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Archive for August, 2009

Pick’Em League is ready

OK Bear fans… it’s time to sign-up for the best Pick’Em league for Pac-10 fans. None of this boring Top 25 stuff where, lets be honest, we’re picking scores for teams that we know next to nothing about nor do we really care about. I mean seriously, can you say with a straight face that when Cincinnati plays Southeast Missouri State, you actually care about the game?

None of that garbage in my Pick’Em.

It’s just Pac-10 games (it includes non-conference) and nothing else. Additionally, you pick a score for each game, not a winner based on either the “confidence points” that some leagues use or the betting point spread. Nope, you’ll be judged straight up on your ability to pick a good score for the game and whether you can pick the actual winner (50% winner, 50% score).

It really is the best Pick’Em league out there for us Pac-10 fans (and feel free to have your friends from rival Pac-10 schools sign up too).

Sign up by clicking on the Pick’Em link on the title bar!

2009 Game-by-Game predictions

Each year I do my best to predict the score of each game for the upcoming season. I take a great deal of pride in my predictions and give them an exhausting amount of thought. One the one hand, it’s hard not to boast about picking the exact score twice in the last two year (Oregon 2007 and Emerald Bowl 2008). But more importantly, if you look at my 2008 predictions, other than missing the Maryland loss, my only oversight was picking which of Oregon and Oregon State Cal would lose to. (OK, there’s the small matter of thinking 6-3 in the conference would get Cal into the Holiday bowl too.)

So, at the risk of boasting too much and being way too bold (too late!) here are my predictions for 2009:

Cal 31, Maryland 17:
Cal will get its revenge in Berkeley. Between the game starting at 10 PM Eastern time (could this game be going at 2 AM Eastern!?!) and the cold Berkeley fog rolling in, it’ll be just as much of a shocker as the muggy heat at 9 AM was to the Bears. But more importantly, the Bears will get their revenge by playing a solid game with the new and improved Kevin Riley under center.

Cal 45, E. Washington 10:
This game should be about as interesting as Sac State in 2005 or Portland State in 2006. The most interesting aspect of this game will be how many backups get how much playing time to get a sense in a real-time game environment just how deep this Cal team is.

Minnesota 13, Cal 27:
This game will play out just like the last Minnesota game. A one-sided Big-11 team will find out that Pac-10 defenses are just not going to be beat by a one-sided team. So forget everything you’ve heard about how good they are this year. They’ll be too one-dimensional to win. What might happen, and might just get a number of Bear fans nervous is that the Bear offense won’t be firing on all cylinders so far from home. However, it won’t be enough to lose.

Oregon 31, Cal 28:
If there’s one game on the schedule I feel least comfortable about, it’s this one. I’d almost like to put two scores, one were Cal wins somewhat handily because every reason one has to be suspicious about this Oregon team (problems on both sides of the line, secondary issues, new head coach, etc.) come true and one where those weakness are no big deal and Cal loses handily. I feel that it’s unlikely this game will be as close as the previous matchups have been, I’m just completely unsure who’s game it’s going to be. In the end, I’ll go with a close loss where the Autzen crowd does in the Bears. But if there’s one game where I’m most sure I’ll have different thoughts by game time, it’s this one.

Cal 24, USC 13:
Yet another game where I’m uncomfortable, but after just watching the ’07 edition and having the ’08 edition still in my mind, I’ve got to think this is the Bears year for finally bringing home the win in Berkeley. Between a crowd that’s going to be louder than these USC players have ever heard in Berkeley (similar to the 2006 Oregon game) and USC not firing on all cylinders without the defense to keep them in a game they’d otherwise be able to pull out, the Bears win in the shot heard round the Pac-10.

UCLA 20, Cal 38:
There are two games between which I’m going to pick a road loss for the Bears, UCLA and ASU. My gut says to go with UCLA because the Bears have had so much trouble in LA in the Tedford era where they’ve done fine, minus the 2007 debacle, in Sun Devil stadium. But I feel this is the year that Cal exercises the Rose Bowl/LA demon. UCLA has also been hit hard by the injury bug.

Cal 45, WSU 17:
WSU will be improved over 2008, but not THAT improved. Expect the Bears to run over them again in Berkeley.

ASU 31, Cal 27:
In my heart I just can’t believe I’m picking the Bears to lose this game. ASU should be bordering on terrible this year and I can’t see how the Bears lose this one. So consider this the wildcard road-game loss. And I just can’t see who else to pick. It’s not Washington and I don’t think it is UCLA. Stanford and Oregon don’t count because Oregon is too good to be a “letdown loss” and Stanford, well, the Big Game just defies the whole road game difficulty scenario.

Cal 38, OSU 20:
Yet another demon to be exercised in 2009 is the OSU monkey on our back (BTW, that’s another reason to pick Oregon to beat us, they view us as their monkey who’s been stiffling them). OSU just won’t have the talent this year and their defense that was the real key to their success won’t get it done. When one adds in that the fly-sweep mumbo-jumbo they over-used last year will no longer be novel in 2009 and OSU won’t stand a chance.

Cal 27, Arizona 17:
The Arizona defense is going to keep this game closer than it should be well into the 2nd half, but Cal is going to win this one easier than the score indicates. Cal only struggles with Arizona in the desert and I don’t see that changing this year with Tuitama gone, perhaps the most under-appreciated QB in the Pac-10 the last couple years.

Standford 20, Cal 45:
The Tin Bowl in Palo-Alto is only going to steal a Cal victim once. I call Stanford’s bluff that Luck is going to be a great QB right out the gate. He’ll be well exposed by the time Cal gets to game planning for this one and Riley with his nearly 2 full years of experience is not going to fall to a gimmicy Stanford defense. Cal has yet another Big Game romp, proving ’07 was just an exception.

Washington 24, Cal 28:
I think Washington is going to be vastly improved in 2009 and perhaps the most under appreciated team in the conference. I think they can give Cal a scare but can’t win the game. The only possible exception to that might be if Washington is 5-6 and needs the victory for a bowl appearance and Cal is already short of a Rose Bowl shot (like if Oregon only has 1 conference loss) and it’s looking too crowded for an at-large BCS berth. Probably not even then, but that would setup a scenario where the Bears might just not give it 100%.

So, is 7-2 in the conference going to do it for a Rose Bowl appearance? It’s going to be a tough call. Oregon probably has two losses in them, but they do get USC in Eugene. I think USC has two losses in them too, so it just may come down to a 3-way tie between Cal, USC and Oregon where we’ve each beat each other once. As such, whoever has lost to the best team in the conference will be the deal breaker (see my recap on how the Rose Bowl tie-breaker works). With Cal losing to ASU, I doubt that eliminates Cal, but who USC and Oregon lose to also effect the final outcome, (if Oregon loses to the higher team, their out and Cal wins the head-to-head over USC but the opposite is true if USC loses to the higher team) it’s a very tough call.

I’m going to say Oregon loses the Civil War whereas USC loses to Arizona, putting Cal in the Rose Bowl because OSU is the best of those 3 teams, record wise.

What does everyone think?

Looking Back on ’07: Washington Game

(We continue our hugely unpopular look at The Half Season Of Which We Shall Not Speak (THSOFWWSNS) with the Washington game. Go here for past posts.)

The pre-game Storyline:
The horrid stretch was finally over. Things could not have gone worse (or could they?) than they had over the last 5 weeks with Longshore’s injury at the most unfortunate time. Things would have been very different if USC would have come to town when OSU did and UCLA and ASU been later in the year, after the WSU game, allowing Longshore more time to heal. Now, finally, Longshore appeared to be getting more healthy and the most difficult stretch of the schedule was behind them. Washington and Stanford should be easy victories.

The pre-game Reality:
In reality, Washington was not nearly as bad as people thought and it was yet another road game for the Bears. When one adds in all the weakness of the defense that had been exposed over the last month, there was far more to be concerned about than either the players or the fans knew.

The key plays:

  • Rain is the order of the day, at least for kickoff.
  • In a horribly stupid move that has Tedford visibly disgusted on the sideline, Cal opts to kickoff after Washington wins the toss and defers. As a result, Washington will receive the kick to start both halves.
  • UW RB Rankin takes the first play of the game nearly 50 yards down into Cal territory.
  • 3 plays later, with Rankin still bowling over Bears, Washington scores its first TD. Bears in a hole early: 0-7
  • A delay of game penalty forces 3rd and 11 instead of 3rd and 6, stalling Cal’s first drive.
  • Cal puts in its 2nd string defensive line for the second Washington possession because of how weak the 1st string played the first possession.
  • Rankin runs over them too getting across mid-field with 5 consecutive runs.
  • Cal puts 1st string line back in.
  • Later in the drive, Rankin has a dancing, cross-field run, with Cal players diving and missing all over the place, for 28 yards down to the Cal 9 yard line.
  • Two more run plays later and the Husky’s are in the endzone again. The Bears are in real trouble early: 0-14
  • Forsett gets to work on the 2nd drive, loosening up the passing game.
  • Longshore throws a strike over the middle to Morrah for a Cal TD. The extra point is missed due to do a bad hold. Bears still in a big hole: 6-14
  • Hampton makes a nice pass breakup on 3rd down forcing the first Husky punt.
  • Bears go for it on 4th down around midfield and convert on a Forsett run for 15 yards.
  • Longshore continues his love of his Tight Ends with a nice pass over the middle to Stevens for another TD. Bears back in it, only an extra point down: 13-14
  • The rain had pretty much dried up by now.
  • Bear defense back in sync and forces another 3 and out.
  • Another Longshore to WR miscommunication results in another interception, giving Washington the ball at the Cal 32.
  • Rankin rumbles for two more big runs down to the goal line (what happened to the Cal D?) where it is punched in. Bears are 8 points down again: 13-21
  • DeSean Jackson injures his ankle/knee and was limited for a couple series and then out of the game entirely.
  • A number of drives later, with only 3 minutes left in the half, Forsett busts a 58 yard run down to the Washington redzone.
  • Longshore finds Montgomery in the endzone for a touchdown on the next play. Bears back in it: 20-21
  • The Bears force another punt before halftime but disaster strikes when Syd’Quan runs into Hampton, who is returning kicks in place of the injured Jackson, just as he’s about to catch the ball. It’s ruled on the field that Hampton never touched the ball, but an instant replay reverses the call based on marginal data, giving Washington the ball deep in Cal territory with a minute left in the half.
  • Bonnell throws up a jump ball in the endzone and the receiver goes up and gets it over Conte for a TD. Halftime score is no longer hopeful: 20-28
  • Washington receives the kickoff to start the 2nd half, completing the disasterous coin toss decision.
  • The Cal defense goes back to their weak ways, giving up another long Rankin run, this time a 46 yarder on the first drive of the half.
  • The Cal defense holds from there and Washington makes the 46 yard Field Goal. Cal down by two scores again: 20-31.
  • Longshore completes a long pass to Jordan down to the Washington 2 yard line.
  • But a loss of 2 on 2nd down, after a no-gainer on 1st, sets up a throwing down on 3rd down and Cal can’t convert, only getting the Field Goal. Back down to a touchdown with a 2-point conversion deficit: 23-31.
  • Later in the quarter, the Huskys get a break when what was clearly a lateral was called incomplete and intentional grounding, taking away what would have otherwise been a Cal recovery in Washington territory.
  • The Bears can’t even capitalize on the big penalty and Bonnell completes a 3rd and 24 pass down the sideline over a leaping Conte (again) getting Washington down into Field Goal range again.
  • Cal defense holds and Washington kicks the Field Goal. Bears back down by two scores: 23-34
  • Cal gets another bad break at the end of the 3rd quarter when a marginal review calls a tackle on Hawkins a fumble and Washington recovers.
  • Another Cal drive is stalled by a holding penalty and personal foul in one set of downs and the Bears are unable to convert on 3rd and 32.
  • Washington gets another instant replay break when a punt return that was already a strong one but still out of field goal range is not called out of bounds when the player was clearly out. Instead the ball is all the way down at the Cal 11.
  • The Cal defense stiffens again and Washington kicks another Field Goal. Cal down by two full touchdowns: 23-37
  • Montgomery stalls yet another Cal drive when he fumbles the ball and recovers it himself. However, the yardage damage stalls the last drive for the Bears
  • Washington bowls over the now demotivated and tired Cal defense getting 4 first downs to run out the clock.

The forgotten

  • Cal was back in this game at two different points in the 1st half, being down only one point, but successive series of bad defense put them in a deficit again. This game was not a case of a slow start gone bad.
  • The replay booth and the refs were not kind to Cal, particularly in the second half. While the Bears were doing plenty of other things to shoot themselves in the foot, they were additionally hampered by bad calls.
  • Forsett again had a monster game and it was yet again wasted.
  • Conte was picked on again and again and again by the Washington offense. Considering this game was won on the ground, the UW passing game consisted almost entirely of picking on Conte.
  • Longshore at this point had played a pretty good game. It was the fumbles that were the turnovers that doomed the Bears and Longshore made a number of good passes. While his form was still poor, his accuracy and reads were pretty good. He was not the reason why Cal lost.
  • This was most definitely Montgomery’s best game. While he was no Best, his transfer was a bigger blow to the program that most of us remember.

The post-game storyline:
The excuses about the previous 4 loses being a result of a tough situation with Longshore’s injury and a tough stretch of the schedule were no longer valid. There was no excuse for the Bears to play so poorly or lose this game no matter how bad the bounces and the refs were against them. Frankly stated, the 336 rushing yards Washington had in the game were disgusting and reflected a defense that wasn’t trying very hard. Add in that injury to Longshore and the team was in ruins.

The post-game reality:
In the end, it was the defense that lost the game. Longshore played fairly well and was not the reason the Bears lost. The Bears had gotten a tough lesson in not trying hard enough. Being honest, there was still plenty of talent on this team. All the needed to do was try.

The 2007 learnings:

  • Cal continued their struggles around the goal line. The failure to convert in the mid-3rd quarter was probably the moment the game was lost, even though it wasn’t clear at the time.
  • For the first time it was truly clear that there was something wrong on this team that didn’t have to do with talent, injuries or game-planning. The Bears had an effort/team chemistry problem.
  • Longshore’s injury was now mostly healed and there were no longer any excuses in this department.

The conclusion
This was by far the most disgusting game for me of the Tedford era. Never before and never since have I seen a Tedford team so implode. At the same time, I was nearly beside myself with disgust for the replay booth. They overturned a marginal situation on the botched punt return, with really weak angles, but then uphold the bogus punt return where he was CLEARLY out. Then they don’t over turn the Hawkins fumble when, admitting that the evidence was weak, it looked to me like his hand was still over the ball when he hit the ground. What. A. Joke. And it was the last thing this team, a team that was looking for an excuse to lose, needed in the 2nd half of a winnable game. But all of that aside, what was just as frustrating was to watch the inconsistent play of the defense. Sometimes it looked like they had Rankin figured out for a possession or two but then he’d burn the Bears later on. The final drive of the game, with the 4 first downs was just inexcusable. Sure, it was unlikely the Bears were going to come up with 2 scores in less than 5 minutes, but the defense never game them a chance.

I was as disgusted with the Bears as I’d ever been. Heck, I was as disgusted as the lone Cal game I walked out on in 2001 during the Holmoe debacle. I couldn’t imaging being more disgusted.

Or so I thought…

Looking Back on ’07: USC

(We continue our hugely unpopular look at The Half Season Of Which We Shall Not Speak (THSOFWWSNS) with the USC game. Go here for past posts.)

The pre-game Storyline:
The Bears had finally won a game, albeit not very impressively, after a horrific 3 game losing streak. Now Bear fans had to ask themselves, was this still a team capable of competing with the best in the PAC-10? Maybe. USC had, after all, lost to the same Oregon team that Cal had beat, as well as losing in a shocker to Stanford. They seemed vulnerable. Add that to the fact that Longshore was still undefeated at home and there was reason for hope. But hope it was, and everyone saw this as an opportunity, not an expectation.

The pre-game Reality:
While it was true that USC was not the same team it had been the last 3 years, it was still very good and was getting some of its form back. With Booty now back under center after 3 games off injured (a streak which, if you include that he played injured against Stanford, spanned both of USC’s loses) and their talent was still 2nd to none. Talented teams, particularly deep talented teams, tend to do very well towards the end of the season. At the same time, there was still lots of talent on this Cal team and a strong effort at home could have sealed a victory. There was of course one huge wildcard: it was raining in Berkeley.

The key plays:

  • Longshore starts the game slinging the ball in his “new” post injury slinging form.
  • Longshore and Jordan were not on the same page on 3rd down forcing the Bears to punt on their first possession.
  • Larson shanks his first punt for only 20 yards.
  • USC tries to run the ball on their first possession and the Bears are ready for it, forcing a 3 and out.
  • A double reverse from Hawkins to Best fools USC for a sizeable gain.
  • A delayed run play to Forsett catches USC over-pursuing and Forsett is able to rush for a TD. Bears up early: 7-0.
  • USC returns the ensuing kickoff to midfield.
  • Booty connects with a wide open WR in the cover-2 hole.
  • Washington busts a big run down to the Cal 2 yard line and USC punches it in from there to tie the game: 7-7.
  • Another Longshore to WR miscommunication nearly results in an interception.
  • Forsett has a series of good runs, particularly in staying on his feet and bouncing of tackles, sustaining the drive.
  • Hawkins open on a seam pattern and gets the ball down to the USC 6 yard line.
  • The Bears get a number of good breaks on the goal line including pass interference call that gives Cal a second set of downs and a Forsett fumble and turnover erased because of an offside penalty. Nevertheless the Bears can’t convert and Kay kicks the Field Goal. Bears back on top: 10-7
  • Cal sends the farm on an all out blitz around midfield and Washington gets by it for an easy TD run. Bears in their first hole: 10-14
  • With a minute left in the half, Longshore slings it to Jackson down to the USC 27 yard line.
  • Longshore is sacked and loses the football but it is recovered by Cal back on the USC 42. Unfortunately that was the end of that last-second scoring opportunity.
  • After marching the ball down the field to open the 2nd half, USC fumbles deep in the Cal redzone saving the Bears from a disaster on the scoreboard.
  • Longshore and his WR are not on the same page yet again and this time it hurts the Bears as USC intercepts it at the Cal 13.
  • However, the defense holds firm and USC is held to a Field Goal. Deficit grows but is still one score: 10-17.
  • Game gets very sloppy through the rest of the 3rd quarter.
  • DeSa tips a USC punt giving the Bears the ball at the USC 45.
  • Longshore finds Hawkins on another seam route, this time for a touchtown. Game is tied: 17-17.
  • USC fumbles on a bobbled snap giving Cal the ball around midfield.
  • Forsett continues to look strong and bouncing off tackles but another QB/WR miscommunication on 3rd down stalls the drive.
  • A USC play-action pass fools the Bears and a long completion ensues, but it is called back for holding, saving the Bears again.
  • However, a wide open TE gets USC back in business to erase 1st and 20 and then Washington runs over a tired Cal defense getting down to the Cal 4 yard line where USC punches it in from there. Bears back down by a TD: 17-24
  • Longshore bobbles a snap of his own giving USC the ball back at the worst time of the game, now mid-4th quarter.
  • Cal got the ball back on its own 7 yard line with 4 minutes left where Forsett breaks a big run to get them out of the shadow of their goal line.
  • Forsett runs for a big gain down to the USC 36 on a swingout pass.
  • Longshore throws a crucial pick by not putting enough air under a ball to Jordan that would have gone for a tying score with 2:30 left.
  • Instead, USC is able to run the clock out, including getting a crucial 1st down when Follett misses a back-field tackle that would have forced 4th down.

The forgotten

  • Cal really got the better of the bounces of the ball. Between the fumble recoveries, the missed interceptions that USC couldn’t haul in, penalties offsetting otherwise big plays, Cal got all the help it needed to win this game.
  • USC’s Washington really destroyed the Bears late in the game with his rushing for 220 yards.
  • Forsett also had a monster game, perhaps the best of his career at Cal, carrying for nearly 170 yards and being very determined and durable even when the plays didn’t go as designed.
  • The miscommunications between Longshore and his receivers was so consist and so baffling that it must have either been a new read that hadn’t been in place in previous games or there was something about USC’s defense that made the reads more difficult.
  • Booty was surprisingly off the mark in this game missing a number of open receivers, more so by far than Longshore. If he had been on the mark, this game would have been a blowout.
  • The same can be said for penalties where Cal played a very clean game and USC’s penalties really stiffled them.

The post-game storyline:
Somehow in the middle of this game it turned from an opportunistic one to a “must win” and the hearts of everyone in Berkeley were crushed again. The game was eminently winnable but the Bears just couldn’t seal the deal. Thankfully the rest of the schedule looked easy and the Bears could finish the season a respectable 8-4 with a likely Sun Bowl visit if two PAC-10 teams made it to a BCS game (between ASU, Oregon and USC that seemed likely).

The post-game reality:
The Bears were now completely broken down and had lost their heart for the season. They too were making the assumption that these last two games were easy victories when in fact there was more trouble brewing.

The 2007 learnings:

  • Cal’s trouble around the goal line was now firmly established but the USC game confirmed what was already known.
  • The defense was showing more and more signs of sporadic weaknesses. Sometimes it was wide open receivers, other times it was a systematic inability to slow down the running game. Which would strike when was unclear.
  • Longshore’s trend of giving up game sealing interceptions continued into this game.
  • Longshore was still not healthy but there were no signs that Tedford was going to give Riley a shot.

The conclusion
This was a game that I really didn’t get a good look at the first time around. I had brought my kids (the weather was fine in Sacramento when we left) and they were soaked and cold by the end of the 1st quarter. We left just before halftime and didn’t get to a place to watch the game until late in the 3rd quarter. Even then I was distracted by comforting the kids (changing into dry clothes, food, etc.). So my heart was never really invested in the game the first time and I never understood why so many people were hugely disappointed by this game. But experiencing it again and seeing how there was every reason to believe the Bears could win this one and how that changed the game from an opportunistic one to another disaster mid-game, I better understand now. In reality, this game was more like the ASU game where there was every reason that the Bears should have been dominant early and extended to a good win, but instead found themselves with only a small lead and completely unable to convert on later opportunities that could have still given the Bears a win. Perhaps if the Bears had never been competitive from the get-go, it actually would have been better for the team psyche.

And from this point on, the psyche was the key to success (or failure).

Updated blogroll

I’ve updated the blogroll.

For the most part, this was a year of attrition, not a year of expansion. Gone are Bear Necessity, Rose Bowl Before I Die (don’t we still hope for this?), Cal Football Fan and Cal Bear Wire.

In their place only two new blogs were added. One, is the very impressive The Bear Will Not Quit that I’m not sure why it didn’t make the cut in years past other than an oversight. So in the big picture, not a new addition to the Cal blogosphere. The second is not so much a sports blog but a sports information blog, Erin’s Cal Goodies. While it has good and unique info, not a “mainstream” Cal blog.

So, it’s been a bad year. 4 lost and effectively zero gained (with the above caveats).

Part of that can be “blamed” on how good some of the Cal blogs have become, particularly California Golden Blogs. Particularly with their ability for participants to make their own blog posts, it takes a lot of the wind, at least from the perspective of acting independently, out of those who would just like to post on occasion. CGB gives them a forum for that without having to go it on their own. Then when you add in the quality of posts from guys like The Bear Will Not Quit (and if I can be so bold, this site) and it’s hard to keep at it when one can’t put in that level of effort.

In any case, if I’ve overlooked your blog, please add a comment with a pointer to your blog. If you’re thinking of starting one, there’s definitely room for you and feel free to let me know when you go online!

Looking Back on ’07: Washington State

(We continue our hugely unpopular look at The Half Season Of Which We Shall Not Speak (THSOFWWSNS) with the WSU game. Go here for past posts.)

The pre-game Storyline:
The Bears had been through hell and back in the last 3 weeks. When the fans looked at the Washington State game before the season started they saw it as a trap game for the Bears, concerned the Bears would overlook the Cougs with USC coming to town the following week. With the 3 game losing streak crushing everyone’s dreams in Berkeley, the WSU game was now a desperately needed opportunity for the Bears to get back on track and put another hash mark in the win column.

The pre-game Reality:
WSU was every bit as bad as everyone hoped, in fact, probably more so with their deceptive win over UCLA clouding people’s judgment as to how good they could be. It was exactly what the struggling Bears needed.

The key plays:

  • Hicks lays a big hit on 3rd down forcing an incomplete pass in what would otherwise have been a 1st down that would have put WSU in Cal territory on their first possession.
  • Longshore completed his first 8 passes, all dinks and dunks, but looks in good form. His first incomplete pass was a would-be touchdown pass that Brian Holley dropped.
  • QB sneak on 2nd and goal from the 1 yard-line is thwarted by WSU.
  • Forsett runs for an easy TD on a sweep play. Bears go up early: 7-0
  • Opening drive is a promising one: 17 plays, nearly 8 minutes taken off the clock, 5 for 5 on 3rd down and Longshore 8 of 9 passing.
  • WSU’s QB Brink over throws an open receiver on what should have been a WSU TD.
  • Brink puts too much air under another would-be TD that gives DeCoud time to catch up and bat the ball away.
  • Longshore has his first bad pass of the day on their 2nd possession, way under throwing Hawkins, for an interception at midfield.
  • Later in the 2nd quarter, Cal goes for it on 4th and 4 from the WSU 42 yard-line, completing the pass and extending the drive.
  • DeSean Jackson runs a reverse down into the redzone.
  • Bears unable to convert on goal-line possession ending with an easily stopped option play (with the gimpy Longshore!?!) on 3rd down. Field-goal attempt by Kay is good. Bears increase lead: 10-0
  • WSU doesn’t atempt 4th down conversion from Cal 38, and punt sails into endzone for 18 yard net punt.
  • Bear have first 3 and out of the game.
  • Cal gets a gift of an interception when Brink floats another would be TD pass allowing Hicks to get back in the play. His tipped ball goes right to Syd’Quan Thompson who runs it back across midfield.
  • Cal had over 20 minutes of possession time in the 1st half.
  • WSU does a short kickoff to start the 2nd half which Brian Holley takes across midfield
  • Longshore bumbles a snap for a fumble and the 2nd turnover lost for the Bears.
  • Another would-be TD pass by Brink is barely tipped by Syd and receiver drops the ball. Ball should have been caught
  • WSU converts on 4th and 5 from Cal 30 to extend their drive.
  • Drive stalls and WSU kicks the Field Goal. Bears lead down to one TD: 10-3
  • Cal marches down the field with dinks and dunks but stalls in the redzone. Lead back to 10 on Kay Field Goal: 13-3
  • A couple drives later, now in the 4th quarter, WSU returns the favor with a very similar drive and the same result. Back to a single TD lead: 13-6.
  • Longshore, despite looking ever more gimpy, completes a couple of key passes including a 15 yard strike to Hawkins and a long pass to Jackson down to the 1 yard-line.
  • Forsett fumbles on the goal-line, Cal’s 3rd turnover of the game, losing the opportunity to seal the victory.
  • Hicks make a play on an interception and misses, and WSU WR Gibson takes the pass for 60 yards down to the Cal 35. Only a speedy recovery by DeCoud prevents the tying TD.
  • Cal defense holds from there forcing the field goal. Lead is down to 4: 13-9
  • Forsett breaks his only big run of the game for a 44 yard TD. Bear lead finally back over one score: 20-9.
  • Brink is nearly tackled for a safety but rolls away from it and finds Gibson down the field behind a nearly sleeping Hicks, for another 60 yard completion.
  • WSU completes a 4th and 7 with 0:35 left in the game to keep their hopes alive.
  • Brink completes a nice pass into the corner of the endzone.
  • WSU converts the 2-Point conversion when the receiver rolls over the Cal defender preventing his knee from touching down (debatable) and barely reaching the endzone. Bear lead down to a Field Goal: 20-17.
  • Cal recovers the attempted onside kick to end WSU’s comeback threat.

The forgotten

  • Cal yet again is ineffective in the redzone. Between Forsett’s fumble and the failed goal-line stands, Cal only converted one touchdown in all their redzone chances (other TD came from outside the redzone).
  • WSU, although mostly ineffective on offense, had a number of close calls, that had the passes been complete could have easily won them the game.
  • Cal dominated the time of possession in this game but surprisingly the WSU defense seemed unaffected by all the time on the field.
  • Longshore was as gimpy as ever in this game, following his pattern of looking good early, but as the pain increased throughout the game looking more and more ineffective.
  • Follett really came into his own in this game blitzing off the edge including a key sack in the 4th quarter.

The post-game storyline:
The Bears had managed to get back to their winning ways, albeit in a little bit of an underwhelming fashion. While hopes weren’t all that high that the Bears could get back to their early season form at this point and knock of USC the following week, with Washington and Stanford still on the schedule, this game proved that the Bears had a couple more wins in them. 8-4, the record on making those assumptions, would be a letdown but considering the rough 3 game stretch, would be acceptable

The post-game reality:
In reality WSU was an even weaker team than fans appreciated. The Bears ineffectiveness on offense and their defense inconsistency was a really bad sign for how the Bears would perform against other relatively weak teams, but better than WSU, later on the schedule. Add in that this uninspired performance was at home and those later games were on the road and there was more trouble brewing on the horizon than people understood.

The 2007 learnings:

  • Longshore’s injury was clearly not limited to a sprain. It have been 5 weeks since he injured himself at Oregon and he was as gimpy as ever. Whether it was the injury itself being worse than reported (like, say, oh, I don’t know, a chipped bone in his ankle) or his bad form was the result of Longshore psychologically unable to return to good throwing form was unclear at this point.
  • The defenses penchant for giving up the big play at the wrong time, exhibited by continually letting WSU back in the game when only a long pass could save them, was showing through.
  • The interceptions were piling up and a bad sign as Cal continues to lose the turnover battle despite the loss.

The conclusion
This was one uninspiring game. However, even in re-watching it I felt blinded to the implications of the uninspired play focusing more on wanting to see the Bears win a game with the painful memories of the recently watched losses still in my mind and USC looming next. While it’s easy to see how this was a sign of how demotivated this team was, it’s also very easy to see why most Bear fans were blind to those signs at the time.

It’s been a good couple years for Campus Police

The Cal Campus Police gets strung up left and right for their actions, often unfairly.

But I think this week, in the wake of the Jaycee Duggart abduction resolution, is a great time to re-iterate how great a job this on-campus police force is doing.

While all the local police agencies, parole agents and sex offender monitoring agencies were bumbling around and unable to detect that the girl/woman had been held hostage in their literal backyard, it was a UC Berkeley police officer who was responsible for breaking this case wide open.

Between this and the tree-sitter situation last year, it’s been a great couple years for the UC Berkeley police.

UCB Police, we solute you!

Riley as the starting QB

Well surprising no one who’s name isn’t Brock Mansion’s little brother (because even Brock himself saw the writing on the wall), Tedford announced that Riley will be the starter in the Maryland game.

I figured this is as good a time as ever to speak to my expectations for Riley this season.

I try really hard to be an honest assessor of the Bears, but I find myself having a hard time not being a homer for Riley this fall. Remember, I’m the same guy who, while not reaching Hydrolic Technician levels, was defensive of Longshore’s performance in 2007 and not sold on Riley after the Armed Forces bowl. I was also unsure of who I thought should start in just about every 2008 game (although the Emerald Bowl answer a lot of my unanswered questions in Riley’s favor).

Point being, I’m not naturally a Riley Homer.

But I just can’t get the feeling out of my head that this is going to be a break-through year for him. I get the feeling his mechanics are very good and what defects develop over the course of a season (it happens to every QB) will be easily corrected during practice. I get the feeling that the game slowed down A LOT for him in the off-season and he’ll make a lot of good reads. I get the feeling that he gets the progressions and when and how to know when to use his outlet options while not ignoring the big play opportunities. I get the feeling that he’s learned how to deal with defensive pressure both how to read their formations and after the snap.

But most importantly, I get the feeling that this is Riley’s team. Nobody was fooled by the off-season indecision of Tedford and every player instinctively knew who was going to be under center when the season kicked off. And this team needed that. They needed to know who their leader in the huddle was going to be.

So I’m left being a Riley Homer, or better stated, a Riley believer. If he delivers, it’s going to open up the run game for Best and this may be a very special season in Berkeley.

Anyone but USC?

Great post on ESPN from Ted Miller, its Pac-10 beat writer, about USC’s problematic dominance of the conference.

This line made me smile, ruefully:

In 2004, Cal was knocked out of the Rose Bowl when Texas coach Mack Brown successfully lobbied poll voters to manipulate the system.

Succinct, isn’t it?

But this one made me laugh out loud:

The Bears have 17 starters, including Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best, back from a team that won nine games in 2008.

USC, meanwhile, is breaking in a new quarterback and replacing eight starters from one of the best defenses in college football history.

Are the Trojans vulnerable?

“No,” Jahvid Best said.

“I’ve heard the same thing every year after they lose seven or eight guys to the NFL. Everybody says they’re not going to be as good this year. But they come back [every year] and are just as good if not better than the year before. They’ve proven that no matter how many people leave, they are still going to be one of the best teams in the Pac-10. So we’re not counting on them being vulnerable. We’re counting on our execution on offense and defense to beat them.”

Not only is that a funny line from Best, but he’s right — you can’t ever, ever underestimate USC. After Cal’s early games with Oregon and USC, I get the feeling we’ll know exactly where Cal falls in the conference. Cross fingers.

Tickets for the Maryland game

I’ve got tickets to sell for the Maryland game. I sit in section DD about half way up on the isle. I’ll be there by myself, because it’s just too late with a 7:00 PM kickoff to take little kids to. Add in that my wife is then on child-care duty and I’ve got 5 tickets to sell, which I’ll either sell individually or in groups of 2, 3 or 5 depending on the response I get.

For those who jump on the opportunity you’ll get to find out how just how different my game-day demeanor is compared to my blog demeanor plus get my insights into how the game is going.

I’ll sell the tickets for the price that you’d buy new tickets online: $50 each (which is slightly less than I pay for them because of all the various season ticket surcharges). Of course at this point you wouldn’t get seats nearly as good as mine if you ordered them online. Plus, you wouldn’t get the fringe benefits either.

If you’re interested please e-mail me by 8/25:

tickets AT excusemeformyvoice DOT com

(I’ll be putting the tickets for sale online at E-Bay or Stubhub or something mid-next week if I don’t get them sold through the blog)

Photos of SAHPC

When I was at the stadium on Tuesday I took more pictures of the SAHPC construction. Excavation is effectively complete but the real big news, at least for us ticket-holders, is the raised walkways that replace the asphalt walkway that used to go around the western rim of the stadium. That’s gone now because of the excavation. As I commented earlier this week, the University is doing everything it can to minimize the impact of the construction.

That includes installing a railing that replaces row 27 from sections D to HH to encourage people in the lower rows to exit towards the field, not towards the concourse:
New Railing that replaces row 27 from sections D to HH

There are really two raised walkways. One goes from the stairwell between sections EE and E and heads to the North parking lot (so every section from EE towards A can exit the stadium through the stairwell). Here’s what the walkway looks like from the stairwell:
Raised walkway from the E/EE tunnel (sorry, it was blocked off so I couldn't go all the way down there)

Then there’s no exit between E and GG.

The 2nd raised walkway starts at the stairwell between GG and H and goes to the south parking lot. Here’s a picture of it as viewed from the south parking lot (well, close to there anyway):
Raised walkway as viewed from the south parking lot (well, close to it anyway)

Finally on the topic of the walkway, this is the best picture I took that shows what it’ll look like while on it:
Raised walkway as viewed from Hall of Fame room looking towards the west (so towards the alumni seating)

As for the SAHPC itself, as I said above, the big breakthrough is all the excavation. Here’s the view towards the I-House (which also provides another view of the south raise walkway):
Construction towards the I-House, but further to the west with the walkway

Also notice that the excavation on the northern side is not as deep, particularly on the western side of the building (I wish I had got some shots from the street to show the excavation up against the stadium on this side):
Construction from section D

Finally, here’s the northern view where you can see the exit of the northern raised walkway as it exits to the north parking lot:
Construction looking north towards Maxwell field

You can see the entire set of pictures here.

Speaking date moved to 9/16

Just an FYI, if you go to the Sacramento Grid Club meeting on September 9th you’ll get the privilege of hearing Jonathan Okanes speak. He needed to change days because of a conflict that recently came up so I switched with him.

If you’re foolish enough to prefer hearing me speak, you’ve got to come on Wednesday, September 16th.

Tad Smith out for season


Looks like that knee injury that Tad Smith got early in the scrimmage on Tuesday was as bad as it could be: Torn ACL. He’s out for the season.

There’s a lot of depth at tight end so while Tad will be missed, I don’t think it’ll change things much. Anthony Miller becomes the new #1 with Curran and Sparks being his biggest challengers for now and Ladner having the skills to press for time too once he recovers from his injuries.

Thoughts on limited press access to practices

At least from my corner of the blogosphere the announcement by the coaching staff that the press will now only be invited to practice for the first 20 minutes of practice and the last 10 minutes, cause a tide wave of emotion and reaction. I wanted to give my thoughts:

Before I get started, a little note on what happens in these times during practice. The first twenty minutes is entirely warm-up and individual drills. This has always been the time that traditionally photographers and TV crews were allowed to shoot. Nothing of note gets reported from this time frame other than who’s not there and who’s in red or yellow (which suggests they’re injured). The final 10 minutes is generally a wind-down time including field-goal practice and the leftovers of scrimmaging. I suspect that with the new rules it’ll be pretty content free. I mean, that’s the whole point, right? What I’m saying here is that for the most part, the press is no longer being given access to practice at all. Those minutes were chosen carefully and there’s no illusion from Tedford or the press that it was an attempt to do anything different.

Now, onto my thoughts…

The first thing to note is that this is completely Coach Tedford and the University’s prerogative. There are no rules that regulate how much or little press access a team must give. One could argue this is an oversight by the NCAA. While they make all kinds of rules about recruits and all kinds of various things, they leave press access completely untouched. As I’ll go into details later, Tedford’s concern is that the coverage of his team is much more thorough than some of his opponents. As such, I suspect that if the NCAA came up with rules that forced equality, it could eliminate this problem entirely and Tedford would be more than happy to comply.

The second thing to note is that the change that has been made is not uncommon. I don’t have exact numbers but I suspect that the new rules are closer to the norm across BCS teams than not. As an anecdotal piece of info, LSU got some heat for making the same change not too long ago. Yes, USC and Florida both have completely open practices, but they’re the exception not the rule. It’s particularly worth noting that these are the teams with the most talented players. That’s not exactly a secret and it ensures that they’ll continue to be on top with reasonable coaching that knows how to take advantage of that talent differential, whether or not their opponent knows what is coming.

The final initial note is that I completely agree that there is a competitive disadvantage to having more reporting on one team than their opponent, which is Tedford’s concern. When Cal’s reporters are giving play-by-play breakdown of what happens in practice and Maryland’s reporters are getting filtered information from the coaching staff, there’s no doubt that the Maryland coaching staff can learn a lot more about how to beat Cal than the reverse. And yes, the coaching staffs read all this stuff. Make no mistake about it. I think that as the season progresses this advantage is less and less because game film makes up the difference, but even at the end of the season, it could still have a small effect.

So, overall I’ve got no problem with Tedford restricting access. What concerns me a bit is the way it was gone about, in two ways:

First, it feels to me like the horse was already out of the barn on this one. They should have been looking at the daily reports that were being done from the get go and made whatever corrections they thought were appropriate a couple weeks ago. To make this change now suggests to me they weren’t playing close enough attention. This is particularly bad because people started signing up for subscriptions based on the level of info provided. Rivals provides a 7-day trial and after 7-days of awesome play-by-play breakdowns, I bet there were a number of people who signed up for year-long subscriptions based on that. A week later, their reason for subscribing was eliminated and I feel bad for them.

Second, I think there’s a better way to go about this. Since only approved media is allowed, there’s a way to limit this without disallowing press access to practice. We had been given rules on what was allowed. Pictures and video could only be taken at certain times. Descriptions of formations were not allowed. Descriptions of plays had to be vague and the emphasis had to be on the players involved not the details of the play. All of these rules had been followed by the press as a whole (yes, I’m sure there were minor oversights here and there, but holistically, they were followed). So, if Tedford was concerned about what was being reported, why didn’t he just handout a bunch of additionally restrictive rules and let us stay? No play-by-play… OK, fine. No completion percentages or yardage information… OK, we’ll follow that too. Whatever it was that he was concerned about, new rules could be put in place that we would have followed and it could have just as easily accomplished the goal.

But in the end, Tedford is responsible for this team and its success. He did what he felt he needed to ensure that success and I can’t fault him for that. While it will limit what I can share, I guess that’s the way it needs to be. I just wish it had been handled a little bit differently.

Looking back on ’07: Arizona State

(We continue our look at The Half Season Of Which We Shall Not Speak (THSOFWWSNS) with the ASU game. Go here for past posts.)

The pre-game Storyline:
It was the worst of the worst of times in Berkeley. The Bears had not only blown their shot at #1 but had gone on to lose two in a row. The Bears were now only ranked as a has been. Longshore had come out gimpy against UCLA, would he get back to form against ASU? Also, how for real was this undefeated but completely untested ASU team with their shiny new head coach.

The pre-game Reality:
Two weeks in a row of an underachieving offense gave all future opponents of the Bears a roadmap of how to beat them. It was no longer about just getting back on track, it was about retooling the team to adjust for their exposed weakness. Add to this a lowered sense of confidence and the knowledge that only a handful of lucky breaks could vault the Bears back into the Rose Bowl hunt, and the Bears were very vulnerable.

The key plays:

  • Cal gets a sack on Rudy Carpenter on the very first drive of the game, forcing a 3-and-out for ASU.
  • Longshore’s first two throws of the game are mis-throws, a bad sign of things to come.
  • 44 yard field goal attempt by Kay was blocked on the Bears first drive.
  • Carpenter is sacked again, forcing a fumble that Cameron Jordon picks up en-route to the endzone. Bears go up early: 7-0
  • After another ASU 3-and-out, Kay makes a 41 yarder. Bears extended lead: 10-0
  • After ANOTHER ASU 3-and-out Forsett breaks a big run on a swingout pass getting down to ASU 30.
  • Longshore completes a nice pass over the middle to Stevens to get the ball down to the ASU 6.
  • ASU defense holds forcing another Kay field goal. Bears have 4 scoring chances but only up: 13-0
  • Carpenter nearly burns the Bears on a long TD throw, but the wide receiver drops the ball.
  • ASU running back Nance finds a big hole for a long TD run. Bears lead shrinks: 13-7
  • 2 passes from Longshore to Jordan and a reverse by Forsett puts Bears back in the redzone.
  • Long fade pattern to DeSean Jackson complete for the first offensive touchdown for the Bears: 20-7
  • Offside penalty nullifies Hampton interception.
  • ASU converts on 4th and 1 from just outside redzone to keep drive alive.
  • Cal gives up 2nd 4th and 1 on drive, this time on an illegal substitution penalty.
  • ASU finally converts on goal-line series after the series of penalties and mis-steps by Bears. Lead drops to 6 again: 20-14
  • Cal gets huge break on DeSean’s dropped punt return that would have given ball to ASU in Cal redzone with a minute left in the half. Instead, Cal gets the ball because the ref blew his whistle.
  • Cal’s yardage edge in 1st half: 270-95. Score of 20-14 doesn’t do justice to Cal domination in 1st half.
  • Carpenter completes 3 big passes to get from the shadow of his own goal-line into the Cal redzone very quickly.
  • ASU converts third 4th and 1 in redzone, this one going for a TD. Bears in their first deficit: 20-21
  • ASU converts a 47 yard field goal. Bears in 4 point hole: 20-24
  • Longshore WAY under throws Jackson on what should have been an easy TD pass but instead was an interception.
  • Longshore throws a second pick as his limping was becoming more severe. Throw was a bad read over the middle with nothing on it.
  • With defense back on the field twice quickly after picks, they look tired as ASU running game starts working.
  • To make matters worse, Rulon Davis goes down injured.
  • Carpenter completes a TD pass on seam pattern. Bears in real trouble midway through 4th quarter: 20-31
  • Cal goes 3-and-out as Longshore continues to look gimpy.
  • ASU runs out clock on a 6 minute drive against a tired Cal defense, even with Cal’s 3 timeouts being used. Game over: 20-31

The forgotten

  • Cal was extremely ineffective, point wise, in the 1st half. 5 scoring opportunities inside the ASU 30 resulted in only 13 points (other 7 came from defense).
  • At the same time, ASU was extremely efficient with THREE 4th down conversions and all four redzone trips going for touchdowns.
  • There were a TON of penalties in this game. I think Cal ended up with 13 and ASU had their share as well.
  • Cal didn’t score at all in the 2nd half of the game.
  • The only thing that went Cal’s way was the “instant” replays. All 3 of them went Cal’s way.
  • I put the quotes around “instant” because these were the longest reviews in the history of college football. Two of them combined took close to a half hour of real time.
  • That along with other slowing factors made this the longest game I’ve put on DVD. Even with all the commercials pulled out I couldn’t fit it on one DVD without significantly cutting into the content (including removing the entire set of “instant” replay reviews). It was a full 3 hours of content even so and over 4 1/2 hours real time.

The post-game storyline:
It was impossible to imagine the Bears sinking any lower. The Rose Bowl was now officially out of reach even though there were a couple of mathematically possible scenarios for the Bears to still make it. All that was left to fight for was pride. With Washington State on the schedule for the following week, it was hoped that the painful roadtrip could be put behind them and set the team up to get back on track before USC came to town in two weeks.

The post-game reality:
Longshore was every bit as injured as his performance indicated. It was particularly obvious in the 2nd half when the pain-killer shots had worn off. The teams weaknesses were fully exposed. That said, there was still a good deal of talent on this team if they could put the pieces back together.

The 2007 learnings:

  • This was the first game where the Bears ineffectiveness around the redzone really showed.
  • For the 2nd week in a row penalties were a killer for the Bears and there was little reason to believe it was just bad luck, but undisciplined play.
  • The Bears, after making a strong showing on the road against Oregon, had now made two poor road showings in a row. A definite weakness to be sure.

The conclusion
This game was the most infuriating game of the 2007 season in my opinion. Oregon State could be excused because of the backup QB situation. UCLA could be excused because of their stout defense and a lot of the bounces going the wrong way for the Bears. But the Bears got all the breaks in the 1st half of this game and should have put it away early with a halftime score in the 31-7 range. Instead they had a one-score lead that was quickly erased in the 2nd half. Also, for the first time during the Tedford era I questioned his judgment. Longshore needed to come out after that 2nd pick. He was clearly hurt and it was not just minorly affecting his game but massively affecting his game.

While it wouldn’t go down as the most disgusting/inept loss of the season, it’ll be burned in my mind as the most infuriating.

Fall Practice 8/18 Podcast

My 2nd podcast of the fall is up over on

Sadly, it looks like there will only be one more of these before the season, what with the embargo on press at practice. Unfortunately it’s just not worth my time to make the trip from Roseville down to Berkeley just to get 10 minutes of practice and 10 minutes of interviews. So the next podcast will be from the Tuesday September 1st press conference before the Maryland game.

I’ll have some thoughts on the change in press access later today or tomorrow.

SAHPC pedestrian traffic issues

When I arrived at Memorial Stadium for the first time in the fall last week, there was a newly installed railing on the Alumni side in what used to be row 27, which was now missing. It stretched from D to HH. When I asked about it, one of the other reporters said that it had something to do with crowd control now that the SAHPC was under construction.

My initial response was that I didn’t see how things were going to be different because the tree sitters had the entire area blocked off both of the last two years. However, in retrospect, I realized that response was incorrect. The excavation for the SAHPC further eliminated the walkway around the west side of the stadium. It’ll be physically impossible to exit the stadium on the west side. One would have to walk around the concourse to either the north or south exit because of the new excavation.

Well, it turns out that the Athletic department thought this through and decided to put a smaller than the previous walkway but still a HUGE benefit, elevated (in the sense that it is over the top of the SAHPC construction site, but it’s level with the old ground level) walkway that will allow for some number of people to continue to walk outside the western rim.

Then, on Friday, they released a exit plan for games that showed where they hope fans from each section will exit. (You can find a PDF of the critical graphic for better resolution, here.)

As you can see if you look closely at the PDF, the hope is every one below the new railing will exit towards the field instead of into the concourse or to the new elevated walkways.

Just an FYI for better planning… I’ll take some pictures of all of this, including overall pictures of construction progress, tomorrow when I’m back at the stadium for practice.

Fall Practice 8/11 Podcast

My first podcast of the year is now available over at

As a note, all of my podcasts, both here and at are free for all to listen to. No need to be a subscriber. It’s something that’s very important to me and I specifically ask the staff to keep it that way. The only reason they are hosted there is because the athletic department wants all content that come from practices to be on approved media outlet sites and this blog isn’t one of them (only blogs hosted by major newspapers are). But for all intents and purposes, I view this as a blog feature that I put together for EMFMV as much as for

So go ahead and have a listen!

Come here me speak on 9/9! – errr… 9/16

UPDATE on 8/20: My speaking date changed to Weds. Sept. 16th. Please come on that day if you want to hear me speak.

Every once in a rare while I get invited to speak at some Cal related function. One in particular is the Sacramento Grid Club that has asked me to come speak at their meeting on September 9th. If you’re in the Sacramento area and want to up your stalker credentials, coming to hear me speak should be on the top of your priority list.

The Grid Club is a Cal football fan club. I guess there are a number around the state. They have weekly meetings to go over the previous game and have speakers come in. In the past they’ve just asked me the weekend before their weekly event, but this year they’re filling out their schedule early. I’ll be speaking about how the team is coming together, particularly how the change from Cignetti to Ludwig is going and what to expect from the offense for the rest of the season. I’ll also be talking about year two of the 3-4 switch over, which will work out well since the Defensive Coordinator Bob Gregory will be making a call in appearance just before my talk.

More details about the Sac Grid Club are available on their website, which is The meeting is open to anyone, but they do hope that if you attend and you like what you see, you’ll consider joining (annual cost is something like $50-$60). They request that you join if you come to more than two events a year.

The location of the meeting is at the Sterling Hotel, which is located at the corner of 13th and H Streets in downtown Sacramento. The meeting starts at 5:00 PM with a review of the Maryland game film, Gregory is on at 6:00 PM and I’m on at 6:15 PM.

Come on out on Wednesday September 9th!

Back in action

I suspect some have wondered where I’ve been the last few weeks, seeing how my last post was on July 13th. The answer is two-fold:

  1. I was running my annual regatta called the Dinghy Delta Ditch on July 25th, which requires a ridiculous amount of preparation. As some of you know, my other big hobby is sailing. Every year I organize a regatta to do my part to make sure there’s lots of good regattas for people to sail in. This year was a particularly challenging one because the wind didn’t fill in at its normal time and the tide turned later than the tide tables said it would. So as a result, instead of people finishing between 6:00 and 8:00 PM, they were finishing well after dark between 8:30 and 11:00 PM. You can find the results here (if you care). Note that if you click on the word “score” for each fleet you’ll get detailed break downs on start and finish times and the such. For those who are asking, yes, the regatta is purposely scheduled to be a couple of weeks before Fall Practice starts so I can wrap it up and call it done before things get rolling here and on
  2. I was on vacation with my wife. Her family has a cabin by Little Grass Valley Reservoir, so we left the boys with Grandma and Grandpa and spent the week relaxing. No internet, no cell phones, no responsibilities. I managed to read 3 books, watch 12 movies on DVD, go for a daily bike ride in the mountains as well as spend lots of time with my wife. Heck, I even had 4 beers in one week, which has to be some sort of record for me since my 21st birthday.

All of this is just a long way of saying that I wasn’t purposely ignoring the blog, it was just a casualty of everything else going on.

But never fear! We’re back in business. Here’s what is coming up in the next few weeks leading up to the start of the season:

  • I’ll finish off the 2007 looking back series (I’m going to do the 2008 looking back series not in chronological order, but do one game each week during the season matching each look back game from 2008 to who’s being played that week in 2009. (So, the order will be Maryland, Colorado State for this years weakest non-conference game (Eastern Washington), Michigan State for this year’s Big 10 opponent (Minnesota), Oregon, USC, etc.))
  • Practice reports from Fall Practice
  • Podcasts with player interviews from Fall Practice
  • Game-by-game predictions for the season
  • Updated blogroll (if you want on the roll, read my criteria and then post a comment)
  • Enable the 2009 Pick’Em league