Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seattle Times: USC vs. Cal: So much for that game-of-the-decade hype

A couple of weeks ago, USC-California was going to be the Game of the Decade in the Pac-10. Now it might not be the most interesting game Saturday in the Bay Area, ceding that honor to UCLA-Stanford.

So it's become the Biggest Game West of Walnut Creek and North of San Leandro, Late-Saturday Division.  Tuesday, the questions for Cal coach Jeff Tedford on the weekly Pac-10 conference call filled only half his allotted 10 minutes.  The Trojans-Bears game has lost some sheen with recent events — USC's loss to Washington, Cal's evisceration at the hands of Oregon, and the Monday injury to USC running back Stafon Johnson, who had seven hours of emergency surgery to his throat after a weightlifting accident.

"He's one of everybody's favorites," said USC coach Pete Carroll. "He's one of the spiritual leaders of this group. "It hit everybody pretty hard. It's hard to believe something could happen like that."  On a more mundane level, almost the same could be said about Cal's visit to Oregon, where it suffered a 42-3 loss Saturday as a favorite, the worst defeat in the eight years of Tedford's coaching regime at Cal.

Rather than writing it off to a team not being ready to play, Tedford described the loss as a lesson in what goes wrong when 10 players execute and the 11th one doesn't. "We're one guy away, here and there," he said. "We didn't make the big plays we'd been making. We were one step away from making a lot of big plays, but we didn't get it done.  "We have a play where we're pulling, and have a lead blocker, and we fall down. The first play of the game, we've got a guy running wide-open down the middle of the field, and we're late getting out of our stance, and we get sacked."

The game could evolve into a black-and-blue affair, the sort of which is becoming de rigueur in the Pac-10, because both defensive units appear superior to the other side.  Since a triple-overtime victory by Cal in 2003, Carroll has had his way with Tedford. This is the fourth straight year both have been ranked at game time, and USC has won each.

Link to rest of article.

San Jose Mercury: The day Cal shocked USC

Jeff Faraudo

This time the ball went through the uprights for Tyler Fredrickson, whose two previous field-goal attempts against USC on that day six years ago were blocked.  The 38-yarder ended a triple-overtime thriller and gave Cal a 34-31 victory over the third-ranked and undefeated Trojans, triggering a stampede of humanity onto the Memorial Stadium turf. The Bears hadn't beaten a top-five team at home in 28 years, so Old Blues could hardly be blamed for going a little berserk.  "Some girl grabbed me at midfield and gave me the biggest French kiss of my life," Fredrickson recalled. "I have no idea who she is."

"What stays with me is the belief that they had, to keep playing hard and never be intimidated," said coach Jeff Tedford, who was in his second year after taking over a team that had gone 1-10 in 2001. "People made plays. To me it had more to do with where they had come from in their confidence and self-esteem from Day 1, when they were so low."  Cal fans, still hungering for their first trip to the Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 1959, have sold out Memorial Stadium for Saturday's Pacific-10 Conference game against the Trojans.  Still, it's hard to imagine Saturday's game eclipsing what happened Sept. 27, 2003.

Link to rest of article.

Contra Costa Times: Tedford remedy: Put Ducks debacle behind him

Jonathan Okanes

After watching the horror film otherwise known as the tape from his team's dreadful performance against Oregon on Saturday, Cal coach Jeff Tedford moved on the only way he knew how — by watching tape of upcoming opponent USC.  That may not have made him feel too much better.  The No. 7 Trojans visit Memorial Stadium this Saturday, and although they already have a loss in Pac-10 play and don't appear to be the dominant team they've been in recent years, they still will provide another challenge for a team already reeling from a devastating loss.

"The only way for me to get past it is to look at tape of USC," Tedford said Monday. "You can beat yourself up over and over and over by laying awake all night long about what you could have done in preparation or travel or meals. You think about everything. Could I have said something different?" One of Tedford's biggest tasks this week is making sure his players' confidence isn't shaken. The Bears were manhandled in every way possible during the 42-3 loss to the Ducks.

"I sit up in my little cocoon up here and stay pretty insulated," Tedford said. "But for them to be out there, a lot of people say different things to them. A lot of people have different opinions about things. And so it's really important that our guys don't listen to all the opinions that are thrown around out there and just focus on next week."

Link to rest of article.

SF Chronicle: USC-Cal a matchup of the deflated

Bruce Jenkins

Pete Carroll must be relieved to have his job back. In the wake of USC's loss to Washington, it had been taken last week by irate fans and a crabby media contingent (including the student newspaper) labeling Carroll as overrated and unprepared. Now it's Cal's Jeff Tedford in a dismantled state after yet another Pac-10 powerhouse ventured feebly into the great northwest.

The really disturbing part about the Bears' Eugene experience wasn't the final score - OK, we realize Oregon is superior - but that Cal simply wasn't ready to compete. Verran Tucker had an inexcusable drop on a deep crossing route in the first quarter. Josh Hill picked up an Oregon fumble and immediately fumbled it away. Kevin Riley and Jahvid Best botched a simple handoff in the second quarter, a turnover that led directly to the Oregon touchdown for 18-3.

Teams ranked sixth in the nation, as Cal was at the time, simply don't do that. But it was so perfectly Cal. Seasoned alums don't simply expect a devastating, spirit-crushing loss each season, we know it will happen. Maybe two or three times.

Link to rest of article.

SF Examiner: Golden Bears looking forward

"There's a lot veteran guys on this team that understand that that's one game, and it's really important that we put that behind us, that we learn the lessons from that game and that we move forward," said head coach Jeff Tedford when talking about how his team will respond to the biggest loss of the Tedford era this week.

It wasn't the most comfortable media luncheon this year, but it may have been the most resolute that everyone interviewed has been thus far.  The focus for Cal was 'moving on' or 'moving forward.'

"You learn from it, you move on. That's all that you can do," said Kevin Riley.  "...the past is the past.  We can't do anything about it now," was one of the responses by Tyson Alualu when talking about the Oregon game.

Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory wasn't looking forward to talking about the Oregon game later on after practice.  When beginning my question about what he saw on the game film from the Oregon game, he smiled and asked, "Do you want to talk about USC or Oregon?"  I asked if it was okay to talk about Oregon first and then USC and he responded with, "Not really.  I want to talk about USC," with a chuckle.  After a good laugh, he explained, "Okay, we were not good.  We didn't play well, we didn't coach well.  We didn't anticipate some of the things that they did and didn't do a good job.  So, hopefully we're going to learn from it and get better."

Link to rest of article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

LA Times: Cal a hard team for USC's Pete Carroll to figure out

Pete Carroll will begin searching today for clues, reasons for why California seemingly imploded a week before a showdown with the Trojans.  Cal's 42-3 meltdown at Oregon dropped the Golden Bears from sixth to 24th in the Associated Press media poll.

"It was so far out of character and out of line with that they'd done up until this point," Carroll said Sunday.  Cal's fall makes Saturday's matchup between the Trojans and Golden Bears a game between top-25 rather than top-10 teams.  After a 27-6 victory over Washington State, USC moved to seventh in both the AP and the USA Today/ESPN coaches' polls.  The Trojans (3-1 overall, 1-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference) also are seventh in the first Harris Interactive poll, which is part of the formula for the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Meanwhile, Cal (3-1, 0-1 in the Pac-10) is looking to bounce back like the Trojans did Saturday after losing at Washington a week earlier.  "They looked great on film, throwing it well, running it well, playing good defense," Carroll said of the pre-Oregon Golden Bears. "And all of a sudden: 42-3. It's kind of hard to figure that one out to tell you the truth. I'm sure they're thinking the same thing." The Trojans have their own issues to address before traveling to Berkeley. First and foremost: Cutting down on penalties. They racked up 13 for 115 yards against Washington State -- seven for 75 yards in the first quarter.

Link to rest of article.

Contra Costa Times: After Oregon's success, it's no mystery what Cal can expect from opposing defenses

Gary Peterson

Because we know you were wondering: Yes, Cal coach Jeff Tedford did break down the tape from Saturday's 42-3 loss at Oregon. And no, it did not break him.  "We got beat pretty soundly," Tedford said after putting his players through a light workout Sunday evening. "I don't think it's a reflection of who we are as a whole. It's that day, that environment, a very difficult place to play. It just seemed like we couldn't put anything together. You left there kind of shaking your head."

There are no secrets in the college football jungle. When one team has success against you, your next opponent is sure to notice. Among the many things Oregon did extremely well was crowd the line of scrimmage.  The Ducks overcommitted resources at the line to smother Jahvid Best, Cal's breakaway tailback. This, of course, left them vulnerable downfield, with cornerbacks playing man-to-man coverage and one safety to do the work of two. In effect, Oregon dared Cal to pass. Cal couldn't.

Quarterback Kevin Riley, who completed 64.7 percent of his passes for an average of 233 yards in the Bears' first three games, was held to 123 yards on 12-of-31 passing. With no reason to quit crowding the box, Oregon didn't. Thus Best, who averaged 137 yards, three touchdowns and 7.8 yards per carry in Cal's first three games, was held to 55, zero and 3.4. Not to be an alarmist or anything, but next up: USC.

Link to rest of article.


USC Tailback Has Emergency Throat Surgery After Weight Lifting Accident


Southern California tailback Stafon Johnson had emergency throat surgery Monday after a weightlifting accident.  The senior who scored the No. 7 Trojans’ go-ahead touchdown against Ohio State two weeks ago was bench-pressing when the bar slipped from his right hand and fell onto his throat.

Johnson is the Trojans’ second-leading rusher with 157 yards, and he leads USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-10) with five touchdowns. He led USC in rushing last season with 705 yards and nine touchdowns, but has evolved into the Trojans’ short-yardage specialist this season behind starter Joe McKnight.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

LA Times: Cal's new appointment with disappointment

Two thoughts to take out of Saturday: Never, EVER trust an e-mail that says you inherited millions, or California football.  The Gummy Bears botched it again, charging out to an early 3-0 lead at Oregon before allowing the next 42 points in a defeat in Eugene that left legions of Cal followers muttering that old Bill Parcells refrain, "You are what you are."  What kind of preparatory work was this in advance of incoming USC? Tie-dye shirt vendors in Berkeley are busy working on the latest prints:

* Cal: "Trying to get it right since Wrong Way Roy."

* Cal: "We're always shaky -- we live on a fault line."

* Cal: "No Heisman Trophy Winners . . . through 2009?"

After 42-3, with all that was at stake, after recovering the opening kickoff and then settling for a field goal after not giving one ball touch to the nation's best running back, what else could you say?  Cal had another opportunity Saturday to show street peddlers and pundits it should be taken seriously. With Mississippi losing Thursday, the sixth-ranked Bears had a chance to move into the top five with USC headed to Berkeley next weekend. But east is always east, west is always west, and Cal is always Cal. Every time the team gets to the brink, it blinks.  In 2003, Jeff Tedford's second year, Cal pulled off a triple-overtime win against USC in Berkeley that some thought foretold the Bears' arrival as an enduring rival to Pete Carroll's budding dynasty. Cal hasn't beaten USC since.

Link to rest of article.

New York Times: After No. 6 Falls, No. 5 Is Right Behind

The coaches of No. 5 Penn State and No. 6 California each sounded disappointed Saturday after their teams lost their conference openers. In soggy State College, Pa., Adrian Clayborn returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, and Iowa beat Penn State, 21-10.  A year after a stunning 24-23 win by the Hawkeyes knocked the Nittany Lions out of the national title race, Iowa (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) took down Penn State (3-1, 0-1) again, this time in a drenching rainstorm.  “It was a team loss,” Penn State Coach Joe Paterno said. “No one person or one play lost it. We got licked.”  Earlier in Eugene, Ore., Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pacific-10) held tailback Jahvid Best to just 55 yards in a 42-3 upset of No. 6 California.  Widely considered a top Heisman Trophy contender, Best went into the game ranked third in the Football Bowl Subdivision with an average of 137.33 yards on the ground. California (3-1, 0-1) had its most lopsided loss under Coach Jeff Tedford, Oregon’s former offensive coordinator. “Everybody’s disappointed when you don’t play well like that when we invest so much time and energy into what’s going on,” Tedford said. “It doesn’t feel good.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SF Examiner:

Rich Walcoff

Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour was as giddy as a schoolgirl giving a national newspaper columnist a tour of Memorial Stadium and the new Athletic Performance Center under construction Tuesday afternoon.  Before he took part in his growing list of radio and TV interviews, Cal coach Jeff Tedford was corralled outside the football office by a Los Angeles sportswriter eager to get the inside word on Jahvid Best. Cal hasn’t quite reached the heights of the Berkeley tree-sitters, but the No. 6-ranked Bears (3-0) are in rarefied air heading into Saturday’s Pac-10 opener at Oregon.  Cal is second nationally in scoring, averaging almost 49 points a game. The Bears’ defense has 13 sacks, fifth most in the country and their 25 tackles for loss is ranked 12th in the NCAA. Best leads all of college football with nine touchdowns this season, scoring at an unheard of rate of once every six times he touches the ball.  After spending his first seven seasons in the shadows of Pete Carroll and mighty USC, Tedford finally has a team that can dethrone the Trojans. Of course, USC visits Cal on Oct. 3.

Link to rest of article.

Register Guard: Rising Cal tide buoys Ludwig, too

George Schroeder

The call came right on time Wednesday morning from the 510. Except Andy Ludwig wasn’t on the other end.  Instead, a California official was explaining how the Golden Bears’ offensive coordinator had decided he didn’t have time to talk, that he was sorry but there was so much work to do. Would Bob Gregory do? Well, no thanks. Like so many others at Cal, Gregory once coached at Oregon. But the topic was Ludwig’s return to Eugene, where he spent three years as Oregon’s offensive coordinator. And also, all that good work he’s doing at California. So we’ll just have to go on without Ludwig. Which, of course, is what Oregon fans gladly did when he left after the 2004 season. And what Utah fans were only too happy to do when he left Salt Lake City last winter.

But check out this nugget from Wednesday’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle: “The win against Minnesota also showed the impact of offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. His creative play-calling was on full display in the first half, when the Bears mixed (Jahvid) Best runs with long passes, reverses, fake reverses and even a quarterback draw on third down.” Right now, you’re wondering: Who is this guy?

When he was here, Ludwig drew fire because the offense wasn’t dynamic enough. More important, after two of the best seasons in the history of the program, the Ducks descended into mediocrity. During Ludwig’s three seasons, Oregon was 20-17 — 12-12 in Pac-10 play. If anyone had gotten the idea back then, they’d have been sending Ludwig invoices, requesting refunds. Coordinators are easy targets. Just ask Nick Aliotti. But when Ludwig left, there weren’t tears shed on either end.


Statesman Journal: Ducks in an offensive funk

Gary Horowitz

QB Jeremiah Masoli's struggles top Oregon's worries as Cal looms

If Jeremiah Masoli filled out a self-evaluation form for his performance thus far in 2009, the Ducks' quarterback would give himself a C. "That's about it," Masoli said. Some people might regard that assessment as generous. Through three games, Masoli has completed 29 of 64 passes (45.3 percent) for 379 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also lost three fumbles. In last week's 31-24 victory against No. 18 Utah that snapped the Utes' 16-game winning streak, Masoli was 4 of 16 for 95 yards and an interception, and one of his two fumbles was returned for a touchdown.  "If you look at the film, some of the receivers weren't coming back (on routes)," Masoli said. "Just little things here and there. We're getting on the same page now ... (but) 4 for 16 is never acceptable for a quarterback."

If those numbers don't improve, Oregon could be in for a long afternoon Saturday against No. 6 California.

Entering the season, Masoli was considered one of the top option quarterbacks in the country. He was especially strong in the Ducks' last three games of the 2008 campaign, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 830 yards and six touchdowns with one pick, and running for 248 yards and seven touchdowns in victories against Arizona, Oregon State and Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl.

Overall in 2008, Masoli threw for 1,744 yards (56.9 percent) and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions, and set a single-season school rushing record for quarterbacks with 718 yards and 10 scores.

So where has the Masoli magic gone?  "He didn't start out guns blazing at the beginning of (last) year," offensive guard Mark Asper said. "A lot of people forget about that."

Link to rest of article.

ESPN: Oregon embraces underdog role

Ted Miller

Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews is doing the math in his head, setting up the equation for how disrespected he and the Ducks feel. Last weekend, Oregon won its second in a row after losing at Boise State, ending No. 18 Utah's 16-game winning streak. Yet no return to the national ranking for the Ducks.

Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 25 have one loss. Eight of them lost to a team ranked lower than No. 8 Boise State. Three of them started off ranked lower than the Ducks, who were tapped 16th in the preseason. Four teams with one loss haven't beaten a ranked team this year. But the Ducks, who finished ranked 10th in 2008, measured only at No. 32 among the teams getting just a handful of votes.

"We can't control that," Matthews said. "And we like being the underdogs." The UnderDucks!

Oregon's players and coaches feel they have traveled a great distance since the embarrassing debacle in Boise. They're not there yet -- see the struggling passing offense -- but a win over No. 6 California in Autzen Stadium on Saturday likely would go a long way toward healing the wounds sustained on the Broncos' blue turf. "It's pretty much us against the world right now," cornerback Walter Thurmond said. "We've just got to keep playing and proving guys wrong." As for the passing woes, much of that has fallen on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's disappointing start. Masoli has completed just 45 percent of his passes, with two picks with no touchdowns. He's also fumbled three times, including one that was returned for a score. This is the same guy who was the nation's best pass-run quarterback over the final three games of the 2008 season, when he completed 66 percent of his throws with six touchdowns and just one interception and rushed for 248 yards and seven touchdowns.


Oregonian: Jeremiah Masoli isn't the problem at Oregon

John Canzano


Go ahead, take the keys from Jeremiah Masoli if you'd like. Tell the world you don't believe in him. Declare the Ducks quarterback the problem on offense for the University of Oregon, and call for him to be benched.  But if you do, know you're blowing up the wrong guy.  The Ducks offensive line has been awful. As a group, the Oregon receivers have dropped passes, and failed to make plays. And Masoli

isn't going to look good at quarterback until those units start playing better. Remember the 'Masoli for Heisman' talk?

Not this season. Not this guy. Not with the pocket breaking down around him and the receivers foundering and taking up space. Because anyone who watched Masoli perform last season knows quarterbacking is not the problem in Eugene. Masoli has a new head coach. He has unproven receivers. Running back LeGarrett Blount is gone from the backfield, suspended. And offensive lineman Max Unger, who started every game while he was playing for the Ducks, is now blocking for Seahawks.

When Masoli took his first snap of this season, he had Mark Asper (one career start) at right guard and Carson York (zero starts) at left guard. At center, there was Jordan Holmes (four starts), which is only

to say there was a big question mark in the center of the Ducks offense. Bench Masoli? Sure thing.

Just know Masoli is 10-3 as a starter. And I'm thinking Nate Costa and Darron Thomas aren't going to do a lick better. And with Thomas, you're burning a redshirt season. And if Oregon really is going to evolve as a football team and maximize Chip Kelly's first season as head coach, it's going to come with Masoli at quarterback.  Things are different in Corvallis, where Team Rodgers is looking for a productive complement in the backfield.

At Oregon State Lyle Moevao is coming back from an injury, and Sean Canfield has been so-so as a starter. There's evidence that Moevao is a superior leader, and a passer capable of winning big games. We don't have any proof of performance from either Costa or Thomas.  Still, frustrated Ducks fans booed Masoli last week and are using their time this week to let him know they'd rather see someone else with the ball in his hands. How does he deal with it? Said Masoli: "I just block it out, man." Masoli's been decent running the ball. He's rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns. But what Oregon needs is to take some pressure off him by making plays around him, especially on the offensive line.

Bench those guys first. And bench the receivers who haven't made plays. And do it knowing that Masoli's already been sacked five times in three games, this after being sacked only 15 times the entire 2008 season. Sometimes change brings a change in chemistry. Sometimes it puts a deserving player who is sitting on the bench in position to make plays on the field. But if you're interested in swapping out Masoli for someone else, you're not making the right kind of change.

The change needs to be a swap of inconsistency for consistency on the offensive line. The Ducks best chance to win comes with Masoli at quarterback, doing what he's always done -- winning games.  We're talking about a player who has had success at every level he's played, including this one.  Confidence is an important asset for a quarterback. It manifests comfort. And right now Masoli looks rattled because he feels like he has to carry the entire burden on offense. Replacing him isn't going to solve Oregon's problems. Make a change at Oregon?

Sure thing. Start by benching the calls for Masoli's job.

Daily Emerald: Running, passing proving difficult for Duck offense

2009 edition of the Oregon offense not nearly as powerful or effective as many of its predecessors

By Ben Schorzman

Who would have guessed it? Oregon’s vaunted rushing attack is ranked No. 64 in the nation. A year after burning up the field turf with two 1,000-yard rushers, the Ducks don’t have a single running back projected to breach even 950 yards in 12 games. But that’s not the story. Oregon looks positively stellar on the ground compared to what the team has done through the air.  Through three games the team has yet to throw a touchdown pass. It’s one of four teams out of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams that hasn’t.  To add to it, the Ducks are ranked No. 116 in passing offense, and they’re averaging 126 yards per game. However, Oregon is 2-1 despite throwing for 95 yards against No. 18 Utah on Saturday.

It’s an enigma for sure, but head coach Chip Kelly said he still has confidence in quarterback Jeremiah Masoli despite a few Duck fans calling for backup Nate Costa on the message boards.  “We’re just practicing football,” Kelly said. “We’re not changing things. He’s the same kid who has won 10 games for us.”  Masoli said after the Utah game that the he and the receivers needed to work on their timing and reads and coming into Friday, he feels confident they have done that. At the end of the practice clutch drill Wednesday, he connected with tight end David Paulson for a touchdown to win the game over the scout team.


SF Chronicle: Best ready to make own noise at Autzen

Jahvid Best didn't exactly play a huge role in Cal's offense the last time the Bears visited Eugene, Ore. He had three carries for 6 yards Sept. 29, 2007, when Cal came back in the fourth quarter to earn a 31-24 victory over Oregon. Even so, some strong memories linger for Best on the brink of Saturday's game at Autzen Stadium. "The crowd noise is crazy up there," he said Wednesday. "Honestly, any other away game I don't even hear the crowd. Oregon was the only place where it really got on my nerves. ... It felt like it was 10 feet between the sideline and the crowd."  Best figures to spend substantially more time on the field Saturday. He didn't do much in practice the past two days because of a sore foot - after his heaviest workload this season (26 carries) against Minnesota - but Best insisted he will be fine for the game. His five-touchdown performance clearly impressed national analysts. Best climbed to second in this week's "Heisman Watch," behind only Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow collected nine first-place votes and Best got six.


Daily Cal: Riley Recalls Last Victory at Autzen as Cal Prepares for Ducks

Matt Kawahara

Kevin Riley will tell you: Autzen Stadium in the fourth quarter of a tied game isn't the breeziest locale for making your second-ever college football appearance. "I was a little nervous at the time, for sure," Riley said. "I think it was probably the loudest part of the game and I remember yelling at the huddle, just being a little nervous."  As a redshirt freshman, Riley quarterbacked an offensive series late in the Cal football team's win over Oregon in 2007. With Nate Longshore on the sideline because of an ankle injury, Riley handed the ball off twice and didn't attempt a pass.

"If I threw it deep it probably would've gone like 70 yards, though," he said with a laugh during Tuesday's media conference. "Should've opened it up."  The now-junior quarterback should have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball and a chance to (somewhat) quiet the Autzen crowd on Saturday, when he leads the Cal football team in its Pac-10 opener against Oregon. An Oregon native, Riley will be playing in front of friends and family-about 60 people, he guessed.

Much has happened in Riley's career since that short stint in Eugene. He threw for nearly 300 yards two weeks later in the fateful loss to Oregon State, then didn't play again until the Armed Forces Bowl, where he was named MVP after rallying the Bears from a 21-0 deficit. He struggled with inconsistency while platooning with Longshore throughout the 2008 season.

Link to rest of article.


Contra Costa Times: Receiver Ross' play is nothing to laugh at

Jonathan Okanes

As a part-time special teams player in 2007, Jeremy Ross wasn't exactly inundated by interview requests from the media. But that didn't stop him from acting as though he was.  Ross often walked off the practice field past an assembled group of reporters waiting to interview selected players and coaches and say, "Not today, guys. I'm busy."  It drew a good laugh from the press corps and nearby teammates. Which isn't surprising, because there tends to be a lot of laughter when Ross is around.

Ross may be one of the Bears' top comedians, but he's also trying to become one of the team's top wide receivers. He emerged Saturday with two pivotal catches during the game-winning drive at Minnesota and is expected to see significantly more playing time now that Nyan Boateng is out four to six weeks with a broken foot. "Sometimes things can get too serious, and he'll say something that will loosen us up," fellow receiver Michael Calvin said. "It's always good, because anything that comes out of his mouth is pretty much funny."  When asked to name the funniest player on the team, Ross sheepishly says he is, although he adds linebacker Devin Bishop is close and also puts defensive end Cameron Jordan in the top three. Ross also acknowledges there is a time to be serious but says his fun-loving personality helps his game.



USA Today: Weekend Preview



4. Best in the West: No. 6 California now carries the banner for the Pac-10 as its highest ranked club. The honor will be well earned if the Golden Bears still have it after their next two games, starting Saturday at Oregon. The Ducks have regained their footing after a bad opening night at Boise, but they must now contend with Golden Bears' TB Jahvid Best. But there's no drop-off in the Cal backfield when TB Shane Vereen enters the game, which should keep Oregon LB Casey Matthews busy. Ducks' QB Jeremiah Masoli will need his mobility.

Sporting News: Week 4's Top Story Lines

Matt Hayes



A little advice for our friends in the Pac-10 this weekend: better eat another biscuit. Bow up, or your reputation takes another hit. Three games will dictate where the league is headed this season, and if the alleged lack of respect is deserved.

•California at Oregon: After years of inconsistency, the Bears suddenly have become the league's last chance at the BCS national championship game.

The last time Cal rolled into wild Autzen Stadium two years ago, a big win over Oregon came with an injury to quarterback Nate Longshore. The 5-0 Bears then moved to No. 2 in the nation, and the last thing we remember from that season was coach Jeff Tedford throwing his play-call sheet to the ground after backup quarterback Kevin Riley couldn't get out of bounds to stop the clock in a home loss to unranked Oregon State.  We remember that, and the six losses in the last eight games of the 2007 season.

ESPN: Best ready to lead Cal to top of Pac-10

Ted Miller

It appears at least one person in the country doesn't like watching California's Jahvid Best run with the football. That would be Best's mother, Lisa, who wouldn't let her son play football until high school because she thought he was too small.   To be fair, Best's mother doesn't so much mind seeing her son run. It's seeing her son get hit that sometimes forces her from her seat. But the former is often so spectacular that the latter is getting easier to digest.  "She's just getting used to it now," Jahvid Best said.  Unlike Mrs. Best, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley doesn't turn away when Best slices through the line and warps into ludicrous speed, but that's also sometimes a problem.

"I actually get yelled at by the coaches for not carrying out the fake well enough," Riley said. "You never know what he's going to do. He puts some moves on people and they just fall flat on their face sometimes. It's entertaining because you don't get to see it very much."  Asked for his favorite Best run, Riley starts ticking off a long list. There are plenty to choose from because Best has 24 runs of over 20 yards and nine of over 60 yards over the past 16 games.  Best is the centerpiece for a sixth-ranked California team that was thrust into the Pac-10's catbird seat after USC went down at Washington last weekend. But he's not the whole show.  "University of California is not just Jahvid Best, although I think Jahvid Best is the best running back in the country," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.  Kelly should know. He's been watching film all week because his Ducks play host to Cal on Saturday in a critical Pac-10 matchup.  If Cal prevails, it's hard to imagine next weekend's home game against USC won't go a long way toward determining the conference champion.  If Oregon wins, then the Ducks shake off a season-opening debacle at Boise State with a second consecutive victory over a ranked team and rejoin the conference elite.

For Best, it's all about ignoring the distractions.  Sure, his Wednesday evening stretched past 7 p.m. due to a flurry of interviews -- that's what happens when you become a Heisman Trophy candidate for a highly ranked team. Sure, he and his teammates are aware of what USC's unexpected loss means.

But the Bears will be, er, at their Best only if they ignore the hype.  "We try our best to not pay attention to that," Best said. "In the past, when we did pay attention to it, we lost sight of where we wanted to finish. We're not paying attention to where we are ranked or to how good the media says we are."  And until Cal breaks through and earns its first Rose Bowl berth since 1959, it will have to answer questions about not meeting high expectations during previous seasons, including the epic implosion in 2007, when a team that was on the cusp of ascending to No. 1 ended up losing six of its final seven regular-season games.


SF Chronicle: Cal needs to thread the needle in Eugene

Ray Ratto

The compelling pregame issue from Eugene is what uniform the Oregon players will wear to play Cal, and as it turns out, the Ducks are going old school.  That is to say, their pre-Nike-fashionista-rolling-costume-party duds, and back to ones in which the numbers were easy to read and the helmets didn't cause your corneas to sear.  This is a big deal at Oregon, right up there with the fan who demanded a refund after the loss at Boise State, and got a personal check from head coach Chip Kelly, but still well below the LaGarrette Blount episode. Oregon, you see, has drama down.

Cal? Its drama takes place in the more staid PollWorld, where reputations are inflated and punctured at a whim. The on-field stuff - the blocking, the tackling, the running - that takes care of itself.  It should be said here that next to Oregon, Cal, another Nike client, has more costume changes than any other school in the Pac-10 Conference. That's in case you feel like making fun of your northwestern brethren - your team has the same disease, only in a slightly more treatable form.  But enough Inside the Theatre chat, and back to the bigger picture. The one beyond the game itself.

This week is beginning to shape up as the big moment in 2007 all over again - a good team, rated slightly better than it probably is, rising up the polls as those above them lose, or play poorly or schedule softly. The all-in moment is coming sooner than '07 did, in games 4 and 5 rather than games 6 and 7, but '07 will still be remembered as the year that Cal won its first five games and was the No. 1 team in the country for about 45 minutes. Then the wheels blew themselves apart in spectacular form, first at the end of the Oregon State game when Kevin Riley's eyes got bigger than the distance between himself and the goal line, and then when the Bears lost five of the six games thereafter.


Fox Sports: Tedford has a chance to lead Cal to a Pac-10 title

Billy Witz

If those in Trojanland are griping over their annual upset — or is it annual set-up? — in the Northwest, there may actually be another Pac-10 outpost where the news that Washington had beaten USC, 16-13, is not exactly welcome.  That would be in Berkeley, because now that the Trojans have left the top 10, disappearing along with them is the cover they have provided the rest of the conference. That means that a lot more eyes now turn to Cal, which is 3-0, ranked sixth in the country and ready for ... well, just what?

Cal coach Jeff Tedford, hired to take over a one-win program, has taken the Bears to six consecutive bowls and their best run of success in a half century. But the nagging question is whether Cal can be anything more — such as a Rose Bowl team for the first time since 1959.  "I really believe that right now they're very hungry," Tedford said of his team. "I have a lot of confidence that we're going to stay that way."  Still, the Bears have been down this road before. After Aaron Rodgers quarterbacked Cal to an 11-1 regular season in 2004, its only defeat a 23-17 nailbiter to USC, the Bears have tripped every time they've been presented a chance to step up among the nation's elite.

The most calamitous case came two years ago when Cal was 5-0, ranked No. 2 in the country and poised to jump to No. 1 after top-ranked LSU was upset earlier in the day. But the Bears lost at home to unranked Oregon State and won just one more game the rest of the season.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

San Jose Mercury: Riley returns home with No. 6 Cal

Kevin Riley was quarterback at Beaverton High School when he went to a football combine in the San Francisco Bay area and caught the eye of California coach Jeff Tedford.  Now a junior, Riley returns to his home state as the starter for sixth-ranked California on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.  It's been a bumpy ride for Riley, who wasn't on Cal's radar when Tedford noticed him at that combine in 2005.

He had already gotten attention in his home state. The son of Beaverton high's coach, Riley passed for 2,580 yards his senior season.  "He had a lot of zip on the ball," Tedford said.  The coach went back to Cal and looked at film, liking what he saw. And it ultimately led to Riley selecting Cal over both Oregon and Oregon State.

His first two seasons, Riley competed with Nate Longshore—at times successfully, and other times not so much.  Riley was a redshirt freshman in 2007 when he made his first start (Longshore was injured) against Oregon State. Although he completed 20 of 34 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns, he made a judgment error in the final seconds that cost Cal the victory.  With the Bears trailing 31-28, Riley orchestrated a drive that took Cal down to the Oregon 10. But instead of throwing the ball away to set up a game-tying field goal, Riley was tackled inbounds.

Link to rest of article.


Video of Cal Grad Thomas DeCoud Surfaces on Internet

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Safety Thomas DeCoud eases into new starting role

D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud is adding some California flavor to the team's secondary.

The second-year man from Cal-Berkeley won the starting free safety spot and is off to a good start.  In a conversation with the AJC, DeCoud discussed several topics, including his beloved Cal Bears, Mexican food in Atlanta and getting ready for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whom the Falcons will face Sunday.

Q: What's been the biggest change for you now that you're a big-time starter?

A: It's just the workload. Having a little bit more studying to do each week. Really knowing what the other team is going to do on any down and in any situation. Just having your t's crossed and i's dotted, pretty much.

Link to rest of article

Oregon Register Guard: From combine to Cal, Riley turning heads

Ron Bellamy

As Jeff Tedford remembers it, he was attending a scouting combine for high school football players in the Bay Area in the spring of 2005, back when college coaches were allowed to be present at such functions, and noticed a quarterback throwing the ball in warm-ups.  The Cal football coach didn’t know the kid but liked the “zip on the ball” when he threw. Intrigued, Tedford watched the young quarterback throughout the day, and “kind of liked everything about him.”  Tedford followed up by getting some video of the quarterback, still a high school junior, and after studying that “liked him even more.”

And so, in Tedford’s memory, that was the beginning of the process that led to Kevin Riley going from Beaverton High School in Oregon to play football at Cal, where, as a junior, Riley leads the Pac-10 in passing efficiency and ranks No. 6 in the nation, which happens to be the national ranking of the Golden Bears, who play Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Except, it’s not quite the whole story.

It seems that Riley had spotted Tedford standing under a tree with Fresno State coach Pat Hill. Of the 200-some coaches at the combine, Tedford and Hill were the first coaches that he recognized.  So Riley, not generating much recruiting interest at that time — Eastern Washington, Idaho, Portland State; Oregon hadn’t even invited him to its annual Junior Day — grabbed a receiver and positioned himself directly in front of Tedford.

Link to rest of article.

Packers Sign Matt Giordano, Reuniting Him with Aaron Rodgers

Sports Network reports that the Green Bay Packers signed safety Matt Giordano.  Giordano spent the previous four seasons with Indianapolis. Over 55 games, which included six starts, he had 80 tackles and three interceptions, including returning one for a touchdown.  He earned a Super Bowl Ring in Super Bowl XLI. 

While at Cal, Giordano won All-Pacific-10 Conference first team honors, and was an All-American honorable mention. During his career, he had six pass deflections, one sack, 111 tackles (four for losses), two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.  According to his bio on, his only interception came in the 34-31 3OT victory over USC

From Wikipedia:

Giordano was married March 4, 2005 to Laura Enns of Clovis. He was an American Studies major. His great-grandfather is Italian born Ralph Giordano (Also known as Young Corbett III), who was a world welterweight boxing champion in 1933. Matt is the son of Victor and Janet Giordano. His notable combine marks include a 345 lb (156 kg) bench press and 19 repetitions at 225 lb (102 kg), 4.02 20 yd shuttle, 4.54 40-yd dash, 33.5 vertical jump, and a 455 lb (206 kg) squat.

Sports Illustrated: Best Overtakes Tebow in Heisman Watch

Gene Menez

With five TDs against Minnesota, Cal's Best overtakes Tebow

Cal's score-from-anywhere running back Jahvid Best rushed for five touchdowns against Minnesota on Saturday, meaning an onslaught of puns will surely consume headlines if he makes it to New York in December: Best of the Best; Best is Best; Good (picture of Colt McCoy), Better (shot of Tim Tebow), Best (photo of you-know-who). For your sake, The Watch will try to avoid them, but after Best's performance on Saturday, my guess is that they're only going to proliferate.

1. RB Jahvid Best, Jr., Cal

Last week: 26 rushes, 131 yards, 5 TDs; 3 receptions, 17 yards in a 35-21 victory at Minnesota

Season: 53 rushes, 412 yards, 8 TDs; 7 receptions, 59 yards, 1 TD; 1 kickoff return, 18 yards

Heisman-o-meter: For the second straight week, The Watch has a new No. 1. Cal's electric gamebreaker squeezes into the top spot after scoring and scoring and scoring against Minnesota. His first touchdown was capped by a flying finish, and will probably be replayed a time or three if he makes it to New York. And he wasn't even touched on his last three scoring runs. Best, however, was stuffed a bit in the second half (he had just 17 yards on 13 carries), and quarterback Kevin Riley was able to come up with some big plays through the air. I'm sure Best moving to the top spot will generate much debate, but his ability combined with his production in just eight quarters warrant the move -- for now. Over the next two weeks, Best will play in two games that will have the biggest impact on his Heisman candidacy: at Oregon and at home against USC.

Up next: Saturday at Oregon


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oregon Statesman Journal: Best, Cal next up for Ducks

Gary Horowitz

You can say this about Oregon's schedule: The Ducks are battle-tested entering Pac-10 conference play.

With games against then-No. 14 Boise State and then-No. 18 Utah under their belts, the Ducks likely face their most difficult opponent to date Saturday when No. 6 California comes to Autzen Stadium.

The Golden Bears are second in the nation in scoring (48.7 points per game), feature Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best at running back, and showed their road mettle Saturday with a 35-21 victory at Minnesota after the Gophers tied the game entering the fourth quarter.

Oregon's defense will be tested by Best (412 yards, nine touchdowns), who is third in the nation in rushing and first in scoring.  “I couldn't ask for any better preseason games than we've had so far," defensive tackle Brandon Bair said after Monday's practice. "It gets us prepared for the Pac-10 conference and I'm excited for what's coming up."   Cal does not figure to be intimidated by playing at Autzen Stadium. In the Bears' last appearance in Eugene in 2007, Cal prevailed 31-24 after Ducks wide receiver Cameron Colvin fumbled the ball out of the end zone in the final minute while reaching for the goal line.

The Ducks rose to No. 2 in the polls in 2007 before quarterback Dennis Dixon's season-ending knee injury ended their national championship aspirations.  Cal could be positioned for a title run of its own this season, and Oregon represents a major hurdle. The Bears have won four of the past five games in the series.  "They've got the best of this rivalry since I've been here," tight end Ed Dickson said. "I think we won once in '05, in overtime."   Dickson's memory is correct. The Ducks won 27-20 in overtime at Autzen Stadium during the 2005 campaign.

Link to rest of article.

ESPN: A quick look at this week's Pac-10 games

Ted Miller


No. 6 California (3-0) at Oregon (2-1)

Cal won 26-16 last year. ... The Bears lead the all-time series 39-30-2. ... California owns the Pac-10's longest winning streak at six games. ... Oregon owns the longest winning streak in conference games at three games. ... Cal has won three in a row in the series. ... The Ducks have faced three ranked teams in their first four games. ... Bears running back Jahvid Best scored five rushing TDs against Minnesota, tying the Pac-10's single-game record, and he has seven consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing. ... The Ducks ended Utah's 16-game winning streak on Saturday. The Utes entered the game averaging 509 yards per game, but the Ducks held them to 297 total yards. ... Cal QB Kevin Riley has throw five TD passes with no interceptions. ... Oregon CB Walter Thurmond has scored TDs this year on a punt return and interception return. ... Cal ranks second in the Pac-10 in run defense (63.3 yards per game). ... Oregon ranks last in the Pac-10 in passing and total offense.


Oregon Register Guard: Best remains on Heisman track |

Rob Moseley

Just a few weeks ago, a list of potential Heisman Trophy candidates from the Pac-10 would have included both Jahvid Best of California and Jeremiah Masoli of Oregon.  The two will face off Saturday in Autzen Stadium at 12:30 p.m., but only one has played up to preseason expectations to this point. Best enters Saturday’s matchup having established himself as one of the favorites nationally for the Heisman, while Masoli has some wondering if he’s even the best quarterback on his team.

If there was a question about where Oregon coaches stand on that last point, it was resoundingly answered Monday. Two days after going 4-of-16 in the Ducks’ win over Utah, Masoli took every rep with the first-string offense in practice. Afterward, UO coach Chip Kelly chose Masoli to break the team huddle.  “I don’t think his confidence is waning at all,” UO quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “And I know our belief in him isn’t waning at all.”  That said, the staff went about Monday trying to correct some of the mistakes that plagued Masoli and the offense against the Utes. After fumbling twice Saturday, Masoli was asked to carry the football tight to his chest, and to both focus better on the snap and use two hands to catch it.  Helfrich said he continues to work to correct ongoing mechanical issues with Masoli, namely his tendency to overstride and to drop his throwing elbow, both of which affect his accuracy.

In practice Monday, Masoli completed 50-of-64 passes; of his 14 incompletions, at least five were dropped, two were broken up on outstanding defensive plays and one was thrown away. “Today was better,” Helfrich said. “Today was a step in the right direction, for sure.”  Masoli said he and Oregon’s receivers are committed to fixing the passing offense, and he showed as much during and after practice.

Link to rest of article.

Daily Cal: Midweek Notebook: Week 4

Matt Kawahara

The only time the Cal football team sets foot on Memorial Stadium turf on Sundays is for a short conditioning session in the afternoon. It's typically a light affair.  With the beginning of Pac-10 play just days away, this past Sunday -- which included a brief walkthrough -- felt a little different.  "There was a little bit of edge to them," coach Jeff Tedford said during Tuesday's media conference. "It was very serious on Sunday. It was almost like we had lost the game the day before. They were very focused, very serious about what we're getting ready to get into. I think that has a lot to do with the maturity and the experience of guys on the team."

One of the most experienced, senior linebacker Eddie Young, led the players in a chant of "Pac-10 Champs: That's us!" that hadn't been heard since fall camp. Young then walked out into the stretching lines and urged the team that it was time to "not talk about it, but be about it."  The words seemed to carry more weight in the aftermath of what happened in Seattle, Wash., last Saturday. With Washington upsetting USC , many experts are now tabbing the Bears as the team to beat in the conference. It's a role that No. 6 Cal will start defending at Autzen Stadium at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, when it opens Pac-10 play against Oregon.

"It feels different," receiver Jeremy Ross said. "Everybody's fired up. These past three games were exciting, we did what we had to do there. But coming into the Pac-10 now, we have (the "Pac-10 Champs" chant), so we really took that to heart. Being that this is the first Pac-10 game, everybody's fired up and ready to live up to that statement."

Overall, the conference had its share of success in nonconference play: USC defeated Ohio State, UCLA beat Tennessee and Oregon rebounded from its debacle against Boise State to win home games against Purdue and then-No. 18 Utah. The Bears, in turn, finished 3-0 out of conference. But Tedford , Ross and quarterback Kevin Riley all stressed that Saturday marks the beginning of an entirely new season, and the three wins could be rendered meaningless by a poor showing in Pac-10 play.

Link to rest of article.

Sporting News: Kevin Riley Q&A: Cal QB on Best's five TDs and more

Jahvid's five rushing touchdowns for Cal on Saturday overshadowed another solid outing for Bears QB Kevin Riley. The junior went without an interception for a third straight game and completed the game's biggest play—a 35-yard pass to Jeremy Ross that helped set up the winning score in a 35-21 victory at Minnesota. Riley spoke with reporters, including Sporting News' Dave Curtis, after the game.

Reporter: What happened on that big third-down play?

Kevin Riley: They were just playing their Tampa 2, and the safety stuck with the inside route. The shot was there, and Jeremy made a good play cutting inside the safety and making some yards.

Q: Do you guys feel like you need a game like this?

KR: Absolutely. I was almost glad that the situation came up where they tied it up. Last year and the year before, when a team would come back and tie it or take the lead by a touchdown, we didn't win those games. But we stayed strong offensively and defensively and came out with a win.

Q: What's different this year?

KR: Last year, people know, we struggled with the pass game at times in games like this. We'd have a game where we would run the ball well, but we'd get into pass situations, and we wouldn't be able to make plays. But we've gotten better at it, and it's made our team much better.

Q: How are things different since offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig arrived (in February)?

KR: My game has improved tremendously. Footwork, which I've worked on with Coach Ludwig, and my technique with Coach (Jeff) Tedford. With Coach Ludwig, we see eye to eye on the plays and the reads. It makes you that much more comfortable back there in the pocket and makes the game easier.

Link to rest of article.

SF Chronicle: Cal's next three are key

Ron Kroichick

Sunday practices are usually low-key affairs at Cal - players wear T-shirts and shorts and mostly try to shed their soreness from the previous day's game. They rarely spend more than a half-hour on the field. So it was striking for coach Jeff Tedford to watch the Bears emit an altogether different vibe Sunday, with their Pac-10 opener at Oregon lurking on the horizon.  "There was a little bit of an edge to them," Tedford said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. "It was very serious, almost like we lost the day before. I noticed a lot of intensity about what we're getting ready to do. "You can throw the three wins away. It's a brand-new season starting right now."

Cal steams toward Saturday's game against the Ducks on a gathering roll - 3-0, ranked No. 6 in the nation and already ahead of USC in the conference standings. The Bears crushed Maryland and Eastern Washington, then survived some mid-game sluggishness to pull away from Minnesota in the fourth quarter.  Jahvid Best has scored nine touchdowns and planted himself deeper in the Heisman Trophy race. Kevin Riley still hasn't thrown an interception. The defense has played stoutly against the run and respectably against the pass. Even so, Cal's fast start will become wholly irrelevant if the Bears stumble in the coming weeks. They've been here before - bursting out of the gate, rising in the polls - only to plunge out of sight during Pac-10 play (see 2007 season).

Link to rest of article.

Daily Cal: Boateng Fractures Foot, Ross Flashes Big-Play Potential Against Minnesota

Matt Kawahara

On the same day that last season's leading receiver went down with a foot injury, another receiver stated his case for a greater role in the Cal football team's offense.  Senior Nyan Boateng fractured his foot in the Bears' win over Minnesota on Saturday and was scheduled to undergo surgery Monday afternoon. Boateng, who caught a team-high 29 passes for 439 yards in 2008, will be sidelined for four to five weeks, coach Jeff Tedford said.  With Boateng out, Jeremy Ross entered the game as Cal's third receiver and capitalized on his window of opportunity, playing a crucial role in the touchdown drive that gave the Bears a 28-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.  He had a pivotal 31-yard reception on third-and-16-quarterback Kevin Riley later said that Cal knew it was going to win after that play-then hauled in another catch for 35 yards to set up Jahvid Best's two-yard scoring run.

"Jeremy Ross showed up big," Bears offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. "That was the spark we needed in the fourth quarter."  Ross finished with three receptions for 73 yards.  Before Saturday, the junior had one catch on the season. He caught 17 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in 2008 and started five games at receiver. But the emergence of sophomore Marvin Jones and senior Verran Tucker as go-to players during fall camp bumped Ross down on the depth chart.

Link to rest of article.

Contra Costa Times: Bears aware they're becoming the hunted in Pac-10

Jonathan Okanes     

Cal's football players periodically partake in a chant while participating in post-practice stretching. A popular one this year has a player shouting "Pac-10 champs!" with the rest of the team responding "That's us!"  As the sixth-ranked Bears prepare to begin Pac-10 play Saturday at Oregon, there are many who believe the chant will prove accurate.  Cal kicks off the conference slate as the highest-ranked Pac-10 team in the national polls. With USC's loss at Washington on Saturday, some observers believe the Bears are the favorites to capture the Pac-10 championship.

"People say Cal is the favorite to win the Pac-10 now, but people are going to be gunning for us," Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said. "We just have to be even more prepared now."  Many projected the Bears to contend for the conference title before the season, but the Trojans' loss to the Huskies has increased support for that hypothesis. It's not just that USC lost, but that it fell to a team that went 0-12 last season. The Bears, meanwhile, notched a respectable road win at Minnesota on Saturday to improve to 3-0. "There may be even a little more of a target, but the biggest thing is to block it out," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "Just take it week by week. If you start listening to all that, that's when it can come back and bite you and you're going to get in trouble. In our minds, USC has been and still is the (cream) of the crop until somebody knocks them off. But we're not really worried about that."

Link to rest of article.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oakland Tribune: Surgery doesn't cast pall over Boateng

For those waiting for Cal senior Nyan Boateng to finally emerge as a big-play receiver, the wait just got a little bit longer. Boateng will miss four to six weeks after fracturing his right foot during Saturday's 35-21 at Minnesota. He had surgery Monday.  Big things were expected of Boateng when the former high school All-American transferred from Florida to Cal. Though he led the Bears with 29 catches last season, he hasn't become the playmaker many thought he could be. He has five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown this season.

"It's just a minor setback," he said. "It's not the end of the world. It's not the end of the season for me. I just have to stay positive, be emotionally involved with these guys and try to help them any way I can."  Boateng said he suffered the injury attempting to block during a Jahvid Best run in the second quarter. He played the rest of the first half and caught his only two passes for 30 yards. He had to shut it down after X-rays at halftime revealed the fracture.  "I thought I just got stepped on," he said. "But it was hurting really bad, so I knew something happened to it. I thought it was just going to be a bad bruise and I'd be able to play through it."

Link to rest of article.


Cal vs. Minnesota Highlights

Rivals: Can Best and Cal Take Control of the Pac-10?

Mike Huguenin

A week after snapping a 15-game losing streak that had been the nation's longest, Washington won its second in a row by shocking 20-point favorite USC.   This week, the real fun in the Pac-10 begins. USC's loss means control of the league race is there for the taking, and Round 1 comes this Saturday, when California is at Oregon.  efore the season, that looked to be one of the best games of the season, but the Ducks' opening loss to Boise State removed some of the luster. Now, some of the luster has been restored by USC's loss, especially considering Cal plays host to the Trojans on Oct. 3. In other words, Cal can seize control of the race -- and all but eliminate USC -- with victories in its next two games.

Cal looked a little shaky Saturday in beating Minnesota, but running back Jahvid Best ran to the rescue with five touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. Cal had lost eight of its past nine on the road before the win over the Golden Gophers.  "We tried to make a statement that we're going to be road warriors this year," defensive lineman Tyson Alualu told reporters after the game. "It's a different team than last year."  Cal coach Jeff Tedford figured the fact that the game was won in the fourth quarter will help his team. "I think it will give us a boost and give us a little bit of confidence," he said.

Best agreed, saying, "Next week we're going into Oregon, and that's going to be another hostile environment. I'm kind of glad that they came back and kind of tested us ? so when another team does that to us, we know how to handle it."


LA Times: Is This Finally California's Year?

Chris Dufresne

Is this finally California's year?  It should be, but we've said that before and ended up with Birkenstock in mouth. Two years ago, Cal was on the brink of becoming No. 1 for the first time since 1951 when the Bears let a home game slip away against Oregon State and stumbled to a 7-6 finish.  That year, Cal was No. 6 and improved to 5-0 with a dramatic 31-24 win at Oregon -- so here we go again.

Guess what: Cal moved to No. 6 in Sunday's AP poll and plays in Eugene on Saturday. If Cal can beat Oregon again, the bandwagon bus heads back to Berkeley for an Oct. 3 showdown against USC.  If these aren't the two most important weekends in the recent history of Cal football, they're certainly on the short list. Maybe this is the year the program of "Wrong Way Roy" makes a complete right turn.


Cal is Seven Point Favorite Over Oregon

Oregon Register Guard: Scouting California

The game: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Autzen Stadium. TV: ABC. Radio: KUGN-AM (590) and KZEL-FM 96.1). Point spread: California favored by 7.

The season so far: The Bears are 3-0 after a 35-21 victory at Minnesota on Saturday. Cal rose to No. 6 in the AP poll.

Storylines: It’s been called the “Oregon-izing” of Cal, and certainly the UO influence on the program is heavy. Head coach Jeff Tedford is a former UO assistant, as are both coordinators (Andy Ludwig on offense, Bob Gregory on defense), and several other former Ducks work in Cal athletics. The personal connections make this a uniquely intense rivalry. Cal’s led by running back Jahvid Best, a Heisman Trophy candidate who rushed for a school-record five TDs against Minnesota. Loser of this game faces a decidedly uphill climb to reach the Rose Bowl, which the Bears, who have USC up next, haven’t done since the 1958 season.

Injury report: There were no new injuries reported for Oregon.

Noteworthy: In his eighth season at Cal, Tedford has more than 60 wins, and the Bears set school records with six straight bowl berths and four straight bowl wins.


Atlanta Journal Constitution: Who's No. 1? I have no Idea

Tony Barnhart


Every preseason poll I saw had the same four teams in some kind of order: Florida, Texas, USC, and Oklahoma. Just three weeks into the season two of the four (USC, Oklahoma) have lost and neither Florida nor Texas has been impressive. BYU, which was going to be the designated non-BCS fly in the ointment (as my friend Tim Brando likes to call it) just got trounced by a Florida State team that lost its home opener to Miami (FYI…you have to look at that FSU loss in a totally different light because Miami may be pretty darn good). To tell you the truth, the only three teams who have been impressive the first three weeks are Alabama, Miami, and California. Alabama opened the season with a really good win over Virginia Tech and has gotten better every week, albeit against inferior competition the past two weeks. Miami is not the Miami of old just yet. We’ll find out a lot more about the Hurricanes on Saturday when they go to Virginia Tech.  Based on what I saw Saturday, California and Jahvid Best can beat USC. Bottom line, we don’t know who the best teams in the country are. And that’s kind of fun.

Link to rest of article.

Sports Illustrated: Miami and Cal now poised for great things

Stewart Mandel

When the 2009 season began, we "experts" generally placed four teams -- Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and USC -- in a class by themselves. This demarcation didn't require much imagination on our parts, as all four played in BCS bowls last year. But as with any season, new contenders have inevitably emerged from places we'd least expect. Like the Emerald Bowl.  Last December, 8-4 Cal beat 7-5 Miami, 24-17, in what seemed at the time an inconsequential bowl game. At the time, the only things that stood out were Bears running back Jahvid Best's 186-yard performance and Miami's horrific clock-management at the end. In hindsight, perhaps we should have viewed it as a launching pad for Best's Heisman campaign and the unveiling of the Hurricanes' next great quarterback.

Over the next two weeks, the Bears and 'Canes could place themselves squarely at the front of their respective conferences. Cal, 3-0 and ranked sixth in the latest AP poll following Saturday's 35-21 win at Minnesota, begins Pac-10 play this weekend with a trip to Oregon, then heads back home to play suddenly vulnerable USC. Win both, and Cal -- which hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1959 -- will be sitting in first place, having conquered what may be its two toughest league games. Miami (2-0), which has jumped from unranked in the preseason to No. 9 following wins over ranked foes Florida State and Georgia Tech, visits No. 11 Virginia Tech this weekend with a chance to jump to a 3-0 start in ACC play. Should the 'Canes prevail, they would then meet No. 10 Oklahoma with a chance to thrust themselves into the heart of the national-title race. "A lot of people expected us to go 0-4," Miami safety Randy Phillips said of his team's brutal first month. "I don't know what they were thinking."

They were thinking that the once-dominant 'Canes had gone 19-19 the past three seasons and, though likely improved thanks to third-year coach Randy Shannon's recent recruiting prowess, were still young (their two-deep includes 19 freshmen or sophomores) and unproven. A 2-2 start would have been deemed an achievement.  But Miami came out looking completely revamped from a year ago. Led by precocious sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris -- who made his first meaningful start in the Emerald Bowl -- the 'Canes' offense has been one of the biggest surprises of this young season.

Harris, who showed flashes of things to come with a 25-of-41, two-touchdown performance that night in San Francisco, currently ranks as the nation's third-leading passer. Miami's O-line and running game are much improved, and new coordinator Mark Whipple, the former national-champion UMass head coach, has Miami stretching the field more so than in recent years (Harris is averaging 11.1 yards per attempt) thanks in part to a suddenly deep stable of athletic receivers (Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Leonard Hankerson and tight end Dedrick Epps).  "Miami didn't just arrive right now," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said Sunday. "They were a good team when we played them in that bowl game, [with] a lot of speed and athleticism. Their quarterback was an exciting player at that time as well."

Tedford's team can't be considered as big of a surprise. If anything, Cal has started out exactly as predicted. But the Bears have often wilted under hype -- see 2007, when they started 5-0 and rose to No. 2 before losing six of seven -- which is why Saturday's road win was important. Faced with adversity when the Gophers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to tie the game at 21-21 late in the third quarter, quarterback Kevin Riley regained momentum with two long throws on a go-ahead drive midway through the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Best scored five touchdowns and the defense held Minnesota to 270 total yards.

"I feel good about this team," Tedford said. "A lot of guys on this team were here two years ago when we got to No. 2 and the wheels came off. We have more maturity and different team chemistry now."

Obviously, the Bears' Pac-10 title hopes got a whole lot rosier Saturday based less on their win than seven-time defending league champion USC's 16-13 loss at Washington. It would be foolish to write off the Trojans, which played the Huskies without injured quarterback Matt Barkley and star safety Taylor Mays, but even coach Pete Carroll admitted, "We're not real good right now. We weren't real good last week [against Ohio State], either." This is the chance Cal has been waiting for since 2003, the year Tedford's program stormed onto the scene with a 34-31 victory over the Trojans. The Bears have been chasing USC ever since, losing five straight meetings, but they best not look past Oregon, which just ended Utah's 16-game winning streak.

"We've learned our lesson that in this conference, you have to be ready every single week," Tedford said. "The environment we went to play in at Minnesota was very similar to Oregon's stadium. It was what we needed for sure, to play a tough physical game in a hostile environment."

Miami faces its own treacherous trip this weekend at two-time defending ACC champ Virginia Tech. The Hokies pulled off an improbable win Saturday over Nebraska, overcoming another bout of offensive ineptitude by holding the Huskers without a touchdown in a dramatic, last-second 16-15 victory. The Hokies' defense will come after Harris, who threw two interceptions against Florida State but was nearly flawless against Georgia Tech (20-of-25, 270 yards, three TDs, no INTs).  If anything, however, Miami gained even more validation on its off-day Saturday when the Seminoles went and trounced No. 7 BYU. The 'Canes may be more "back" than we realized at the time. "We're ready for anyone," Phillips said. "We embraced the schedule, and we're still embracing it." Win again this week, and the nation will have to start embracing the 'Canes, too.