A sampling of what was said at yesterday’s Big Game luncheon:
COACH JEFF TEDFORD:
They’re probably the hottest team in the country right now. They’re playing very physical, they believe in themselves, they execute at every level. It’s unbelievably impressive what they’ve done. They play so physical. Their offensive line is the best offensive line in the conference. We’re going to have a great week of preparation to be successful.
On Stanford running back Toby Gerhart
Toby is a runner that doesn’t go down with arm tackles. He has the speed in the open field to break the long one.
On Stanford’s wins over Oregon and USC
Those games are no fluke. There wasn’t anything flukish about those games. They were dominating performances. We have our hands full, without a doubt. It’s probably the most impressive thing I’ve seen as far as their performance against SC and Oregon. That’s not easy to do. You really have to give them a lot of credit for where they are and what they’ve accomplished.
On Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck I really believe is the most underrated player in the country. You don’t hear a lot about him. 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. If you try to pressure him he’s going to get out of there and make plays. He understands what he’s looking for, does a great job with the football and just does a great job with what they’re doing on offense. He’s one of the most impressive quarterbacks I’ve seen this year.
On Cal being the underdog
I would have to say realistically that we’re an underdog. They’ve played so well to put themselves in the position that they are, and you can’t take anything away from them.
On playing without Jahvid Best
Not having a player like Jahvid Best – let’s be honest: He’s one of the best players in the country. To say we’re going to miss Jahvid Best, that doesn’t mean that our other guys aren’t going to step up and play. Our other guys are going to step up and play very hard and compete as they always do. That’s why I’m very proud of our team for the way they compete week in and week out. Our other guys will step up.
On Cal’s defense rebounding just in time to face Stanford’s offense
It was big, there’s no doubt. Coming into the game, Arizona was a very explosive offense, both running the ball and throwing the ball. I thought our guys played very well. But it’s two different styles of football. They’re a spread attack and they’re going to spread you out and dink and dunk you. Stanford is going to line up and knock you off the ball and then they’re going to play action you and get the ball down the field. They’re very difficult to defend. But I think it said a lot about our defense last week that we really stepped up and rose to the occasion and played a good football game.
On Gerhart as a possible Heisman candidate
He’s an all-around great player. He deserves consideration to be one of the top players in the country. There’s no question about it. He’s performed very well. The people around him have afforded him the ability to do that. But I don’t think you’re going to find many tougher runners than Toby Gerhart.
On Stanford’s defense
They’re solid. Any defense that plays against Oregon, they’re going to stretch you pretty thin. There are no flaws. There are no chinks in their armor. You’re going to have to earn everything you get against them.
On whether Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson will see more playing time this week
We’ll see how the flow of the game goes. (Running backs) Coach (Ron) Gould is always responsible to spell those guys when he thinks they need a break. We don’t have a set plan going into the game. It really goes on the feel of the game and how Shane is feeling. That’s to be determined throughout the game.
On the Pac-10 playing a round robin schedule
I think it’s something we need to evaluate as a conference. We need to all get together as coaches with the commissioner and find out how it’s affecting our conference. We all beat up on each other. There are a lot of teams in the Pac-10 that are ranked. But each week it’s a battle.
I will have to tell you initially when we voted on this thing years ago, I felt like we should play everyone because I thought it was only fair that everybody has to play each other to be the outright conference champion. I felt like you had to go through the better teams. If someone won the conference championship and they didn’t have to play one of the stronger teams in the conference, I didn’t think that it was fair. But there is so much parity in the conference right now, each and every week is so competitive. But we have to look and see how it’s affecting our conference as far as on the national landscape. I’m sure that’s a conversation we’ll have at our Pac-10 meetings.
On Jahvid Best’s immediate future
Wd haven’t even talked about it. It’s not even a conversation we’ve had, on the prognosis of his return or anything like that. But definitely not this week. There is no question about it.
On how much he’s talked to Best
I haven’t seen him much. I assume we’ll see him again tomorrow and he’ll start showing up more and more. There’s no way he’s ready to play in a game.
On what kind of treatment Best is getting
He comes in for treatment for his back. Mainly, it’s his back that is bothering him. I think he’s over the headaches. It’s mainly the back that’s the issue.
On Shane Vereen’s heavy workload last week
The reality is we have a redshirt freshman backing him up and a true freshman behind him. We have trust in Shane, without a doubt. Shane has proven over and over again that he can carry the load. We have a lot of confidence in him.
On whether he’s surprised by Stanford’s success
Not when I watch them on tape. You look at their players, especially their offensive line. Their offensive line and the tight end and fullback, they are as dominating up front as anybody you’re going to see. Not to mention with Andrew Luck playing like he’s playing, you can’t just stop the run because he’s a very accurate passer. He can throw all the balls. He can throw the deep ball. He has a strong arm. He can move the pocket. He can get out of trouble. It’s just a well-rounded, potent offense.
LEFT TACKLE MIKE TEPPER:
On the players getting the job done
Our offensive line coach has a pretty good saying:It’s not about the x’s and o’s, it’s about the Jimmys and the Joes. We have to come out there on fire. It’s a huge game. Their crowd is going to be amped. We have to be firing on all cylinders.
On Cal’s loss to Stanford in 2007
It’s probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had at Cal. My combined 0-6 record I have against USC, the loss to Stanford was worse than all six of those losses combined. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. The community hurt more. It’s not just the team or the campus. It’s the community. That definitely fuels you.
On if Cal being the underdog can serve as motivation
They’re a good team. We already know that. The rivalry alone motivates you. We’ll be ready.
On when he realized the magnitude of the Big Game
I realized how big it was when I lost it in ’07. That was probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had at Cal. Going 0-6 to 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. I think we have to be very motivated to get it again this year.
LINEBACKER DEVIN BISHOP:
On the importance of the defense’s performance last week with Stanford coming up
It was very important. We had to come together on all cylinders and I believe we did. We want to make sure that even in tough times and adversity, our defense is able to perform at its best. It was very important to make sure we came out there and execute like we did.
On whether the defense ever doubted itself this season
We didn’t have doubt at all. We just had to make sure that every week we got better. Sometimes in football, things aren’t going to go in your favor. What you have to do is put it behind you and keep moving forward.
On what the defense has struggled with this season
Sometimes we do lack in execution or communication, but that’s something we’re working on every day. We know for the most part, some things get better and some things stay the same.
On how the defense played against Arizona
It was a very good game for us. We felt on top of the world. But we came down to earth because of the Stanford game. We feel pretty good about that game.
On the defensive focus this week
The things we’re emphasizing this week is make sure we tackle. Get (Gerhart) down to the ground first.
On the difficulty of defending Toby Gerhart
Very difficult, that’s why we are emphasizing that gang tackling is the key to stopping this guy. If one guy is on him, it’s going to be very difficult to take him down. The USC game, some of their DBs and linebackers needed help taking this guy down. We have to rally up and run to the ball. We have to play physical.
On being the underdog
I like being the underdog. That’s something I like because I like proving people wrong. That’s pretty exciting for us, being the underdog and coming out and surprising people.