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Archive for November, 2008

“Eat It Mack Brown”

Phil dislikes Mack BrownI am not a big one to quote posters on Internet forums, but this one is too ripe to ignore. From a user on

Just a few years ago Mack Brown pulled a classless act by lobbying poll voters to vote down Cal so that Texas could go to the Rose Bowl with 2 losses (Cal was 11-1 and lost to #1 USC by 6 points in L.A.). It worked and a number of voters did not even have Cal in their top 5 after Cal was #4 in the BCS the previous week. WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND! EAT IT MACK BROWN. You reap what you sow and Mack Brown more than anybody deserves this fate. I am not a Cal fan, but I remember thinking how classless Mack Brown was back then and eventually it caught up with him. I can guarantee you that somewhere Jeff Tedford is smiling.

Yes, I’ve had some issues with Texas coach Mack Brown (pictured, right, getting the stank eye from Phil) and his minions in the past.

I actually think Texas got hosed this year. But… live by the terrible system, die by the terrible system.

Post-Beaver Faceplant Bowl Scenarios

With Oregon State having been destroyed by Oregon, Cal’s bowl picture has cleared up somewhat.

Most Likely Scenario: Cal to the Emerald Bowl. By all rights, Cal should be headed for the Las Vegas Bowl. However, rumors persist that the Emerald Bowl will beg, borrow, bribe, and steal — basically do anything in its power — to wrest Cal away from the Las Vegas Bowl. So if the two bowls cut a deal, Cal will be playing in AT&T Park on Dec. 27.

Let’s assume that Cal beats Washington to go to 6-3 in the conference. The winner of the Arizona-Arizona State match-up next week would go to 5-4 in the conference and clinch fifth place. What this would normally mean is that fourth-place Cal would be destined for Las Vegas and fifth-place Arizona or Arizona State would be destined for San Francisco. Does it make sense for the two bowls to swap teams in that scenario, so that the Arizonans can drive to Vegas and the Cal fans can cross the bridge to San Francisco? You bet it does. And if Cal loses to Washington, they’d actually be right in the natural slot for the Emerald Bowl.

Even the craziest of scenarios — UCLA beats USC, Washington beats Cal, Arizona beats ASU — lead to the Emerald Bowl. In this scenario, Oregon still drops out of the Sun Bowl due to the no-repeat clause. But now Cal and Arizona are both 5-4 in conference. In this scenario the Sun Bowl would certainly pick Arizona, which has geographic proximity and the head-to-head win over Cal, so Arizona would go to the Sun Bowl. With Oregon kicked to the Las Vegas Bowl, Cal falls once again to AT&T Park.

Or let’s say Arizona State wins against Arizona to become bowl eligible and Cal loses to Washington. In that scenario, Cal and ASU would be tied for fourth place in the Pac-10. Assuming USC beats UCLA, that puts Cal and ASU tied for the slots that go to Las Vegas and Emerald. Emerald will want the team from the Bay Area, and once again, Las Vegas will choose a team from nearby Arizona.

Crazy Scenario: The only other real scenario at this point would occur because of a UCLA upset of USC. I’ll wait here until you stop laughing. Better now? Okay, if UCLA were to beat USC, two things would happen: Oregon State would go to the Rose Bowl and USC would almost certainly drop out of BCS contention, forcing it to the Holiday Bowl. By all rights Oregon deserves the next bowl as the Pac-10’s third-place team, but the Sun Bowl has a clause that allows it to turn away repeat teams, and the Ducks played in the Sun Bowl last year. So if UCLA pulls the upset, Cal is probably headed for El Paso.

A funny thing I’ve noticed in working these scenarios out. The Arizona-Arizona State game seems to have definite outcomes. The winner will play in the Las Vegas Bowl. If Arizona State loses, it’s not bowl eligible. But if Arizona loses, it will be the conference’s sixth bowl-eligible team. As a result, its consolation prize will be a trip to the Hawaii Bowl. Not too terrible.

Sory, Poinsettia Bowl. No Pac-10 team for you.

Ye Olde Bowle Handbooke

If USC beats UCLA: Rose: USC, Holiday: Oregon, Sun: Oregon State, Las Vegas: Arizona/Arizona State winner, Emerald: Cal, Hawaii: Arizona if it loses to ASU.

If UCLA beats USC: Rose: Oregon State, Holiday: USC, Sun: Cal, Las Vegas: Oregon, Emerald: Arizona/Arizona State winner, Hawaii: Arizona if it loses to ASU.

Please, smart readers, let me know if I’ve gotten anything wrong.

Bowl game scenarios

Here’s a quick rundown on what needs to happen for the Bears to end up in each bowl:

Holiday Bowl: Oregon State beats Oregon, Cal beats Washington and USC gets an at-large BCS berth, which likely requires them to win-out (Notre Dame and UCLA), although not an absolute requirement. In this case Cal is 3rd in the conference but gets the 2nd place bowl because of two BCS bowls for the Pac-10.

Sun Bowl: Two scenarios here. #1 Oregon State beats Oregon, Cal beats Washington and USC fails to get at-large BCS berth. That means USC is in Holiday and Cal goes to Sun bowl assuming they respect head-to-head over Oregon (and they’re likely to since Oregon was in the Sun last year). #2, USC still gets at-large BCS berth but Cal loses to Washington, causing them to fall below Oregon in the standings and so losing the Holiday bowl bid. That puts them in a tie for 4th with Arizona, assuming they beat ASU or a tie with ASU assuming they beat UCLA and Arizona. Cal would be alone in 4th if Arizona loses to ASU and ASU loses to UCLA the preceeding week. In the tied with either of the Arizona schools scenario, Cal could end up in any of the Sun, Vegas or Emerald depending on how the politics play out (and make sure to note that Arizona holds the head-to-head over Cal and is closer to the Sun Bowl than any Pac-10 team, so are likely to get the nod over Cal in that scenario. Similarly, although ASU doesn’t hold the head-to-head over Cal, they just won their last two games in this scenario and are much closer to the Sun than Cal is.). In the alone in 4th scenario, Cal’s guaranteed the Sun.

Las Vegas Bowl: Theoretically this would be an easy enough bowl to be in, but the word on the street is that the Emerald bowl is willing to do whatever it takes to get the Bears from the Vegas Bowl if that’s where they naturally fall. Forgetting for a moment those politics, the Bears end up in the Vegas if Oregon State loses to Oregon, Cal beats Washington and USC beats UCLA. Then USC goes to the Rose, OSU to the Holiday and Oregon to the Sun (another political scenario here: Sun trades down to get Cal because they don’t want Oregon two years in a row). In that scenario, Cal would “belong” in the Vegas (but probably end up in the Emerald). The Bears could also end up here if they lose to Washington but the Vegas picks Cal over either of Arizona or ASU that they’re potentially tied with.

Emerald Bowl: Pretty much if Cal beats Washington, they should in theory stay above the Emerald, all above politics aside. So what it takes to fall here, by the numbers anyway, if for Oregon to beat OSU, USC to beat UCLA, Arizona to beat ASU and Cal to lose to Washington. In that scenario it’s USC in the Rose, Oregon in the Holiday, OSU in the Sun, Arizona in the Vegas with the head-to-head over Cal and Cal in the Emerald. If you’re willing to include some politics, another way this happens is that Arizona State beats both UCLA and Arizona, becoming bowl eligible and 5-4 in the conference, tied with Cal after they lost to UW. Although Cal holds the head-to-head, Vegas is pretty close to Pheonix and they’d love to take ASU, particularly when the Emerald is begging for Cal anyway.

That’s about it for half-way reasonable scenarios. One other one that seems pretty improbably is the set of scenarios if UCLA upsets USC. That’s not a big change if Oregon State beat Oregon, but if Oregon State loses to Oregon we’ve now got a 3-way tie for first. To make life even more complicated, who wins the tie-breaker would now be determined by which of Cal (Oregon’s 2nd loss), Stanford (OSU’s 2nd loss) and UCLA (USC’s 2nd loss) are higher in the standings. Whoever lost to the highest team is out. Ironically, although it is pretty darned complicated when one gets into the details, no matter what Oregon State wins that tie-breaker. In any case, while it’s a fascinating scenario for the conference, for the Bears it doesn’t change much from any of the above scenarios where Oregon beat OSU with the possible exception of UCLA replacing ASU as the 6th bowl-eligible team that is also tied with Cal should they lose to Washington.

Phew!… Got it? Good.

Notes from the Big Game

A few additional notes from the Big Game that came to mind:

Riley blocking: There were a number of big plays in the game that were a direct result of our young quarterback making a key block. The busted play in the 1st quarter that Best turned into a 50 yard “reverse” was sprung by Riley blocking the contain man allowing Best to cut up field. On the reverse by Ross, Riley made *two* key blocks and was actually further up field than Ross all the way down to inside the 5 yard-line. Then there was another busted play were Best reversed his field and Riley was out there trying to make a block. While he didn’t do as good of a job on that one, the effort was there. To me, seeing the QB blocking is a sign of a strong team effort, that everyone, even the QB is trying to get a hat on a defender during run plays.

Referees lacked mobility: Of course the play everyone remembers is the bonk on the head. But the one that stuck in my head was on Best’s nifty little run up the middle in the 2nd half. The replay camera from the endzone shows the line-judge running down field and then going for a nasty little spill on the sideline, and to make matters worse, there’s no explination besides clumsiness. What’s with these guys?

TV coverage pretty weak: While the play-by-play announcer was pretty polished, just about everything else was sub-standard. The sideline girl, Jessica Mendosa (perhaps related to the Sac news-lady Christina Mendosa?) was very inexperienced and nervous as can be. More troubling to me was the video work, particularly on the reviews and replays. They got horrible angles and never got to the bottom of a number of plays worth numerous looks. The botched extra point? No 2nd look. The review of the phantom catch by Stanford? Only two replays and from bad angles. Time and time again they failed to get good angles and to be honest, I’m not sure the reason the review was upheld was because the replay crew in the booth wasn’t getting good video either.

The Wave: I’ll second HydroTech’s comments over at CGB. Doing the wave early in the game is ALWAYS wrong. The only time to do a wave is late in the game when the blowout/romp is assured. I know Hydro doesn’t like the wave at all, but I love it… yet I still agree with him. One of my best memories of the Big Game is in 2002 when the Bears were killing Stanford and the wave started working. First of all, it looked awesome in a true bowl, much better than it looks at the Oakland Coliseum. Far more importantly, I remember when it finally got going and reached the Stanford section and everyone wondered what was going to happen. Would it just die there? (maybe) Would Stanford join in? (Highly unlikely) When the Cal fans on the other side of the Stanford section stood up to continue the wave the stadium errupted into cheers. It was great. Nevertheless, if you want to do waves at random points in the game, go to a baseball game. Wave’s are reserved for the end of meaningful blowouts (2006 Oregon game is another example) in football.

Home-field advantage: I spent the week beating the drum of the first true home-field advantage for the Bears in Big Game history, so excuse me for saying a quick “I told you so”. Frankly, Oregon had more of an opponent presence than Stanford did and that’s a huge change from years past when all of Stanford’s season ticket holders got tickets to the Big Games in Berkeley. While I don’t think the home-field advantage was a huge factor in the game, it was a factor and kept the teams spirits up. All I can say is that the Bears better be ready for a hostile environment next year in Palo Alto as I think it really caught them off guard last year after having so many years of fairly balanced crowds on the farm. There’s no excuses next year.

Big Game On The Road Home Podcast

Well, another podcast that is wrapped up early in the week. Have a listen:

Aaaah. Sigh of relief. (Cal 37, Stanford 16)

Running Man

Jahvid Best ran for more than 200 yards today as Cal beat Stanford by 21, and it wasn’t that close. Here’s my complete photo set.

Big Game Statistical Preview

My weekly statistical preview article is posted over at You can find it here:

As always it is a subscription article.


I’ve gotten a few comments asking for info on what’s going on in recruiting. I figured I should clear that up…

I know nothing about recruiting.

In fact, I’m not allowed to know anything about recruiting beyond what you can get on subscriptions sites like Rivals/ See, as a season ticket holder, I’m not allowed to talk to recruits or to the coaching staff or to anyone else about recruiting. It’s off limits. As a person who’s just public enough to potentially fall under scrutiny for my activities, I make sure to be squeeky clean about not getting involved in anything recruiting oriented.

So you won’t get any particular wisdom about why we only have 4… make that 5… recruits right now. But I will give some general thoughts on recruiting:

There is only 1 day a year to worry about recruiting, and it’s in February. Signing day is when all of this speculation becomes reality. So, just because there are only 5 names next to Cal doesn’t mean that there’s not 15 guys who are planning on coming to Cal. It just means they haven’t publically stated that they’re coming. Signing day is when everyone states where they’re actually going. Until then it’s all speculation.

Also, don’t worry much about stars, particularly 1-star differences. The amount of time the recruiting sites spend looking at each guy is pretty darned small. You’re also looking at players who are vastly superior to the rest of the competition, from a high school perspective. So who is awesome, super-awesome and super-duper-awesome is a bit of a question mark and a guessing game, particularly when they’re spread all over the country and there isn’t that much cross-polination.

I guess what I’m saying is that recruiting is something to worry about in the off-season and even then only as evaluating the coaching staff. In the end, what matters is whether the Bears are fielding a team full of talented players, not whether those players were considered great when they were recruited or whether they were willing to publically state they were coming to Cal long before signing day.

If you look at the number of unheralded 2-star recruits who were added at the last minute who became college and NFL super-stars as well as the number of 4 and 5 stars who changed their verbal commitment 3 times and then never played to their potential when they got to college, it makes it pretty clear that this is any over emphasis on recruiting at this point is just a way to raise your blood pressure.

Big Game Press Conference Podcast

My weekly “practice” podcast is posted over at I put “practice” in quotes because I can only make it down to Berkeley one day a week and with the press luncheon moved from Tuesday to Monday for Big Game week and there being no practice on Monday’s, I had to pick between the press conference and the practice. Since BearTerritory had no one else going to the press conference, I picked that.

So the good news is the podcast has quotes. The bad news is no info from practice. In any case, here’s the link:

As with all the podcasts, it is free to all.

Oregon State On The Road Home Podcast

My weekly post-game OTRH podcast is ready. Have a listen. Here are the list of coach and player quotes at the end after my commentary:

Tedford on offensive struggles
Tedford on pass protection breakdowns
Tedford on Rodger’s performance
Tedford on OSU’s kickoff return
Tedford on schematic failures on kick returns
Tedford on Anger’s struggles
Tedford on things that need to improve
Tedford on regrouping after game
Tedford on Riley’s performance
Tedford on Big Game starter (Riley)
Follett on being frustrated
Follett on refs
Follett on Rodgers
Follett with more on Rodgers
Best on bad field position
Best on touchdown run
Best on OSU’s defensive line slants
Best on getting Ax back
Best on frustrations
Best on kickoff return decisions
Best on dropped pass
Best on OSU’s kickoff return
Best on what offense needs to do to improve
Best on team’s mood
Best on difference from last year
Ross on frustration
Ross on what offense needs to do to improve
Ross on decision to do WR pass
Ross on Boateng being open on WR pass
Ross on getting Ax back
Ross on team rebounding
Hagan on kicking game
Hagan on winning Big Game
Hagan on team mentality
Hagan on holes in zone defense
Riley on OSU defense
Riley on limiting mistakes
Riley on coming out strong
Riley on crowd noise
Riley on touchdown to Tucker
Riley on getting Ax back
Riley on avoiding last year’s collapse
Riley on pass rush
Riley on playing back home
Riley on mentality of team
Riley on OSU’s defensive line
Riley on needing a last minute drive like last year
Riley on benefit of playing consistently behind center
Riley on losing field-position battle

OSU articles

Here are my first two Oregon State game articles:

Best, Ross, Bright spots in loss
Frustration Reigns

They are both subscription articles.

Oregon State LiveBlog

Well, I’m here in sunny Oregon on a beautiful day in Corvalis. Jason is at home watching the game. Let’s get straight to it:

12:31 – (before kickoff): The stadium is 85% full here just before kickoff. It’s supposed to be bursting from the seams before too long here. Spirits are high. They just showed the last play of last years game on the big-screen and the crowd errupted. Lots of fireworks as the OSU Beavers come onto the field.

12:33 – Cal has a REALLY small contingent, maybe 200 people, separated in two areas. They did bring the straw-hat band. The team looks patient as they wait their turn to come down the tunnel to the field. They came on pretty quietly without much booing, as is the norm in Berkeley for the visitors.

12:37 – OSU won toss and deferred.

12:38 (kickoff) – A great return by Best. Only pulled down by his facemask at the OSU 40, giving the Bears the ball at the 26 yard-line. What a great start!

12:39 (14:45) – And then Ross does the impossible bouncing off two tackles to give 1st and goal from the 8. A rough spot to be 1st and goal, but let’s see what they can do. Jason says: “Remember when guys would tackle other guys?”

12:41 (13:05) – TOUCHDOWN! 5 wide worked for the Bears. Much better than the direct snap to Best on 2nd down. Jason says: “Direct snap trickery. Maybe that’s the answer — the no-QB offense.” And “Can the offense still look inept and yet score?” Looks like it, Jason. The particularly good news is that it shut the crowd up real quick. 7-0

12:45 (12:54) – Well, it doesn’t do much good to have a great kickoff return of your own when you give it right back. Did both teams leave the special teams defenses at home? Jason says, “So, back to even. Like the first 2 minutes never happened.” Yup, including quieting the crowd. 7-7

12:49 (11:35) – That was a really powerful rush for OSU on 3rd down. That’s going to be a problem if the Bears can’t get it under control. Punting for the 1st time and Anger only gets a 39 yarder off, OSU gets ball at own 47.

12:54 (10:03) – Big win for Bears… they’re not the first to blow a timeout for bad clock management!

12:56 (9:24) – Just like playing center-field, huh Syd? A big momentum changing interception gives Bears the ball back. Also should give OSU some gitters about throwing the ball down the field.

12:59 (7:05) – Bears have to punt after getting one 1st down running the ball. Jason says: “Before the game the TV sideline reporter asked Mike Riley how he was going to shut down the “high-powered Cal offense.” I’d like to know where that offense has been hiding, so we could cart it out and then see if OSU could shut it down… This game appears to be on the shoulders of the defense. Welcome to your 2008 Cal Bears.” But Anger does great punt and gets ball down to OSU 11.

1:00 (6:56) – Announcer says crowd is over 45k and a Reser stadium record. It looks pretty darned full now, but they’re not as loud as they were at beginning of game.

1:04 – Jason says: “USC fans are sending me messages encouraging Cal to win. Has it come to this, Trojans?” I think it has. It’s nothing personal, they’ll be rooting for Arizona next week and Oregon after that if we can’t get it done.

1:07 (3:53) – Nearly anther pick. OSU had better be careful. And also a near punt block. Too bad that Syd got tackled right off the bat.

1:09 (2:58) – Bubble screen doesn’t work for Bears either: “Good to see that our first-down play of choice is the still loss of yardage.” Well, there’s a lot of different ways for the coaching staff to ensure that, so they go with the percentages. Next two plays aren’t any better and Anger is back out on the field. Jason says: “So this is three straight quarters of Riley not looking good.” And “So… kick coverage is not strong today.” Horrible, horrible, horrible. The Bears really need to turn the corner. It only took one play: 7-14.

1:15 (1:02) – Vereen got shaft on 1st down and they took away his forward progress for no good reason. Riley does his best to make sure that the Bears do nothing to recover with two off the mark passes. Bears punting again and while we’re on the subject, Anger is looking down right pathetic. 29 yards. He looks like he’s droping the ball too soon and can’t get through it.

1:30 (9:30 2nd) – Lost my blog connection for a while… Beavers drove the entire field including converting a 2nd and 30. Despite numerous mistakes by OSU, the holes in the zone keep letting them off the hook. Jason had tons of comments during “the break” which can be summed up as “ugh”. Thankfully Cal holds them to a field-goal that bounces off the up-right but good. Cal down by 10: 7-17.

1:39 (7:44) – TOUCHDOWN. Some trickery on the fake WR screen to WR pass from Ross to Boateng. “trickery…Ross, player of the game…Ross for QB…And RB…And returner…And punter.” And “Tavecchio with the efficient extra point.
As little space used as possible.” Not sure I agree on the returner bit. Best did better with chance. But you may be right on the rest.

1:42 (7:37) – Although I’m not happy to see Tavecchio trying to be “efficient” on the kickoff too. Luckily the coverage is better. Mohammed ROCKs the QB so hard the ref thinks it had to be a pass the way the ball flew out on 3rd down. Beavers have to punt.

1:47 (5:54) – Tucker has GOT to come up with that catch. That would have been HUGE! Luckily it should help keep the defense honest. Best has great run on 2nd for 3rd and 2 that Bears convert to get new set of downs.

1:52 (3:32) – But Morrah has to out-do Tucker and sink the Bears on 3rd and 4 by dropping a catch that he’s got no excuse for dropping. Bears then decide to go for it, er, botch the punt snap, er, whatever and give the Beaver the ball around their own 40.

1:57 (2:00) – At least the ref is consistent. He took 5 yards away from Rodgers when he tried to get out of the tackle. It was a similar, although not as obvious case against Cal in 1st quarter.

2:01 (1:29) – I’m not sure I like this call of a timeout by Cal. Do we really want another shot before halftime with less than 1 1/2 minutes? And do we really want to give OSU a chance to re-think going for it on 4th and 6 from the 32 instead of trying to kick the long FG?

2:04 (1:21) – OK Bears, just nothing stupid like a turnover here. Although something more productive than these first two plays would be appreciated… and they take the knee. Halftime score: 14-17.

2:07 (Halftime) – Jason jumps in with the first Valuable Halftime Analysis (brought to you by Charlie Brown for Congress – let the recount continue!): “For a team that has played as terribly as Cal has, it is a miracle that they’re this close.” Got to agree with that. The Bears seem to have gotten their act together in the 2nd quarter. A little trickery shows the Bears are going to keep the play calling diverse. The defense is starting to clamp down and if a few of OSU’s mistakes could bite them a little harder, the Bears could get back in this one. A key possession is the one right after the break because OSU scoring would really hurt. Riley seems to be a 2nd half QB so perhaps he can clean up his act… and then the receivers need to, you know, catch the ball… and stuff.

2:20 – Man, at OSU the ENTIRE fan base leaves their seats at halftime. There were literally 1 out of 15 seats full a couple minutes ago. Theyr’e all out in the parking lot drinking. I know, I know, what’s a parking lot?

2:29 (Start of 3rd) – What!?! Seriously, how do you kick it THAT badly. Nice way to start, giving OSU the ball at the 40.

2:36 (12:36) – There seems to be some corelation between OSU driving and my blog connection… In any case, this will be a key goal-line stand for Bears if they can pull it off. Down by 6 is huge compared to down by 10.

2:39 (11:45) – Well, it wasn’t pretty but the hold does keep the game in reach. Bears down by 6: 14-20.

2:47 (10:22) – Unbelievable. This review booth is ridiculous. The OSU guy who caught the ball out of bounds isn’t over-turned. And then when the ball is clearly moving forward the review both calls it a fumble. Just ridiculous. I don’t mind much the miss on the field. We’re all human, particularly with the time constraints of a ref. But there is no excuse in the booth for, you know, actually seeing something approaching reality.

2:49 (9:20) – On the plus side Anger is still shanking the ball.

2:51 (8:06) – Horrible pursuit by the Bears on two reverses. Both plays the contain men where there and both times they didn’t get there. Now the game is very much in jeopardy. The Bears need a touchdown ASAP and find some ability to hold the OSU offense. This is getting ugly… and Jason is off at a birthday party… notice how these road games always go downhill after he leaves, coincidence?

2:56 (7:38) – Riley’s got to get rid of that ball. Just can’t take this many sacks. Hopefully he can continue to throw like that last ball that bailed out the Bears. 1st down!

2:58 (6:43) – TOUCHDOWN! Well for once the offense did there part and Best gets his obligatory big run for a TD run for this game. Now it’s back to 6 points. That’s workable if the defense can get their act together.

3:00 (6:37) – Tedford yanks Tavecchio for Kay, who at least keeps it in-bounds… albeit at the 17. It’s really not this hard guys.

3:02 (5:30) – Defense holds. No thanks to Conte who comes off his guy to nearly give up the 1st down. Let’s see if the offense can keep the ball moving.

3:06 (4:40) – Man, it’s AMAZING what one penalty can do. The Bears were looking good with 2nd and 4. Then a hold (questionable call too) puts the Bears back and all of a sudden it’s a passing situation and the Beaver defense can force a punt. Defense needs another hold here…

3:12 (end of 3rd) – Well, the defense is starting to look tired and Rodgers is wearing them down. He’s a great runner. I don’t know how OSU keeps finding these great backs but their lineage is incredible considering their recruiting ‘station’. I’m a big believer in taking a timeout on defense when the boys in the trenches look tired. I would have taken it about 2 minutes prior to this when OSU was just out of field-goal range. Now the Beavers are well inside field-goal range and even holding to a field-goal will still put OSU up by two scores. I don’t know that the Cal offense has two 4th quarter scores in them.

3:19 (14:11 4th) Well the Bears get a minor break and the replay booth proves they have eyes overturning a difficult call on the field. Then the REAL break is that OSU misses the field-goal. The Bears are only down by one score and that’s HUGE. The offense needs to take advantage of this!

3:25 (12:40) But they don’t. Punting again. Anger finally punts a good one but the coverage is completely jammed at the line and a big run-back ensues. Thankfully a block in the back sinks OSU’s return and they get the ball at their own 37. Pretty good considering Cal kicked from within their own 5.

3:28 (10:56) Bear defense still looks tired. Perhaps they get it done here, but even if they do, the way the clock is moving, the Bears have two possessions at the most left to score.

3:30 (9:45) Punt is nearly blocked after high snap. They get it off and it rolls down to 12 yard-line. OK Bears. The time is now. You’ve got to find some offense.

3:36 (7:49) I know the Bears need to show some run balance, but it’s not working. I’m not saying you don’t mix it in to keep them honest, but it’s still frustrating the ineffectiveness of the run game. The patchwork offensive line is a problem. Luckily the holes in the passing defense are there when they pass. If only Riley can get enough time to find them.

3:39 (7:01) Another dropped ball kills the Bears again. That was a first down waiting to happen if Best could have just held on. Punting again. The Bears probably get one more shot at this. The talent is there, they just need to execute.

3:42 (6:30) Rodgers is wearing down the Bears. I’m really impressed with his ability to both slip through very small holes but also to power his way forward. He’s another great OSU back in the making as a freshman.

3:45 (4:20) That might have been a back-breaker. Completing a pass for a 1st down when the Bears finally had a break with the false start. Moevao had ALL DAY to throw with no pressure. Zone defenses don’t do well with that.

3:47 (2:25) Moevao makes life real it by getting a first down with just over 2 minutes left and only 1 timeout left for Cal.

I’m going to have to wrap up this LiveBlog now to go down to the field to do player and coach interviews.

Playing on grass

I’ve got a pet theory running about the Bears playing on grass as opposed to artificial turf. It seems the Bears have a lot more trouble when they play on grass than when the play on turf. So, in pursuit of some data about this, I got game data from the entire Tedford era to see how they did on grass versus how they did on turf.

The scariest numbers are the last 3 years, 2006 to 2008. The Bears are 0-9 on grass during the regular season. That compares to 5-10 (33%) overall on the road (of course all home games are played on artificial turf) for the same span. Turn that same comparison over and the Bears are 5-1 (83%) on the road playing on turf, the only loss being to Washington last year towards the end of the slide.

In fairness, if you include earlier years and bowl games, the numbers are more balanced. The Bears are 12-15 (44%) on grass during the Tedford years while they are 23-20 (53%) overall on the road. However, if you just look at the turf road games, the Bears are 11-5 (69%). Seeing as how the overall win record of the Bears during the same time is 66%, it sure feels like the Bears do just fine on the road when the surface is artificial turf.

Are these numbers conclusive? No, they’re not. It could just be that the best teams the Bears face on the road play on grass, USC being an obvious example. However, if one is searching for reasons that the Bears struggle against teams like UCLA, Arizona, Maryland and even Tennessee on the road but seem to do much better against teams like Oregon and Oregon State, this might be another reason to consider.

It sure feels to me like the Bears struggle on grass far more than just on the road.

Bears in Rose Bowl scenario

OK, there’s only one way and it takes a LOT. But just so it’s out there, assuming USC doesn’t lose to both Stanford and UCLA, ALL of the below must happen:

  1. Cal must win out
  2. Either Stanford or UCLA must beat USC
  3. OSU must win the rest of their games (besides Cal)
  4. Arizona must LOSE the rest of their games
  5. If UCLA beats USC, they must win the rest of their games

See, it’s not so complicated.

Basically, the key is that there must be a 3 way “triangle of losses” tie between USC, Cal and Oregon State. In that scenario, where Cal beat Oregon State who beat USC who beat Cal (thus the triangle), one or more of the teams will get “bumped” from the tie-breaker based on who their other loss is too. Being specific, whoever lost to the team with the highest conference record is out of contention.

Cal lost to Arizona and Oregon State lost to Stanford. So, we need whoever USC loses to, to have a better conference record than Arizona. Arizona is 4-2 in conference, so the worst they can do is 4-5. That means whoever of Stanford or UCLA must have a record of 5-4 for Cal to have a shot. Stanford would be 5-4 if the beat USC but lose to Cal, so they’d work. In that case, both USC and Oregon State would be eliminated if Arizona loses out. UCLA is 2-4 and still has games against Washington, Arizona State and USC. They could definitely beat the first two teams, so the game versus USC could still matter if they could pull it off.

Of course, if USC goes into a free-fall and loses to both Stanford and UCLA, Cal would control their own destiny by beating Oregon State, so I guess in theory, that’s road #2 to the Rose Bowl.

Sadly, if everything but the Arizona losing streak happens (i.e. they just win one game), USC would go to the Rose Bowl based on their BCS ranking being the highest.

Oregon State practice Podcast

My Oregon State Press Conference and practice podcast is now posted over at

As with all my podcasts, it is free to everyone.

USC On The Road Home Podcast

Well, it’s long, it’s painful, but it’s honest. My OTRH podcast is ready for listening. Here’s the list of quotes after my commentary:

Tedford on overall game
Tedford on receivers being open
Tedford on switch to Riley
Tedford on Longshore’s attitude
Tedford on Longshore’s performance
Tedford on defense’s performance
Tedford on penalties
Tedford on sloppiness and penalties
Tedford on playclock timeouts and noise
Tedford on good that comes from game
Tedford on Riley’s interception
Tedford on Jahvid Best’s health
Tedford on USC touchdown replay
Tedford on defensive hustle
Best on USC defense
Best on his injuries
Best on USC’s linebackers
Best on direct snap play
Williams on defensive performance
Williams on recovering fumble
Williams on defensive gameplan
Williams on never having beaten USC
Williams on mood in locker room
Williams on possibility of Rose Bowl
Williams on game going quick
Williams on bobbled USC touchdown
Williams on playing impressively
Williams on it not being enough
Mack on errors and mistakes
Mack on penalties
Mack on not scoring points
Mack on bouncing back
Riley on interception
Riley on pass rush
Riley on illegal receiver down-field and penalties
Riley on impact of penalties
Riley on his head
Riley on game-plan
Riley on USC’s defense
Riley on pass rush and rushing throws

Articles from USC

Here are the published articles I wrote for the USC game for

Miscues too much to overcome

Defense bright spot in loss

Both are free articles this time.

I did record a podcast on the drive home from LA. I’ll be putting it together over the next day or so, so expect to see that posted here at EMFMV by mid-day Tuesday (with player and coach quotes).

Deadblog: USC 17, Cal 3

3:13 PT: This is Jason in scenic Mill Valley, California. Ken Crawford is in the belly of the beast, at the Los Angeles Coliseum, for today’s game. We’ll both be reporting live here when the game begins. Feel free to chat in the comments. And Philip Michaels will join us from Alameda.

3:15 PT: Ken reports that “the field is nice and dry, as well as very shortly cut. I think that’s good for the Bears.”

4:21 PT: Ken reports that USC’s fans are cheering the scoreboard, namely Penn State’s loss and the Alabama-LSU game going into overtime. Ken: “This is why I’m not completely convinced that USC won’t overlook this game.”

4:36 PT: Uni watch: Ken reports that the Bears are wearing their white shirts and blue pants.

5:07 PT: And we’re on the air on ABC, in highly-defined splendor. “This isn’t gonna go well,” my wife says. The opening announcer talks about how few of these Cal-USC meetings have been as important as today’s. Which I guess is true, unless you consider three of the last five meetings… Ken: “The L.A. Coliseum is one LOUD stadium.”

5:14 PT: Ken: “The Bears didn’t waste any time having an important 3rd down.” And Best falls down. Maybe not the time for trickery. Ken: “And didn’t waste any time botching it… bad snap by Mack, odd.” Phil chimes in: “I consider it a moral victory that I turned on the TV and Cal is not yet behind. Just in time to see that hideous play call on third and short.” Ken: “And while we’re the topic, have I ever mentioned I HATE the direct snap?”

5:18 PT: Trojans offense making it look easy as they drive into the red zone. Ken: “Right now the Bears are getting outrun and outhustled.”

5:19 PT: Nice defense in the end zone by Hagan. On comes… Buehler? Buehler? Ben Stein says it’s good. USC 3, Cal 0. Phil: “Just defend, Darien, don’t talk.” Ken: “Bears dodged a bullet there forcing the FG attempt.” The defense definitely stiffened at the end there.

5:23 PT: Kickoff out of the back of the end zone. Ken: “Could we buy like 5 yards of USC’s kicker’s leg? He doesn’t need it.” Hey, Kenny Norton is on the sideline. Phil: “I am always sad when they cut to Ken Norton Jr. on the sideline, and he’s not wearing his cowboy hat.”

5:26 PT: Ken: “Looks like the Bears are going to have to, you know, actually throw the ball down the field.” Nice pass there to Boateng. Yeah, the run isn’t working so well so far.

5:27 PT: Longshore trips and falls. That’s the dexterity we’ve come to expect from Longshore. And then he calls a timeout. Phil: “Longshore is vying to be the first Cal QB to start in three USC games and look progressively worse in each one.”

5:29 PT: We’ve broken away for a Taco Bell score update. Phil: “Having eaten at a Taco Bell today, I’ve been having Taco Bell updates all afternoon. If you get my meaning.” Did I mention that I am fortunate that Phil is in Alameda and I am in Mill Valley?

5:30 PT: Oh, yes, USC Band, keep playing that song. I want them to cut over there and show a guy pushing a button on an iPod. There really is no USC band, is there? Phil: “Not true. I dated a girl in the USC band. Or more to the point, went out on one date with the girl in the USC band. (They do not like it when you make fun of their playlist.)” I would only be impressed if you dated a song girl, Phil.

5:32 PT: Cal has to punt after an incompletion on third down. Ken: “The receiver needs to keep coming back to that ball.  Then it’s a first down.”

5:32 PT: I find I am strangely not nervous about this game. That’s probably because I feel like Cal’s playing with the house’s money here. I don’t expect them to win, so if they play well, that’s a bonus. Now if they keep it close I will get nervous later on.

5:35 PT: Big 27-yard run on 2nd and 16. Yeah, that’s not good, Cal defense. Phil: “Apparently, the game plan is to have USC exhaust itself.” Ken: “Those are the moments that the defense needs to convert. They had 2nd and 16 on a penalty and needed to force a punt.”

5:38 PT:CelebrationIt’s actually hard to believe that Cal once beat USC. Long ago. In 2003. In a game that was replayed on ESPN Classic last night. Visualize.

5:39 PT (1:31 1st Quarter): Hey! Squad hit! USC has to punt. Wouldja look at that. Ken: “Luckily the Trojans game the Bears a rain-check with that false start and the Bears were able to force the punt. Interesting to see the D-Line go ‘narrow’ and that seemed to confuse the USC O-Line.”

5:42 PT: Ross drops a pass from Longshore for an easy first down. This is how good USC is: every drop feels like you’re letting the game slip away. But Best gets a first down on an 11-yard completion to Best while Longshore is running to his right. Best fights for the first – well done.

5:44 PT: And the first quarter ends with a 21-yard completion to Morrah to get Cal into USC territory! Ken: “The Bears need to throw the ball A LOT. USC is geared towards stuffing the run. They need to force them to be more balanced.” Phil: “1st qtr summary: kept it close, mantained dignity.” And that’s… one to grow on. USC 3, Cal 0.

5:47 PT: And we’re back for the second quarter. Impressive Boateng reception, hit so hard that his helmet came off (though he wears it loose, I believe) but holding on to the ball. Phil: “Cal players must lead the league in lost helmets. Use the straps. I invented them for a reason.”

5:49 PT: Longshore chased, should just throw it away, tries to complete a meaningless pass, and has it picked off. He is saved only by a stupid roughing the passer penalty against USC. Phil: “hooray negated turnovers! Ticky-tack, but I’ll take it.” Terrible judgment by Longshore, though. A clear force, as are many of his interceptions.

5:51 PT (2nd Q, 12:59): Ken: “USC fans are irate. But that was definitely roughing the passer. That was the right call. It’s one thing to continue with your momentum after the throw. It’s another thing to shove after the ball is released. That’s going to get called every time. Now, the interception… ugly.”

5:54 PT (2nd Q, 12:15): Phil: “not sure I agree with the idea that you call a timeout to yell at a guy.” Yeah, I think Pete Carroll’s anger got the best of him there. And the push on Longshore was while the ball was in the air. Then again, maybe he’s just trying to set up the officials for some sympathy later.

5:55 PT: Illegal snap. Ken: “OK, that’s twice I’ve heard that penalty. What does that mean, he moved the ball but didn’t snap it.”

5:56 PT: Longshore makes a terrible, terrible pass — just a Three Flies Up jump ball. Intercepted by USC. What in the world is he doing? And yet again, USC blows a turnover via a pass interference penalty. And a dumb one — the pick would have happened anyway. Ken: “THAT’S TWICE!” Phil: “hooray negated turn… you know the rest.”

5:57 PT (2nd, 10:53): Ken: “Refs are calling a very tight game.” No kidding. Five USC penalties and Cal’s still trailing here. Gotta take advantage, Bears. Vereen goes inside the 10, but that’ll be another flag — holding on Cal. Back we go. Ken: “VERY tight.”

5:59 PT: Great play on 1st and 25: an inside hand-off to gain a yard. Nice! 24 more of those…

6:00 PT: Screen to Best, and it’s sniffed out immediately. Great play on USC’s part. Ken: “Screens don’t work against experienced and fast line-backers.”

6:01 PT: Sean McDonough has just declared that Cal is excellently running down the clock. That’s just what we’re doing. Running out the clock in the second quarter. Later we’ll hide the ball and replace it with a squeaky toy. Score with that, USC!

6:03 PT (2nd, 8:53): On third and forever, they run short. Ken: “Ah, the classic setup a field-goal attempt play.” Tavecchio kicks it through! Our endless drive is over. Cal 3, USC 3. Phil: “well, it’s three points. even if it looked like a Tim Wakefield pitch.”

6:05 PT (2nd, 8:14): Ken: “An upside to that drive: took 8 minutes off the clock. A short game is good for the underdog.”

6:08 PT: Big gain for USC. Apparently the strategy is, let a guy be totally open and then don’t tackle him.

6:11 PT (2nd, 5:01): Ken: “Very unusual for the Bears.  Gerenally their zone defense is pretty good about not having hugely missed assignments.” Beautiful pass from Sanchez to Turner, Touchdown Trojans! USC 10, Cal 3. Ken: “Williams need to turn around and look for that ball.” Phil: “I, for one, welcome our USC overlords.”

6:15 PT: So that USC touchdown? Maybe not a touchdown. But it’s too late now. Also, Longshore’s accuracy has evaporated. One pass way low, one a bit too high but still caught. What’s up, Nate?

6:19 PT: Washington and Arizona State are tied 16-16 in the 3rd quarter. Before the game Ken predicted this might be the win for Washington, given how terrible ASU had been this year. Ken: “Excellent.  My evil prediction may just come true!” Don’t count Washington out, Ken. They still might blow it.

6:23 PT (2nd, 1:43): Carroll challenges a call, but it’s not overturned. First down Bears. Phil: “I’m sure Pete Carroll is a lovely man. And yet. Highly punchable. His punchability rating is off the charts.” Ken: “I think you could make a better argument for fumble than incomplete. But a Bear picked it up.” Nah, it was totally incomplete.

6:25 PT (2nd, 1:12): Another mistargeted pass from Longshore, incomplete, to the umpire. Screen to Ross, and again, USC is way too fast for that. Ross did a great job to gain 2 yards. Ken: “The Bears are not doing anything to stretch the field vertically like they were in the 1st quarter.”

6:26 PT: Oh, Nate. You fell down. Again. While chased. Ken: “Dexterity at its best, eh Jason?” Feet are complicated, Ken. Very complicated. Phil: “Oh, Lord. Someone revive Riley. Get Dr. Spaceman to give him medical clearance.”

6:29 PT: Cal punts and USC gets a couple shots at it. On the screen, ABC decides to keep the camera on Sanchez. We’re watching him watch the play! See how experimental it is! Phil: “stellar camera work.” It’s like this film was directed by Jean-Pierre Gorin.

6:31 PT (Halftime): And the half ends on a sack. Revenge!! Halftime. USC 10, Cal 3. Phil: “Well, it could be worse.” And it’s time for me to put my kids to bed. See you after the break.

6:39 PT: Ken’s Halftime Thoughts: “Bears are ‘kinda’ in this game. They need to make some substantial halftime adjustments. They need to stretch the field. They need to clean up the missed assignments. They need to find just a little bit more heart on defense and tackle a bit more consistently. But a couple of additional lucky breaks in the 2nd half coupled with those adjustments could result in a Bear win. I wouldn’t quite be headed to the mid-game betting sites with that, though.”

6:40 PT: There are lots of Cal home games where I feel that Cal was never really in jeopardy for the entire game. That’s sort of how I feel here — Cal’s hanging around, yet they don’t really seem to be threatening USC.

6:41 PT: So while I was driving my parents to Sonora today so they could empty their storage shed and complete their move to their new house, my father pointed out that he went to dental school with two members of Cal’s last Rose Bowl team. Pretty cool.

6:53 PT: And we’re back. And Tavecchio starts with a kick out of bounds. Auspicious!

6:54 PT: I love how the announcers are in awe of USC. I mean, yeah, they’re great. But listening to the announcers you’d think that USC could score on any play if they wanted, but they only score sometimes so that they don’t confuse the fans and embarrass the NCAA.

6:55 PT: USC for a nice gain. Ken: “OK, it’s a soften the blow piece of good news, but the good news is that the Bears are having good backside and secondary pursuit to prevent the big play. That run would have been a TD against less determined teams.”

6:56 PT: Sean McDonough says that blogs have been critical about the USC offense. Blogs? Critical? Well in that case, the USC offense sucks. There, what he said is provably true. And on cue, USC punts!

6:57 PT: And Kevin Riley is in. Let’s hope he’s still not goofy.

6:58 PT (3rd, 12:12): And just like that, Riley throws a pass complete for a first down. That’s the way, Riley.

6:59 PT: I like the switch to Riley, assuming he’s not seeing double out there — or invisible aliens. He gives the offense that scrambling dimension, and Nate has not been very accurate so far. Ken: “I was pestering the guys here in the booth that Tedford might make the switch.  Nobody believed me.” Ken knows his stuff, folks.

7:00 PT: Ken: “Well, it’s a big guessing game.  I was the one on the other side at the Arizona game who wouldn’t believe that Tedford was going to switch.” Riley scrambles, coming just short of a first down. Phil: “Not to pick on Nate, but he would have thrown about three different interceptions on that play.” Now here we go again — another time out due to running out of time on the play clock. Oh well.

7:02 PT: Just got accused on the Twitter of being partisan in my liveblogging. Big Cal logo up top, folks. Truth in advertising.

7:03 PT (3rd, 11:16): Deep throw on third and short, and a fantastic one-armed catch by Tucker. Wow. Have we finally found a WR?

7:04 PT (3rd, 11:01): Cal throws a beautiful touchdown pass, but they’re going to bring it back on the — you guessed it — penalty. Ineligible downfield. That’s just… terrible. Phil: “It was fun while it lasted.” Ken: “What goes around comes around.” Ken: “While a blow, the fact that the Bears marched so easily just put the Trojans on notice.”

7:06 PT: ABC has now certified that the penalty on the touchdown pass was complete B.S. Oh well — I guess it all evens out, right? Right??

7:08 PT (3rd, 10:12): And now a PI call on USC on 3rd and long. Phil: “flags work in our benefit! What a horribly played football game.” And so now it’s first down Cal. What a weird, messy game.

7:09 PT: Wow, Ross leaps over guys and gains 5. Phil: “Most dramatic four-yard gain ever.”

7:10 PT (3rd, 9:15): Pass tipped up and intercepted by USC in the end zone. Oh well. Not really Riley’s fault. It was fun while it lasted. Ken: “That was the right play just needed to float it a bit more so it wouldn’t be tipped. Otherwise it was a TD.” And to add insult to injury, the USC band plays “All Right Now.”

7:12 PT: So looking at these crowd shots… Am I right to think that you can send in an 8 x 10 glossy as a USC application?

7:13 PT: Ken: “Important 3rd down here.” Flag down, incomplete pass under pressure by Sanchez. And… penalty is against USC. Penalty declined. USC will have to punt.

7:15 PT: This liveblog is brought to you by Sierra Nevada Porter and the last of my wife’s chili. My wife’s chili: It’s What Was For Dinner.

7:17 PT: Riley sacked! Ken: “That’s one area where Longshore is a better QB. He gets rid of that ball.” Yeah, that’s Riley’s inexperience there.

7:18 PT: Phil’s portion of this liveblog is brought to you by Pacifico Beer and, uh, the Oyster. The kind you eat.

7:19 PT (3rd, 6:20): Third and 12. Riley throws it and it’s caught but dropped because he got smashed by the defender. Hard to ask the WRs to catch all of those. Anger must punt. Don’t Punt Back In Anger.

7:21 PT: Ken: “Riley needs to get better on these deep out patterns and get the ball there a 1/2 second earlier and to the outside. He’s going to get his receivers killed when in reality they’re doing a great job of getting open.”

7:22 PT: This looks like most of the other recent Cal-USC games. Cal hangs in there for a while and then it all goes wrong at the end.

7:24 PT (3rd, 4:22): Terrible tackling on a gain by USC. Phil: “Cal defended there like they thought we switched over to two-hand touch during the break.” Sack on Sanchez by Alulu with Follett. 3rd and long for USC. Completed, but short of the first down.

7:28 PT: Roughing the passer, and boy, was it. USC player nailed Riley in the neck with his helmet after the ball was away. Dirty play. Phil: “Hooray, roughing the passer! That’s our best play!” And then Best runs for 8 on first down.

7:29 PT: Nice Taufo’ou run. Ken: “It’s been a LONG time since the Bears have run the Fullback chrash. You could tell USC wasn’t expecting it.”

7:31 PT (3rd, :44): Now Cal gets very conservative with the play calling. Ken: “Um Tedford, we don’t just need a field-goal here.” Third and long. Aaand… flag. Of course. Phil: “I see we’ve reached the drive-stalling portion of the drive.”

7:33 PT: Cal punts. Phil: “don’t like the punt here. You’re down seven. in their territory. I know it’s fourth-and-long. But you gotta start going for it.” Ken: “Riley’s gone downhill in these last two drives. Can’t help but wonder if knocks are getting to his recently concussioned head. Particularly the cheap ones.”

7:35 PT: End of Third Quarter.Phil: “This is actually much how I envisioned this game playing out. Cal’s offense being largely inept. The defense keeping us in it. And then, in the fourth quarter, the sadness.” They show the Cal players holding up four fingers. What does that stand for, “The Fourth Quarter Is When It All Falls Apart For Us?” “Oh God, It’s The Fourth Quarter?” Ken’s analysis: “That was a pretty balanced 3rd quarter. The Bears could win this if they stop shooting themselves in the foot.”

7:38 PT: Some pretty weak tackling there, defense. First down USC. Ken: “Bears are starting to get worn down. They need to find an extra burst of heart REAL quick.” Yup. It’s strange, since the offense has actually been on the field a lot. But still, it’s hard to keep USC down. And that’s an understatement.

7:39 PT: Terrible tackling on a 16-yard McNight run, and then– he ran too far, so they stripped the ball. Fumble! Cal ball. Phil: “I was about to complain bitterly about the lack of tackling. But I’m quite happy he was not tackled. Someone hit the spin button too much.” Huzzah! Ken: “That’s the kind of break the Bears needed.” Now to do something with it.

7:42 PT: Ken: “Now, uh-hem, I give you, the up until now missing…. drum roll please… California Golden Bear OFFENSE!” To be fair, USC’s defense has been spectacular this year. Ken: “Yeah, but the plays have been there and the Bears aren’t converting.” Fair enough.

7:43 PT: And… false start. Again. Phil: “The next person that jumps loses their scholarship.” Ken: “Was there like a sale on yellow flags at K-Mart today or something?”

7:45 PT (4th, 12:15): And yet another penalty, this against USC negating a sack on Riley. Apparently Cal’s playcalling here is, chuck it down field. Not a terrible idea at this point, I suppose. Phil: “USC will see our stupid play and raise us another stupid play.”

7:47 PT: Riley to Morrah deep, but he readjusted and couldn’t get it. Hit off his hands. Painful. Punty punty.

7:50 PT: Phil: “The guy in this Holiday Inn Express commercial — not the one eating eggs — plays the evil managing editor in the final season of ‘The Wire.'” Watching these commercials makes me long for the home games where we just stare at the guy with the red vest who’s stopping the game and boo him.

7:50 PT (4th, 10:34): This is the point in the game where USC scores two TDs and puts it away. Just saying. Ken: “11 minutes left. Hold out hope my friend. I’m not ready to face reality yet.”

7:53 PT: Ken: “88523 is today’s attendance. Crowd is not happy to be back at commercial.” Blame Pete Carroll for calling a timeout here. Now who’s running out the clock, eh?

7:55 PT (4th, 9:23): USC fails on the third-down conversation, an incompletion, which means Cal will get the ball back. Syd fair-catches at the 12 yard line.

7:57 PT: Best for no gain up the middle. Ken: “Good call with 9:20 remaining, a run up the gut.” Yeah. And Best is at his best without space. Sure.

7:57 PT: And they follow that up with a sweep to the left. Yeah, that’s it, Cal, establish the running game. Now it’s 3rd and 9 with eight minutes to go. Perfect. How about some 10-yard pass routes instead of bombs and sweeps? And Riley on the overthrow. Fourth down. Phil: “Is there a 3rd QB we can try?”

7:59 PT: Nice punt by Anger. A shame Cal can’t punt itself into the lead. But it can’t. Otherwise Cal would have been undefeated in the Nick Harris In Punt Formation years.

8:00 PT: Pass knocked down by Worrell Williams and almost picked off. So close. And yet, this is USC. At the Coliseum. And so here comes the sadness. And USC gains 17 to midfield on the third-down pass. It’s slipping out of reach…

8:02 PT: Here’s the thing. USC’s defense is remarkable. And yet, Cal has had a bunch of chances. And they just haven’t converted. They have had the chances to beat USC, but they’ve just not been good enough. If the other team is good and you’re not, that’s a recipe for a loss if ever I’ve heard one.

8:04 PT (4th, 5:00): Another first down, to the 25. USC keeps moving the ball, hoping to go up two scores and put it away. Cal is definitely wearing down now. It’ll take a major mistake by USC or a huge play by the Cal defense to make a difference here.

8:05 PT: And another first down, and the clock keeps rolling. Phil: “Essentially any score here ends the game. As Cal’s not going to score twice.” I think they aren’t going to score again, period.

8:09 PT: Touchdown Trojans. USC 17, Cal 3. And it’ll be 24-3 once Cal throws an interception that’s run back for a touchdown on the next drive.

8:11 PT: So these days we get eliminated from the Rose Bowl in November instead of September. Is that progress?

8:13 PT: Painful stat. Riley is 3 for 12. Make it 13. It’s a shame that this year’s great defense has such a weak offense backing it up.

8:16 PT: Riley chucks the ball ineptly on fourth down. Phil: “well, that pretty much sums up the game.” Yeah. So it ends. There’s that sadness Phil was talking about.

8:19 PT: Tedford is frustrated. Phil: “Well, he should be. His team just played 60 minutes of undisciplined football. Who does that reflect upon?”

8:20 PT: So, what’s USC going to do here? Kick the FG? Take a knee? No, they go for it, don’t get it. And Cal will get one exciting play with 8 seconds left.

8:22 PT: What do you do, Taylor Mays? Knock it down. Game Over. USC 17, Cal 3. USC has won seven of the last eight against the Bears. And don’t we know it. Good night, everyone.

50 Years

(The following was originally posted before the Cal-USC game on November 18, 2006. The situation is not entirely the same: this is not a play-in game, because Oregon State lurks the following week. And yet I feel the need to restate just what’s at stake, in the grand scheme of things. And so here you go: a rerun.)

This is it. The Rose Bowl is on the line. A game that Cal can win to potentially end 50 years of frustration. To help the faithful Cal fans reach one of their lifelong — and, at times, seemingly insurmountable — sports goals.

I have said for many years now that I have only two sports wishes in my life. One is for my beloved San Francisco Giants to win a World Series. (Hope Russ Ortiz still has that ball.) The other is for my beloved Cal Bears to play in (not win, just play in) the Rose Bowl.

And now a (perhaps temporary) sense of calm has settled over me. I can’t play in the game, have no control over the outcome. USC has been, over the last few years, one of the most dominant teams in college football.

And all Cal has to do is win. Win, and erase 50 years of misery. Win, and heal feelings about Bruce Snyder and Roger Theder and Joe Kapp. Win, and give Cal fans something greater to hang their hats on than the crushing of a random trombone player. Win.

Thousands of trees have been chopped down to supply paper for navel-gazing Bostonians to write about what the Boston Red Sox curse, and its exorcism, meant to them. Cubs fans are famous for suffering endlessly at the hands of bad teams interspersed with the occasional moment of hope that’s immediately dashed by painful failure.

I understand what they feel. But it doesn’t go the other way. Most people outside of our little circle do not know the magnitude of what this would mean to us. Cal fans have suffered in silence, suffered through Tom Holmoe and Keith Gilbertson and the Joe Kapp years and many years of poor-to-mediocre play that preceded the appearance of my young self on the benches of Memorial Stadium.

I can’t speak for the new faces that have filled Memorial Stadium the last few years. I’m sure they’re excited, and I’m glad they’re aboard for the ride. But I speak as someone who has seen the lean times, who chanted the mantra “Keep It Close, Lose With Dignity,” who stood outside the stadium and cheered Tom Holmoe because Cal merely lost to Nebraska rather than getting blown out. Who watched Stanford run around with the axe innumerable years and then cap it off with their own inconceivable trip to the Rose Bowl. Who has seen older people from the benches around us disappear from this world during the off-season, never to see the Bears reach that goal.

The other week I was riding the bus to work and began to think about what I would do if Cal played in the Rose Bowl. I really couldn’t even get my arms around it, emotionally. And very quickly I stuffed it all back down under a pillow in a corner of my mind, promising myself that there was no point in running that emotional simulation when the goal was so far off. There would be plenty of time to live the event after it occurred, if somehow a series of ridiculous events that began with Cal hiring a brilliant football coach and recruiting a series of star players culminated in the most ridiculous event of all: a conference championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

There would be tears, certainly. And madness, incoherent shouting and whooping. And perhaps the distinct buzzing feeling that we’ve all been transported to some parallel universe where black is white and night is day and man bites dog.

But that’s all hypothetical. And it will remain so unless Jeff Tedford’s team does one thing in the Coliseum. One simple thing.


Optimism springs eternal

Note to readers: This is part of a two-post thread. The first is Confessions of a Bears fan

So, picking up where I left off, in the face of such a difficult challenge, why is it that I’m so optimistic?

I can say this, I’m not alone. Reading the various message boards there are optimistic people everywhere. A thousand different reasons are given for the optimism but all of them generally overlook the fundamentals of the game, trying to beat a very good defensive team in their stadium where they just about never lose.

So here’s my 6 point list on why there are reasons to be optimistic:

  1. A win would exceed expectations: I’ll start with the reason for optimism that has nothing to do with the likelihood the Bears will win tomorrow. The first is that the Bears are in a position to do better than everyone expected. It’s a lot easier to be hopeful about a team that has generally met or exceeded expectations. Everyone expected USC to beat the Bears, so the worst than can happen tomorrow is that the Bears meet expectations by losing
  2. Low scoring games favor the underdog: With the defenses being the units that are expected to be victorious, most people are expecting a low scoring game. Low scoring games tend to be good for the underdog. All it takes are a couple of lucky breaks, a missed assignment here or there, and the Bears could have a couple ‘undeserved’ scores that could be the difference in a low scoring affair.
  3. Turnovers: The Bears are one of the best teams in the nation, turnover wise. A couple of big interceptions could make a huge difference in the game, particularly ones that either go for a touchdown or lead directly to a score. Sanchez may have his advantages over Booty, but one thing he is not is proven or mistake-free. A couple of timely interceptions could be all it takes to put the Bears over the top, particularly if it’s a low scoring game.
  4. This team has heart: Something that has been missing from the team the last few years is heart. The 2002-2004 teams were remarkably determined teams that often WAY over-achieved. Some of their most disappointing losses were proof of that. Sometimes heart isn’t enough. But heart also gives you a shot a games you have no business winning. Heart can help you reel off 23 consecutive completions against USC in LA. Heart can help you go to Michigan and take down a highly ranked MSU team despite coming off a 1-10 season. The last few years, particularly ever since Ayoob collapsed, have lacked some of that heart. This team seems to have the heart back.
  5. USC is over-looking this game: With USC still hoping for a BCS championship berth, their attention is on winning with style-points, not just winning. When one does that, they have the potential to forget the little things like holding on to the football and making sure to wrap up a runner instead of going for the big hit. One can’t say for sure whether USC will overlook the Bears, but it’s a possibility. They may come out flat. They may be mistake prone. In a low scoring affair, that may be all the Bears need.
  6. It’s bound to happen sometime:If not now, when? Cal keeps going to LA and keeps coming up just a few points short. At some point, they’re going to have to break through. Just like they broke through in Eugene in 2007, at some point they’ll break through in LA. It’s just a matter of time. The question is whether that’s a matter of hours or of years.

Will these reasons matter tomorrow? An honest person would probably have to bet against them (well, if they weren’t getting nearly 3 TDs in the spread). But hope springs eternal and this Bear fan, while accepting that the Bears are probably going to lose, is pretty darned optimistic.