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Tedford’s 100th game

This Saturday’s Big Game is Tedford’s 100th game. I wrote a column for about it (all the writers wrote something, it was a concerted effort). And because it’s a big deal, most of the columns are free for all to read, including mine.

I think that column is some of my best reporting work. A lot of research went into it, too much of which ended up on the cutting room floor as they say in the movies. So I wanted to share some more:

  • 100 games is the 3rd most in Cal history behind Pappy (103) and Stub Allison (102). They’re both proof that one has to be pretty good as a coach to reach 100 games at Cal. (Pappy has 3 Rose Bowls to his name and Stub has 1)
  • Tedford is 4th in all time wins, a game behind Pappy, and then in position to pass Andy Smith (74) and James Schaeffer (73) next year.
  • His winning percentage is also exceptional. If the Bears can pull the upset Saturday he’ll be tied with Pappy for the best win percentage at 67% of their game (this excludes the coaches from 1925 and earlier, which includes Smith and Schaeffer. If you saw the percentage leaderboard, where there are 10 coaches in front of Tedford and Pappy, but all of them are 1925 and earlier, you’d readily understand why there is a tendency to focus on the “modern era” when it comes to winning percentage.)
  • Probably the most “unfair” credit that Tedford gets is the number of bowl games, at least when it’s compared to previous coaches. The bowl revolution happened in the mid-90’s and so no coach other than Holmoe coached in an era when every bowl eligible team went to a bowl game. So the fact that no other Cal coach has been to 7 in a row doesn’t mean much in a historical context. Frankly, Pappy’s 3 Rose Bowls in a row is Cal’s most impressive Bowl stat.
  • However, when one looks at the number of teams who have been bowl eligible each of the last eight seasons, it’s a pretty small list. After all, if Florida State can’t win one of it’s last two games, (Maryland and Florida), then the longest streak would be 19 (Florida). In the Pac-10, only USC has been bowl eligible every year during that stretch. While overall numbers were tough to come by (the best I could come up with is that through 2007’s bowls, only 12 teams had an eight year streak but one (Michigan) has fallen off that list) a team is in pretty elite company these days when they’ve been bowl eligible eight years in a row.

Point being, what Tedford has accomplished is pretty amazingly awesome.

I know, I know, we all want the Rose Bowl so bad we spit up blood every time the Bears are eliminated from contention. And yes, I know, we’re not looking in great shape to reach that mark in the next year or two. But, while I concede things aren’t as Rosy as I’d like, at the same time that’s not as true as one thinks. If the Bears had beaten Oregon State, we could have easily gotten a share of the conference title, and if the right teams lost in these last couple weeks, we still could have seen the chips fall the right way to end up in Pasadena. Said another way, our chances would be as good as Stanford’s are right now. Next year is an even year and generally, even years are the Bears good years minus continually losing to USC in LA. But you know what, if this year showed anything, it showed that there will be years where one doesn’t have to beat USC to go to the Rose Bowl.

I also know that the last three seasons have seen the Bears plateau a bit. But you know what, every coach hits a lull. People were ready to lynch Bellotti at Oregon after his slow stretch from 2002-2004, but guess what, 2005-2008 were his best years at Oregon. I know how much it’s like rubbing salt in one’s eyes to think that see Stanford leap-frog Cal with their new head coach and getting the wins we’ve been dying for years to get. But it’s just one year and they’ve peaked at opportune times during this season.

Please, go read my column. Go back and remember what it was like back then. If you’re too recent of a fan to do that, do your best to imagine. We’ve completely lost all sense of context in the last few years. We NEED to remember where we were and just how much has been accomplished. The 100 game mark for Tedford provides an opportunity to do that.

I don’t know that the Bears are going to be able to beat Stanford on Saturday (a post on that later). I don’t know that the Bears will do better than the Poinsettia Bowl this year. But what I know, and I mean know, with an absolute confidence unmatched besides my love for my wife and children and my faith in God and the Catholic Church, is that Tedford has been a great coach for Cal and there’s no reason to doubt that he’ll continue to be a great coach for the program.

Thanks Coach Tedford! Here’s to 100 more!

Pregame thoughts on Oregon State

Well, it’s game day and I can’t quite make up my mind how scared I am of Oregon State. My co-worker who’s a relatively fair OSU alum thinks that Canfield is going to be a real problem for the Bears. He thinks the Bears are going to either have to stop the Rodger brothers at the line of scrimmage and risk getting burned by Canfield downfield, or keep everything in front of them and let the Rodgers brother nickle and time them to death with the occasional big play that’ll kill the Bears. In some sense I’m inclined to agree that if the Beavers win, that’s about what it’s going to come down to.

At the same time, this has the makings of a Pac-10 shootout. There’s a reason that the over/under is at 61 (it averages in the low 50’s for most games).

I like the Bears chances in a shootout. The Beavers might have the Rodgers brothers, but we’ve got a much bigger family of explosive players than OSU. At the same time, the Bear defense is more opportunistic than OSU’s and is more likely to come up with the big turnover. They’re also more likely to force a lot of redzone field-goals when things get more dicey for the passing game. The running game is more important in the redzone and the Bears have the edge in that. These edges, both for the Bears and the Beavers, become most obvious when you look at the statistical preview I did over at (subscription required).

Finally, don’t think too much about the history of this match up. Yes, the Beavers are undefeated against Tedford in Berkeley and they’re on a 2 game winning streak, but the Bears were on a 3 game winning streak over the Ducks including a recent victory in Eugene and we saw how that worked out for the Bears. Does anyone really think that if Longshore was healthy against OSU in 2007 the Bears wouldn’t have won that game? They nearly won with a redshirt Freshman QB for who the game didn’t start slowing down until the 4th quarter. Add in that in 2005 the Bears were Booya handicapped and all of a sudden the Beavers winning streak in Berkeley makes a lot more sense and isn’t so intimidating. In each game in Berekely going back to 2003 the Bears have been breaking in a new QB for the OSU game (in 2003 it was Aaron Rodger’s 3rd start overall and he had sat most of the 2nd half of the USC game the preceding week) and the Beavers beat the Bears with press coverage and daring the Bears to beat them over the top.

Going to the games in Corvallis, the Bears destroyed the Beavers in 2004 and 2006, so it’s not like the Beavers “have the Bear’s number”. The game last year was competitive and the Corvallis home field advantage was an important factor. Based solely on last years game, I think if you play that same game in Berkeley, Cal likely wins. Add in that OSU has lost far more talent since then than the Bears and it’s not exactly like past history suggests a Beaver victory even though that’s the way it seems.

The “Beaver struggles” are more like the difficulty Cal has had beating UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The sample size is small and there’s lots of extenuating circumstances. We all saw how that worked out this year in the Rose Bowl. In the end they actually play the game instead of just counting on history to determine the outcome. Most of the time, the better team wins despite what history may have to say.

So, take heart. There’s no jinx here. The statistics suggest an even match up. The recent match ups and talent changes suggest Cal should do well. And finally, the game is in Berkeley where the Bears play very well.

Bring your fan A-Game today and expect a good game with the Bears coming out on top: 35-28

Articles from the ASU Game

Here are the articles I wrote for the ASU Game over at

The Josh Hill article is free for all to view. The other two are subscription articles.

Oh, I also forgot to put a link to my WSU statistical preview a couple weeks back. It’s also a subscription article and I’m linking to it mostly for my own archival purposes.

Finally, I did record a podcast on the road home. I’ll be putting it together in the next day or two so please be patient because I think it’s a really good one.

ASU Preview

In all of us, there are two football fans. There’s the heavily biased guy who’s got all sorts of preconceptions and scoffs at data that appears to contradict what in his heart he knows to be true. This guy, for example, doesn’t care that Iowa is undefeated and has beaten Penn State and only has Ohio State, who is struggling with teams like Purdue, left on the schedule. He knows Iowa is Iowa and there’s just no way they belong in the national title game if Texas loses.

The other fan in all of us is the rational one. He knows that football teams change and that he has to do a very careful analysis of every game and every injury and every schedule to even come close to understanding who’s good and who’s not. This guy is a lot more unsure than his biased counterpart.

So you can imagine these two fans sitting on each of your shoulders like the angel and devil in the stories/movies/books of old, albeit without the explicit goodness and badness of each. And just like that old imagery, in some of us the biased fan is very strong and it appears the rational guy doesn’t exist. In some of us the rational guy is so strong it appears that there is no bias. Personally, I like to believe that in me I lean towards the rational guy most of the time.

The reason I bring this up now is because my biased guy scoffs and scoffs LOUDLY at ASU. He doesn’t care that ASU beat Cal in 2007. He knows that ASU team was the luckiest team in modern football, squeaking by against a crippled Cal team in a game they in no way deserved to win, as well as many others that year, and perhaps was the worst 10-2, Holiday bowl losing team in history. His suspicions were confirmed when ASU fell of a cliff in 2008, not even reaching bowl eligibility. And he knows that this year’s ASU team with their “dominant” run defense is a joke for the ages.

He knows Cal can destroy that team if they put up even a modest effort, perhaps not even as good as their performance in the Rose Bowl and definitely not as good as their performance in Minnesota.

I mean, COME ON! It’s the over-the-hill, Carpenter lacking, Erickson show. Those guys don’t know defense in Tempe, right?

And I’ll be honest, my biased guy is WAY over-powering my rational guy.

Sure, my rational guy tries to get in a couple of points arguing that giving up 82 yards a game on the ground is impressive no matter who you’ve faced (Phsh, did you SEE what Stanford did to them on the ground?) and they played a noble effort at Georgia despite losing, something that is always difficult to do (Chsh, yeah and those wins over Idaho State, not even Idaho proper, and Louisiana-Monroe really bolster the resume, who have the actually BEAT!?!) and that win over Washington, who lets not forget beat the USC team that creamed us, shows they’re dangerous (Fttt! Did you SEE the non-defense that UW put on the field in the winning play at the end of that game?), and yeah, my statistical preview over at shows a fairly even game but in the end, the biased guy is winning the battle of hearts and minds in my head.

Maybe it’s because my rational guy just doesn’t have many arguments to work with or maybe it’s because my biased guy is so strongly biased. However, my rational guy and my biased guy were on the same page about WSU and they don’t feel on the same page about ASU. Nevertheless, I just can’t believe that Cal is going to lose this game. The biased guy is winning the argument with ease.

It’s exactly the way I felt in 2007 and my biased guy just doesn’t care:

Bears 38, Sun Dopes 17

UCLA game articles

I wrote the following articles for after the game yesterday:

Quotes after the game
A Weight Has Been Lifted
Versatile Vereen Continues Trend

They’re all subscription articles.

Oh, and here’s the link to my stat preview from before the game (I didn’t link it yet):

UCLA Statistical Preview

It’s also subscription, but I like to link them all here if nothing else but for my own record.

USC Game preview

There are two games each season I find it most difficult to predict. The first is the Big Game and I think it goes without saying. There’s always some surprise, particularly historically. Minus 2007, the last 10 years have probably been one of the most predictable stretches of the Big Game with the favored team winning the vast majority of the time but even still I find it near difficult to predict what’s going to happen.

The other game is the game before us. USC.

Here’s what I can tell you about what I expect from the USC game:

  1. Both teams are going to play physical.
  2. It’s going to be close, closer than the pundits generally think.
  3. The Bears are going to lose… AGAIN!?!

But somewhere in my heart, every other year or so, I get the notion in my head that this is the year. In 2004, it was a great shot. Same with 2006, and that frustrating Arizona loss wasn’t going to matter when we beat USC. In 2008, we’ll I wasn’t quite as confident as 2004 or 2006, but we had to pull it off eventually and that USC team seemed vulnerable.

But yet, somehow, we lost every one of those. Ironically, the one year I was most sure we were going to lose, 2003, ended up being the year we beat them. (OK, that’s a partial lie, I suspect I was less confident in 2005 by the time that game rolled around than in 2003, but they were the bottom two games anyway.)

So here I find myself, yet again, thinking that this feels like the year. But is it? Well, here are the reasons it just might be:

  • This might be the worst USC team since Carrol took over. If you want a break-down of just how bad this team is, checkout The Bear Will Not Quit’s USC preview. This team has lost so much and the new guys just haven’t gelled yet. Add in the bad run with injuries and this is one vulnerable team.
  • The Bears get USC at home during an ‘up’ year. So far the Bears have been getting USC at home during the down years and have had to travel to the Coliseum in up years. That’s made this match up even more frustrating. Well, I guess it still is possible we’ll look at this year like it’s a down one, but it feels more like 2007 and 2008 were down and 2009 is an up year.
  • The game is early in the season. When the Bears beat USC in 2003, it was early in the season. Just about every USC loss, including this year’s loss to Washington happens early in the Pac-10 schedule. The reality is that USC has the most talent and by the end of each season their talent is dialed in enough to beat everyone. However, earlier in the season a lack of experience can hurt those talented but light on experience USC players. Yeah, other teams have inexperience problems too, but nevertheless this levels the playing field.
  • The 3-4 defensive scheme. I still have a lot of faith in this scheme, yes, even after the Oregon debacle. It allows teams with less than USC talent to put tremendous pressure on the USC quarterback through creative blitzing schemes and generally make up for the talent differential with creativity and scheming. The 4-3 is basically lining up and telling USC to let us have it. Not so with the 3-4.
  • Offensive balance. The other years that Cal played USC tough and had a shot at winning, Cal had balance, 2004 and 2006 being the most notable. In the other years, when Cal had balance during the game they succeeded when they couldn’t find it, they struggled. I know we’re all scratching our head about what happened to Riley in Eugene and that leaves us unsure, but generally speaking Riley has done well at home and I’m optimistic he’ll give us that balance tomorrow.

That’s a pretty good looking list, yes?

Well, hold onto your boots because for every point I’ve got in the positive, I’ve got a negative:

  • Our 2003 win was a standard early USC loss. I hate to crush the popular belief that Cal beat USC “straight up” but lets face it, Cal’s win was closer to Oregon State’s two wins, as well as Stanford and Washington’s than it is to Oregon’s victory in 2007. Why does 2003 matter now? Because it means we’ve never really beat USC outright, it’s always been a “charity win”. OK, I know I’m going to hear it for this one, but tell me, why was that fairly untalented and 7-5 finishing team able to do it but the 10-1 and 9-3 teams not able to do it? Why? Because we’ve never beat them straight up.
  • USC has already had their early loss. If you look at they’re history, once they have that early loss, they go on a tear and you don’t want to be the next pile of meat they get to devour. That early loss wakes the sleeping giant every year. Unfortunately for the Bears, Washington already woke them up.
  • Talent, talent and more talent. In the end, USC wins year after year because they’ve got more talent. There is no denying that it’s true this year just as much as any other year.
  • Their defense is still pretty darned good. This was what most struck me when writing the statistical preview for (subscription required). They’ve held teams WAY below their averages. This may not be the monster defense that stifled Cal to the tune of 3 points last year, but it may hold the Bears to 10 or 13. Do we really think we can win this game with 13 points on offense?
  • The Oregon factor. I’m sick of talking about it, but any list of reasons why we’ll lose this week that doesn’t include it isn’t worth listing. I’m hoping the Bears will respond well. But don’t tell me that in your heart of hearts that you don’t visualize a Cal offense that is forced 3 and out for a handful of possessions in a row that starts emotionally breaking down as they start to see a repeat of last week. We all know that if things get just a little bit ugly, the Oregon game might make it so the Bears don’t have the fortitude to rebound.

So, where does that leave me? I’m not sure to be honest. I can’t even find that sense deep in my heart of who’s going to win. The only thing down there I can find is hope. Jason says these things so much better than I (which is why he’s the real professional journalist and I’m the pseudo-pro) but down there deep inside all I can do is hope. This has to be the year!

Doesn’t it?

(OK, just for the record, I’m picking the Bears to win 21-17)

Oregon Articles

Since I went to the Oregon game as a reporter, I’ve got some articles to share:

Two are subscription articles:

Tough Loss – recapping the players and coaches thoughts on the loss.
Putting it behind – player and coaches thoughts on looking ahead, not behind.

One is free for all to view:

10 Things That Went Wrong – The title is self explanatory.

Make sure you read that last one both because it’s free for all to view and because I think it best gives my thoughts on the loss without holding anything back.

Oregon game preview

Well, I keep going back and forth on this game.

On the one hand, Oregon has had a LOT of problems to date and they’ve been masked by just how weak their opponents the last two weeks have been. Both of their lines are not getting the job done and there have been mistakes galore on the offense with turnovers. Then when you look at the statistics in my statistical preview article over at (subscription required) it paints an even more ugly picture for the Ducks.

But through it all I’ve had this lingering feeling in the back of my head that the Ducks could just be a sleeping giant. Well, not quite a giant, but a large guy that you don’t want to mess with on their home turf. Then I re-watched the 2008 match up between the Bears and the Ducks last night and was struck by just how potent the Oregon offense was. It’s really hard to tell because there are so many variables, but the Bears may not have won that game if it wasn’t The Lake Bowl. All of a sudden I wasn’t feeling so good about the game.

At the same time, this isn’t the same Oregon team. Gone are Reed who caused all kinds of trouble in the Cal backfield and Byrd who caused all kinds of trouble in the secondary. The lines have been decimated. So, this isn’t the same team that impressed last year.

In the end, I keep coming back to Masoli’s throwing problems. If Masoli can’t prove that he can hurt the Bears through the air, the Bears will have no problems plugging up the Oregon running game. So, since the way I see it, Masoli lost something in the offseason with his passing game, I think the Bears are going to be able to shutdown Oregon’s offense. Add in Cal’s offensive balance that they didn’t have last year, combined with the Cal offensive line being able to likely win the line of scrimmage battle and I think the Bears win this one, probably easier than my heart is willing to believe.

Bears 31, Ducks 20

Minnesota Preview

I feel like I’ve talked myself to death talking about the upcoming Minnesota game, so this preview will be shorter than usual (“phew!” says all the non-fanatics who visit the site).

My initial impression of Minnesota was that they were a one dimensional run team, but the more footage I’ve watched I’ve realized that they’re more than that. They’re a one dimensional run team with a single receiver their QB loves to lock on and throw to. I guess that makes life a little bit more difficult than if they were just a run team, but this Cal secondary has proven time and time again that you can’t beat them with just one threat. You’ve got to spread the ball around.

So, on paper, particularly when one adds in talent levels and both team’s 2009 game performances, this should be a pretty easy win for the Bears.

But everyone here knows that’s not the real story. The real story is whether these Bears are going to be able to go on the road and win. I feel a lot like I would if Cal had to travel to Arizona this year (not last year where they actually had a pretty good offense). I feel like the Bears should win but I know all to well how dangerous it is to go into the desert and come out unscathed. Particularly with the Gopher’s new stadium, a topic that I think is being under discussed emotion wise because teams don’t like to see their new virgin stadium defiled by a loss, I’m a lot more nervous about this game that I’d like to admit.

All one has to do is read my statistical preview over at (subscription required) to know just how much us Bear fans have to be nervous about in the history of non-conference road games for Tedford’s Bears.

Nevertheless, I’m going to ignore those fears and predict the Bears cruise to an easy win 35-17.

Preview for Eastern Washington

What can one really say about this match up? About the only interesting thing about the Eastern Washington game is what the final score will be. I mean, it could be interesting if the Bears had a penchant for under-estimating lower teams. But let’s be honest, at home in Memorial Stadium, that just about never happens. I call as my first witness Sacramento State, then Portland State and even Colorado State (who won’t hold up under cross-examination as they’re not a I-AA/FCS school). Even on the road, Cal has beaten the lowly schools. It’s the middle BCS conference and higher schools that have proven troublesome on the road.

So, what is there to say about this game?

Well, read my Statistical Preview over at (if you’re a subscriber) where you’ll find just about all the interesting statistics I could dig up about FBS versus FCS match ups, particularly those that include teams in the AP top-25.

But beyond that, I think we just need to be looking for Cal to come out early and score some points in rhythm. We want to see Riley be effective early in the game. Other than that, we want to see the starters take a seat early so we avoid key injuries (remember that we lost Best against Colorado State and Nate Longshore (the first time) against Sac State). Plus it gives us time to see the lesser players in action.

Here’s a list of players to watch for (with jersey numbers):

  • #10 Brock Mansion: He mostly just got to hand the ball of to DeBoskie in the 1st game, so it’ll be nice to see him throw some balls. What few he threw against Maryland didn’t look very sharp so hopefully we’ll see some improvement here.
  • #9 Beau Sweeney: It sure would be nice to see him get some reps just to see if he’s as much of a gamer as he looks in practice and the spring scrimmage.
  • #40 Tavecchio and # 16 D’Amado: It’ll be interesting to see who gets how many kickoff opportunities in this game. Can Tavechio kick like he does in practice? How good is D’Amado’s leg for the long kickoffs?
  • #22 Will Kapp: Brian Holley proved himself well against Maryland, but fullback is still the position with the most risk, depth wise. It will be nice to see how Kapp can do. It’ll also be interesting to see if Tyndall (#31) gets any playing time.
  • #53 Donovan Edwards: He’s our 2nd stringer for both tackle positions. There’s a good chance he’ll need to start a game or two at some point so look for how he does against rushes off the edge.
  • #92 Trevor Guyton: Guyton is our 3rd string nose tackle behind Kendrick Payne who showed his strength versus Maryland and our 2nd string defensive end backing up Alualu. With Owusu showing so much strength as a backup DE, it’ll be interesting to note how good Guyton does both at DE and at NT.
  • #55 Jerome Meadows: Backup linebackers Price and Bishop showed a lot last week. Meadows got playing time but didn’t really stick out to me. It’ll be interesting to see how much this JC transfer can contribute.
  • #15 Bryant Nnabuife: Josh Hill had an excellent game backing up Hagan last week who had cramps and other minor injury problems. Nnabuife is the other backup and need to be more evaluated as a corner (he’s a great special teamer).

Those are the numbers I’m going to be watching for.

Finally, expect a 52-10 victory from these Bears even with all the backups playing.

Maryland post-game thoughts

Here are my thoughts after re-watching the game:

  • The unsung hero of Best’s first TD run was definitely Tucker with his down field block. You also have to give credit to Best for making use of that block and being patient, but Tucker hustled to get down there and then did a great job of keeping between the defender and Best.
  • Cal got really lucky on that ineligible receiver down field that stopped a TD. The Cal D didn’t play it like the was ineligible (in fact, he didn’t catch the TD). Instead it was just a lucky break.
  • That wasn’t the only penalty that made life easier for the Bears. While I wouldn’t say the others were lucky breaks, it’s hard to debate that 3rd and 1 turning into 3rd and 16 based on Maryland errors doesn’t make the defenses job a lot easier, particularly in the 1st quarter (5 penalties against Maryland in quarter).
  • DJ Campbell did a great job on the kickoff return where Chris Little forced the fumble. Maryland had a player on top of the ball but Campbell forced himself in there and got his back in between the Maryland player and the ball to strip it from him. A great fumble recovery. The Bears practice this sort of thing a lot and I’ve now seen a number of fumbles where Cal’s fumble recovery skills were very important to getting the ball (the Oregon rain-game with the bobbled punt return comes to mind).
  • While Brian Holley had a pretty good game overall, he really blew it on a sweep play to Best. His inability to get a block on the outside linebacker forced Best to turn it up into the O-Line for a loss on what otherwise was looking to be a big gainer for Best.
  • While Brian Anger never got off one of his signature booming punts, he had a VERY consistent game with very good directional punting. He continues to improve his game.
  • If there was one area that the Bears defense seemed a little vulnerable it was the TE passes over the middle. Usually that’s a pass that the Cal defense locks down, but there were a number of 1st downs on that pattern for Maryland.
  • While it didn’t burn the Bears overall, the Terps ran a handful of designed QB run plays. Clearly nobody was expecting that. I wonder what the story was on that? Why did Maryland decide to run them… new twist to offense? Thought they saw some weakness in Cal defense? Hard to say.
  • I had big hopes for Owusu based on his performance in spring ball, but he kept fading, at least from how the coaches were talking about him, in fall practice. But his performance against Maryland confirms my instinct that he was going to have a breakout year. You’re going to see a lot of sacks and near sacks because of him.
  • An example of where Holley performed well was his one carry of the game on 3rd and 1. After getting plugged up behind the line, he powered his way around the defensive end for a 1st down. I was pretty concerned about Holley before Saturday night. I’m not anymore.
  • About the only point during the game that I saw any indication of this “scary” Maryland pressure defense was when Cal had 1st and goal from the 9 yard line. They forced Riley to throw early and they sacked him, forcing the field goal from D’Amato. But otherwise, the Maryland defense looked pretty vanilla. That said, a lot of times a defense looks much more mediocre when the offensive line and protection schemes of the offense do a good job of handling the defensive pressure.
  • Speaking of D’Amato, while we didn’t get much of a chance to see him in action (other than extra points and a field goal that was like an extra point after a holding call), what we did see of him inspires a lot of confidence. In particular was the elevation he gets on his kicks. I doubt we’ll see him blocked if he keeps that up.
  • One just can’t say enough about how awesome the combination of Marvin Jones and Verran Tucker is. What is really exceptional about them is there ability to haul in the tough ones. Riley threw two passes to Jones that mere mortals would have not been even able to get to but Jones was able to leap high to get them and just as importantly he had the hands to hold on to them as he got nailed. Tucker did the same thing with a deep pass where he was blatantly fouled. But instead of only getting the 15 yards for the penalty, Tucker held on to the the 30+ yards from the catch.
  • Riley seemed much more mobile than he did last year. You get the feeling that with Longshore looking over his shoulder Riley was more concerned with not ignoring the direction of the coaching staff and so overly avoided running, even when it was the right thing to do. Against Maryland, even though he didn’t run down field much if at all, he did prove much more elusive than in the past. Of particular note was avoiding the sack and throwing the TD pass in the 2nd quarter.
  • Those two touchdowns towards the end of the 1st half were really the ones that sealed the game. 20-6 at halftime (assuming that Cal got the field goal on the first drive), would have been easy for Maryland to be hopeful about rallying against. But, particularly after that 2nd touchdown that increased the score from 24 to 31 with less than 30 seconds left in the half, really put the nail in the coffin.
  • And then the Bears really stuck a fork in the Turtles by going for a quick TD score to start the 2nd half.
  • I’m not quite sure I said in my podcast that the defense was not flashy/impressive because they had 6 sacks by early in the 3rd quarter. The more I see of them, the more I’m impressed with their play.
  • The one play that was somewhat distressing in the game was the 3rd quarter touchdown run by Da’Rel Scott. Of course by that point Cal was substituting in a number of backups, but nevertheless, the over-pursuit from the Bears is a little bit distressing. If there had been a handful of big plays late in the game it would have been more distressing, but as a single instance that was not repeated, it’s hard to get to worked up about it (unlike the short kickoffs).
  • One of the things I was happy about was the times when the various players were substituted. Best was pulled in the 3rd quarter as he should be, he’s our most important asset to protect and most likely to be injured in a freak play late in the game. Riley came out in the 4th quarter with enough time to give Mansion a few drives to get more playing time. True, he mostly just handed off the ball to DeBoskie-Johnson, but it was still additional game time. Hopefully Mansion will get more quality playing time late in the Eastern Washington game.
  • I was really surprised that Maryland never kicked to Syd, pooching a bunch of short punts. I mean, Syd’s good, but he’s no DeSean. There’s no need to have a game long strategy to sky-ball punts to him. Or is it just that Maryland’s punter didn’t have the skills needed to drive it deep?

Overall a performance where it is hard to find much to complain about. Great job Marshall and Ludwig preparing for an unknown defense. Good job Gregory getting the defense ready to play and developing so much depth. Way to go Tedford for making the transition from super-offensive-coordinator to genuine head coach.


UPDATE on 9/8/09 at noon: Here’s a link to my post-game article over at Two Plays of Note. I chose to examine a couple plays instead of going big picture. does a couple articles a week that are non-subscription just to give people a taste and this one is one of those.

Preview and Prediction for Maryland

Whenever I put my thoughts together on a Cal opponent, two questions first come to mind:

  1. What worries me about the team?
  2. What weaknesses will the Bears be able to expose?

In this case, there are only two things that scare me about Maryland. First, I’m a little bit scared of their running game. Maryland was really able to control the 2008 match up through the running game. With Scott back as their lead tailback, I’m a bit concerned he’ll be able to have that balance of power and speed that can give any team trouble. Overall, this concern seems a bit overly worrisome to me because in 2008 although the run game hurt the Bears, it wasn’t the leading reason that Cal lost.

The second scary things is this new Maryland defensive scheme. Now, it may be that their new scheme will result in lots of easy and long scores for the Bears, but their high pressure highly variable blitzing defense could also be very confusing to a team that doesn’t know what to expect from the Maryland defense. I would not be surprised at all to see the Cal offense take 3 or 4 drives to figure out how to defense the Maryland defense.

Which leads in perfectly to the weaknesses of Maryland. What Cal will hopefully be able to expose is the youth and inexperience of this Maryland team. This could be true on both sides of the ball with the Maryland offense sputtering behind their inexperience offensive line that can’t open up holes for Scott or protect Turner and the young receiver core that may not be on the same page with Turner (who will need that when he’s under lots of pressure). On the defensive side, it could burn Maryland in two ways. For one, even if they kept to the old defensive strategy, there would be coverage holes and mistakes of youth that the Bears could expose. However, when one adds on the new defensive scheme, something that will occasionally confuse even experience defensive players, Maryland could be ripe for getting burned a lot.

So overall, I think that Cal should win this one in a lower scoring affair than the betting line suggests. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t give the points. 3 touchdowns is a LOT, particularly if the game ends up being a lower scoring affair.

I’m going with 31-17 Bears for the final score.

Finally, don’t forget to read my Statistical Preview article (subscription required) over at

Spring wrap-up article

My spring wrap-up article has been posted at

The podcast should be posted there soon and I’ll post a link when it does.

Also expect a few posts in the next couple days summing up my thoughts on Spring Ball.

Spring Ball notes article

I had double duty at Tuesday’s practice, being responsible for both writing the notes article and producing my regular podcast. Here’s the article:

(It is a subscription article)

I’ll be finishing editing together the podcast tonight and it should be posted by mid-day Thursday. I’ll link to it when it is posted.

Top-10 things that need to improve

Here’s my next article for

It is a subscription article. I’ll do the same thing as last time and post the content of it here after it falls of the front page of (which takes up to a week).

In the meantime, you can vote on which of the 10 areas you think needs the most work on the sidebar.

Tiny Bates banquet

I went to the Tiny Bates banquet in Sac on February 24th and did a write-up about it for

It is a FREE article, so all can go view it.

What was lost to graduation

I got around to writing my thoughts on who the biggest losses were to graduation but it was long enough and good enough to submit as an article to I finished it over a week ago but the guys over there were waiting for a headline break to put it in. It’s finally published:

The article is a subscription article. In about a week, after it’s been published for a while, I’ll put the content here on the blog.

Emerald Bowl Articles

(Somehow, the below post never got published back in December, even though I wrote it on 12/29. I wanted to make sure I published it for historical record purposes, so I can keep track of all my published articles at here.)

Here are links to the two articles I wrote for for the bowl game:

Simply the Best
Cal’s Defense Comes Through Once More

They are both subscription articles.

Last article

of the season anyway.

Bowl Supremacy

It’s a subscription article about the Bears winning 4 bowls in 4 years, the first time outgoing seniors can make that claim in Cal football history. I walk through the history of Cal bowl game streaks and what makes this streak amazing as well as pointing out why it should also be graded on a curve against a time when going to bowls was more rare.

For what it is worth, this is the time of the year that a subscription is most valuable if you don’t already have one. During the season, you’ll get almost all the info you’re interested in from free news sources. During the season, the subscription message board (by far the best subscription board of the Cal sites) and the occasional insight you don’t get elsewhere is what you’d be paying for.

But during the off-season, where else are you going to get all the latest about recruiting and spring practice? It’s not going to be covered in the newspapers or television news with any depth. With less than 2 months until signing-day and a lot of recruits still up in the air, a subscription is where you’re going to get the best coverage of the end of the recruiting battle as well as the best Spring Ball coverage.

For $10 a month or $100 a year, I think it is well worth it. You can even just pay for a few months and then cancel after spring ball to keep the cost down and do that every year if that’s what you need to do.

Am I biased? Sure. But for those who know me, integrity is very important to me and I wouldn’t make a pitch that I didn’t believe in. Not being a person who covers recruiting for, I’m not lining my pockets by those who only subscribe in the off-season. I’ve been a subscriber to all 3 sites at one time or another and I can say with confidence that is your best deal for getting news you can’t get anywhere else particularly because its closest competitor gives away so much of its stuff for free. So you’re best bang for your buck is to subscribe to, get the other site’s free stuff and then read blogs like mine (see my blog-roll for what I consider the best of Cal blogs).

Back on TV (NFL Network)

I meant to post a “hey I’ll be on TV tomorrow” type post before this aired, but I’ve been sick and didn’t get to it. In any case, I was back on TV yesterday. Here’s the video:

The biggest complaint I have with it is how scruffy I look. Boy do I need a haircut. Also, the lighting they have in that particular studio makes me look really washed out. Not sure why.

You can also tell that I was sick because some of my bad habits were back. I left my mouth open a lot. I said a lot of “ums” although not so many as to be problematic really. I was pretty happy with my body movements and facial expressions when I was talking and as always I was pretty happy with the content of what I said. It’s really about not looking like my cat died when I’m not talking and looking a bit more professional appearance wise. I liked having the collared shirt and I think I’ll go with that in the future but perhaps one that doesn’t have a tendency to look wrinkled. That and a good haircut will do wonders.

In any case, thoughts everyone?