By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, September 9th, 2008 at 11:21 pm in media luncheon.
Fell a little behind tonight but here is an update that is hopefully worth the wait:
It was a crazy scene at Memorial Stadium today for the usual Tuesday press luncheon. As I got close to the stadium, I could see three news helicopters hovering over the stadium.
Once inside, some of the discussion with coach Jeff Tedford pertained to the beginning of the Student-Athlete High-Performance Center project, which involves, as we all know, removing the trees from the site where it will be built. Little did we know as we sat inside the Hall of Fame Room that the tree-sitters were getting ready to come down. It was only after we wrapped up talking to our final player of the day — defensive end Tyson Alualu — that we heard the tree-sitters were down and planning to hold a press conference.
After such a long wait and all the hurdles the athletic department had to endure, it actually has been a pretty tame reaction so far. That’s probably because the football team is in the middle of its season. Tedford seems happy that the project is getting started, but I bet he’d allow himself to celebrate more if he wasn’t busy getting ready for Maryland.
Still, he made it clear he is pleased that the project is finally moving forward.
“I’m thankful for our student-athletes that now they are going to have a new facility,” Tedford said. “I’m thankful for the administration and all the people that have worked so hard and spent a lot of time and energy and money to get this done. I’m just happy we’re going forward with it.
When the project started Friday with the beginning of the tree removal, the Bears were in Pullman getting ready for their game against Washington State. They were informed about it while on the road. When the team bus got back to Memorial Stadium late Saturday night, all but two trees were gone.
“I was excited to see it,” Tedford said. “I’m excited that there’s progress, that we’re moving forward. It’s an exciting time. I talked to our players about it and they cheered. It’s an exciting time for our players.”
One of the topics of discussion Tuesday was Cal’s travel plans, and how the Bears plan on coping with the time change in Maryland. Tedford said the team will start getting acclimated here at home, going to bed and waking up at different times to get on eastern time. He said the team considered flying to Maryland a day early but ultimately decided to make its usual trip on Friday.
“We’re going to start trying to get acclimated, get our body chemistry acclimated to East Coast,” Tedford said. “We’re going to do it while we stay here. We’re going to get our body clock going a couple days early, to make sure that when we wake up, it’s not something new for us. I just don’t think you need to fly there to get acclimated. I think you can acclimate yourself right here.”
Linebacker Zack Follett revisited Saturday’s 65-yard blocked field goal return.
“At the end, I had no celebration in me,” he said. “I just didn’t want to get caught by the kicker. That would have obliterated any hope for a great play. I would have gotten crap from everybody.
Follett said cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson took a little heat for being caught from behind on a 90-yard interception returned that wound up five yards short of the end zone.
“Coach Tedford was giving him some heat, that he needs to get in better shape,” Follett said. “He looked real fast. Whenever he gets interceptions, I’m always screaming to pitch it. I’ll take it over.”
Wide receiver Sean Young also revisited his first career touchdown catch, a 14-yarder from Kevin Riley in the first quarter Saturday. The score was a long time coming for the sixth-year senior.
“It was kind of weird,” Young said. “I was kind of looking at the referee to see if I really scored. I didn’t really celebrate at first. I wanted to make sure there were no flags on the ground.
“i wanted to score at least one touchdown before it ended. To have that happen after everything I’ve been through makes it all worth it.”
Fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou said he couldn’t believe his eyes when the team got back to the stadium Saturday.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I didn’t think I would ever see this. I know it’s not going to be done until I leave. For me, it’s just more of a relief to see a conclusion to what’s going on.
“I think it became more entertainment for us. We got used to it. Over the summer, it was like our own personal youtube going on right outside the door.”
Quarterback Kevin Riley was asked about his first career start on the road, how he dealt with an opposing crowd.
“Well, the crowd got quiet pretty fast,” said Riley, referring to Jahvid Best’s 80-yard touchdown run on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Riley also said he felt for Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who was his roommate at the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp when the two were in high school. Locker was called for a controversial personal foul near the end of the Huskies’ 28-27 loss to BYU. He threw the ball up in the air after scoring a touchdown, and the ensuing extra point, attempted from 15 yards further out, was blocked.
“That was tough,” Riley said. “He’s such a competitor, and a freak athlete, too. He’s a good guy. He works hard. You can’t really say negative things about him. He just got excited. He’s not the type of guy who would do that. I dont’ think he even realized he did it.”
Tedford didn’t agree with the call and said he would have been upset had a call like that gone against his team. He said he showed the tape to his team on Sunday as a teaching tool.
“I thought it was pretty ticky-tack, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I wanted (the Bears) to understand not to put it in the officials’ hands. It’s a judgement call, as most calls are. I think the intent of the rule is to not call attention to yourself. I don’t think Jake Locker called attention to himself whatsoever. I think he was excited to make a big play. He jumped up immediately and celebrated with his teammates. I would have been very upset if they called that on us.
“Now is it the rule by the letter of the law? Yes. But I think it’s a judgement. It was very unfortunate.”
Now if it’s late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning right now and you’re reading this, go to bed. Much more Wednesday….