Contrary to popular belief, Cal’s season is not over. The Bears actually put on their practice uniforms and held a practice Tuesday afternoon, despite back-to-back losses that more than likely knocked them out of the Pac-10 race.
Still, the Bears seem committed to getting back on track and playing more like the team they think they can be. Spirits actually seemed pretty good Tuesday, as players raved about the hard work they put in at practice today.
“Today felt different,” nose tackle Derrick Hill said. “It felt like it was time to work. Today was a great day. Seeing that was a wonderful thing. Guys were out here competing and flying around. The whole mentality of the team is different. A few years ago, we probably would have crumbled right now. But right now, we’re a family.”
Cal coach Jeff Tedford understands the urgency of the situation and the need for his team to improve. That’s why he’s handling this bye week differently than most. In most seasons, the players in the regular playing rotation give up the reps to the younger players. In most years, guys like Allan Bridgford and Steve Williams would be getting the bulk of the playing time this week. Not this year. The starters and backups are getting the majority of the reps, with a few sprinkled in for the scout team players.
“We need the work,” Tedford said.
Because it was a big recruiting weekend, Cal also adjusted its schedule slightly. The Bears didn’t have their usual conditioning workout Sunday night. They instead met as a team early Sunday morning and watched the tape of the USC game. They also talked about where they stand.
“We’re 3-2. We still have a winning record and there’s seven games left,” Tedford said. “Even though we haven’t played well the past two weeks, two of the hardest things to do in our conference are play in Eugene and play SC. We just did that. We would have liked to have done better. But we had chances. You get discouraged when you have no chance. We were in the red zone four times. We just have to score. Guys are encouraged.”
Quarterback Kevin Riley looked understandably demoralized after the game Saturday. He still didn’t seem very pleased today after practice. He definitely seems more serious and focused than usual.
“When you miss open guys more than a few times in a game, that can’t happen,” Riley said. “I just have to be a little more patient and make it a catchable ball. I’m trying to keep it away from the defender a little too much and trying to make it perfect. I need to put it where they can make a play on it instead of trying to make a perfect throw every time.”
Riley said the quarterbacks and receivers had a meeting today to talk about “owning routes,” having some routes that they know can get them a completion most of the time.
And Riley may have an old receiver back for the next game. Tedford said wide receiver Nyan Boateng had his boot removed today and could be cleared to practice next week, making him available for the UCLA game.
The Bears will practice Wednesday and Thursday before parting ways for the weekend off. The team will reconvene Sunday night with a full practice as it starts to prepare for UCLA.
“You have to be angry,” Hill said. “You can’t be sad about it but you can be upset about it. Being said is only going to hold you back. Being upset about it is going to give you a reason to come out here and make you work twice as hard as you have been working. People were probably sad Saturday. Sunday we watched the film and got it over with. Now it’s time to be angry and do something about being angry.”
More to come off Tuesday’s practice tomorrow.