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Archive for December, 2008


Last BearTerritory.net 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 BearTerritory.net 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 BearTerritory.net 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 BearTerritory.net, 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 BearTerritory.net 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 BearTerritory.net, 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).

Emerald Bowl On The Road Home Podcast

My final podcast of the season is up. Have a listen below.

Consider the comment section of this post the best place to put feedback for next year’s podcasts. Now is a good time to get those in because some of them might require I go about things differently. The one piece of feedback I got that I liked and somehow forgot to do most of this season was to do a quick game recap at the beginning of the podcast. I’ll make sure I get back in the habit of that next season. In any case, let me know what you like and don’t like and want added.

Here are the player and coach quotes at the end:

Tedford’s openning comments
Tedford on mixing passing and running
Tedford on Miami’s adjustments
Tedford on winning TD play
Tedford on 4th down conversions
Tedford on Jahvid Best’s performance
Follett on forced fumble
Follett on bowl environment
Longshore on Anthony Miller
Longshore on winning final game
Best on his great game
Mack on his last game
Gregory on defensive performance
Gregory on Miami offense
Gregory on big defensive plays
Gregory on Follett’s play
Gregory on Follett’s leadership
Gregory on Follett rallying troops
Gregory on 3-4 transition

24-17… why does that sound familiar?

Maybe because that’s the score I predicted on national TV! If you fast-forward to the 3:57 mark in this youtube video you can hear it for yourself.

I seem to be able to pull the exact score about once a season. I did it last year for the Cal vs. Oregon game with a 31-24 pick, a pick that many derided me for as well under what should be the actual score. Some would call it luck, and there is no doubt that the exact score is all about luck, but to get that lucky you’ve got to be picking scores that are in the right ballpark pretty often for the odds of getting lucky to be high enough for it to happen even occasionally, much less once a season.

Beyond that, I seem to have a knack for picking the exact score for the big ones that aren’t the Big Game. Last year’s Oregon game was the only game I covered in person for BearTerritory.net and was of course a huge game at the time including GameDay showing up in Eugene. I’ve come pretty close with the USC game once or twice too. Not sure why that is other than to say I bring my ‘A’ game for the big ones.

Alright, that’s all the last of the bragging you’ll hear about this (well, the yet to be published podcast has some too :) ) until I nail another one. Just couldn’t help myself.

LiveBlogging Emerald Bowl

Well, I’m here in the pressbox. As I suspected, we’re using the baseball pressbox, which is in a great spot for a baseball game but a horrible spot for a football game. I’m in the corner of the endzone and pretty low too. The good news is that there is a good TV right in front of me to get that view of things.

3:35 PM: We’re still nearly 1 1/2 hours from kickoff, but I’ll give a few updates between now and then. I’m going to take some pictures now…

3:40 PM: Oh, before I go and just to drive everyone crazy, Riley is listed as the starting QB on the official press depth chart. Sometimes these things are printed days before the game and they make corrections over the air just before game time. In any case, I think Longshore is starting, but it was interesting to see that.

4:21 PM: I’m back from my tour of the stadium taking pictures. Quite the cozy little stadium. It was a weird feeling to see all the high end concessions and particularly all the alcohol which they don’t server in college stadiums. It’s pretty clear to me that the point of new stadiums is to increase concession revenue dramatically.

4:23 PM: The Bears are in yellow tops and blue pants. Miami is in white tops and orange pants. Cal gets the bench on the east side of the 50 (so towards the home-run wall) and Miami the west side (towards the 1st base line).

4:36 PM: Reason number 4354934 why you should attend the game in person: I’m pretty sure the Emerald Nut mascots are never going to be on TV. One is a nut and the other is a nut container.

4:37 PM: Cal is starting their pre-game band show and the stands are a little more than 1/2 full.

4:45 PM: Now it’s Miami’s band’s turn. It’s not exactly clear where the Miami section is. Although from the sounds of things it might be right above me in the 2nd deck. The band is not as good as the Bears.

4:47 PM: In entirely different news, I saw Kirk Herbstreet’s picks this morning. He was using confidence points for the games 1-34 for each of the bowls. He not only picked the Bears to win but picked them with 33 points, so it’s the bowl he has the 2nd most confidence in his pick.

4:54 PM: With the end of the anthem, they then had 3 parachuters come down. A Cal flag one, a UM flag one and an American flag one. See what you’re missing?

4:58 PM: Word came down that Miami will be without their starting TE (#18 Dedrick Epps) who has a leg contusion.

5:04 PM: Cal won the toss and will receive. Miami will defend the west endzone to start. There is very little breeze and completely overcast to the degree it “feels” almost misty but there doesn’t seem to be any rain falling.

5:07 PM (14:57 1st) Not the most graceful kickoff by Miami. He slipped as he kicked the ball giving the Bears the ball on the 37. The Bears return the favor when Longshore mis-threw the ball to Ross who was open behind the defense on a deep crossing route. Longshore’s 2nd throw didn’t look any better. Not sure what the story is but that’s not the start Tedford was hoping for out of Longshore. Nor the punt they wanted out of Anger… only 35 yards.

5:10 PM (13:30) Welcome to the 3-4 Miami. That type of play on 1st down plays right into the hands of Follett playing on the edge when he releases the receiver into the zone.

5:14 (12:22) Both teams went 3 and out on their first possession. Looks like my prediction that this would be a lower scoring affair than people think may be about right.

5:17 (11:06) It’s the Bears who commit the first turnover. That was one heck of a strip by Miami. Vereen held on pretty well but just couldn’t muscle it away. Now it’s time for the Bear defense to step it up and force another punt.

5:19 (9:25) Miami is sorely mistaken if they think they can get 1st downs running between the tackles on 3rd and 5. Bears forced the punt they needed to nullify the fumble.

5:23 (8:30) Longshore is playing with fire on both of those two passes, particularly the 1st one where it looked like he was throwing it away but it was not out of bounds. And then he COMPLETELY redeems himself with that perfect throw to Tucker who ran like his life depended on it in route to the endzone. This is going to be reviewed.

5:27 (8:17) Yeah, his knee was definitely down. Ball should be placed around the 1 yard-line. Review is taking a long time. Are these Pac-10 refs? Indeed, ball at the 2. Shouldn’t matter. The Bears have no excuse if they can’t punch this in.

5:31 (7:15) Well, it took two tries but sure enough the Bears punch it in. Bears up 7-0.

5:32 (7:15) It definitely seems that Miami is doing a lot of press defense and there will be lots of opportunities for the Bears to pass over the top for big gains.

5:34 (7:15) The Miami band is USC-esque in their decisions to play songs even when they just got schooled. As an example, their 5 yard run gain that got them from 2nd and 23 to 3rd and 18, got a “good play” song.

5:37 (5:05) Horrible punt by Miami. Bears will get the ball on the Miami 42. And Best doesn’t waste anytime making the best of that short field. Best’s ability to accelerate away from the last set of defenders really shows his speed. Bears up, and fast at that, 14-0.

5:43 (4:09) Another 3 and out for Miami. This Bear defense really has Miami confused. They can’t run. They can’t figure out the coverages. They can’t block the rushers. It just looks ugly for Miami.

5:45 (3:19) That was a very poorly sold trick play by the Bears. You could just tell that something was amiss by the way Longshore tossed the ball to Best. Longshore did the right thing by throwing it away.

5:46 (2:29) Longshore is throwing too tall when he mis-throws. Missed a pretty open Tucker to end the drive.

5:50 (0:16) Miami gets their first big play. Minus that play they had less than 10 total yards in the 1st quarter, which ended just after the play. Looked like a blown coverage of some sort. Didn’t catch how.

5:57 (13:46 2nd quarter) Miami dropped an easy TD in the endzone. The Bear defense lost a little something on this drive. Most of the plays are good, but there are just a few breakdowns here and there. The long pass, the QB run, the missed pass, and now a TD pass where Hagan just looked dazed. He was in position but didn’t make the right moves. The Bears need to get out of this funk. Bears still up 14-7.

6:08 (11:07) Boy, the Bears funk continues. Anger has lost his punting magic (the one good punt sailing way into the endzone) and the offense just isn’t operating on all cylinders. If the defense can return to their dominating ways though, it won’t matter.

6:16 PM (8:11) Well, it wasn’t as efficient or pretty as the first quarter’s stops but the Bear force a punt after only one 1st down. The Bears get the ball back at the 20 after the punt went into the endzone. Let’s see if the Bears can get out of their offensive funk.

6:20 (6:30) OK, another blown up trick play for the Bears. Looks like Miami doesn’t bite on that sort of thing. Hopefully that’s the last attempt at that because both times it has put the Bears behind the chains and ended up resulting in a punt.

6:27 (1:47) I had a feeling that if Miami kept up their pass-happy ways they’d eventually make a mistake and sure enough, Mohammed intercepts the ball at a critical time. With less than 2:00 left in the half, it gives the Bears not only a short field but one more opportunity to score before the end of the half. A TD would be huge here. There’s a big difference between 14-7 and 21-7.

6:31 (1:18) Of course when you can’t get a 1st down, it really doesn’t matter does it? The Bear offense has really stalled here in the 2nd quarter. They’ve only gotten one 1st down in the 2nd half. Not good. Luckily it seems Miami doesn’t know how to manage the clock and the half ends without incident.

6:40 (Halftime) Well, the defense has done their job. Minus the one drive where they didn’t quite look right, they’ve been very solid particularly in the 1st quarter. The offense on the other hand has not impressed overall. Really it’s been about one big pass and one big run. Otherwise its been inconsistent. Now the Miami defense seems to have the philosophy of “stop Best at all costs” and is just daring Longshore to throw the ball. So far he’s not proven up to the challenge. Part of that has been poor pass-protection. That’s particularly important because I think the “stop Best at all costs” philosophy leaves some room down the field for big plays. But for those to develop, the QB needs time to throw. The other thing the offense needs to do is give up on the trick play. Miami isn’t biting. I’ll tell you this: Longshore isn’t taking advantage of this unique opportunity to give himself a bump in the NFL draft.

7:02 (13:05) I don’t get Miami’s strategy on 3rd and long. They seem time and time again to go with plays that don’t have a chance. Is it just a lack of confidence in the passing game?

7:03 (12:20) Of course Longshore isn’t inspiring any more confidence with his lack of accuracy on the out routes. Bears are punting again. They’d better hope the defense keeps it up because the offense isn’t going to score a ton of points unless something signficant changes.

7:11 (8:54) The Miami running game is starting to open up and Miami is looking pretty balanced. This is bad news for the Bears. Miami had nearly 19 minutes of possession in the 1st half. That’s got to be wearing down the Bear defense despite how well they’re playing. What the defense really needs is for the offense to get their act in gear.

7:13 (7:34) Miami is able to convert their 3rd and goal from the 6 for a touchdown and this game is tied: 14-14.

7:16 (7:34) So, if you’re Tedford, what do you do? Do you keep Longshore in there at this point? Or is it time for a change?

7:18 (7:20) Or do you just hand it off to Best over and over?

7:19 (6:56) Boy, what is the story with Longshore? I’ve been one to be a bit soft on him because he battled through injury and had gotten too much blame for the teams short-comings. But there is no denying how poorly he’s playing tonight. He’s had guys wide open and just completely missed them. Ross was at a minimum going to get a big gain out of that one and if he could have slipped one tackle would have quickly found himself in the endzone. Instead a wounded duck hits the turf 5 yards behind him.

7:25 (3:48) Well, if there is one good thing it is that Miami has had to use two timeouts for the defense not being ready for the snap. That could matter later in a tight game. For this 47 yard FG, there’s no wind of any sort. The biggest issue may be the turf which has been a bit slippery… what the… they decided to go for it and then call a timeout? And now they’re going for it again?… well it worked out. But I don’t think it was the wise move there. Take the points.

7:29 (3:08) Cal picked a HORRIBLE time for their first penalty of the game. From 1st and goal at the 5 to now at the 10 is a really big difference. Although when Best takes it down to the 1 on 1st down. Now they just need to punch it in… or have Longshore trip coming away from center… you know whatever works. UGH! At least the field-goal is an easy one now. Bears back in the lead 17-14.

7:43 (13:33 4th quarter) The Bears just got the shaft. Not only did the punt go off so quick that the box didn’t have a chance to review Worrell’s INT (which was much closer than I thought) but the running into the kicker gives Miami a 1st down. A bad break.

7:48 (11:44) Bear defense is looking tired again. The intensity is just not there that was there in the 1st half. Add in the balance of the Miami offense and things are not looking nearly as good. This stand from 1st and goal from the 8 is very important. A tie and the Bears just need to get some offense going. Down 17-21 and I think it will be hard to recover.

7:51 (9:13) And the Bears hold to force the field-goal. The game is back to tied: 17-17.

7:58 (8:15) Back to running game and it’s working. Vereen now is busting off some good runs too. The Bears are already down in FG range. Unfortunately a one-dimensional team is eventually one that will get stopped. So the Bears come up a 1/2 yard short at the 16 yard-line. Then Tavecchio pulls the FG attempt and the game remains tied. It did give the defense a good rest though and a reason to believe their efforts are not in vein.

8:05 (4:24) The Bears have to be careful here. A long drive could take 4 minutes and give the Bears no chance to respond if Miami scores. Basically, the defense needs to get a quick stop here.

9:19 (Game over) Sorry for not giving notice on disappearing. Had to make my way down to the field for post-game interviews. In any case, while the defense and Follett deserve a lot of credit for forcing that fumble deep in Miami territory, overall it was a lucky break as I saw it. The reality was that outside of that, the Cal offense was sputtering and the Miami offense was gaining momentum. That one turnover changed everything and let the defense tee-off on Miami to prevent a tying score.

More commentary in the days to come…

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?

Some thoughts on Miami/Emerald Bowl

Well, I don’t know for the rest of you but the break between the Washington game and the bowl game went by like a flash. Let me tell you, I went to every game this season in person, driving to every one of them but WSU and Maryland, and the Emerald Bowl will make it 13 games in 4 months. I have an entirely new appreciation for how the wear and tear of the season affects the players. It’s a long season and when you’ve got to be a full time student at the same time, or in my case have to work full time and support the family, it definitely takes its toll over the course of the season.

In any case, here are some ‘as they come to me’ thoughts on the upcoming game:

  • About 10% of the fans will be Miami fans. They sold 4000 tickets through UM. While some of those were to Bear fans I’m sure, I think it’ll be offset by Miami fans who bought tickets through other sources. As a comparison, Stanford accounted for about 15% of the Big Game crowd.
  • Speed, speed and more speed. Both teams love to emphasize speed on both sides of the ball. Of course Javhid Best is all about speed. So are the Miami RBs. Perhaps Cal doesn’t have the speediest wide-receivers, but there is speed there. Miami’s are even faster. The same goes on defense.
  • Generally speaking, teams that rely on speed, rely on the big play and I think that has proven out this season for the Bears. It’s also true that the key to the Bear defense is preventing the big play while also getting pressure on the QB and good run stopping. That’s what the 3-4 is all about. It’s why the Bears were able to beat Oregon. So while I don’t expect the Cal offense to run wild on the Miami defense because they’ve got a lot of defensive speed, I do expect the Cal defense to do even better at coraling Miami. Particularly considering how mistake prone they can be, I think that’s something to be optimistic about.
  • Playing in SF seems to be working out just fine for the Bears. Nobody seems to be complaining. If anything the low expectations for the bowl environment has helped them appreciate it more. Add in the comfort of practicing at home and the heavy fan bias at the game and I think the Bears should come ready to play.
  • If you ever want to feel better about the Cal QB situation, read up some on the Miami QB situation. It’s a big difference between what Cal is dealing with where you’ve got two capable guys who just haven’t been able to make the leap to being good/great consistently and Miami where they’ve got really young guys who are very mistake prone and have fundamental problems. It feels more like Ayoob vs. Levy than Riley vs. Longshore.
  • Miami is up to 5 suspended players. While most of them don’t seem like big hits to their on the field success, it does feel to me like there are some control issues for Miami. Remember that this is a program that is trying to clean its act up after a number of years where it was ‘anything goes’. While everyone was OK with that when they were winning national championships, now there is a renewed desire to see them play more cleanly. In any case, I’m not sure it will affect the outcome, but it’s one of those indicators that suggest not all is well inside the Miami camp.
  • There seemed to be a certain lack of comfort/confidence of the Miami players at the Tuesday press conference. I could even be so bold as to say they looked tired and dazed. I suspect that San Francisco rain, a biting cold rain that is as dreary as it gets, just isn’t what they expected when they came to “California” for a bowl game. The more I think about it, if one team is going to come out of the tunnel under-prepared and lacking intensity, it’ll be Miami.

Those are my thoughts. But before you go thinking I think this game will be a walk in the park, if Miami comes to play and does a good job of coraling the Bears, I think it’ll be a tough one for them to win. It’s really about the Cal defense playing to their potential and tackling well. They’ve got to give the Cal offense plenty of chances to score and not require too many scores to win.

Longshore to start

Yes, it’s official. Longshore is going to start the Emerald Bowl.

Most people thought when Tedford openned back up the QB position for the Emerald bowl it was just a ploy to either keep Miami on their toes or to keep Riley motivated to push hard. Well Tedford outdid himself in the surprise category yesterday by announcing that Longshore would start.

Make sure to vote in the poll. Is this the right choice?

Statistical Preview Article

My weekly statistical preview article is up at BearTerritory.net:

http://cal.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=893517

This is a subscription article.

Emerald Bowl Preview Podcast

My BearTerritory.net weekly podcast is up over at BearTerritory.net:

http://cal.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=893304

As always it is the one weekly piece of free content from me over at BearTerritory.net. Lots of discussion of Miami in it.

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish everyone out there a Blessed and Merry Christmas. Christ is amongst us!

As for the Cal blogging, yeah it has been slow ever since the Washington game wrap-up. I can’t speak for Jason, but for me I just needed a break. I will be live-blogging the Emerald Bowl from the pressbox however and expect a couple posts between now and then.

Merry Christmas

Washington On The Road Home Podcast

My weekly OTRH podcast is finished. Have a listen:

Time for my annual bowl rant

Well, it’s the day of the final bowl selections, which means it is time for my annual rant about how bad the Pac-10 bowl lineup is.

The Pac-10 deserves a 2nd team playing on New Years day. End. Of. Story. Here are some of the other teams that get a New Years Day game (in order of not-so-bad to serious injustice):

  • Michigan State: At 9-3, one game better than the Bears, which I’m sure I don’t have to remind everyone handily beat them, but they don’t have to play in the supposedly weak Pac-10. Were the Bears playing in a “just short of New Years Day” bowl, that would be one thing, but we’re not. we’re playing in a “you can’t even sniff New Years Day yet” bowl. So while a more-or-less superior Cal is playing in the Nut Bowl, Michigan State is playing in the high paying Capital One bowl.
  • Iowa: At 8-4, the next on the list, but a team two further down the Big-10 standings from Michigan State.
  • Clemson: At 7-5, yes you read that right, they’re record is as bad as the WORST Pac-10 team who is in the bowl games. I also submit to you that Arizona would be a handful for Clemson to beat. Nevertheless they’re playing in the Gator bowl.
  • South Carolina: Also 7-5, South Carolina’s biggest claim to fame is that they play in the tough SEC and have what used to be one of the best coaches in college football.

So, here’s the count of teams each conference has on or after New Years day:

  • SEC: 5 (Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Old Miss.)
  • Big-10: 4 (Penn St., Ohio St., Michigan St., Iowa)
  • Big-12: 4 (Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech., Nebraska)
  • ACC: 2 (Virginia Tech, Clemson)
  • Big East: 1 (Cincinnati)
  • Pac-10: 1 (USC)

(Note, I’m ignoring the oddly placed AutoZone Liberty, International and GMAC bowls that are oddly after New Years day)

Tell me that the Pac-10 doesn’t deserve AT LEAST 2 teams on New Years day with the option of as many as 4 with two BCS berths and one other “at-large” option in addition to a 2nd guaranteed New Years day or later bowl.

It’s time for the Pac-10 commishioner to start getting on the ball here.

It’s official: Emerald Bowl vs. Miami

Well, word broke Saturday evening before the Arizona vs. ASU game was even finished that the Bears were headed to the Emerald bowl as everyone expected. All that we were waiting on was the opponent from the ACC, which would likely be Miami but could also be Florida State.

Of course what the decision to give the bid to Cal before the Arizona game was complete was that it wouldn’t have mattered if ASU won. The Vegas bowl was willing to take the winner of that game, whether or not they were better than 6-6. That was a bit surprising to me, although not completely so.

The opponent of Miami is not as nice as FSU would have been, but it’s still a notable East Coast team which means there will be more people watching. Although the Vegas bowl gets a lot higher pick in the Mountain West than the Emerald gets in the ACC, the reality is that the ACC is going to get a lot more attention from the “east coat bias” reporters than the Vegas. In that sense, the Emerald is a better bowl.

Here’s the entire Pac-10 lineup (no surprises):

USC in Rose vs. Penn State
Oregon in Holiday vs. Oklahoma State
Oregon State in Sun vs. Pittsburg
Arizona in Vegas vs BYU
Cal in Emerald vs Miami
No team for Hawaii bowl
No team for Poinsettia bowl

Washingon Statistical Preview

My weekly statistical preview article is posted over at BearTerritory.net:

http://cal.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=885778

As always it is a subscription article.

Washington Practice Podcast

My weekly press conference and practice podcast over at BearTerritory.net is up:

http://cal.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=885311

As always this is free to non-subscribers.

While We’re Airing Grievances…

From Pat Forde on ESPN.com:

Nastiest Fans — USC’s, last Saturday for the Notre Dame game. There were churlish drivers by the dozens en route to the stadium. There was the surly elevator operator who tried to tell a woman (Irish fan) escorting her son in a wheelchair that she had to leave her two young daughters behind to wait for the next elevator. And there were the fans spewing penitentiary-worthy profanity at the Notre Dame players and coaches as they exited the field. That “SC” stands for Stay Classy, Trojans fans.

My wife would certainly agree. And I would too. We have never seen ruder, more classless fans than the ones we met at the Coliseum. I won’t generalize — not all USC fans are jerks. But there are a bunch of jerks who like to dress up in red, go to the Coliseum, and say really nasty stuff.