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Archive for September, 2006

Another thing

And another thing,

Someone had asked about Cal’s kickoff that was returned for a touchdown by Minnesota. Yes, indeed, it was supposed to go exactly where it went. Place-kicker Tom Schneider was told to kick it there and he did his job. As coach Tedford said, when you can pin a team into the corner, you don’t have to cover the entire field. Tedford explained that one of his defenders got knocked off his line and Minnesota simply did a great job of moving a couple other tacklers out of the way. Tedford said the scheme was sound, and he had to tip his cap to Minnesota for a big play.

For those of you wondering about Portland State. The game was scheduled last minute to replace Louisiana Tech, which pulled out of its agreement to come to Berkeley. (Remember that awful loss to Tech about six years ago in which the All American tight end was running uncovered deep in the fourth quarter?). Cal contacted almost every Division I-A school that had an opening with no luck. This game actually works out well for the Bears, who have played two considerable opponents in Tennessee and Minnesota.

Jay

Posted on Tuesday, September 12th, 2006
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Portland State week

It is easy to understand why Division I-A teams can look sloppy when playing lower division opponents. It simply is a different atmosphere. Take Tuesday’s media luncheon, for instance. There weren’t many TV cameras around and the number of reporters was down. The Portland State-Cal matchup on Saturday at Memorial Stadium isn’t going to rock anyone’s world.

It was refreshing to hear Cal offensive guard Erik Robertson say as much. He noted that when he heard Cal was adding Portland State, he figured it would be just another Sacramento State type game. However, he has since discovered that Portland State, which is 2-0, has quality defensive linemen. What’s worse than looking bad against a lower division opponent. Robertson said the Bears, indeed, are taking this game very seriously.

An interesting side note Portland State coach Tim Walsh said that while he respects the tremendous ability of both Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, it’s Cal’s offensive line that gives him more worries. He said that appeared to be dominating against Minnesota.

Back to the game itself, no, it won’t get their blood pumping like a game against ASU, Oregon or USC, but they know they can’t afford to look bad. That’s already happened once this season and they don’t want it to happen again.

Expect Cal to take a very professional (for college students) attitude going into this game. Coach Jeff TEdford always talks about taking business trips when he takes the team on the road. This is somewhat of a home business trip. This is all business.

Cal quarterback Nate Longshore came by the media luncheon and he looked very relaxed. Tedford said this is a guy who never gets rattled and it will be interesting to see how he improves after getting four or five games under his belt.

Cody Jones came by and I interviewed him for a story that the Times will run later this week, probably on Friday. He is a joy, another Jeff Tedford recruiting gem. This was a guy that didn’t draw much interest from Arizona in his hometown of Tucson. Here he is a red-shirt freshman with a start under his belt. The nice thing about him is he has that sense of wonder in his eyes, something you just don’t see from some players who simply expect everything to come easy. I think it’s a good bet that Jones is prepared to do anything coach Ken Delgado asks him to do. He sees great players on the field and understands what it takes to get there. It will be fun watching him progress.

Justin Forsett came by the luncheon and, as always, was loving life. I asked him if he misses home and he said, yes. But not Texas, where he went to high school his senior year. He misses Florida (of all places), where he grew up. Most of his friends and family are there. Of course, like any of us, he tolerated the humidity. It’s one thing he doesn’t miss.

The report on offensive tackle Andrew Cameron didn’t appear to be that good as coach Tedford said he wasn’t ready to play. Considering the Bears are facing Portland State, it looks like Mike Tepper might get his first start. Defensive end Rulon Davis, who was ill all last week, is expected back at practice this week. The Bears probably can get along without him against Portland State and the development of Jones is one reason.

It’s Penny day at the stadium on Saturday and, personally, I think it’s a great thing. How often do our kids get to the games (of any kind) these days with the prices so steep? Cal is cultivating fans of the future.

Jay

Posted on Tuesday, September 12th, 2006
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Whew!

Well, I would imagine that Cal fans are a bit more relaxed today (Sunday). The team that was supposed to be a national power looked like one in dispatching Minnesota without much trouble.

Obviously, quarterback Nate Longshore looked much better. He had a bit more time and he side-stepped the rush very well. Longshore is not quick footed, but he is strong and he showed on Saturday that he has the strength to pull out of a tackle. He often bought himself more time by brushing away defenders. Longshore would be the first to admit, though, that he missed some wide open receivers and threw a few fairly short passes into the ground well short of his target.

Cal fans did get to see the kind of threat that those three wide outs — Lavelle Hawkins, DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan — can be. One of those guys is going to line up against a corner that simply won’t be up to the job. I would imagine they will take turns having big games.

Bears tailback Justin Forsett was very impressive with the way he changed direction and bounced outside to open holes.

A big surprise was the play of Cody Jones and Tyson Alualu at defensive end. A stinger suffered in last week’s game by Abu Ma’afala, one that probably affected his play in that game, opened the door. Junior college transfer Rulon Davis was ill all last week, so Jones stepped into the starting spot and Alualu moved out from his tackle slot. Defensive line coach Ken Delgado talked about how impressed he was that Alualu learned all his duties in such a short amount of time. Great stuff for a true freshman. Both players held their ground and allowed Cal’s linebackers to make a lot of plays. Ma’afala is due back this week as is Davis.

For those of you thinking ahead, Portland State ripped Northern Colorado 45-3 a week after beating New Mexico. New Mexico rebounded with a win over New Mexico State. The Vikings feature Danny Ferrigno’s son, Brendan, at wide receiver. Coach Tedford said he is very impressed with the Vikings’ size along the defensive line and the overall defensive speed of the team. That defensive line strength could be a problem for Cal, which might be without offensive tackle Andrew Cameron, who sprained his ankle against Minnesota.

Jay

Posted on Sunday, September 10th, 2006
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A day away

A day away. It’s a time when the players from both teams start to feel those butterflies, the coaches get knots in their stomachs, the fans feel excited and uneasy.

As a reporter, it’s usually a time that’s not all that busy, the calm before the storm. The interviews are done earlier in the week because coaches want their players to focus on the business at hand.

For both Cal and Minnesota, the business at hand will be establishing a rushing game. Both programs have been among the national leaders in rushing the past four years and that ability to run the football will again be big on Saturday.

Cal, certainly, is the team with the bigger questions. Minnesota’s doubts come in the form of a rout of Kent State, and how much legitimacy can be tied to that win. But the Gophers obviously feel good about themselves.

Cal, on the other hand, is coming off a brutal loss in which it couldn’t establish any kind of offense. If the Bears start slow against Minnesota, they might begin to question themselves.

Tied into the uncertainly is the slight ankle sprain suffered by Marshawn Lynch. Is he 100 percent? He looked good in practice on Thursday, so he appears ready to go. Whether Cal asks him to play on special teams and carry a heavy offensive load will be a key to the game.

Third-string tailback Marcus O’Keith has looked very sharp in practice, so don’t be surprised if he carries a bigger load on Saturday.

Cal’s defensive line also has something to prove after getting knocked around a bit against Tennessee. If the Bears can impose their will against Minnesota’s offensive line, then Cal should win going away.

It will be interesting to see how the Memorial Stadium crowd will treat the Bears. Are they still excited about a possible Rose Bowl run? Will they be ready to be a factor in the game in the first half, and not just the fourth quarter? Will they sit on their hands, waiting for the Bears to prove something?

Cal offensive tackle Scott Smith said on Thursday that no matter how loud the Tennessee crowd was last Saturday, he has never experienced the kind of fervor that Cal’s student section provides at home. Scott acknowledged that the entire stadium does not rock, except at times, like other places, but he said that section of fans behind Cal’s bench has no match anywhere.

See you out there.

Jay

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006
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Get ready for Minnesota

Hey Old Blues and Cal fans in general, or Gopher fans stopping by,

With Saturday’s game only a couple days away, I’m sure almost everyone continues to wonder if the Cal team that showed up in Knoxville, Tenn., will get flattened by a potent Minnesota rushing game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Certainly, there is reason for worry. Against the Vols, Cal certainly didn’t control the line of scrimmage, something that will have to change against Minnesota, a team that has averaged more than 200 yards rushing a game for the past seven years.

Of particular interest will be the play of Abu Ma’afala, a converted defensive tackle who lost about 20 pounds the past off-season so he would be quick enough to play defensive end. Ma’afala will need to be strong on the edge, turning Minnesota’s tailbacks back inside toward Brandon Mebane, who won’t have much to do if the Gophers can run around the edge.

Cal’s linebackers, especially Desmond Bishop, made some big hits early in that game, but then made few impact plays. These guys have a world of talent and they should be difference makers. I would imagine that we will see some huge hits from this unit against Minnesota.

Cal’ s defensive strategy against Tennessee wasn’t to see out in order to get to the quarterback because the Vols were using a very quick passing set that doesn’t set up well for blitzing. Against Minnesota, fans might see defensive coordinator Bob Gregory get more aggressive with his linebackers. Of course, Minnesota is one of the nation’s top teams in terms of protecting its quarterback, and a lot of that has to do with freezing the defense off play action with a potent running game. It will be a considerable defensive challenge for a Cal team that didn’t play well defensively last Saturday.

Coach Jeff Tedford was adamant on Wednesday that his team must get a running attack going against Minnesota. If Marshawn Lynch can shake off his slightly sprained ankle, look for the Bears to be more stubborn in their running game against Minnesota.

Of course, that in itself is a worry for Cal fans who watched the offensive line take turns missing assignments. Tedford talked on Wednesday about the fact that good offensive lines really have to get to know each other. Cal’s lineup was scrambled after losing Ryan O’Callaghan, Aaron Merz and Marvin Philip all the NFL after last season. Cal did not assert itself last Saturday and that will be a major challenge against Minnesota. Allowing the Gophers to come full speed ahead at Nate Longshore will spell trouble.

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2006
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Welcome Cal fans

Welcome Cal football fans to our blog on Golden Bear football.

This is the first post on a blog that will be updated on most days during Cal’s season. I hope you enjoy some of the notes and news that you will find here. I am always open to suggestions or ideas and you can ask questions at this site. My email is jheater@cctimes.com if you want to send me a personal note.

We would love to reach as many college football fans as possible through this forum, so please feel free to participate. We share the same passion, so let’s have some fun.

Jay

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2006
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