Football: Monday night update

The superlatives were flowing Monday at the annual Big Game luncheon, and most of them were about Stanford.

The Cardinal, of course, come into the Big Game on a roll, scoring 50+ points against both Oregon and USC and skyrocketing to No. 14 in the Associated Press top 25. This will be the first time in years Stanford is the favorite in the Big Game.

“They’re probably the hottest team in the country right now,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “It’s unbelievably impressive what they’ve done. Those games are no fluke. They were dominanting performances. We have our hands full, without a doubt.”

Tedford said Stanford running back Toby Gerhart should be considered for the Heisman. He also said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck “is the most underrated player in the country.”

“You don’t hear a lot about him,” Tedford said. “We’ve had a chance to watch a lot of tape on him this year and he is unbelievably poised and confident. He’s accurate as a passer. He has great escape dimension. He understand what he’s looking for, does a great job with the football. He’s one of the most impressive quarterbacks i’ve seen this year.”

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh chimed in with his praise of Cal, calling Tyson Alualu the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10 and saying the Bears have the best defensive line in the conference.

As I posted earlier, Jahvid Best is definitely out for this game. Here’s more on it from my notebook that already has been posted on our website. Tedford was very definitive when asked about Best, saying there was “no chance” he will play against Stanford. Tedford went on to say they still have not had a single conversation about when he might possibly return.

It’s not so much the concussion that is bothering Best at this point, but his back. The good news for Best and the Bears is Cal has a bye week after the Big Game, giving Best an extra week to heal. But there’s no guarantee Best will even return then, or even this season. There is just a lot of uncertainty right now about the star running back.

Tedford also talked briefly about the running back workload. Generally, Tedford has always had his backups see significant playing time, but Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson only got one carry Saturday night while starter Shane Vereen had 30. Tedford said that those reps are simply based on the flow of the game. Running backs coach Ron Gould is in charge of substitutions, and he felt Vereen was doing OK with the heavy workload. Considering Vereen looked pretty fresh on his 61-yard touchdown run at the end of the game, it’s hard to argue with that.

–Left tackle Mike Tepper and linebacker Devin Bishop also appeared at the press luncheon, and I’ll have their transcriptions tomorrow. One highlight from their interviews came from Tepper, who said the loss to Stanford in 2007 is worse than the fact that he’s gone 0-6 against USC in his career.

“That was probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had at Cal,” Tepper said. “Going 0-6 against SC is pretty bad, but losing The Axe in ’07 was the worst feeling I ever had in my life. It tears you apart. It tears the community apart. It means a lot to us.”


Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Bear IV

    Then I say to Tepper and the BEARS, “Keep the AXE in Berkeley!”

  • abe

    its is years like this that make rivalries well rivalries. the cardinal is on a roll and they are eyeing the roses. granted they don’t control their own destiny but they know they take care of Cal and they give themselves a shot. now it is up to Cal to derail that and give the cardinal fans something to cry about for a while. now i am not saying we should try to win this game merely for the purpose of ruining their season b/c that would be pathetic. nonetheless this is a big Big Game and it will make this rivalry more emotionally charged for the coming years if Cal were to take of business. GO BEARS!

  • covinared

    there is alot more at stake than ruining stanford’s season. we can still make ours. we can beat them.

    I was disappointed not to see Deboskie more, but Vereen was doing well enough to stay in. I was very impressed with the extra yards he got in key situations after being hit. With improvment in blocking, he’d be a complete back.

  • Bears

    It would be a surprise for the Bears to upset our rival the way they are playing and with that big RB. But stranger things have happend. All the Bears have to do is play better for four hours Saturday afternoon/evening. Easier said than done but that’s why they play the game. Excited to see what Cal can do in a Big Game where both teams have winning records and we are still the clear underdog?
    Go Bears!

  • Eric

    Putting aside all of my ranting about the coaching staff this year, I think we have a good shot at beating Stanford. Our run defense has been decent all year, including against Oregon (until they finally ran out of gas) and U$C. The big problem has been stopping the passing game, which we finally did against Arizona.

    So stopping Gerhardt early and forcing Luck to make plays will be the difference maker. Luck has been flat out fantastic, so we need to take him out of his comfort zone, just as we did against Foles. Luck tends to make the best throws out of play-action, so I would strongly suggest creative blitz packages to immediately pressure him (CB and overloaded LB blitzes).

    On the offensive side, we still have way more speed that Stanford’s defense. In the Oregon game, oregon lost because it did not run hard and often in the first quarter, instead relying on Masoli to throw. Had Oregon done in the first quarter what it did the rest of the game, it would have won going away. We need to ground Stanford’s defense into dust, which will also alleviate our defense from tiring out. Vereen and company need to pound out 4-5 yards a run. No more Wildcat, no more running out of shotguns, and plenty of TE/FB blocking, with occasional roll-outs and play-action to slot receivers, the TEs and the FBs.

  • BearItAll

    Eric – I agree with much of what you said and disagree with some…

    Certainly Cal has a faster and technically speaking more talented team than Stanfurd and if they execute properly they can definitely win this game, with the way Stanfurd is playing as of late, it will be a challenge to slow them down, but if they play similar to the way they did against UA’s offense they have a shot…

    I don’t think they should take the Wildcat out of the book though, Cal has been very successful using this formation throughout the 2nd half of this year, even in the UA game where they ran the same wildcat play 4 times in one drive, they still gained like 30 yds off of it… They need to mix it up more and get the ball to the other speed threats, put J. Ross in with Isi and Vereen and run some sweeps, PA screens, etc, in addition to the fake sweep run up the middle play they’ve grown so fond of…

    It seems roll out passes are the way to go with Riley this year, and having Miller and Lageman as middle passing threats will do wonders against Stanfurd…

    But I agree, Cal needs to sustain longs arduous drives to wear down the Stanfurd D, and keep our D rested throughout the game, so they can have a strong 4th quarter like last weekend…

    Should be a great one! Go Bears!!!

  • covinared

    I think Cal needs the wildcat and shotgun mixed in because our line cannot control defenses like years past.

  • rollonubears

    Play action, baby! And no more 40-yd bombs in first down. Ok, maybe one or two. Go Bears!

  • cal85

    How about bringing Riley in motion on the Wildcat? That would freeze the lbs in case Vareen hands off to Riley for a pass. Plus, it takes Riley out of a blocking position on the edge.

  • covinared

    Riley is one of our best blockers.