Cake, and ate it, too

So I was looking at one of Naomi Follett’s confetti cakes, wondering whether I should take a bite. I’m not much of a cake guy, but I couldn’t have told her I liked it, if I hadn’t at least tried a piece. And as a line of co-workers waited to get it a shot, I thought, what the heck. So I can now report, in all honesty, why Justin Forsett says it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I hate dry cakes, and this was moist and wonderful. I am not going to go Julia Childs on my readers, but I will post her recipe in the near future. In fact, I might have to change my philosophy about doing interviews with players. I might have to target those with the best cooks for moms. Or as one of my co-workers suggested, “Find out whose dad owns a BMW dealership.” Now that’s an idea.

For those interested in the life and times of former Cal wide receiver Geoff McArthur, I am writing a story for Friday’s paper on his season coaching at Kennedy High School. Yes, he did visit Jeff Tedford in pursuit of tips. McArthur said Tedford was wonderful, giving him lots of good advice. “I don’t like losing, and he hates to lose,” McArthur said of Tedford. McArthur, who is serving as Kennedy’s offensive coordinator, tried to put a Cal offense into play, and decided quickly that it was way too complicated. McArthur is hoping to get a shot at the NFL next season after recovering from knee surgery. For more, see Friday’s Contra Costa Times.


top five bears

I was asked to pick the top five Bears since I started covering the team in 1993. I am not including anyone from this season’s team.

1. Tony Gonzalez. The guy was an unbelievable tight end and he will eventually be an NFL Hall of Famer.
2. Todd Steussie. An absolute mountain. Stong, tough, funny. A good guy with great talent. A top notch NFL lineman.
3. Andre Carter. He cut the field in half. Opposing offenses didn’t even try to run at him.
4. Ryan O’Callaghan. He could cave in the left side of a defense, both the lineman in front of him and the linebacker behind. He was awesome.
5. Aaron Rodgers. His accuracy was uncanny. He took Cal to new heights.

Honorable mentions.

Linebacker Jerrott Willard, quarterback Dave Barr, wide receiver Geoff McArthur. All three were phenomenal when healthy. Unfortunately, injuries limited them during their Cal careers. Willard had an incredable closing kick to seal the deal. When the game was on the line, nobody was better than Barr. McArthur got all the attention and still made the plays.

Also, Deltha O’Neal was tremendously gifted. Duane Clemons was a monster. Regan Upshaw was just about as good as Carter. Bobby Shaw was one of the most acrobatic wide receivers I have ever seen. Kyle Boller had incredible gifts and not much support his first three seasons.


Bear talk

It was rather interesting talking to Coach Tedford about the clock management at the end of the half on Saturday against Washington. I asked him why the Bears took so much time coming up to the line of scrimmage at the beginning of the series. He said that he was taking a conservative approach and that he wanted to run a play to see if it was worth taking a shot at scoring. “We were going to see what happened on first down, and if there was a positive play, then we were going into hurry-up mode,” Tedford said. Of course, Nate Longshore moved the Bears down the field in a hurry and they managed a field goal. However, Cal would have had a shot at the end zone if they hadn’t burned so many seconds. I also asked Nate Longshore about Cal’s delay in getting over the ball and he said he really wasn’t aware that it took so long to get the first play off.
It appears that Cal still hasn’t adjusted to the new NCAA rule that starts the game clock after change of possession. With so much at stake down the stretch, Cal will need to clean up its clock management issues. With all three time outs available on that last drive of the half, Cal should have called a time out, discussed the options and then snapped the ball. If it was a negative play, Cal could have let the clock run. With its field position, Washington wasn’t going to stop the clock even if Cal had a negative play.

Although Cal hasn’t played up to its standards on offense the past couple of weeks, Tedford said he was mostly satisfied. “You are not going to play perfect all the time,” he said. “We’ve been a little hit and miss. But we still didn’t turn the football over (on Saturday). Not everything is going to click. We probably haven’t been as consistent as we have been. I saw a lot of plays to be made out there. We can play better, no question about it.”

Tedford said he was most proud of how his team held together in the face of adversity against Washington. “I was most impressed with our togetherness,” he said. “We talk about united we stand. There were times there when it would have been easy for one of our groups to get frustrated. I never saw it.

Tedford was asked if playing such a nailbiter will help down the road. “That’s what they say,” he said with a laugh.

Like always, Tedford was asked if he is thinking about the Rose Bowl. “This is no time to dream about this, that or the other thing,” he said.

I asked Marshawn Lynch about that dive he was going to do into the end zone in regulation. He said he changed his mind because he saw a defender closing in behind him. It’s a good thing he didn’t do it. It would have resulted in a penalty that would have given Washington great field position at a crucial time.

Nate Longshore was asked if he was kind of living a dream against Washington, leading his team on a fourth quarter touchdown drive to take the lead. “I guess it wasn’t that big a deal,” Longshore said. “Everyone in the huddle was calm.”

Guard Erik Robertson said he felt that the team was flat before the Washington game. But the Bears stood out on that final drive in the fourth quarter. “Great teams find a way to win,” he said. It was a great lesson for the future. And I think it revealed our character.”


Beep beep

I talked to Jim Muldoon of the Pac-10 office on Monday and he said he was barely aware of Marshawn Lynch’s NASCAR fun after the Bears’ overtime win over Washington at Memorial Stadium. Muldoon said the Pac-10 had received no complaints about the incident and only was familiar with his cart fun due to accounts of it in the media. So nothing official will come out of it, if you were wondering. However, you can be sure Jeff Tedford will talk to his players about the hazzard of mowing down a couple of teammates after a game.

Also from the Pac-10, Muldoon said that if Cal did reach the Rose Bowl, about 32,000 tickets would be made available to Cal fans. Then it would be Cal’s decision how to distribute those tickets. John Sudsbury of Cal’s sports information office said a ticket policy will be coming soon. However, he had no idea of an exact date. I would imagine that Cal fans aren’t going to hear anything until the Monday after the USC game. We will see.

Bears cornerback Daymeion Hughes was impressed how hard Washington played last Saturday. He said he saw a lot of bloody noses and black eyes. He said Washington deserved most of the credit for making that game so close.

Saturday’s game was a good example of the choice that defensive coordinators have to make. Cal’s Bob Gregory decided to go with dropping a lot of bodies back into pass coverage and therefore sacrificed his team’s ability to pressure the passer. Washington quarterback Carl Bonnell had lots of time to throw and barely was hit the entire game. However, Cal had five interceptions that were key to the victory. Can Cal afford to give John David Booty that kind of time? Of course not. But I would imagine that Gregory will go a different direction in that game. We will see.

Crazy as it sounds, driving that cart around might have put Marshawn Lynch back in the Heisman race. Voters might have have noticed his 100-yard plus a game and that he is leading the Pac-10 in rushing. However, everyone is talking about his antics after the game. At least they are talking about him.


Can they do it again?

Can’t wait for Saturday to see if the Memorial Stadium crowd can generate even half the energy it did against Oregon. Certainly, it would be reasonable to see somewhat of a drop off. We’re probably looking at 12,000 less fans to start. However, this is exactly the kind of game where a team would need a huge lift early from the crowd. It is kind of a themeless game in that Cal has dominated the Huskies recently, and Washington just lost its starting quarterback. The Bears could come out a bit flat. That’s when a crowd can put a huge charge into the players by rocking the joint early in the game and not waiting until the fourth quarter. The crowd only gets three more chances this season to make a difference.


Ty is in town

Tyrone Willingham spoke on Tuesday about trying to build a football team and he sounded somewhat like Jeff Tedford that first year when Tedford was trying to change attitudes and implement a system. It hasn’t turned around as fast for Willingham, but he is making some positive strides and might have reached a bowl this season if not for the injury to quarterback Isaiah Stanback. Willingham said the words “confidence” and “belief” many times and those were echoed by Tedford often those first couple seasons. Actually, the most often spoken word around Cal’s campus these days is trust. You see such a difference when the players trust their coaches. That has been the case at Cal under Tedford. Whether Willingham can capture his players’ trust remains to be seen, but he appears to be turning the corner. When players trust the direction of the program, they are more willing to do all the little things it takes to win. They also police themselves. “Life is so much about developing good habits,” Willingham said.”We have some steps we have to continue to take.”

You have to feel for a guy like Stanback, who had come so far in terms of becoming a more complete quarterback. “Tim Lappano (former Cal assistant) did such a wonderful job with him,” Willingham said. “It was exciting to see his growth.”

Willingham said he was looking into ways to keep Stanback involved this season.

Coach Tedford was asked about his team falling a spot in the AP rankings and being ranked No. 10 in the BCS. “We’ve been down this road before,” he said. “It is important to us that we focus on each and every week. (The rankings) only matter at the end of the season.”

I asked Tedford which Cal players are developing quickly behind the scenes. He said linebacker Michael Mohamed has looked exceptional along with Charles Amadi, Chris Guarnero and James Montgomery.

I also asked him about the development of tight end Cameron Morrah, who has had a hard time getting snaps. Tedford said he is excited about Morrah’s growth, but that he has to get a little stronger at the point of attack.

Nate Longshore said that Washington has some defensive schemes that are somewhat similar to those used by Cal. He said the Huskies will try to confuse him. That being said, Longshore said he hasn’t had to change many plays at the line of scrimmage this season. He said most of Cal’s called plays change after the snap as offensive players react to the defense. That’s what it is so important that the quarterback and wide receivers are on the same page. So far, so good.
“The coaches do a great job knowing what to expect,” Longshore said.

Linebacker Zack Follett said that Washington defensive backs coach J.D. Williams, who switched this season from Cal, was the reason to signed with the Bears. He said a story came out in the local paper that he was going to Oregon. Williams went to Clovis, pulled him out of class and talked him into going to Cal.


the streak is dead

Just like many of the other streaks that have died since Jeff Tedford took over, the curse of the Palouse is now history. It was interesting after the game how made coach Tedford seemed to be. He was not happy at all with his offense, and I would imagine his playmakers. The blocking seemed to be pretty good and the pass blocking was exceptional considering the opponent. It appeared that lately Lavelle Hawkins was becoming a huge factor and he was quiet against the Cougars. They need him to be back on his game in the coming weeks.

Isn’t it different that Cal can win a Pac-10 game by 18 points on the road against a team with a winning record and the head coach isn’t pleased? it is a sign of the times.

Cal is ranked No. 10 by the first BCS poll, but it really doesn’t matter. The Bears have to win out, and they will get a BCS berth. Anything thing less probably will lead to another trip to the Holiday Bowl. The national championship game isn’t going to happen for Cal. If Cal can beat USC, I imagine the national title game will feature the winner of Michigan-Ohio State vs. the winner of Louisville-West Virginia.

Did you notice that defensive end Steve Kelly is back in the mix on some key downs? Neat story about a kid who has fought through a mass of injuries. I will be writing about him this week.

After the game, Cal security chief Bud Turner was enjoying the win since he was around the last time Cal won in the Palouse in 1979. MArshawn Lynch took particular delight in Turner’s glee. “He said he was 40 the last time we won here,” Lynch said. “there’s no telling how old he is now.”


Hello Palouse

So it’s up to the land of the Palouse — something about rolling, peaceful hills — and I’m thinking offensive line. Scott Smith is back from a sprained knee, but Mike Gibson has done such a good job at right tackle that it will be interesting to see how Coach M uses him. Of course, Washington State defensive end Mkristo Bruce leads the nation in sacks with 10, so Cal might need to keep its offensive tackles fresh. It will be interesting to see Bruce, who is a 6-foot-7, 250-pounder. Gibson is more than an inch taller than Smith and about 15 pounds heavier, so we will see if size is important in trying to handle Bruce.

Also, free safety Thomas DeCoud will be back in action, and he probably will be worked into the lineup slowly since Bernard Hicks has done such a nice job.

Everything else is pretty much on schedule. Marshawn Lynch practiced well and appears ready to go. Nate Longshore remains confident.

Still waiting to hear from Cal and the Sling Box people about TV coverage at Memorial Stadium. If that doesn’t come through, I’ll put my cell phone number on here so you all can call during the game.

Just kiddin



Zack attack

Often, as writers, we have some great stuff that we can’t put into an article because of a lack of space. Here are a few things that I wanted to put into my article about Cal linebacker Zack Follett that didn’t get into the story that we are running Friday.

His feeling about playing defense over offense.
“I prefer defense. On offense, you really can’t make a play by yourself. On defense, sometimes it’s a matter of how bad you want it and how hard you are willing to go.”

On film study with Cal assistant Bob Foster.

“We study film … really study the opponent. If you study them, you can dominate them. We knew the plays (Oregon) was running before they ran them.”

Zack’s mom Naomi talked about last summer when Zack brought Desmond Bishop, Worrell Williams, Lavelle Hawkins and a few others to Clovis. “They were the most polite gentlemen,” she said. “On Desmond’s birthday, Zack, my husband and Desmond went boating. You should have seen these guys on inner tubes. They have such great arm strength that they can hold on when most people would have let go.”
Of course, that made Bob Follett drive faster to see if he could cartwheel them across the water. “I’m sure coach Tedford would have been happy,” Naomi said.

Mom also said, “Zack was a kid who always had a ball in his hand. He excelled in baseball but he thought it was boring. He wants to hit someone. He played every sport like a football player. When he was 7 or 8, he hit the ball hard, an in the park home run, and he hit the catcher so hard that he went flying across home plate. Zack got kicked out of the game.”

Zack and fellow linebacker Greg Van Hoesen have combined to make lifesize cutouts of the players. Zack does the wood work, cutting out plywood with a jigsaw and then Van Hoesen brings them to life with his painting skills. Naomi has a 6-foot-2 cut out of her son at the top of their stairs at home. She said everytime she goes up stairs, it’s like her son is there. “When Zack goes anything, he puts his focus into it. Those cutouts look so great. And Greg is a true artist. What a beautful job.”

Zack said he would like to cut out a Marshawn Lynch likeness where he is stiff-arming the Oregon player. He would get Van Hoesen to paint it and they could sell it at auction. Anyone interested in buying one?

Zack said he has run a 4.6 4-yard dash.

He has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder and he gets shot up every game.

On coach Bob Foster, who took over for Justin Wilcox.
“it was a big extreme going from one of the youngest linebackers coach to the oldest. Coach Wilcox taught us about defenses, Coach Foster teaches us how to be a linebacker. He teaches us tells and how to read guys. He watches the most film out of any coach around here. All those little things that he knows. He is the godfather of this defense. I had heard nothing but great things about him. Every situation, he has been in. He can always give us a story. He has got some wild stories.

“I want to be on the elite level, like an A.J. Hawk. I want to be thought of on that level.”