A sampling of what was said after Wednesday’s game:
COACH JEFF TEDFORD
On regrouping heading into the offseason
It’s quite obvious that the tone will be set with making sure that we go back to work and work hard. It works both ways. You win, you’re still going to work hard. You’re not successful, you’re still going to work hard. It’s not anything different than we ever do. This is going to sting for a while, and then we’re going to regroup.
On Cal’s offensive struggles
You have to give Utah a lot of credit. They’re a very good defensive football team. They give up 19 points a game. They did a very nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage for the most part and, so you have to give them credit. They did a nice job with their blitz package, their blitz schemes.
On Cal’s defense
They hit some big plays in the passing game and we missed some tackles in the open field. We had guys driving to the ball and not securing the tackle. They made some big plays after the catch. They protected the passer well and I thought the quarterback played well. He was very accurate throwing the ball. They did a nice job making plays.
On what’s most disappointing about the game
Well, losing the game. That’s the most disappointing part. I’m very proud of the way the guys kept fighting. I thought the defense stepped up in the second half, did a nice job of containing them. They made a big play on special teams returning a kickoff back deep on us.
On initially lining up for a one-point conversion with a chance to cut the lead to 8 with a two-point conversion
I looked at my chart and it said one to win, two to tie. I should have just looked at the scoreboard, but I looked at my chart instead of looking at the scoreboard.
LINEBACKER MIKE MOHAMED
On losing despite jumping out to a 14-0 lead
It definitely was disappointing. We felt like we had a lot of momentum and obviously that’s something that you want to continue. But that’s football. There are ebbs and flows and we just tried to keep fighting.
LINEBACKER EDDIE YOUNG
On Utah’s success on offense
They made plays and we didn’t. We missed tackles and stuff when we should have got them down and could have ended the drive, and they got big plays on us and extended the drive.
On scoring his first career touchdown in a season-ending loss
Statistically, that’s not really important to me. It would’ve been the best thing ever for us to get this victory for the seniors to go out winning, and we didn’t. But that’s part of football. Go back to the drawing board and keep working.
FULLBACK BRIAN HOLLEY
On losing a bowl game for the first time
It’s extremely hard. By far this is the worst feeling I’ve had since I’ve been here. This is my last game as a Cal Bear. You want to go out on a high note. You envision how it’ll be. This is not how I envisioned it. Just like in life, if things don’t go your way, it’s kind of hard to swallow.
On his thoughts as he walked off the field
I was just thinking about everything I’ve been through since I’ve been here, the ups and downs, thinking about what went wrong during the game, replaying everything in my head, seeing if there was anything I could’ve done better to get a victory. I was just kind of soaking in everything. I knew it was the last time I was walking off the field, and I don’t know if I’m going to make it at the next level. That very well could’ve been the last time I walked off a football field so that’s what I was thinking about.
Reflections of the season
I don’t know if I can put one word on it. I think this team was really close. We had our ups and downs, our wins and losses. But one thing you can say is we stuck together and kept fighting through everything. We never gave up. When expectations by everybody else dropped and people stopped believing in us, we believed in ourselves. I just think this team had heart. We didn’t execute enough in these five losses we had.
On if he ever expected to be 8-5
This isn’t how I expected it. You put in so much work during the offseason and the team had such high expectations of themselves, let alone everybody else. Definitely, this would be the last place I thought I’d be, as the losing opponent in the Poinsettia Bowl. I really felt that this team had what it takes to play in the Rose Bowl. It didn’t work out that way.
On why the offense struggled
It was mostly just shooting ourselves in the foot — Not winning our individual battles, not holding onto balls, not pass protecting properly. Just little stuff, the same thing that’s happened all the other games this season where our offense failed. Just lack of execution. You see what happens when we execute, there’s nothing they can do to stop us. We stop ourselves every time.
On whether 8-5 should be considered a good season for Cal
I think the program should be grateful, but not satisfied. I’m grateful to have a winning season. I’ve been a part of a losing season before in high school. It’s really tough to handle. But I really believed this team had what it takes to be undefeated. That’s honestly what I feel in my heart and I still believe it after five losses. It just came down to matter of us executing. 8-5 is not a terrible record, but I don’t think that’s what this team is made of. I don’t think it’s indicative of the amount of talent and potential this team had.
On whether the way the season ended is difficult in light of the Arizona and Stanford games
That Big Game was such a big win for us. I don’t know if we just let it all out on the field that game and didn’t leave enough for the rest of the season, I don’t know. Arizona, Stanford games, I think that’s the best this team has played. It’s disappointing to lose these last two games, especially this game because of how I know this team can play, what this team is capable of. So it’s disappointing.
QUARTERBACK KEVIN RILEY
On regrouping heading into the offseason
I haven’t thought about it yet. It just happened. It doesn’t feel good. I liked the way we finished the game and played hard. You lose a game you’ve just got to come back and work harder.
On whether 8-5 should be considered a good season
There’s no way we should be 8-5. It’s hard to say what we should have been, but we definitely should have been better than what we were.
On what needs to change to improve
It’s just a matter of players playing better. Good teams are consistent throughout the whole game.
On how the team will handle the way the season ended
I think we’ll be fine. We just have to work harder. Maybe this will give everyone a little edge to work harder.
LEFT TACKLE MIKE TEPPER
On how a team gets past a season-ending loss
You get past it when you win a game again. (Tedford) isn’t going to walk away and forget about this. He’ll be playing Utah’s fight song at 6:30 in the morning to motivate them.
On whether 8-5 is good enough.
No, it’s not. I think it should be an expectation, and if it isn’t an expectation by our fans, then our fans are messed up. This is a football program as much as an academic institution and you need to start having expectations. If you don’t have those expectations, you need to walk away from this university. You need to push the football team to be the best possible. If you don’t, you don’t have your priorities straight.
On whether the people inside the program have those expectations
Sandy Barbour, Coach T, all the coaches, the players – we all believe that we can win a national championship. We just have to do it.
On whether the team is talented enough to meet those expectations
This team has enough talent to beat Florida or Alabama. I think it’s a sense of urgency on the players. It was spotty. It was there today. It was just execution.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BOB GREGORY
On the problems on defense
We didn’t tackle very well. We’d have them for a loss or a minimal gain and then we’d miss a tackle and it would turn into a bigger gain. I thought we did a little bit better job of making some plays in the second half, but we didn’t do a good enough job overall.
On explaining the missed tackles
If I could explain it, we would have done better. We spent enough time working on it. We just didn’t do a good enough job.
On whether Utah’s fast no-huddle hurt Cal
They had a couple series where it was fast no-huddle and there were a couple of times we weren’t quite lined up and ready to go. It gets you out of sync a little bit. Your anxiety level goes up. They did a good job with that.
On how his defense played this season
The first thing I will remember about the season is a bunch of guys who played hard and never, ever gave up. They were an awesome group of guys to coach. At no point during the season, did I ever feel like they quit. At no point did they ever quit during the game. This was an awesome group of guys. For whatever reason, we didn’t make as many plays as we should have, but in terms of their effort and their commitment to this program, they’re one of the best groups we’ve ever had.
On whether the defense played as well as it should have this year
Effort wise, no question. Did we make as many plays throughout the year as we wanted to? Certainly not. It’s up to me to figure out where things broke down and make it better.
On cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson playing through his sprained ankle
There was no way we were going to get him off the field.
On the losses of Thompson and defensive end Tyson Alualu
He and Tyson are maybe two of the best guys we’ve had here in terms of commitment to the team and effort. Those two guys are as good as they get. They’re great individuals off the field.