Big Game Eve

Some thoughts the night before kickoff:

 –I’m interested to see how Rulon Davis performs. He has been a big loss this season that hasn’t been talked about too much. You could see how he changes the game when he returned from that sprained foot against Arizona State. He had sacks on the Sun Devils’ first two possessions and was playing hard. He looked hungry at practice this week. He’s one guy who definitely should be motivated to play the rest of this season, to set things up for spring and his senior year. Davis hasn’t been healthy enough in each of the past two years to really demonstrate how good he can be. He has one more season to do so.

–Cornerback Brandon Hampton is a confident player who has a lot of pride. So the nosedive Cal has experienced in the second half has really taken its toll on him. He had a funny analogy for the season when I talked to him earlier this week:

“You know how, in a scary movie, it starts off with maybe 10 people stuck in a house, then one guy branches off and wants to do his own thing, and then he dies? And then someone else gets caught behind, and they die? Then next thing you know, there’s only three people left. That’s how I feel. It just keeps getting worse.”

Hampton also said: “Sometimes I get sick when I think about it, how things just turned around after that one loss. It hurts, but that’s all over. There’s nothing we can do about it. Hopefully I won’t be scarred by this for the rest of my life.”

One piece of good news for Hampton: He regained his starting job back from Chris Conte tomorrow.

–Left tackle Mike Gibson said coach Jeff Tedford’s scolding after the loss to Washington may have been overdue.

“It’s something that maybe should have happened earlier, maybe from some of the players, myself included. We probably should have stepped up and started getting after players.”

–Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik praised wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins for his work ethic. He said sometimes Hawkins’ work and competitiveness could go overlooked because he is such a happy-go-lucky guy.

“The thing about Lavelle, he comes out here in the summertime and they’ll be nobody out here except Lavelle,” Michalczik said. “He’s always had talent, but he’s truly worked his butt off. There’s a serious side to him and I think people don’t see that. It pays off.”

Hawkins is projected as an NFL first-round draft pick in ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s latest projections.

Hawkins joked this week that perhaps cornerback is his best position. He said he shuts down DeSean Jackson when they go one-on-one.

“DeSean gets nothing,” Hawkins said.

–It will be interesting to see how Cal’s defense responds to once again being without Matt Malele, who is still out with a bad knee. The Bears didn’t have their top interior lineman against Washington, and the Huskies rushed for 334 yards. It probably wouldn’t have made too much of a difference, but the Bears need others like Mika Kane, Cody Jones and Derrick Hill to fill the void.

–Linebacker Worrell Williams says he doesn’t expect the Bears to quit just because the stakes aren’t as high as they once were.

“It would be so much easier to just lay down, have Christmas off, have a long break,” Williams said. “This program hasn’t been built on quitters.”

Williams, one of the more introspective players on the team, said earlier in the season that he is mentally equipped to handle losses pretty well. But he’s had trouble getting over the setback to Washington.

“I’m crushed,” he said. “I’ve never been on a team like this before. I’ve never been on a team that is as talented as this, and I’ve never been on a team with this record. It’s frustrating.”

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.