Another culmination

Cal held its last practice of the season at Memorial Stadium last week and players carried the seniors off the field. Saturday, the Bears held their last practice of the season, period, and once again the seniors were escorted off the field, this time to the weight room at Texas Christian University for some post-practice lifting.

The Bears will hold their usual walk-through before a game Sunday, and then it will be time for the Armed Forces Bowl. This may not be one of the high-profile bowl games, but it could be very important for this program. A loss would put an exclamation point on the Bears’ collapse, and would put them on more shaky ground heading into the spring. A win, especially if they play especially well, could serve the returning players a reminder of how good they can be, and that could give them some momentum going into the offseason.

The Bears still appear to be having fun at practice, something that has been markedly different since the regular season ended. Several players have told me they felt like the bowl game gave them a new lease on life, and with it one final chance to show the world what they can do.

This game is a big deal for tailback Justin Forsett. He said he expects upwards of 300 family members at the game (Forsett is from nearby Arlington). His father, Rodney, and younger brother, Javon, attended practice Saturday. Rodney is a local minister and Justin plans on speaking at his church on Sunday morning. Javon is a free safety at Butte Community College and is getting some looks from Division II schools.

I was happy to find out when I got here that the media is indeed allowed to watch practice. Originally, the Armed Forces Bowl guidelines said the media would only be able to watch the first 15 minutes of practice, but that was scratched. It’s more of an intimate atmosphere than at Memorial Stadium, where the media sits in the stands. Here, we are able to stand between the two fields where the offense and defense break up into scout team work.

TCU, where the team practices and the game is being played, has a new indoor practice facility next to the outdoor field and stadium. Air Force practiced inside today. Both teams have pointed out that the grass on the outdoor fields aren’t in the greatest shape. Linebacker Zack Follett said today he was happy they didn’t have to practice on those fields anymore.

Just like they did before they faced Oregon, the Bears are using wide receiver Drew Glover at times as their scout team quarterback. Glover did a good job emulating Dennis Dixon and now is dressing up as Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney. The Falcons run primarily an option attack that features Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year Chad Hall. Freshman Shane Vereen has been emulating Hall at practice.

When asked to describe Hall’s value to the Falcons, defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said “Unbelievable.” Hall leads Air Force in both rushing and receiving.

“It’s unbelievable how much that guy gets the ball, and rightly so,” Gregory said. “Carney is a good player, but they clearly want to get the ball to this guy.”

Gregory said the Bears haven’t faced anybody that runs what Air Force does since…well, Air Force. Cal played the Falcons to open the 2004 season and won, 56-14. Air Force also has added some pro-style elements to its offense, which Gregory says makes the Falcons even tougher to defend.

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.