By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 9:50 pm in media luncheon.
There’s a game this Saturday, so Cal went back to holding its weekly press luncheon today. One of the prevailing themes was how hard the team worked during last week’s bye week.
All the players who came by the luncheon said it was more than your usual bye week, where teams tend to take it easier than they would if there was a game on Saturday. In fact, linebacker Worrell Williams said the team worked harder than it has during some game weeks.
What does that mean? Primarily, the Bears did much more hitting than they normally would during a bye week. They wore pads every day and had at least one session each day where the offense lined up against the defense.
There are multiple reasons why the coaching staff decided to go at it pretty hard last week. Obviously, the Bears were coming off a loss, and they probably didn’t want to let it linger into a bye week by losing some intensity. But linebacker Anthony Felder also said the coaches wanted the players to work on their physicality, that they weren’t physical enough in the loss to Maryland.
“I think the emphasis was on physicality,” Felder said. “I don’t think we played as physical as we should have in Maryland. That’s what the emphasis was in the bye week, to make sure we have a physical mentality going into next week.”
Felder said the coaches didn’t explicitly say that was the reason for the stepped-up bye week practices, but it didnt’ have to be said when the team showed up last Tuesday and was told to wear full pads for practice.
“It was a real physical week,” guard Noris Malele said. “We had to get out there and get some banging in. We wanted to get out there and make a statement. Coach wanted us to know we’re going to be a physical team and try to impose that on our opponents.”
Another topic covered Tuesday was the plight of the Pac-10, which has become somewhat of a punching bag nationally over the past couple of weeks after a series of tough losses. USC, at No. 1, is the only conference team left in the national rankings.
Two weekends ago, the Mountain West Conference went 4-0 against the Pac-10. Saturday’s opponent, Colorado State, is another Mountain West team, meaning the Bears have a chance to salvage some measure of respect for the conference.
Not that the Bears are paying attention to that.
“We have a lot of things to worry about besides carrying the torch (for the Pac-10),” Williams said. “We can’t worry about things like that. We have to worry about missed assignments.”
Quarterback Kevin Riley acknowledged the Pac-10 has taken its share of hits recently but still expects the conference season to be a tough one.
“The Pac-10 is going to be competitive, no matter what,” he said. “Teams are going to bounce back. You know that’s going to happen. You know every Pac-10 game, everyone is going to step up and be ready to play. It’s still going to be a tough conference.”
We’ll take a closer look at Colorado State tomorrow, as well as further material from Tuesday.