By Jonathan Okanes
Friday, December 26th, 2008 at 8:36 pm in upcoming game.
Lots of good stuff today on the eve of the game. First, there was a pep rally for both teams at Yerba Buena Gardens in the morning. It didn’t attract a huge crowd, but both bands and cheerleaders were there.
Miami took the stage first with coach Randy Shannon and a couple of players. When it was Cal’s turn, coach Jeff Tedford was introduced. Instead of taking the stage alone, he brought the entire team with him. Llinebacker Zack Follett then spoke to the crowd and pointed out that the whole team was on stage, and that “we’re ready to go.”
It was short and sweet, but there was a pretty good atmosphere and served as a good tune-up to the game.
Both teams then proceeded around the block to the Westin St. Francis for the Kickoff Luncheon, which consisted of the teams, corporate sponsors and fans. Following a short press conference with Tedford and Shannon, the luncheon commenced, emceed by Ted Robinson. There must have been at least 6-700 people there.
There was the obligatory business to be done, with introductions of Emerald Bowl officials and people representing corporate sponsors. After lunch, the teams got involved.
Miami was up first, with Shannon giving a short speech. He said he thought the Emerald Bowl would be one of the three or four highest rated games for television. He also pointed out that he was a graduate assistant at Miami along with Cal offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.
Next, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, running back Javarris James and linebacker Glenn Cook. Joe Tessitore, who will handle the play-by-play for ESPN for the game, interviewed all three guys. James didn’t provide much when Tessitore asked him about the offense, simply saying “We have to go out there and execute.” That drew a polite laugh from the crowd, so Tessitore decided to push it a little bit, telling James TV guys like him prefer better sound bites. After asking the question again, James gave the exact same answer, producing an even bigger laugh from the crowd that this time included his teammates on stage.
Cook was asked about Harris, making his second career start as a true freshman. “Jacory makes me nervous how unnervous he is,” Cook said.
Next it was Cal’s turn. During Tedford’s remarks, he asked his entire team to stand to be recognized. The usual suspects — Worrell Williams, Zack Follett and Alex Mack — were the three players to take the podium after Tedford. Follett was asked about the potential overwhelming home field advantage the Bears might have, but he pointed out that they won the Las Vegas Bowl in 2005 when the stadium was predominantly full of BYU fans. “So there’s hope for Miami,” Follett said, drawing a roar. He also pointed out that he was sitting close to Harris, and that he hopes “that’s not the closest I get to him.”
After the luncheon, Cal boarded their busses and wen to AT&T Park for their walk-through.
I caught up with Nate Longshore as the team left the St. Francis and he typically downplayed the fact that he regained his starting role in his last game. “It will be a good game,” he said. “It will be a lot of fun. It will be good to get out there one last time and execute the plays.”
When pressed further about the significance, he said “You always want to go out there, especially when it’s your last time. You want to go out with a bang.”
There wasn’t too much to come out of the press conference. A lot of story lines that have already been discussed this week. One interesting subject dealt with the fact that both teams will be on the same sidelien because of the configuration of AT&T Park. There will be a 10-yard buffer zone from the 45 to the 45 that separates the teams. They also will be allowed to send players behind the opponent’s bench if the ball is on the other side of the field and they want to make a substitution.