Big Game week got going in earnest this morning with the annual luncheon featuring both coaches and players from each school. Coach Jeff Tedford was there at Perry’s in San Francisco, along with linebacker Worrell Williams and right guard Noris Malele (Linebacker Zack Follett also was supposed to appear but had to beg out because of treatment).
Obviously, one of the major storylines for the Bears is they are in the position of trying to get the axe back, something that hasn’t happened since Tedford’s first year. Tedford and the players said you don’t really realize the magnitude of the rivalry until you’re on the losing side of it.
“Now that we lost the game, now it’s big,” Williams said. “(Stanford) is not just some team that we beat up on all the time. They beat up on us. Now it’s really a big game, especially for me. That was my first time losing to them. Now it’s really back as a rivalry.
“The axe has to come back home now. It doesn’t even look right over there. It belongs over here with the Bears.”
Tedford agreed that the rivalry is more special when you lose.
“I think it becomes more special when you lose the axe,” he said. “When you lose it, you really know what it feels like not to have it and the pain that goes along with not having it, and the pride that goes along with having it. I think it’s something that especially our seniors want, to leave here with the axe.”
Williams said he didn’t really realize the magnitude of the rivalry until he got to Cal.
“It really shocked me how important it was,” he said. “Now I understand it. Now I’m part of it and I’ll always be a part of it. I’m ready to get after it one more time.”
–Williams said the Bears held a players-only meeting Monday morning, a meeting called by seniors Rulon Davis and Will Ta’ufo’ou. He said it wasn’t like the team meeting the Bears had at the end of last year, when the season had unraveled and players had to clear the air. Rather, he said it just served as a reminder to put the past two losses behind them and make sure to finish the season strong.
“Guys were just talking that we need to pick it up and finish the season out strong,” Williams said. “Let’s do this thing right. Let’s not make it like last year, because if we lose these two games, it will look like last year. If you’re not careful, you could end up the same way. It would be tragic.”
A couple of other topics touched on by Tedford:
–He said special teams would be a focus of practice this week after the Bears allowed a kick return for a touchdown and a punt return to the Cal 2, which set up another TD.
–As usual, Tedford spent some time talking about the quarterback situation, and how it has worked out all season. He gets these questions even more on a day like this when there is more media than usual, and a handful of reporters that don’t regularly attend Cal’s media luncheons. One interesting, albeit not surprising, is he said that Brock Mansion will compete with Kevin Riley going into next year. That can’t come as a shock. Clearly, Riley hasn’t made the case that he’s earned that position going into the ’09 season. Tedford also said that “Beau Sweeney has great potential to play.”
–Even though Matt Summers-Gavin has seen his share of first team reps during the past few weeks, Tedford said Mitchell Schwartz and Donovan Edwards are still the starting tackles. Edwards had his share of struggles against Oregon State.