Cal senior libero Robin Rostratter is one of 30 finalists for the Senior Class Award for volleyball, given each year to a senior athlete with notable achievements in community, classroom, character and competition.
Rostratter is a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection and winner of the 2010 NCAA Elite 88 Volleyball Award, as the owner of the highest grade-point average of any player participating in the NCAA tournament.
A former walk-on, Rostratter — sidelined so far this season with a groin injury — has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.905 and is on track to graduate with a double-major in media studies and Spanish.
Be on the lookout for my story on breakout tailback Brendan Bigelow, who had 160 rushing yards and two long touchdowns runs last Saturday in the Bears’ 35-28 loss at Ohio State.
He will get more carries Saturday at USC. How many more? Bigelow isn’t sure and the coaching staff won’t say.
But running backs coach Ron Gould told me Bigelow is beginning to become the complete player the Bears need.
“His focus and concentration have been there, and the attention to details on how we do things is really starting to come to fruition. I’m really starting to see it more in practice,” Gould said.
“We’ve had an opportunity to showcase his talent in practice. He’s working really hard, not just from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint, which is what the game is.”
Bigelow will share carries with seniors Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson going forward, but his speed makes him a rare talent.
“The sky’s the limit,” Gould said. “He’s a young man who obvious has got some talent. One thing we talk about is you’ve got all that talent, you’ve got to put it to good use.
“By having a great work ethic, the sky is the limit for him. He’s conscientious, he wants to do well and I think he has a very bright future.”
Here’s my notebook following Cal’s weekly press conference.
The Bears are eager to face USC after a loss at Ohio State that left them disappointed but encouraged.
Recent history doesn’t suggest good things. Cal has dropped its past eight meetings with the Trojans.
Cal faces a USC team coming off a 21-14 loss at Stanford that dropped the Trojans 11 spots to No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press Top-25. The loss also prompted coach Lane Kiffin to offer some criticism of quarterback Matt Barkley, who threw interceptions on back-to-back pass attempts.
Barkley, who never has beaten Stanford, said the criticism was warranted and he welcomed it.
Lindy’s, the first of the preseason college basketball magazines I’ve seen, picks Cal to finish fourth in the Pac-12 Conference and gives the Bears one of five NCAA tournament berths going to conference schools.
The magazine projects UCLA as the Pac-12 champion, although the eligibility issues of the Bruins’ newcomers could impact that pick. Lindy’s has UCLA, Arizona, Stanford, Cal and Washington in the NCAA field.
Here are their conference picks:
1. UCLA; 2. Arizona; 3. Stanford; 4. California; 5. Washington; 6. USC; 7. Colorado; 8. Oregon; 9. Arizona State; 10. Washington State; 11. Oregon State; 12. Utah.
Lindy’s has Allen Crabbe on its five-man preseason all-conference team, along with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, Arizona’s Solomon Hill, WSU’s Brock Motum and Colorado’s Andre Roberson.
Cal point guard Justin Cobbs is a third-team all-Pac-12 pick.
A few quick notes off coach Jeff Tedford’s post-practice Sunday interview session.
Disclaimer: I was not at the media session, thanks to a flight cancellation on an “AA”irline that will go nameless, forcing me to return home via flights to JFK-New York (with a 3-hour layover), then LAX, then SFO. An 18-hour funfest, and I still had to go pick up my car this morning at the San Jose Airport.
Anyway, here are a few highights taken from Cal’s video of the 11-minute news conference:
— Tedford expressed confidence in placekicker Vincenzo D’Amato, who missed three field goals at Ohio State, including a potential game-winner from 42 yards. “We’ll work Vince hard this week. He kicks very well in practice. He’s hitting the ball clean,” Tedford said. “We’ll work hard from the left hashmark this week.”
— Tailback Brendan Bigelow will “absolutely” get more opportunity in the wake of his 160-yard, two-touchdown effort at Columbus, according to Tedford. “There’s only one ball on the field, but I think he proved . . . we kind of know he’s got big-play potential and he played really well the other day,” Tedford said.
Cal announced that its Sept. 29 home game vs. Arizona State will kick off at 1 p.m. and be televised on the FX network.
The Bears travel to No. 13 USC on Saturday for a 3 p.m. contest.
A few notes and conclusions following Cal’s 35-28 loss to Ohio State
— Should Jeff Tedford gone for it on 4th-and-1 from the Buckeyes’ 25-yard line in a tie game with less than 4 1/2 minutes left? Well, you don’t want to send your placekicker the message that you’ve lost faith. But Vincenzo D’Amato already had missed twice from the exact same distance — 42 yards — and you’ve got an entire playbook of choices to get 1 yard. I’d go for it. You want to beat a good on the road, sometimes you’ve got to be bold.
— The guess here is D’Amato gets another shot this week, but if another kicker rises up in practice Tedford will have a tough call to make.
— Who has the motivational edge next Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum? Cal and USC are both coming off tough losses, and the Trojans could be mad as hell. On the other hand, as disappointed as the Bears, they must return home with some confidence. The Trojans’ big-picture dream (a national title) is essentially dead.
— Plus, Stanford showed two ways USC may be vulnerable: They pressured Matt Barkley right out of the top spot in the weekly Heisman ratings — hitting and sacking him — and they ran the ball effectively. Not convinced the Bears can accomplish the former, but seems they can do the latter.
— What to do with a suddenly full backfield? Brendan Bigelow has to get more opportunity, but at the expense of Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson? It seemed clear Saturday that Bigelow’s ability to get to the edge against the Buckeyes was something the other two didn’t get done. Bigelow is much more of a home run threat. You wonder if the Bears will try to throw him the ball, get him some space in which to operate. One way or the other, got to believe he gets more touches.
FINAL SCORE: Ohio State 35, Cal 28. Bears drop to 1-2 after Braxton Miller’s fourth TD pass of the game, a 72-yarder to Devin Smith with 3:26 left. Click here for my game story.
And here is more on Brendan Bigelow along with a photo slideshow on Saturday’s game.
8:10 4th Q: Brendan Bigelow — where has this guy been? He races 59 yards for a TD and Cal ties it 28-all.
8:31 4th Q: Buckeyes march 75 yards in 12 plays, taking the lead when Miller jab steps from the 3-yard line, stops and throws TD pass to WR Jake Stoneburner. Defense had held seven straight possessions, but Miller and the Buckeyes made it look easy this time. Miller runs it in for the 2-point conversion. OSU 28, Cal 21.
12:26 4th Q: Maynard scores on 1-yard sneak and D’Amato makes the PAT, giving Cal a 21-20 lead. Bears go 46 yards in eight plays.Maynard hits Treggs for 15 and a first down, then Allen for 4 yards and a first down. Maynard then laterals to Allen, who throws back to him for an 8-yard gain to the 6. C.J. Anderson runs to the 1 and Maynard caps it. Cal 21, OSU 20.
END OF THIRD QUARTER: OSU 20, Cal 14. Cal has second-and-4 from Buckeyes’ 40-y
End-of-the-week leftovers from my notebook . . .
Redshirt freshman running back Darren Ervin played the role of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller on the Cal scout team this week.
“He’s done a great job,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “Ervin’s a little over 200 pounds and he’s fast. He played quarterback in high school, so he’s got a pretty good feel for it.
“Although he’s nowhere near the passer, he gave us a good look this week, running around and doing some things. It was pretty natural because he’d played quarterback before.”
Of course, if the Bears had anyone with the exact size, speed, skill set and athletic ability as Miller, he wouldn’t be working with the scout team.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast echoed Tedford’s comments that Ervin did a nice job this week. But he also acknowledged the Bears’ success defensively on Saturday comes down to one thing: “We’ve just got to tackle well.”
The Bears boarded a flight to Columbus on Thursday morning, hoping they have made the necessary adjustments in practice this week that will pay off Saturday against No. 12 Ohio State.
Cal wants to get out of the blocks faster, make fewer early mistakes and avoid putting itself in a hole. It figures that climbing out of that hole against the Buckeyes will be substantially more difficult than it was against Southern Utah.
“We had a good week of practice and it’s been our focal point. Guys have worked hard at it,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said Thursday morning. “It’s not like we’ve practiced slow in the past. We’ve practiced fine.”
The fact is, the Bears won’t know if their work translates until kickoff Saturday.
“It’s a game-day thing,” Tedford said. “You get the confidence from good practice and you go out there with poise and composure.
“It’s just a matter of dealing with the game environment and being comfortable with what we’re doing and being poised and focused. And not being too amped.”
— Click here for my game preview, focusing on the Bears’ concerns with Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.
— Here’s a breakdown of how Cal has fared under coach Jeff Tedford in road games vs. nationally ranked opponents.