Holiday on Ice

Cal fans woke up today feeling good about the world, something they didn’t think was possible only a couple of days ago.

In taking part in the Bears bar crawl on Wednesday night, I talked to several die-hard fans who felt the same way. Those fans admitted that if someone told them five years ago that they would beat Stanford five straight times and go to four consecutive bowl games (not the Rose Bowl), they would have been elated.

Those same fans said that the Holiday Bowl this year simply was not enough. They admitted walking out of Memorial Stadium feeling like zombies even though Cal won by 9.

The fickle world of fandom.

Of course, all that was before Thursday night, a total feel-good ending to a not-so-feel good year (before Dec. 28).

All of a sudden, Jeff Tedford again was an offensive genius. Bob Gregory could do no wrong. Who was that Nate Longshore guy? Was that the guy who played the last three games? Remember Justin Forsett? That’s guy is pretty good.

Steve Levy and Joe Ayoob were on the field, on the same drives.

Oski was drinking beer through his eye.

It was one wonderful party from beginning to end. It was good to be a Cal fan again.

If you walked the Gaslamp trail on Thursday night, saw the faces of Cal fans who were having the time of their lives, you knew that the Bears have something pretty special going right now. All the talk about never being able to beat USC or win a conference title is garbage. This team continues to take positive steps under Tedford, and has provided its fans with some wonderful memories along the way.

The entire fourth quarter on Thursday night was a celebration. One-by-one, Cal’s coaches got the Gatorade treatment. The guy who got it worst was Ken Delgado. He was busy trying to make sure all his reserves, guys who toil all season without seeing many snaps, got into the game. He got blasted from behind. It couldn’t have been worse if he had jumped in a Gatorade pond. He was not very happy at that moment.

He turned and looked at his players, a stern, fatherly look. They were laughing. He turned around, still annoyed. They laughed some more. He turned back toward them and finally gave in. He smiled. Then it was back to business.

Such is life with Cal football. Something good happens, something a little bad happens. They smile, and move forward.



Happy Holiday Bowl

So it’s a day after Christmas and all through Cal’s house, not a creature was stirring, not even …

Well, let’s just say it’s kind of quiet here in San Diego, and that’s probably a good thing for Cal’s football team. Unlike 2004, the team is concentrating on beating Texas A&M, and not where they should or shouldn’t be.

Everything was pretty much business as usual today at practice. There have been no key injuries and nothing out of the ordinary, except for a nasty little stomach cramp job suffered by several players due to something they ate. That should be cleared out – literally — by game time.

When looking at so many crummy bowl matchups, this one really is pretty good, even if everyone hates the Pac-10’s bowl arrangements — as they should.

But it will be interesting to see if that Texas A&M defense, so effective against the Big 12 powers, will be able to stop a Pac-10 offense that slowed down in the last three games of the season.

My guess is that Cal’s offense is about to resurface. I think the players are very excited to be facing a traditional college football power and one that just beat Texas. Put DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch in front of the national spotlight, and i would imagine that good things are about to happen.

Quarterback Nate Longshore looks confident and happy, and I think he is going to bounce back with a big game.

In a way, the 2006 season is over. This game really is about 2007, even though Cal has some very talented seniors who will be leaving. But this is the lasting image that national press will get of Cal going into next season. Will it be of a team that couldn’t live up to the hype of national title contender, or will it be of a team that fell a little short against USC and went ahead and buried one of the Big 12’s top teams.

With all of its returning talent, Cal will be ranked highly again going into next season if it can beat A&M. Like it or not, that preseason hype put Cal in position to earn a BCS berth even though it stumbled in the opener against TEnnessee.

So Cal fans had better get behind their team in this game. A&M’s faithful will turn out in full force, and the Bears might need the support.


The Simpson center

Jeff Tedford stood in front of a group on Wednesday at Memorial Stadium talking about how if girls were working in the equipment room of the new Simpson High Performance Center, which is attached to the locker room, there are no sight lines into the locker room. He talked about how planners considered every aspect, down to the way the players put their shoes into the lockers.

This building has Tedford’s stamp on it and he obviously is proud of it. He considered everything, to the design of the locker room, to the alignment of his office with those of his assistants, to the training table, to the medical center. Everything. He made sure that everyone who will work in the building, athletes, trainers, food service employees, everyone, gave their imput.

It is, indeed, a neat building. It’s not beautiful from the outside because you can hardly see it. It sits partially underground and has almost no windows. There will be trees planted on the roof, so when you approach Memorial Stadium, you see Memorial Stadium and not some building in front of it. It almost disappears into the landscape.

But recruits will see plenty of beauty inside. The weight room and locker facilities are top notch and have been developed after studying similar facilities at Ohio State, Penn State, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Texas.

Three law suits have been filed to stop construction of the building, but Cal administrators are confident the construction will follow schedule from here on out.

The $100 million raised so far will be put into an endowment and the building will be financed with bonds. The idea is that extra money from the investments will provide several million dollars a year for Cal’s athletic program.

The bottom line is that Tedford simply was beaming while talking about the facility on Wednesday. It’s what he wanted to be equal with the big guns. He is finally getting it.

If you are a Cal fan, you’ve got to be smiling.

As an aside, that plaza that will be on the room of the center and available to ticket holders on game day, will be awesome. Think how crowded it is in those Memorial Stadium hallways. That will relieve that problem significantly and provide more concessions.


the break is over

Well, I had some time off and I’m back. Geez, time flies. Of course, it is kind of strange because college football is the only sport that runs through its regular season, then takes a month off before playing its last game. Think how strange it feels when the NFL takes two weeks between the championship games and the Super Bowl. Now double that.

So first a little housework. Here are the results of the second week of Jay’s NCAA Tournament football.


Bracket One

Oklahoma at Ohio State Ohio State wins 20-14
Cal at BYU Cal wins 35-31

Notre Dame at Louisville Notre Dame wins 23-20
West Virginia at LSU LSU wins 17-14


Wisconsin at Michigan Michigan wins 28-17
Virginia Tech at Boise State Virginia Tech wins 31-28


Boston College at USC USC wins 35-20
Tennessee at Florida Florida wins 17-10

As you can see, Cal has made the Elite Eight but needs to beat Ohio STate. Good luck.

Out at Cal’s practices, it’s too bad about Byron Storer. Great kid who totally loved the game. It will be interesting to see how Cal adjusts to not only the loss of Storer at fullback, but on special teams. Cal is down both Storer and Marcus O’Keith (turf toe). They both were key special teams players.

The practices have looked very sharp. I think the players are ready to roll again. The USC loss now is in the rear view mirror and the players realize they will be on a national stage against a traditional NCAA power. For the seniors, it is a chance to show off their skills to NFL scouts and they are well aware of that fact. They want to play well.

Both Tom Schneider and Andrew Larson have been kicking very well and it appears they have very fresh legs. That could be important since A&M has the No. 2 ranked kickoff return team in the country. Those kicks have to get into the end zone.

Of course, if many of you are like me, you are wondering why the heck the Holiday Bowl didn’t sign up Texas. What a matchup that would have been. Geez, do they think Cal fans wouldn’t have bought tickets to that matchup? Poor Texas. Well, maybe it would be better to say HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Talk about a major screw job. The Cotton Bowl doesn’t want in favor of Nebraska? HA HA HA HA HA HA. The Gator Bowl doesn’t want them, the Holiday Bowl doesn’t want them. The Alamo Bowl against a 6-6 Iowa team that has lost five of six. Sounds like Cal-Texas Tech. Good luck.


Holiday fun

O.K., so how many of you would like to see Cal shock Texas A&M in, say, the second quarter by sending out quarterback Joe Ayoob and telling him to run a series of spread offense? It might be kind of interesting, don’t you think? Cal has shown almost none of it all season, so why not take a chance if the regular offense gets bogged down? I know you only have so many offensive series in a game, but I can’t imagine that Texas A&M, having watched tapes of Cal from this season, would be prepared for the spread. I don’t think you should ever try to completely change what you do, but this is a case where Cal have been practicing many of these plays. Just a thought.


Round 1

It’s that time again for Round 1 of the NCAA football playoffs, as defined by Jay Heater. We all know, of course, that the only reason the bowl system continues to exist is because a bunch of people’s pockets are being filled with cash. Hopefully, the old boy network will crash and burn soon.

The NCAA Tournament is coming. Maybe not in the next five years, but it is coming. Eventually, television will dictate its existence. Some exec at ESPN is going to say, instead of drawing some small share for the Houston Bowl, we could be televising a first-round NCAA Tournament game. The Final Four would bring in a gadzillion dollars.

The idea that players will be spending too much time out of the classroom is not bunk meant for the public’s consumption. College administrators must think the public is a collective idiot. A playoff system returns most of the players to class much sooner than a bowl system.

So here is Round One of the 32-team tournament. I will follow up each week to completion.

The schedule
Round One Dec. 9
Round of 16 on Dec. 16
Round of 8 on Dec. 23
Round of 4 on Jan. 1
Championship game on Jan. 8

The teams

No. 32 seed Troy (7-5) at No. 1 seed Ohio State (12-0)
No. 22 TCU (10-2) at No. 11 Oklahoma (11-2)
No. 26 Oregon State (9-4) at No. 7 BYU (10-2)
No. 17 Cal (9-3) at No. 16 Auburn (10-2)


No. 29 Maryland (8-4) at No. 4 Louisville (11-1)
No. 21 Texas A&M (9-3) at No. 12 Notre Dame (10-2)
No. 20 West Virginia (10-2) at No. 13 Wake Forest (11-2)
No. 25 Rutgers (10-2) at No. 8 LSU (10-2)


No. 30 Navy (9-3) at No. 3 seed Michigan (11-1)
No. 24 Houston (10-3) at No. 9 Wisconsin (11-1)
No. 19 Nebraska (9-4) at No. 14 Virginia Tech (10-2)
No. 27 Penn State (8-4) No. 6 Boise State (12-0)


No. 28 Hawaii (10-3) at No. 5 USC (10-2)
No. 23 Boston College (9-3) at No. 10 Arkansas (10-3)
No. 18 Tennessee (9-3) at No. 15 Texas (9-3)
No. 31 Central Michigan (9-4) at No. 2 seed Florida (12-1)


Heater in hot water

Jeff Tedford hardly ever reads a newspaper, which is standard procedure for a coach. You can’t be affected by what appears in the newspaper. On Monday, though, Tedford had a rare day off so he got up to look at his Contra Costa Times to see in a headline that read “Tedford points to offensive line as big part of the reason for Cal’s low scoring output in its past three games.”

Of course, Tedford did not say that the offensive line was a big reason for Cal’s low scoring output. The headline was off-the-mark. Tedford said that his offensive line thought too much against Stanford and that his guys didn’t get off the ball well. As far as his offense’s problems in the past three games, Tedford has been on record as saying the opponents had a lot to do with it. Certainly, there are other reasons, but he keeps those in-house. He sure doesn’t want anyone to think he is pointing a finger and that was the reason for his anger at the headline.

In the story, the reporter (me) said that the offensive line has had its troubles the past three games. So there was some confusion and therefore I apologized to coach Tedford and coach Michalczik.

Being in the journalism business, I know that football players aren’t the only ones to fumble at times. I have done it both in my writing, and on the desk as a headline writer.

Unfortunately, this fumble made it seem that Coach Tedford was unhappy with his players at a time when he was very proud considering they had earned a share of a Pac-10 championship.



Five in a row …

The “Bear Territory” chant finally started as the final seconds ticked away, and the crowd on Tightwad Hill exhaled as Cal finished off a 26-17 victory. The wind kicked up and the air turned very chilly as the second half wore on. Thank God this wasn’t a 3:30 kickoff, it would have been freezing. As the Bears were putting the finishing touches on their fifth straight Big Game victory, people were planning where they were headed to celebrate (and drink) more. Something tells me that might have happened win or lose …


Still in doubt …

Tom Schneider just missed a makeable field goal. Cal 23-17. It’s getting loud and rowdy on the hill, but everybody is ready for the game-deciding play that puts the game away. People are still sober enough to realize an epic upset could still happen. One guy cut out eye holes in an empty Pabst Blue Ribbon box and put it on his head. He may keep it on the rest of the weekend if Cal loses …


Creative thinking …

Why in the world would somebody bring a snow ski up to Tightwad Hill? Well, someone discovered that if you drill four holes into a ski, you could fit four shot glasses inside them. So during the third quarter, a crowd gathered around and watched four people simultaneously take shots of Jose Cuervo from a snow ski. That’s imagination …