The two coaches who will lead Cal and Texas into Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl sat alongside one another at a morning press conference, and Mack Brown of the Longhorns opened with a humorous but frank monologue.
“It’s really unique in this press conference that you’d sit next to the opposing coach and everybody says, `What do you think of their quarterback?’
`What about their receivers?’
`They’re really good.’
“I can’t answer things about the other team,” Brown said. “I think it’s the only time we’ve ever done this. Most coaches aren’t speaking the day before a game to each other, much less braggin on each other when we get up here.”
So, with that bit of honesty as a backdrop, I can tell you both coaches were polite, cooperative and detailed in their answers during a 37-minute podium interview session, then took a few more questions in smaller groups afterward.
But there wasn’t any dirt thrown around on the eve of kickoff.
— Both teams appear to be as healthy as they’ve been in some time. Brown and Cal coach Jeff Tedford both said all of their players who weren’t previously ruled out for the season are ready to play.
— Tedford is weary of continuing questions about the 2004 controversy involving Brown and the Rose Bowl. It was a long time ago, he said, and it’s not a topic of conversation with him or his players.
“I think most people have let it go,” Tedford said. “While the fans still have some bitterness about it, the guys on our team right now were 10 years old when that happened.”
Well, 12 or 14, anyway.
“I’m hoping (fans) are intense about the game, not sitting there in their seats saying, `Back in 2004 . . .’ I’m going to yell louder right now. It happened a long time ago. It was unfortunate, but we’re in a whole new day.”
— Cal and Texas have not played since 1970, but this is not the first time Tedford and Brown dueled as coaches. Tedford was offensive coordinator at Oregon in 2000 when the Ducks played the Longhorns in the Holiday Bowl.
“They were loaded,” Tedford said.
An NFL scout stopped by Oregon’s practice one day and Tedford asked him how the Longhorns were looking.
“You don’t stand a chance,” the scout told him.
Oregon won 35-30.
“I’ll never forget that,” Tedford said. “I let that scout know every time I see him, too, for scaring me to death like that.”
Tedford has gotten no pro scouting reports this time. But does he feel the Bears are on more of a level playing field with Texas now?
“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting because you watch them on tape and you see a lot of really good things. It’ll be interesting to see how we match up with them.”
— The star of that Oregon victory over Texas was quarterback Joey Harrington, named MVP after throwing for two touchdowns, running for one and catching. It drives Brown a little crazy that Harrington now works for the Longhorns Network.
— The Longhorns are 4-0 all-time vs. Cal, but were ranked in the top-10 nationally each time. The combined score of the four games: 134 to 18, with two shutouts.
— Tedford hopes the Bears don’t show game rust at the start of things Wednesday night.
“After a month, we may start out a little slow,” he said. “But we can’t afford to do that against a team like Texas.”
In fact, a fast start could perpetuate the momentum each team took into the break following the regular season. Cal has won three of its past four games, Texas has dropped three of four.
— Texas freshman cornerback Quandre Diggs, the brother of San Diego Chargers standout Quentin Jammer, will have big brother’s locker Wednesday night at Qualcom Stadium.
–– Asked about the importance of the Holiday Bowl to both teams, Brown said, “For both of us, it’s a whole lot better to be 8-5 than it is to be 7-6. It looks better, smells better, tastes better.
“Neither one of us is playing for the standards that we like to play for. But we still have teams that are much better than last year and obviously want to win the game.”