There’s always a different feel when a team plays its first road game of the season. In a sense, you don’t really know about a team until they go on the road for the first time, experience some adversity, get forced to exhibit some mental toughness, etc. That was the prevailing subject of discussion at today’s weekly press luncheon.
The consensus is this team is better equipped to win on the road than last year, given the eight returning starters on both sides of the ball. Players admitted they need to do a better job on the road. Their only road win last year came at lowly Washington State, and they ended the 2007 season by losing their final four road games to UCLA, Ariozona State, Washington and Stanford.
“This year, we have way more experienced players,” quarterback Kevin Riley said. “We kind of know what to do going into it. We’ll be ready for this game. I have no question about that, especially after last year, going to the East Coast and coming out flat and playing a bad game overall (against Maryland). We’ll come out ready to play from the first snap.”
Linebacker Eddie Young said the team is already stressing the importance of the first road game. He said linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson has already put up little notes in the linebackers’ lockers, stressing the need to be mentally tough this week.
“I feel like we’re going to be a lot better on the road this week,” Young said. “We know we did bad on the road last year and we made an extra effort to really get it across to the players how important it is to be a mentally tough team. That’s winning on the road.”
Fellow linebacker D.J. Holt said the team came out “lackadaisacal” on the road last season.
“We kind of got off track going away,” Holt said. “We really weren’t as focused. We’re going to be more ready this time. It’s a hostile environment so you can’t come out lackadaisacal. You have to come out like it’s a home game; treat it like a home game.”
Speaking of Holt, he’s the first Cal player I’ve heard definitively say that he felt like he wasn’t rested enough going into the Maryland game last year.
“That was definitely a big factor,” he said. “When we played Maryland last year, I was tired out there, kind of sluggish. They jumped on us fast, and we really weren’t ready until the fourth quarter. It was too late to come back. I felt like I didn’t have that much sleep.”
Young hinted that the Bears may not have been acclimated enough to the time zone against Maryland.
“It quite possibly could have been but we don’t really think about that stuff,” he said. “We are going out a day early this year, to get acclimated to when we are going to play. I can’t say it hurt us or helped us last year.”
–For a complete transcript of Jeff Tedford and Kevin Riley from today’s luncheon, click here.
–For my notes from today’s paper, click here.
–No breaking news here, but always interesting to get a Cal perspective from the other side.