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Reflections/update

It was a surreal scene after Saturday’s game. The media was instructed to wait for coach Jeff Tedford and players in a designated area. Little did we know it was within earshot of the Cal locker room. We found out soon enough when we suddenly started hearing shouting nearby. It was Tedford, giving his team a tongue-lashing.

I’ve never been privvy before to the dynamics of Cal’s locker room after a game. But my guess is Tedford usually isn’t as demonstrative as he was Saturday. He lit into his team, taking the blame himself and imploring his players not to let this happen again.

As a coach, Tedford seems to be more concerned with the technical side of the game than the emotional side of it. Not that there is anything wrong with that or one way is better than the other. That’s just his style. There have been times during Cal’s struggles in the second half of the season where Tedford has been asked if the team needs more vocal leaders, or if it needs some players to start playing more angry, etc. Tedford hasn’t seemed to concerned with such elements. He’s simply said that’s not the personality of his players. He believes that if the players executed technique and the game plan better, there wouldn’t be as much need for that other stuff.

That’s why I thought it was so eventful that Tedford displayed such emotion after Saturday’s game. We’ll see how the players respond to it. Obviously, there’s not much season left now. Some believe that perhaps Tedford or his players should have gotten angry earlier. Maybe the Bears needed a loss as ugly as Saturday’s to finally get mad.

Obviously, it wasn’t the defense’s finest hour. It’s one thing to play poorly. It’s another to be physically manhandled by an opponent, especially one that hasn’t demonstrated that it can be that dominant at other times during the season. It certainly was an uninspiring performance, and a little surprising too because it seemed like the defense actually had been improving in the past two games.

Cal held its usual short conditioning workout Sunday night. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory called the mood “somber.” Gregory obviously was incredibly disappointed with Saturday’s effort. He said he was “shocked” by his unit’s performance and said it was a “meltdown” in every phase imaginable. I’ll have more on Gregory and the defense in Tuesday’s paper.

Tedford talked to his players about who they are, what statement do they want to make as the season ends, etc. He said the last one or two games will be a chance to show what this 2007 team is made of. In most bye weeks, the younger players get a lot of the reps. Tedford said that won’t be the case this week, that guys who play will continue to get most of the reps.

Tedford said wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Justin Forsett won’t do much this week. Jackson suffered a thigh contusion Saturday and Forsett’s ankle flared up again late in the game. Forsett has been battling that ankle injury all year long.

Don’t be surprised if freshman Jahvid Best is shut down for the rest of the year. Best missed Saturday’s game with a hip injury and is on crutches. Cal still doesn’t have a definitive diagnosis. Best has undergone multiple tests and they are being evaluated. But usually when guys get tests and it takes a while to determine the diagnosis, it’s not good news. Best is arguably the most important player to Cal’s future, so you can bet the coaching and training staff will be cautious with him.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • joshiemac

    2007 in ruins and the future on crutches. This really has been a nightmare season.

  • HOUSE

    Wow, I dont know if there ever has been such a drop in the history in the NCAA. All we had to do is win 7 more games to get the the national title, and now we need to beat Stanford to get to the Emerold bowl. But it is a great time to see who are the real bear fans and who the band wagoners are.

  • G Spot1

    As disappointed as I am, in a way I’m glad the team lost to UW. Now no one can deny this season is a total unmitigated disaster. We beat two top 25 teams but are 7th in the Pac 10. This team has been focusing on all the wrong things this season (rankings, Heisman) and I’m glad they have to face this embarrassment. Maybe they shouldn’t have been checking their text messages at halftime during the OSU game….

    I also hate the “fair weather fan” comments” – such as the one made by Zack Follett. This team flat out quit on us. There was no effort in the UW game. Why should the fans hang in when the team has checked out? (Of course, the fans didn’t check out – 55k at the WSU game, 72k in the rain vs. USC).

    This team better pull it together for one last game. Bears fans still do care about beating Stanfurd even if that is something we’ve taken for granted the last couple of years…

  • Jim

    The UW game brought on many thoughts and questions. One of the first things Tedford specifically did when he took over as head coach was to work to restore the team’s confidence. I find it ironic that this year’s team appears to be suffering from a crisis of confidence. For the first time since he took over, Tedford’s team looked rudderless on Saturday. It also seems to me that this team lacks leadership. I wonder how much needs to come from the players themselves, the coaching staff or a combination of the two. Regardless, there doesn’t seem to be much accountability, let alone energy and passion. Zach Follett seemed to acknowledge the latter two after the game. You have to wonder about Cal’s mental state considering Decoud’s coin toss error. Also, for one of the first times in the Tedford era, the team looked unprepared, especially on defense. Cal was playing a team that was likely to be without their starting QB. With or without Locker, it would seem obvious to me that UW would look to run the ball whether to protect Locker or to limit the pressure on his back up. With that in mind, how could UW run for 334 yards? I found it strange that some players commented that they prepared to face Locker and cited ‘missed assignments’ to explain some of UW’s success on the ground. I don’t want to sound overly negative. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the success Tedford has brought to Cal’s football program and will continue to support his efforts. However, Tedford has said that he has been reluctant to change things since they’ve been successful in the past. I wonder if Saturday’s drubbing will be the impetus to institute, what appears to me at least, some much needed change. I’d be curious as to your opinion.

  • eddieboy

    Time to look toward Kevin Riley; his slip up in the OSU game, he still showed poise and energy and leadership. Longshore did better when his hair was bleached, I might add.
    I still love the Bears!!!

  • Gerald E. Riggs

    Okane’s observation re: Javid Best underscores a concern I’ve had all year regarding his seemingly reckless exposure to potential career impact injury. It is certainly correct to state that Cal’s future is largely dependent on Best’s development. That being the case why would the coaching staff ever want to continually expose him to injury by using him as the “gunner” in kick-off coverage? Best’s future is as the go-to running back, not high risk special teams. I don’t know if Best’s injury is the result of special teams play or his very limited use as a running back. I certainly hope its not the former but whether it is or is not, the reckless approach by the coaching staff is dumb.

  • Dan

    Where is this team and this program headed? This doesn’t feel like a one year blip on the radar. Most of what we have negatively seen this season falls on the coaches. Their offensive and defensively philosophies are both wrong, and they seem to be the last to get it. Both Tedford and Gregory stubbornly stick what is not working.
    Top college teams these days play very aggressively on at least one side of the ball, most on both sides of the ball. Look at the top teams- LSU, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Florida, Oklahoma, etc. All aggressive.
    I strongly feel JT & BG both play not to lose. What kind of way is that to show your players you have confidence in them? Their plans of attack? The defense has been a nightmare. Cal has WAY too many good athletes for it to be this bad. The offense hasn’t been horrible, but it has been way too predicatable. When you think back on the season as a whole, how did Tedford really do maximizing the stable of weapons he had at his disposal? Not very good I’d say. Forsett has had a tremendous year (he’s an absolute warrior). Other than that, he did a VERY poor job of getting the ball to his playmakers in space, with a chance to make big plays. That makes his offense this year a disappointment, no matter what the stats say. Did it ever occur to Tedford with a defense this bad that maybe he needed go all out to try to make this offense as high powered as possible and score as many points as possible? Apparently not. Even against Tennessee, he could have blown them way out earlier in the game, but Tedford was admittedly too conservative (and predictable) for 3 straight series, and a 17 point lead became a 7 point lead. Tennessee never stopped Cal, Tedford stopped Cal. If he had primed this offense early, maybe some of the close games that became losses (UCLA, ASU, OSU) would have been blow out wins for Cal.
    Now this season and this team have both imploded, regardless of what it does vs. Stanford. Even if Cal goes to a bowl (the Emerald- woo-hoo!) and wins, this team under-achieved and disappointed greatly. Who recruited, trained, developed and armed this team? Tedford did. So perhaps the only good that will come out of this will be that Tedford can’t deny how bad things went. They have lost 5 of 6 in conference, several vs. inferior talent. Perhaps he will really look in the mirror and figure out everything that needs to change. This is the guy who brought in Mike Dunbar, one of the really great offensive coordinators in college football, last year and basically castrated him. He then threw him under the bus and Dunbar left after one year. C’mon, does anybody really believe that Dunbar was calling the plays that Dunbar wanted to call last year? He was calling the plays that Tedford wanted to run, so really Dunbar was the O-C in title only.
    Tedford is in danger of losing this team and this program if he doesn’t make some serious changes. Firing Gregory could likely happen, but didn’t Tedford have Gregory as his defensive coordinator because of the conservative style that he employs? That doesn’t work!! Doesn’t the buck stop at Tedford??
    Some points about Nate Longshore – He doesn’t appear to have what it takes to play a whole game, let alone a whole season, at a championship level. Even in a game where his stats looked pretty good, he killed the Bears. His int, where he stared down the reciver, was a gift 7 points to the Huskies. Then, his pass to Robert Jordan was off the mark as usual, underthrown so much it prevented Jordan from getting into the end zone. Cal predictably ran (and were stuffed) on 1st and 2nd downs, had to throw (unsuccessfully) on 3rd, and had to settle for a FG. Longshore’s's short throw, where he clutched twice before throwing, cost Cal 4 more points there. Right there, Longshore had a huge hand in costing Call 11 points. 11 points!! Cal scored 3 points in the 2nd half total with Longshore guiding the team. That about says it all. Longshore stats looked pretty good, but his mistakes were the difference in Cal losing. What is he now, 1 TD and 12 ints in the 4th quarter for his career? That says it all.
    But never forget, as Tedford said, he is not a pro playing for money. Tedford is a pro- a very highly paid one. Criticizing him should be OK. He’s clearly not St. Jeff anymore. Just hope he can truly self evaluate and listens to any objective criticism that he can get. I don’t think he can, as I haven’t seen any evidence to date. AND … let’s see how this incoming recruiting class turns out- so far it’s just OK, not great. Let’s see if all the kids who have verbal-ed actually sign (or change their mind), and if some of top recruits they have targeted sign. It should be interesting.

  • nickle

    As much as I agree with Longshore being real shaky at qb this season Dan, I was impressed with his performance this past saturday. You fail to mention his 3 TD passes, and the way the offense was cruising along when they were in sync.

    Again, as much as I agree with longshore being really off this year, I feel like people are now just finding small, picky things to find reasons to put riley in. Longshore was to blame for the int that resulted in the td, but 4 pts because he underthrew rojo falls on longshore? B/c cal’s offense couldn’t punch it in to the endzone, it’s longshore’s fault? Cmon. Yes, it was underthrown, but cmon. He was NOT the difference in cal losing. When your D gives up over 300 yds rushing, I’m pretty sure that’s the clear difference in Cal losing.

  • todd nizzle

    Fire Bob Gregory Yesterday..Waaay too much talent on that side of the ball to be this bad…and for all of you that claim “fair weather” for fans who are upset and pissed about this year could use some passion, just like our team…yes it’s great that the program has turned around after years of suffering, but we loyal fans have every right to be just as frustrated as the players

  • Dan

    I appreciate and hear what you’re saying Nickle. He’s not terrible, and this what is now a whole team implosion is not all on him. That’s not what I’m saying. And I am not necessarily calling for Riley nor blaming only Longshore for this loss- what I was said was that he is not a championship caliber QB. He’s nowhere near. He plays well enough to have good stats most games, but doesn’t make the difference a championship QB does. His ints this year- UCLA, USC, UW, Arizona- all killers. He had a chance as a qb, as THE most important player on the team, to step up and lead Cal to victories, but he didn’t. Instead, he threw interceptions- right to the defense- that contributed mightily to each loss. Again, 1 TD and 12 interceptions in the 4th quarter in his career. These numbers don’t lie. Instead, they tell the whole story. Also, he has missed so many wide open receivers this season, read defenses incorrectly on WR read routes, didn’t push the ball downfield enough. He’s been a one man drive killer. Is it all on him? Of course not. A LOT of it is on Tedford- he hasn’t helped Longshore. He frequently passed only on obvious passing downs. Didn’t we all hold our breath when the pass to Jordan was short, preventing him from getting into the endzone? 1st and goal? Shades of Oregon State. Shades of Arizona last year. Atrocious, block headed play calling. That’s why the bulk of what I said focused on Tedford, even over Gregory.
    As for firing Gregory, that won’t help unless Tedford is going to go out and find a new defensive coordinator that plays a whole other aggressive style of defense. That’s what we all want right? That’s what the players want. There’s no guarantee that Tedford will do that. In case everybody hasn’t noticed, Tedford is not a fan of going for the jugular, of always forcing the action, of inspirational philosophies on either side of the ball. He’s not aggressive, and that has cost Cal greatly this year. His “play not to lose” style on both sides of the ball has been very frustrating to watch, has allowed opponents to play Cal better than they should, and has cost Cal greatly this season.
    Consider this – For all the accolades he has deservedly gotten prior to this year, he also is fair game for this season. Cal might be the biggest under-achiever in College this season. They might be the biggest disappointment this side of Notre Dame. He might have done the least with the most of any other top 50-60 programs in the nation. I think this deserves some consideration and discussion.
    Was he really truthful when he said all these problems are due to coaching after the UW game? Was he? Because I agree with him. All the mistakes made really point to a very poorly coached team. I haven’t even mentioned the poor special teams, the O-Line penalties, the delay of game penalties (because it takes forever to get plays called and signaled in).
    I was at every home game this year, 2 road games, and I watched every game on TV, even if I went to the game. I played football all the way thru college, and have many friends who coach. I know the game a little bit. And I know what I’ve seen this year. I hope Tedford figures it out. I’m not optimistic. I think we may have seen the best already. I never thought I’d consider this, but he might the football equivalent of Ben Braun.

  • Big D

    This season reminds me of 1996 and MOOCH, only that team didn’t have half the talent this 2007 team does. We started off 5-0 and ended 6-6 with a loss in the Aloha bowl to NAVY. Deltha was a true freshman then.
    I have exhausted all my disgust with this year’s team already, but being the CAL fan that I am, I’ll drag myself to the Big Game and the bowl game (if we get one), no bandwagon here… GO BEARS!

  • R

    Although Longshore’s stats look impressive (they are!) there’s one thing that most people are forgetting: Second half offense.

    Cal scored 20 points in the first half and a whopping 3 points in the second half. Am I saying that was the reason for the loss? Of course not. 360 rushing yards is the reason. What I want to emphasize is that our offense still needs improvement (I admit, I’ve given up on our defense).

    Even Longshore acknowledged that 3 points isn’t enough and that falls on him (I don’t think it completely falls on him but I do think the team overall is lacking leadship. Longshore is the man to take charge of the team). I give props to Longshore for understanding that improvement is still needed. It is though, awesome to see him throw so well in the first half.

  • R (Rich)

    To add to my previous comments, I think a stat was posted once on TV and it went something like this:

    When Cal was Winning: Scored ~40 Points
    Gave up ~24 Points

    During Cal’s Losing Streak:

    Scored ~24 Points
    Gave up ~28 Points

    This means our defense has always sucked (underperformed?) but our offense overshadowed the needed concerns.

  • Bear in DC

    Football coaches tend to be one of two types — the technician/teacher and the psychologist/motivator. Tedford is clearly an X’s and O’s kind of guy who showed his mettle as an offensive coordinator. Guys like Mike White, Bruce Snyder, and Joe Kapp were strong motivators who understood how to use emotion and intensity. Rare is the coach is a master of both the technical and the intensity. A concern of mine all season is the painfully missing, vocal, demonstrative team leadership of someone like Desmond Bishop, Aaron Rogers or Geoff McArthur. We have all observed the symptoms, particularly the disturbing fourth quarter collapses. Balancing technique (too cool and mechanical) and emotion (too hot and uncontrolled) is tricky. Football is controlled aggression. Like many alumni, I remain a loyal Bear who wants to permanently discard the long-suffering label. Tedford remains a keeper. His relationship with players seems stronger than Keith Gilbertson, another good technician who inconsistently motivated the team. I hope Tedford can improve his identification, encouragement and empowerment of leadership on the team to balance his technical excellence.

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Jim, I doubt you’ll see any major changes, if nothing else, because it’s so late in the season. My guess is Tedford and the coaching staff will take a long hard look at what went wrong after the season and then determine if any changes should be made. Tedford never has had to deal with something like this so he’s probably searching for answers himself.

  • Big D

    I hope Stanfurd’s 5th string, true freshman running back doesn’t go over 200 YDS on us!

  • dball

    Too much talent under-utilized on both sides of the ball. Sad misuse of ability. After having this week of Thanksgiving to reflect, I’m thankful that Tedford came to Cal, and that he turned our program around. This lingering pain in the depths of my stomach is the knowledge that its going to be hard to retain maybe top recruits let alone add more to the commit list after this horrible downfall. It will be nice to see Desean in the NFL next fall.