Isi Sofele , who has 12 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown this season.  Whittingham said playing in San Diego would be helpful for the Utes' recruiting.  "Any time you can get a recruiting footprint and play a game, the exposure you get on national TV is very positive for recruiting," he said.

Clock watch

Many of Utah's players have used their free time to wander the Gaslamp section of San Diego, where numerous hotspots and hip bars are located. Just to make sure the players don't get caught up in the nightlife, Whittingham instituted a midnight curfew earlier in the week and one for 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night to make sure players get plenty of rest. "Nothing good happens after midnight," he said.


Monday, December 21, 2009

San Diego Union-Tribune: Vereen could be better than next-Best for Cal on Wednesday

The Best player on either team will not play in Wednesday’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.  Cal football coach Jeff Tedford announced last week that Jahvid Best, Cal’s NFL-caliber running back, has been ruled out as he continues to rehabilitate from a terrifying concussion suffered Nov. 7.

As a result, Cal again will revert to its next-Best plan, otherwise known as better than Best, at least according to statistics in the past three games. His name is Shane Vereen. He’s a humble aspiring broadcaster from Valencia with at least two particular traits working in his favor lately: 1. He’s getting 70 percent of his team’s carries in the past three games (compared to 23 percent in the first nine). 2. He’s showing almost no signs of fatigue in consequence.

“There’s not a big drop-off,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, whose team faces Cal Wednesday at Qualcomm Stadium.   Some might say there’s no drop-off at all. Best and Vereen are the same height (5-feet-10), weight (about 195), age (20) and roughly the same speed. Vereen is considered a more physical, straight-ahead running back than Best. But Best is the one who has gotten most of the attention in Berkeley until Nov. 7, when the future of Cal’s offense may have permanently changed.

Best, a junior, is considering turning pro and is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick in April. If he leaves, Cal (8-4) already has seen a preview of what life could be like without him. Call it crazy, but some signs show it could be better. In the first game since Best’s injury, Vereen, a sophomore, carried 30 times for 159 yards against Arizona Nov. 14. In the next game, Vereen carried 42 times for 193 yards against Stanford.  When Vereen has at least 17 carries, Cal is 3-0, including Oct. 17 against UCLA, when he rushed 17 times for 154 yards. All three of those wins came against bowl-bound teams.

“In my mind, he’s always been considered a starter,” Cal running backs coach Ron Gould said. “I’m not surprised by the performances he’s produced the past few weeks.”   There were signs in high school but not as many since, mostly because Vereen was Best’s backup. Best, out of Salesian High in Richmond, was rated the ninth-best running back recruit in the nation by Meanwhile, Vereen had been ranked as the nation’s fifth-best running back prospect at Valencia High.  When both senior prospects signed with Cal in 2007, questions were raised about how the ball would be shared between them and another top recruit. A year earlier, Cal had signed the nation’s 14th-best running back prospect: James Montgomery from Rancho Cordova.  The logjam was broken up somewhat when Vereen redshirted as a true freshman while Best started eight games and rushed for 867 yards.

Then Montgomery transferred to Washington State in 2008, right before Best burst out nationally with 132 rushing yards per game last season, good for third-best in the country. Vereen ranked second on the team with 55 yards per game as the backup.  The same pecking order continued this year with Best getting almost twice as many carries (141) in the first nine games as Vereen (75) until Best leapt into the end zone Nov. 7 against Oregon State, flipped over a defender and landed on the back of his head. He lost consciousness and was removed from the field on a stretcher before being taken to the emergency room with a concussion.

“It was tough, seeing what he went through,” Vereen said after a recent bowl practice at USD. “My heart goes out to him. I wish he could play with us and finish the season. But I’m glad he’s OK, and I think he’ll be OK.”  Best, who finished the season with 867 yards on 141 carries, made the trip to San Diego with his team but may have played his last game for the Bears.  By turning pro, he would be the latest running back off the assembly line from Cal since 2004, including J.J. Arrington (Arizona Cardinals), Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills) and Justin Forsett (Seattle Seahawks).  Next up is Vereen, who has 444 yards on 88 carries in the past three games. He’s majoring in media studies in hopes it will help him toward a future in broadcasting. In the meantime, his media studies are expected to increase outside of class with an expected rush of interview requests from reporters. It’s what happens when you suddenly become a star at Cal. “It’s fun,” Vereen said. “It’s a different role for me, but all in all, it’s the same preparation every week. The coaches have faith in all the backs and not just me.”

SF Chronicle: Utah, Bears' assistant no strangers

Ron Kroichick


Many times over many college football seasons, Andy Ludwig has planted himself in front of a screen to analyze an upcoming opponent. It often becomes a blur of faceless jersey numbers and nameless defenders.  Not this time. Ludwig, as Cal's offensive coordinator, finds himself poring over video of Utah, the Bears' opponent in Wednesday night's Poinsettia Bowl. Ludwig worked as the offensive coordinator at Utah the past four seasons, helping the Utes win 13 games (including the Sugar Bowl) in the 2008 season.

"Usually, you're just looking at positions and numbers," he said. "Now when I look at tape, I look at positions and numbers, but I also know every guy's name and every guy's story. So it's a little bit different."   Ludwig fills a curious role as the Bears (8-4) try to end their topsy-turvy season on a positive note. He obviously knows Utah's personnel well, so he can offer insight on playing styles and tendencies. Then again, Utah's coaches know Ludwig well, probably giving them some insight into Cal's offense.  Even so, Ludwig really hasn't tinkered much with head coach Jeff Tedford's system - though Tedford gives him more freedom than previous Cal coordinators had. The Bears frequently run the two-back set Tedford favors, but Ludwig has added spread-formation elements and introduced more plays in the so-called Wildcat, with a snap to the tailback.  The Wildcat produced some nice gains earlier in the season, but it became less effective as Cal's opponents came to expect it.  "Some of those things can dry up, and I think you'll see defenses are catching up with it a little bit throughout football," Ludwig said. "You saw some of that with us. Early on, it was hot, then it got a little less so."

Link to rest of article.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oakland Tribune: Best choice for Cal's Jahvid Best -- go pro

Gary Peterson


And so we bid a fond farewell to Cal tailback Jahvid Best, who will skip next week's Poinsettia Bowl, then huddle with his inner circle to assess his career options.  That onerous deliberation figures to go something like this: 

Best: What do you guys think I should do — come back to Cal for my senior year, or declare for the NFL draft?

Inner circle: Go pro.

Best: Yeah, me too.

It's an easy call all the way. Short-term, he hasn't practiced since his heart-stopping injury on Nov. 7, the one that left him with a severe concussion and a sore back. Best-case scenario, pun marginally intended, he'd have five days of practice to knock off 40 days of rust. That's an overly ambitious timetable.   It's especially overambitious in that Best's most concerning injury is the one to his brain. He fell from a height of more than six feet, landing on his back and head with enough force to cause his helmet to come shooting off like a cork propelled from a champagne bottle.   There are times when you can rush a guy back from a sprain, or a strain or even an arthroscopic procedure. There are times when doctors tell a player, "You can't make it worse. So if you can handle the pain, you're good to go."  None of that applies to what happened to Best. Trying to rush him back — and this would have been rushing him back — would have been a mistake. But, you say, it's the Poinsettia Bowl! Doesn't matter. Whatever the bowl and no matter the stakes, the timing isn't right.  But, you say, he has to come back to prove to the NFL that he's fully recovered! Not really. Doctors forecast a complete recovery, so ultimately his concussion should be no more worrisome to NFL teams than the hip injury that forced him to miss spring practice in 2008 or the foot and elbow surgeries he had last offseason. Whatever concerns they have can be alleviated at the scouting combine, where prospective draftees are weighed, measured, drilled and subjected to psychological testing. Even a personal workout would do the trick.

Long-term, he was born to play on Sundays. Like former Cal teammate DeSean Jackson before him, Best was never a candidate to stick around for his senior year. Oh, maybe if he thought he had an unaccountably bad season and felt he needed to kick-start his career arc. But that didn't happen. In 21 starts as a sophomore and junior, Best had 13 games in which he topped 100 yards rushing. He scored 35 touchdowns. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry for his career.  He created a collection of mouthwatering highlights — a 73-yard touchdown run, a five-touchdown game, a 144-yard performance. And that was just September. Of this year.

Best has taken the first step toward a pro career, contacting the NFL advisory committee to gauge his draft prospects. Draft expert Phil Steele already has Best pegged as the No. 4 running back in next spring's draft. The fourth running back chosen last spring was LeSean McCoy, by Philadelphia late in the second round. According to reports, McCoy signed a four-year, $3.48 million contract ($1.73 million guaranteed).  No doubt Best will want to consult his inner circle on that as well.

Best: Do you think I could live on $1.73 million guaranteed?

Inner circle: That's more than you're making now, last time we checked.

Best: Yeah, me too.

It's difficult to project Best as a pro. He was a slender, glorified track star as an underclassman, almost frail by football standards but breathtakingly fast. He beefed up as a junior, but continued to operate better in the open than between the tackles. He's explosive but not routinely so — he might run for 1, 2, 5, minus-2, 3 and no gain before breaking free for 52. And then he might go underground again.  Does that make him an every-down back? A change-of-pace guy? A slash guy?  One thing it no longer makes him, it says here, is a college guy. That was probably the first thing his inner circle made clear after he woke up from his injury.

Inner circle: The next time you make a crazy move like that, we think you'd best be getting paid to do it.

Best: Yeah, me too.

Us too.


ESPN: Best Done at Cal?

Ted Miller


That spectacular and then terrifying dive, flip and fall that California running back Jahvid Best took against Oregon State on Nov. 7 might be the junior's final play in a Bears uniform.  Best has been ruled out of playing in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 against Utah because he's not yet fully recovered from the concussion and back injuries he suffered against the Beavers. Best, a potential NFL first-round draft pick this spring, has submitted his paperwork to the NFL draft advisory committee. The deadline for early entry is Jan. 15.  "Right now, I sent that in just to get information," Best told the Contra Costa Times. "After the bowl game, I'll sit down with my family and coaches and make a decision. As of now, I'm completely on top of the fence."  Cal coach Jeff Tedford said Best hasn't had any setbacks and his rehab is going smoothly. He might have played had the Bears' bowl game been scheduled after Christmas.  Shane Vereen, a sophomore, has been a more than capable replacement for Best, rushing for 444 yards and four touchdowns in three games as the starter. He likely will step into the starting role next fall if Best opts to enter the draft.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Salt Lake Tirbune: Poinsettia Bowl's personal for Cal coach

Kurt Kragthorpe

The images of Robert Johnson, Koa Misi, Stevenson Sylvester and Utah's other defensive players float on the screen in Andy Ludwig's office, tucked inside the University of California's Memorial Stadium.

To most opposing offensive coordinators, they would be merely numbers, matched with scouting reports. Not to Ludwig. He knows these guys. And in advance of next week's Poinsettia Bowl, they are coming back into his life.  "It's kind of fun, but it can be distracting, because I'm not just watching x's and o's," Ludwig was saying this week. "Every player's got a story, and I know most of those stories."

That's why the story of this bowl game, as much  Kurt Kragthorpe as anything, is Andy Ludwig vs. the Utes. Mix in the longtime friendship between him and Ute coach Kyle Whittingham, the reunion with the offensive coaches he supervised for four seasons and the mixed views of his schemes in Salt Lake City, and we have the makings of an intriguing evening in San Diego.

"Fun for you, maybe," Ludwig clarified for a visitor, smiling.  As for himself, Ludwig again must find ways to attack Whittingham's aggressive defense -- having lost to the Utes in previous existences with Fresno State and Oregon -- and figure out his own offense, the group that averages 29 points but never scores 29 points, exactly. "We either scored 50 or three," Ludwig said, barely exaggerating. "If I could explain it, I'd fix it."

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sporting News: Utah Cal Preview

Utah and California entered this season with their sights set on reaching a BCS bowl or possibly playing for a national title. Inconsistent play dashed those hopes.  The No. 23 Utes try to extend the nation's longest postseason winning streak to nine when they face the Golden Bears in the Poinsettia Bowl at San Diego on Dec. 23.  Utah (9-3) entered the national spotlight last season, going 13-0 and beating then-No. 4 Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl to finish second in the rankings. That success propelled the Utes to a spot in the AP preseason poll this year for the first time, cracking the list at No. 19.

They opened 2009 with consecutive victories, running the nation's longest active winning streak to 16, before falling 31-24 at Oregon on Sept. 19 to drop out of the rankings.  The Utes recovered by winning six in a row to climb to No. 16, but concluded the regular season by losing two of three, including defeats to ranked Mountain West foes TCU and BYU. Those losses dropped Utah out of BCS contention as it finished third in the conference to land in the Poinsettia Bowl for the second time in three years.

Utah won its previous trip in 2007, beating Navy 35-32. The Utes have won all eight bowl games they've played since losing to Wisconsin in the 1996 Copper Bowl.  "We look at it as another challenge," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We've had a bunch of those BCS opponents over the last seven or eight years, and our guys are prepared and looking for a chance to play these higher-profile teams. And Cal-Berkeley is certainly one of those teams."  California (9-3) saw its chances of reaching its first BCS bowl dented by an early season loss to the Ducks. The Golden Bears won their first three games to move to No. 6 in the poll before a stunning 42-3 loss at Oregon on Sept. 26.  They followed that a week later with a 30-3 loss to then-No. 7 Southern California, damaging their hopes of winning their first Pac-10 title in 51 years.

Cal rebounded by winning five of six, including victories over ranked Pac-10 opponents Arizona and Stanford, to move back into the poll at No. 19. However, the Bears fell out again after concluding the regular season with a 42-10 loss at sub-.500 Washington on Dec. 5.

"That's big. You hate to end the season on a note like the game we played, so it gives us the opportunity to go out and compete and put our best foot forward," coach Jeff Tedford said. "Of course, you want to play in the biggest bowl you can, but the frustration comes in just not playing our best and not finishing the season like we would like to have finished it in conference play."  Under Tedford, Cal has reached a bowl game for a school-record seven consecutive seasons and has won the last four, including a 24-17 victory over Miami in last year's Emerald Bowl. Overall, Cal is 10-8-1 in the postseason, while Utah is 11-3. The Golden Bears have won four of six all-time meetings, but Utah won the last one 31-24 on Sept. 11, 2003.  Cal is hoping to welcome back Jahvid Best, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion in a 31-14 loss to Oregon State on Nov. 7.  In nine games prior to the injury, Best was considered a possible Heisman Trophy candidate, gaining 867 yards on 141 carries with 12 TDs, while adding four scores on receptions. Best would be facing a Utah defense that allows 141.3 rushing yards per game.

Quarterback Kevin Riley may have a tough time with the Utes defense, which led the Mountain West with 15 interceptions while holding opponents to an average of 172.8 passing yards.  Riley has been intercepted four times in the last four games, completing just 52.9 percent of his passes, though he did rank third in the Pac-10 with 2,636 passing yards.  The Utes are expected to have freshman Jordan Wynn under center as he gets a fifth consecutive start after winning the job from junior Terrance Cain.

Wynn has thrown for 991 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in five games, while relying on running back Eddie Wide for support.  The junior leads the conference with 1,032 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He'll get to face a Cal defense that allows an average of 118.0 yards on the ground after giving up a total of 365 over the last two games.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Salt Lake Tribune: Bears would like to end season on good note

Lya Wodraska

The assumptions going into the final week of the college football season were that Cal would easily beat Washington and go to either the Sun Bowl or the Emerald Bowl.  But just when the Bears seemed headed in one direction, they went another way. They were thumped 42-10 by the Huskies and fell from second place in the Pac-10 to tie USC for fifth.  Such surprising turns of events were typical for the Bears in 2009, making them a rather unpredictable opponent for the Utes in the Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl.

Ranked 12th in the preseason, Cal (8-4) not only failed to win the Pac-10 as some thought it would, but was embarrassed in all of its losses, losing the four games by a combined score of 145-30.  The loss to Washington was perhaps the most surprising because the Bears were coming off a 34-28 upset of Stanford.  Cal coach Jeff Tedford said in media reports he didn't believe his team would let the loss to the Huskies affect their play in the Poinsettia Bowl, predicting his team will be hungrier for a win because of it.

"I told the players that it's fortunate that we're getting to play again because you don't want to end the season on that note," said Teford, the former Oregon offensive coordinator who has coached the Bears since 2002. "We're looking forward to it. We're anxious for it."  The trip to the Poinsettia Bowl is the seventh straight bowl appearance for the program, which is a school record for most consecutive bowl appearances. The Bears have won their last four bowl games, including the 2008 Emerald Bowl when they defeated Miami 24-17.  This year the Bears were projected to make their first run at the BCS since 2004, when they finished the regular season ranked No. 4, but were passed over by the Rose Bowl for Texas, which beat Michigan. Cal went on to lose to Texas Tech 45-21 in the Holiday Bowl.

The BCS talk ended rather early this season after the Bears lost to Oregon and USC.  Judging by the scores alone, it seems once opponents figure out the Bears' offense, Cal hasn't been able to adjust to move the ball effectively.  In their wins, the Bears are averaging more than 40 points a game. They averaged less than eight points in their losses.  Cal quarterback Kevin Riley has thrown for 2,636 yards and 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions to lead the Bears.  Helping him carry the offense through most of the season was running back Jahvid Best. He started the year as a Heisman candidate, but missed the final three games with a concussion and back injury.  His status for the bowl game is uncertain. The Bears do have a strong backup in Shane Vereen who averaged 148 yards in the last three games.  Defensively, the Bears are giving up 24 points a game and rank just 108th nationally in pass defense, allowing 260.9 yards a game.

The Utes started installing their game plan Friday for the Bears. Despite what many perceive as a subpar season for a team that began with such high expectations, the Bears are still a strong opponent in Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's estimation. He called the Bears a "typical Pac-10 team."   "They are very fast and they are very aggressive," he said.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

DeSean Jackson Ties NFL Record

Cal alum DeSean Jackson tied an NFL record for touchdowns of 50 yards or more in a season tonight when he scored two touchdowns against the New York Giants.  He scored on a 72-yard punt return in the second quarter and caught a 60-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to tie the record shared by Elroy Hirsch and Devin Hester.


Deseret News: Utah Utes football: Team proud of bowl winning streak and aims to extend it

There's not much of a secret to Utah's bowl success. The Utes simply take great pride in performing well. They've won eight straight postseason games, the longest active run of success in the nation.

"I think it's our players' work ethic and the way they approach the bowl," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It's a reward, but at the same time they view it as an opportunity to win another game."

Finishing on a high note is a big deal. Coming out flat — even after heartbreaking setbacks to rival BYU in regular-season finales — just doesn't happen.  "Our guys have done a nice job of showing some resiliency in those cases where we haven't come out on top," Whittingham said.

Senior captain Zane Beadles expects more of the same. The 23rd-ranked Utes (9-3) enter this year's Poinsettia Bowl against California (8-4) on the heels of a 26-23 overtime loss at BYU. Beadles doesn't expect any sort of letdown.  "I don't think so with the way we approach bowl games," he said. "Bowl games are a reward, an honor, but we're there to win the ballgame. That's the approach we take. You can see it in the intensity in practice."  Safety Joe Dale, one of 24 seniors on the squad, said there's a responsibility and a process to keep the streak going.

"It's motivation, definitely. To have the longest streak in the nation, that's a big deal," he noted. "It says a lot about our coaches, our program and the way we prepare. We just want to keep that going."   Even those new to the program respect the streak. True freshman Jordan Wynn said it's huge.  "I don't want to go down as the quarterback that loses it," he explained. "So I'm doing all I can to win our bowl game."

Utah's preparations kick into high gear Monday. The Utes will practice six times next week — five in Salt Lake City and once in San Diego.

SF Chronicle: Little freshman, big-time speed on special teams

Ron Kroichick


Isi Sofele grew up in Salt Lake City, not far from the University of Utah campus. He often attended Utah games and camps as a kid - hey, wearing his Pop Warner jersey meant free admission to the games - and became a full-fledged Utes fan.   Now, to punctuate his first season playing college football, Sofele would like nothing more than to torment his onetime favorite team. Maybe weave his way downfield for a long kickoff return, or take off at typical breakneck speed and deliver a crunching hit on Cal's punt-coverage unit.

Make no mistake, you noticed Sofele (so-FELL-ay) if you watched the Bears at all this season. He wears No. 20 and races around the field like a runaway gnat, 5 feet and 7 inches of pent-up energy, quickness and tenacity, zooming this way and zipping that way.  Sofele doesn't need much reason to get excited about playing football, but next week's Poinsettia Bowl against Utah offers special incentive. Many people back home will watch the game on television, loyal to their Utes but fully aware of Sofele.

Plus, two of his Cottonwood High teammates, linebacker Matt Martinez and offensive lineman Percy Taumoelau, are freshmen at Utah. So the texts and friendly Facebook trash talk already are flying between Berkeley and Salt Lake City.  "I told them to watch out for special teams, because I'll be out there," Sofele said.

Link to rest of article.

Contra Costa Times: Call on Best could come today

Jonathan Okanes

Cal running back Jahvid Best has resumed conditioning with Cal's athletic training staff and an announcement about his status for the Poinsettia Bowl could come as early as today.  Best missed the Bears' final three games of the regular season after suffering a severe concussion and back injury after taking a hard fall at the end of a touchdown run against Oregon State on Nov. 7. He got a positive diagnosis last week from Dr. Michael Collins, a concussion specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Best, a junior, is considering leaving Cal after the season to enter the NFL Draft. An appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 could serve as one final audition for NFL personnel evaluators. Recent projections have Best going late in the first round of the 2010 draft.  Halfway through training camp, it was evident that Brock Mansion's experience made him the only viable candidate to compete with Kevin Riley for the starting quarterback job. But a few weeks into the season, even that experience wasn't good enough to keep him in the No. 2 role.  Mansion fell behind Beau Sweeney on the depth chart early in the season and has been the No. 3 quarterback ever since. A former Elite 11 prospect, Mansion said the demotion was a "big shock" at first, but he has remained a team player. "I just wanted to help Beau and Kev with the playbook or give them encouragement," Mansion said. "I just wanted to do whatever I can to help. I didn't want to be a waste of space."

Mansion said he felt like he competed well during training camp and had a good chance to be named the starter. When he didn't, he suffered a little emotional letdown and his performance suffered.  "I felt like I had a great fall camp, and I felt like I had a great chance to get the No. 1 job," Mansion said. "After that, it was kind of a letdown. The first week I was fine, but the next two weeks I just completely dropped in my level of performance."

The Bears are using the weekend to let some of their younger players and reserves get most of the reps at practice. Cal will then take two days off and begin game planning for Utah on Wednesday.

"Anytime I can get reps, it's a chance to get better," Mansion said. "I don't think I've been forgotten about. But this is a good chance to remind them, if they had forgotten, that I'm still here. Hopefully, I can work my way back up."

Link to rest of article.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

ESPN: California Season Recap

Ted Miller

It was a strange football season in Berkeley.  California began 2009 touted as the team most likely to knock off USC, and the Bears were dominant in their first three nonconference games.  Then the Bears went to Oregon. Splat.  Then USC visited Berkeley. Mush.  Yet, just when it seemed reasonable to write them off, the Bears won five of six, including a surprisingly convincing effort in the Big Game against rival Stanford. At that point, a nine-win regular season and perhaps a Holiday Bowl berth were possible.

Then Cal went to Washington and got stomped 42-10.  Like we said, a strange football season.

Offensive MVP -- Running back Jahvid Best

Perhaps Best should share this award with backup Shane Vereen, who filled in admirably when Best went down against Oregon State on Nov. 7, but Best was the Bears leading rusher with 867 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry.

Defensive MVP -- Linebacker Mike Mohamed

Mohamed led the Pac-10 with 105 tackles. He also had seven tackles for a loss with three picks and a forced fumble.

Turning point -- The Bears ranked sixth in the country and looked like national title contenders when they visited Oregon on Sept. 26. They lost 42-3. Things didn't feel the same thereafter.

What's next -- California won't have to worry about being a Pac-10 frontrunner in 2010, but there are a good deal of starters returning, particularly on offense, even if Best, as expected, enters the NFL draft a year early. Quarterback Kevin Riley and the offensive line will need to take another step forward, while the defense will need to replace a couple of key starters.

Link to article.


Daily Cal: Cal Football Tackles Exams On the Way to Bowl Game

Jeff Goodman

As the 2009 regular season wound down, it became clear that the bowl-game destinations for many Pac-10 teams would not be decided until the last games of the year. All the Cal football team could do was concentrate on its own performance. So that's what it has done.   Coach Jeff Tedford said the eyes-inward strategy has worked for the most part, helping his team climb above .500 in the conference race.

"I'm really proud of the effort up until now," Tedford said. "But again, we still need to finish strong, and that's going to be the whole focus."   Finishing strong will be an emphasis for the Bears off the field as well.  Indeed, as the players prepare for the postseason of college football, they will also be in the midst of a different postseason-an academic one that takes place at library desks and in classrooms across UC Berkeley. It's more commonly known as finals week. Many players will likely use the downtime they are provided to catch up on their studies before the exams, which begin Saturday and continue through Dec. 19. Until this past weekend, they were also trying to ready themselves for the multiple scenarios that could have played out in the conference race.

Tedford, for example, had laid out multiple calendars, knowing that Cal could end up playing as early as Dec. 22 in the Las Vegas Bowl or as late as Dec. 31 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.  He was well aware that the team's bowl bid would likely dictate its practice schedule during an already hectic week on campus.  Senior fullback Brian Holley, who is set to graduate with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, is focusing on cognitive science and, until recently, was trying to wrap his head around an unusually complicated year in the conference standings.

"We've been at the top of the Pac-10, we've been at the bottom of the Pac-10," Holley said. "Rankings and standings are really out of our control. The only thing we can do is go out there and win ball games."

Still, it probably won't be easy for the Bears to give all of their attention to the last game of their season until finals week is completely over.  Even with classes drawing to a close, they were forced to prepare for a number of different bowl-game situations.   Entering its regular-season finale against Washington, Cal knew it would be eligible for the postseason regardless of this past Saturday's outcome at Husky Stadium in Seattle. After all, the Bears had responded from a miserable start to Pac-10 play-a two-game skid during which they were blown out by Oregon and USC-and had given themselves a chance to finish tied for second place in the conference. Even without running back Jahvid Best, the team was able to salvage a campaign that seemed like it was going to spiral downward after those two humbling defeats.

The cramped cluster of Pac-10 foes meant that Tedford's squad had no idea where it would be playing at the end of December. That unknown was mostly due to the increased parity that has characterized the conference this year, as several teams, including Cal, jostled for position in the top half of the standings.

Now that the bowl schedule is set in stone, life is a little simpler for the Bears. But there's still a lot of work ahead, as the players must tend to their end-of-semester tasks away from the gridiron while the coaching staff tries to capitalize on as many recruiting opportunities as it can.  "There's a lot to balance right now," Tedford said. "The kids start finals here in a week, so there's a lot going on."

Link to article.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

San Jose Mercury: Grading the Week in Bay Area Football

Here’s the link.


Result: Lost to Washington 42-10

Grade: F

Comment: More troubling for Cal than four Pac-10 losses is four Pac-10 losses by an average of 28.8 points. That shouldn’t be happening to a team as talented as the Bears … This was the worst of the bunch, a wipeout at the hands of a sub-.500 team whose only win since early October was against Washington State … The passing game was off-key (sound familiar?) and the defense submitted a terrible performance (463 yards allowed) to aptly end an underachieving regular season … Cal was simply not prepared to play in any manner, and that’s on the coaching staff and the seniors … Last two trips to Seattle: Washington 79, Cal 33.

Up next for the Bears: vs. Utah in Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 23)

The matchup: The Utes run a spread-option attack that’s similar to Oregon’s. In fact, Utah nearly beat the Ducks in Eugene the week before Cal got humiliated there … But it’s more about attitude than style for the Bears. If they’re ready to play (think: Big Game), they should win. If they aren’t ready to play (think: Washington), they won’t.

Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel Ranks the Bowls

Here’s the link.  He ranked the Poinsettia Bowl 16th out of 34 bowls.

16) Poinsettia (Dec. 23): Utah (9-3) vs. Cal (8-4). This one becomes a lot more compelling if Jahvid Best manages to return from his scary concussion. If not, we're looking at a pair of teams coming off crushing losses.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Contra Costa Times: Poinsettia Bowl gives Cal football team shot at redemption

Jonathan Okanes

Cal may not be playing a team from a major conference in its bowl game this season, but based on how it performed in its 42-10 loss at Washington on Saturday, just having another game on the schedule will suffice.  The Bears on Sunday accepted an invitation to play Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium. The Utes finished third in the Mountain West Conference and are ranked No. 23 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.  Saturday's unsightly loss dropped the Bears into a tie with USC for fifth place in the final Pac-10 standings and out of the Top 25. Had Cal won, it would have finished in a second-place tie and either faced Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl or Boston College in the Emerald Bowl.

A chance to face a program like Oklahoma would have been special for the Bears, but now players simply want another chance to take the field again so that Saturday won't be the lingering memory of the offseason.  "We're fortunate to be going to a bowl game and have another chance to end our season on a good note, not with a sour taste in our mouth," Cal running back Shane Vereen said. "It would have been a frustrating way to end the season."  Frankly, Cal is in no position to pick and choose a bowl opponent. The Bears finished with a respectable 8-4 record for the second straight season, but their four losses were by a combined score of 145-30.

Link to rest of article.

Salt Lake City Tribune: Utes draw Cal in Poinsettia Bowl

In the 21/2 weeks leading up to Utah's battle with California in the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, the most talked-about participant probably won't be one of the players.  Hello, Andy Ludwig.  As soon as the Utes and Golden Bears accepted invitations Sunday night to play in the Poinsettia Bowl, Ludwig, Cal's offensive coordinator, became one of the major pre-kickoff storylines.  A year ago, Ludwig was Utah's offensive coordinator.  He left after the Utes capped an unbeaten season in the Sugar Bowl, took a job at Kansas State but almost immediately moved on to California.  A year after deciding to leave Utah, Ludwig's job will be solving the Utes' defense in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23.

"We have a good opponent in Cal," Beadles said, "and it will be nice for the media to be able to play up the Ludwig ties."  Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said, "He knows our defensive scheme and we are well-versed in his offense. So it will be kind of a sidebar to the game."  Not that the Utes hold any grudges.  "He's very well-respected throughout the team," Beadles said. "... It will be fun. He's a good guy and he's a good coach. He was here most of my career and it will be good to see him again."  Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester's job will be slowing Ludwig's offense, which scored at least 34 points in six of Cal's 12 games. "It will be a lot of fun," Sylvester said. "Andy Ludwig is a great friend of ours. ... He has a lot of packages and a great imagination for the offensive side of the ball. So we have to be prepared for all that." Utah last played in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2007, when it defeated Navy, 35-32.

This year's trip was assured when Mountain West Conference champion TCU earned an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl, and the Las Vegas Bowl once again selected BYU.  "We're so pleased we will be welcoming these two terrific teams and their fans to San Diego," said Poinsettia Bowl president Barbara Warden. "I think it's safe to say that we're in for one heck of a game."  For Utah freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn, the game will be a homecoming.   Just a year ago, he was a highly decorated all-stater while playing for Oceanside (Calif.) High School.

"It will definitely be cool, going home," Wynn said. "I have a lot of people there tell me they're going to show up for the game."  According to Wynn, he is 2-0 as a starting quarterback in games at Qualcomm Stadium.  "I had one of my best games there," Wynn recalled. "My junior year, I started 6-for-6 or 7-for-7 and finished with something like 250 yards and a couple of touchdowns."  Cal takes an 8-4 record into the Poinsettia Bowl.  The Bears, making their school-record seventh straight bowl appearance, finished an up-and-down season with a 42-10 loss at Washington on Saturday.  "I told the players that it's fortunate that we're getting to play again because you don't want to end the season on that note," coach Jeff Tedford said. "We're looking forward to it. We're anxious for it." Utah ended its season with a 9-3 record after a 26-23 overtime loss to BYU on Nov. 28.   Said Wynn: "I'm keeping it in the back of my mind, so when I get on the field again I'll remember I don't want that taste in my mouth again."

Poinsettia Bowl Tickets Now Available

The following is a message from Cal football:

Congratulations to Coach Tedford and Cal Football on seven straight bowl game appearances!   Cal will play Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday, December 23 at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.
Bowl game tickets are on sale now to all Cal Fans through our bowl website
If you have any questions please call the Athletic Ticket Office at (800) GO BEARS, Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm, with extended hours until 6pm on Wednesdays

Sunday, December 06, 2009

SF Chronicle: Which Cal will show in San Diego?


Kyle Whittingham is going to find out officially today that Utah, the team he coaches, has drawn Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl, and he will begin to watch tape of the Bears' season.   After about an hour, and somewhere between the eight impressive wins and the four gruesome losses, he will turn to his coordinators and say, "Well, fellas, I have no idea what we're dealing with here. Let me know when you've figured them out."  The Golden Bears completed their manic-depressive regular season Saturday evening with a ridiculously decisive 42-10 defeat at the hands of the Washington Huskies, almost certainly costing them about three rungs on the hamster habitat that is the college football bowl system.

But it wasn't just that the Bears plummeted from the Sun, Emerald and Las Vegas Bowls to the Poinsettia on Dec. 23 in San Diego against the Utes, the third-best team in the Mountain West Conference. It was the way they did it. They weren't beaten, they were beaten flat. They channeled all their struggles in their other three losses and distilled them into a lopsided, overwhelmed mess against a Huskies team playing for nothing except the chance to be 2011's version of Stanford.

As a result, they will have somehow managed to go 8-4 while losing their four games by 39, 27, 17 and 32 points, which is a measure of ... well, something. The losses stood out in such dramatic contrast to the eight wins that it is hard even now for Cal experts to make sense of this season.  They will end up going to a bowl despite being outscored in Pac-10 games by more points than only Arizona State and Washington State. And they will go to a bowl game because (a) they don't have the nerve to Notre Dame their way out, and (b) they need the mouthwash.

Link to rest of article.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

iBuyDigital: Bait and Switch?

iBuydigital has a 3.7/10 rating over the last six months on reselleratings.  Read the reviews here BEFORE attempting to purchase from them.