A day after local papers reported that Rich Rodriguez would be the next Alabama coach, he turned them down to remain at WVU. This follows public rejections by Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban, and has put the Alabama Nation on suicide watch.
Alabama Governor Bob Riley has declared a state of emergency and ordered the exhumation of former coach Paul "Bear" Bryant so that he might coach the Tide in '07.
Recruiting could be a challenge
In other news, Miami wimped out and promoted its DC Randy Shannon. No Pirate Parties for you, Donna Shalala. ASU is reported to be looking at Dennis Erickson, who we earlier called an inspired choice in the Valley of the Sin. And Stanford, having been publicly rebuffed by Sleepy Dick Tomey, is still formulating its 'short' list. It's rumored to include Tulsa HC Steve Kragthorpe and Old Blue Ron English,who are also both talked about for ASU, Auburn OC Al Borges, Leach, Chow, Fassel, blah, blah, blah.
The Palo Alto bunch needs to put down the chardonnay and ask themselves this question: What currently-employed coach would want to take a chance on LSJU football right now? An honest answer to that question would likely yield a very, very short list indeed.
On Tuesday the 5th, the University of California Regents approved the Environmental Impact Report for the Memorial Stadium re-model. Construction should begin in January, unless the City of Berkeley and its august elected officials can convince a judge to block the project.
The ostensible reason for the City's lawsuit is that the City is concerned about the safety of building any structure on the Hayward Fault. This is the thinnest of veneers, though. The City can't ignore that the proposed project would improve the seismic stability of Memorial Stadium far beyond the present situation. Further, if the City was so concerned about Memorial's stability, why haven't they previously petitioned the Regents to have the Stadium moved?
So, why oppose the project? There's all sorts of reasons. First, it's a political winner for the entire Council. A small but very noisy group of Berkeley constituents oppose the project for various reasons. Some want to save a grove of oak trees; some don't want the construction noise or the increased traffic implied by hundreds of new parking spots; some are simply professional protesters and attention whores. Mayor Tom Bates owes his 2002 election to the progressive (loony) wing of Berkeley politics, who purged the "moderates" (people who don't own a Che Guevara t-shirt) in that race. Progressives don't care for UC or college football in general.
If UC faculty and students were registered to vote in municipal elections, things might be different, but they're not. No one else in Berkeley gives a flip about Jeff Tedford. So to those Cyberbears and other fans who think the threat of a recall election would get the City to back off on its lawsuit plans, think again. Y'all don't have the votes.
The second reason behind the suit is that the Berkeley City Council has long had an uneasy relationship with the University. Unlike other organizations within the City, UC doesn't need to get the Council's permission to do much of anything. Therefore, the City has no control over the union contracts and other patronage typically attached to big development projects.
Third, and perhaps most important, Berkeley City Government is largely populated by brain-dead socialists who oppose any big project - especially one driven by private money - on purely ideological grounds. They hate the ivory tower sensibilities of UC, and feel it is far too elitist an institution. Nothing could serve as a better symbol of those sensibilities than an enormous remodel of the University's stadium and athletic complex to satisfy the requirements of a head football coach.
There are only two ways to beat the City of Berkeley on this issue. First, bludgeon them with superior legal firepower: the City doesn't have the finances to support lots of outside counsel; the Regents, University and concerned Cal alums almost certainly do. I'm not a lawyer, but the City's case seems to be rather weak and it's reasonable to think that the project will proceed without judicial intervention.
If, however, the City can somehow convince a judge to halt construction with a TRO, the University must cut some sort of deal with the Council to get the project moving. For that reason, it's important that University not inflame the situation by doing things like dragging the protesters out of the trees and sending them back to their parents in suburbia, or calling Tom Bates a newspaper-stealing political hack in public. As satisfying as that would be (and we'd love to have the YouTube of the cleansing of the Oaks), it could harden the ideologues' resolve and complicate any deals.
Right now, though, there's no reason to deal - and no reason to think that work won't begin in January. Roll on you bulldozers....
Chicago State sounds made-up, frankly, like one of the schools that Nick Nolte's team played in Blue Chips. But it's a real university, located in (duh) Chicago that credentials lots of teachers for that city's failing school system. It is also, most importantly, the birthplace of Styx (above) and thus a key location on the Big Map of Craptastic 70's Prog-Rock. No Chicago State, no this:
Their basketball team has a masochistic streak, having played Texas, Wichita State, Indiana and DePaul in their first nine games. All of those were sizable losses, and the Cougars come into Berkeley 3-6 on the season. They beat UTEP in El Paso, which isn't saying all that much anymore.
They're small, with both backcourt starters standing under 5'9". They press - their three returning guards - Royce Parran, David Holston and Kevin Ross and had 57, 49 and 41 steals respectively in '05-'06. Their main inside presence is Cam-Ron Clay, a 6'8"PF who I believe is the only player in CBB history named Cam-Ron.
Cal should beat them like a rented mule, unless our guards forget what they're doing (which is a distinct possibility).
Lute Olson has dominated his conference like no coach in America over the past twenty years. He built a powerhouse Cats team in the mid-1980s that did everything but win in the tournament, and then crashed into the Final Four with a string of memorable upsets in 1988. Finally, he took one of his least regarded tourney teams all the way to a championship in 1997.
But last year, cracks began to show in the facade. Arizona stopped playing defense, and it appeared they stopped listening to Lute. I can recall several conversations with Wildcat boosters at last year's Pac 10 Tournament that confirmed the level of discontent in Tucson. The whispers grew louder - was Lute too old? Was it time to step down? The early returns on the '06-'07 Cats suggest the answer is no.
Good News: Everybody scores - Arizona's starting five is averaging in double figures, led by uber-recruit Chase Budinger (left) at 19.9 ppg. The Wildcats also return the best player in the conference in SF Marcus Williams, though he's looked lost at times in the early going. Ivan Radenovic might be the most improved player in the Pac-10 - he's added muscle and is averaging 18.2ppg and 6.8 rpg thus far. Mustafa Shakur (right) is explosive on drives to the basket, but can occasionally let tempo get away from him. Junior SG Jawann McClellan is a very good scorer who needs to work harder on the defensive end (as do most of these 'Cats). That is an explosive starting five that is a threat to score 90 on any night.
Bad News: Kirk Walters is a returning starter at center, but is out indefinitely with mononucleosis (after suffering an earlier concussion that sidelined him for a month). The Cats need him healthy to add shot-blocking ability against bigger teams. Arizona has good talent behind their starting five, but not much game experience. Daniel Dillon is an OK backup combo guard; Bret Brielmaier is a widebody at forward with limited offensive skills.
Their defense and rebounding last year were unacceptable: Opponents shot 49% from three-point range against Arizona, and the Cats were out-rebounded by 13 boards a game. Budinger and Radenovic are key to establishing a more consistent presence on the boards, and thus far Arizona is +9 in rebounding margin. Perimeter defense appears more solid, as well, but will the Cats play with defensive intensity throughout a long conference schedule?
New Faces: In addition to Budinger, Lute will get minutes from freshman Jordan Hill (6'9"/211) and freshman PG Nic Wise (5'9"/190).
Prediction: 2nd place. Thus far Arizona is 6-1 against pretty good competition (but a far cry from the opening gauntlet they ran in '05-'06 of Kansas, Connecticut, Michigan State and Virginia). Lute always plays a tough non-conference schedule, which pays off in RPI and better toughness in conference play. However, this is not a terribly deep team, and it will be interesting to see how Budinger in particular responds to a long, physical season. He - and to a lesser degree, Radenovic - are the keys for the Cats, and together they will determine how deep into March Arizona plays.
#20 - DELTHA O'NEAL - DEFENSIVE BACK/EVERYTHING (1996-1999) The 1999 Big Game was symptomatic of O'Neal's star-crossed career at Cal. In that game, O'Neal returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown, a kickoff 100 yards for another score, and intercepted a pass. And Cal was still thumped by the Rose Bowl-bound Cardinal 31-13.
Deltha O'Neal deserved far better - the most talented DB in school history was asked to play offense for his first year and a half at Berkeley. As a true freshman he hit for 126 yards against Oregon and returned the opening kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown against Navy in the Aloha Bowl. After the position switch, he had a good junior year (earning HM All-Pac 10 honors) but nothing prepared Bears fans for what was coming in 1999.
In that senior season, O'Neal had the finest year of any Bear that we've ever seen (any argument?). He intercepted nine passes, though teams rarely threw his way. He returned four of those picks for touchdowns, and scored twice more on kick returns (the two against LSJU), leading the Bears in scoring as a DB/return specialist. Against Oregon he set a Cal record by returning an errant Joey Harrington pass 100 yards for a score. O'Neal earned consensus first-team All-America and All-Pac-10 honors as a senior (both on defense and as as a return specialist), and was named Pacific-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He was also honored as the 2nd recipient of the Mosi Tatupu Award, honoring the nation's top special teams performer.
Over his career O'Neal scored 12 touchdowns by five different methods: interception return (5), punt return (1), kickoff return (2), rushing (2) and receiving (2). He is the greatest dual threat return specialist in school history, having returned 110 punts for 1169 yards and 99 kicks for a 24.9 yard average. His 4998 all-purpose yards are the most by any non-QB in California football history. Deltha O'Neal was drafted by the Denver Broncos as the 15th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, and currently starts at corner for the Cincinnati Bengals.
SAW OSKI'S HEAD OFF, OR THE LAZY PLANET GUIDE TO AGGIELAND
Q: How many Aggies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: Three. One to screw in the bulb; one to write a yell about it; and one to make it a tradition.
Lots of schools have traditions. No school has more traditions than Texas A&M. Too many, really, to list here. They have so many traditions, their freshman are essentially required to attend something called "Fish Camp," where upperclassmen do nothing but teach them the rituals of Aggie life. Cal has the annual Running of the Panhandlers, but that hardly compares.
A&M is just...out there. Foreign. We're frankly fond of A&M like we're fond of Thailand. They're both exotic, alien landscapes filled with people who have a world view quite apart from ours. We will forthwith examine that world view and attempt to divine the true meaning of "Good Bull" in this first installment of Tightwad Hill's Cultural Guide to Aggieland.
The first thing to know is that A&M is a military institution that's not a service academy. Service in the Aggie Corps is no longer compulsory for students (that ended in 1965) but 2,000 of A&M's students still serve in this ROTC program-on steroids. The Corps have their own set of traditions, which include the now infamous Aggie Squeeze. The purpose of the Aggie Squeeze is for male Corpsmen to show empathy when the football team is struggling by grabbing their testicles and shouting. Ah, empathy. Disturbing homo-erotic empathy.
The school is uniformly conservative, almost proudly reactionary - which explains the obsession with tradition and history. Their students - not just the Corps - stand at attention for the entire football game. And they yell. A&M students don't cheer, they yell. They yell so much that they have official yell practice the night before each game. And no shit, but everybody shows up. During games, there are special Yell Leaders (top) who take the place of traditional girl cheerleaders - think Neidermeyer times five. Their favorite yell is "Gig 'Em, Aggies," which refers to the practice of spearing frogs with sharp sticks, a popular past time in East Texas.
A&M's mascot is a cute collie named Reveille and (surprise) there are a bunch of traditions about her. From the official Aggie Traditions website (the really crazy parts are in italics):
When Reveille I died on January 18, 1944, she was given a formal military funeral on the gridiron of Kyle Field. She was then buried at the north entrance to the field, as all Reveilles are, facing the scoreboard so that she can always watch the Aggies outscore their opponent. (ed. note - A&M expanded their field and blocked Reveille's 'view,' so the Ags put a functioning mini-scoreboard in the dog graveyard. I am not making this up.)
Reveille is the most revered dog on campus. Company E-2 has the privilege of taking care of Reveille. If she is sleeping on a cadet's bed, that cadet must sleep on the floor. Cadets address Reveille as "Miss Rev, ma'am." If she is in class and barks while the professor is teaching, the class is to be immediately dismissed.
Jesus Christ. Check our earlier comparison. This isn't like Thailand. This is out of a Heinlein novel. We don't know whether to be frightened or impressed.
The Ags are obsessed with beating Texas (t.u. or the tea-sips to Aggies) and mutilating the Longhorn mascot. Here's the words to their fight song:
Goodbye to texas university, so long to the orange and white. Good luck to the dear old Texas Aggies, they are the ones who show the real old fight. "The eyes of Texas are upon you," that is the song they sing so well (sounds like hell). So goodbye to texas university, we're gonna beat you all to... Chig-a-roo-garem, Chig-a-roo-garem, Rough tough real stuff Texas A&M.
(chorus) Saw varsity's horns off, saw varsity's horns off. Saw varsity's horns off, SHORT! Varsity's horns are sawed off, varsity's horns are sawed off. Varsity's horns are sawed off, SHORT!
I mean we hate Stanford, and we do advocate decapitating them in the Stanford Jonah, but it's not like that's our main fight song.
A&M's can-do spirit is referred to as "Good Bull" by students and former students (never referred to as alumni). Good Bull pervades all of the afore-mentioned activities - yelling, practicing to yell, etc. A tangible manifestation of Good Bull came on September 22, 2001 when Aggie students put this together in a few days:
$250k from t-shirt sales that day went to the families of 9/11 victims. That is wicked cool Good Bull, and a good place to stop. We're of course not done with Aggie Tradition, and future installments of the Guide to Aggieland will cover the 12th Man, the history of Aggie football, and Bear Bryant's time in College Station.
We recommend anyone with free time who wants a good primer on A&M to read two books. The first is Backyard Brawl by W.K. Stratton. While it's ostensibly about the Longhorn-Aggie rivalry, there's loads of good color about TAMU. The second book is the better-known Junction Boys, which details Bear Bryant's infamous A&M training camp in 1954. Junction Boys is light on A&M color, but an entertaining look at a pivotal time in Aggie football.
#21 - ED WHITE - MIDDLE GUARD (1966-1968) The Goose (#70 above, against Washington) led the stingiest defense in modern Cal football history. The 1968 "Bear Minimum" defense held opponents to 10 points and 252 yards per game, recorded three shutouts, and allowed only five rushing touchdowns all year. White and his mates announced their presence in the season's first week and shocked the college football world with a 21-7 win at Michigan. Ironically, White missed most of Cal's most lopsided win that year, when he was ejected in the 1st half of Cal's 43-0 home shellacking of Syracuse (a game that was noted in a Sports Illustrated feature article).
For his efforts White was a consensus choice as a 1st team All-American in 1968 (selected by the AP, Football Writers, and Kodak/Football Coaches). He was drafted in the second round by the Minnesota Vikings in 1969 and switched to offensive guard. White made five Pro Bowls in a seventeen-year career with the Vikings and San Diego Chargers. Since retiring, White has coached for the Chargers and Rams, as well as San Diego State and his alma mater (during the tail end of the Holmoe era). White became the 20th Golden Bear player or coach to be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
What, exactly, is so great about Lorenzo Romar? Nothing he did as a low-talent shooting guard for the Warriors or as a born-again AIA barnstormer suggested that he would grow up to become the hottest head coach in America. And yet here he is, poised to take his Huskies back to the NCAAs behind consecutive top-15 recruiting classes. In the past two years Romar has taken prized recruits away from Duke, Carolina and Connecticut, and he has essentially built a fence around the Pacific Northwest. We wish we could hate him, frankly, and we look forward to his first act of villainous treachery. Good News: The Huskies have the personnel to play you however you want to play. Don't want to run? OK, here's uber-talents Spencer Hawes and widebody Jon Brockman (right) in the half-court: Enjoy. Prefer the up-tempo game? No one runs harder or better than UW, who ranks with Arizona as the premier fun-and-gun team in the West. In addition to the bigs, UW welcomes frosh Quincy Poindexter (below), who has become the team's go-to threat, scoring 20 points more than three times in the Huskies' first six games. Justin Dentmon returns at the point; his ability to handle pressure against UCLA and Arizona will determine how far the Huskies can go in conference. Ryan Appleby returns to shoot 3s and turn the ball over far too often. Bad News: They obviously will miss Pac-10 POY Brandon Roy, but other than that there isn't too much to complain about. Youth is the biggest problem; their starting five are underclassmen and it will be interesting to see how they cope with road trips in conference. Freshman Adrian Oliver will be a little shaky at the 2, but he's talented enough to draw the starts so far. Their bigs behind Brockman and Hawes are promising but untested. Brandon Burmeister is a bit of an athletic liability, but backs up Oliver at the 2.
One possible liability for Romar is attrition - the Huskies announced today that RS freshman Harvey Perry quit the team due to a lack of playing time. Romar has more talent than shots to distribute, and team chemistry may become an issue down the road. He does seem to be the type of coach who can deal with those issues, but this is worth watching.
New Faces: In addition to those already mentioned, UW will get immediate help from Phil Nelson, a 6'7" forward with a good inside-outside game.
Prediction: 3rd place. As noted above, the Huskies are athletic and versatile enough to compete with anybody in the conference. They will go as far as their point guard(s) can lead them. If Dentmon/Appleby can limit turnovers and get the ball inside in the half-court (which has been a problem thus far), there's no reason UW couldn't finish 1st or 2nd in the conference and make another deep run into March Madness.
- Leach is the strangest person in college football today. By that, we mean he is significantly stranger than Houston Nutt, who as EDSBS has noted is crazier than a sack of rabid weasels. Two words: Pirate fetish. More evidence here (his MySpace page!). The question is, will he do the weather in Miami?
- Leach's departure would mean that Sonny Dykes becomes Tech's new HC. Dykes was set to take the offensive coordinator job at Arizona, where he would have installed the spread. Now, Mikey's gotta find a new guy, and quick.
Stanford looked scary good against Texas Tech, though the Raiders don't match up well with big teams. I still think we can sweep 'em if our bigs stay out of foul trouble.
I want Pete Newell's genes - he looks great at 91 years old and sounds like he could assist for even the best programs.
The friendship between Pete and Bob Knight is well-documented, and it was a nice touch for Tech to play the Challenge. I guarantee the General went extra-special crazy on his team for playing so poorly in front of the Master.
Still on track to complete the 50 Greatest Golden Bears list by Holiday Bowl week. Who will be #1? Should we do a similar, albeit shorter list for hoops?
Two good things about Cal going to the Holiday Bowl: 1) I can drive to the game, and 2) we all get to miss the annual blood sacrifice at the McKale Center.
Some good stuff cooking on the history and social anthropology of Texas A&M University. Suffice to say that we could not have drawn a more interesting opponent...
And lastly, we'll catch up with the politics surrounding everyone's favorite stadium upgrade.
Welcome to the 1st annual Tightwad Hill Pac-10 Awards Show. We're coming to you live from Bertola's on Telegraph, which of course no longer exists but this is the Internet so we make the rules. Bertola's - home of mediocre pasta dishes and $1 well drinks - your only choice for 11:00 am cocktails, and an official sponsor of Tightwad Hill. Our MC for the afternoon, Petros Papadakis, would love to welcome you, but he's currently in Zed's basement with a ball-gag stuffed in his mouth. (See, it's the Internet. Fantasy!) So we'll pinch hit for Petros, and hope that these three dollar triples don't prevent us from getting through the show. Let's hand out some hardware!
John Mackovic Award for Esprit de Corps: A close race between Ty Willingham and Walt Harris, but Willingham wins it by a nose. After all, everyone knows Walt is a dick, and he simply lived down to expectations by calling out players in public for daring to get injured. Willingham, however, talks the talk of being all about togetherness, but then throws several redshirt juniors under the bus in public. The result? A lifeless 20-3 home loss to Stanford, and a player rebellion on Facebook. Accepting the award on behalf of Coach Willingham is ESPN's John Saunders and Jason Whitlock.
Smile...You're a Winner!
Don James Award for Institutional Control: Dirk Koetter in an absolute landslide. It's not every year that a coach allows his players to overrule him on something as trivial as his choice of starting QB, and then becomes the last person in Tempe to discover that said QB didn't attend class and partied like Keith Richards before his first blood transfusion. In fact, we might rename this award, right after we refill our drink. Is it noon yet?
And now, the Nathan Villegas/Geoff MacArthur Iron Man Award. This award is jointly named in honor of Oregon kicker Villegas, who blew out his ACL when Joey Harrington jumped on him after a last-second kick, and MacArthur, who was TKO'd by a plate glass window after a loss to Illinois in 2001. And this year it goes not to a player, but to an inanimate object (of which there are many on campus) - the Funky Stanford Couch. The Couch, of course, was responsible for spreading disease through the Stanford locker room more efficiently than a Dollie with a tray full of Jell-O shots. Accepting on behalf of the Couch is Stanford team physician Dr. Gary Fanton.
Best Vector in a Supporting Role
Joe Kapp Award for Outstanding Game Management - This award goes to USC Coach Pete Carroll. Coach Carroll is recognized here for leaving his superego in South Central when his Trojans battled UCLA. Petey went for it twice in bad situations against the Bruins - once in the 1st half, eschewing a difficult but doable 48 yard FG attempt, and once on 4th and 6 in the 3rd quarter, giving the Bruins a short field that resulted in another Medlock FG.
Bob Toledo/Scout.com Award for Underachievement - Mike Bellotti, whose four-star laden Ducks gave up after Cal pasted them in Memorial Stadium. All the comic books and PlayStations in the world don't matter when your team is soft as a baby's bottom (or maybe they're the problem). Oregon's performance against Arizona at home was so lacking in energy or interest it should be put in a time capsule as a cautionary tale for future generations of coaches.
Frank Kush Award for Sideline Deportment - We have a repeat winner! Pete Carroll, come on down for letting a national TV audience know what you think of Coach Pornstar and his Oregon Ducks:
Casey Moore Award for Endless Bear Nightmares - Syndric Steptoe. Let's move on.
Chuck Cecil Hit of the Year - As much as we'd like to honor Thomas DeCoud for his slobber-knocker on punt return v UCLA, this has to go to Rey Maualuga, for obvious reasons:
Play of the Year/Catch of the Year - The winners are Carl Bonnell and Marlon Wood, for their desperation Hail Mary at the end of regulation that tied Cal in Berkeley. Bastards.
Pac-10 Blog of the Year - Bruins Nation, the dyspeptic gathering of Bruins fans who made it their mission to bludgeon Karl Dorrell into early retirement. Mission not accomplished, fellas, but nice win against the Trojans.
Pac-10 Hall of Merit - The following players are hereby inducted in the Tightwad Hill Pac-10 Hall of Merit. The Hall exists to honor those players good enough to be remembered four years after they leave campus (or longer, depending on your history of chemical abuse). It's like Potter Stewart's definition of p0rn: You know a Hall of Merit guy when you see him:
Antoine Cason, Arizona/Daymeion Hughes, California/Brandon Mebane, California/Marshawn Lynch, California/DeSean Jackson, California/Enoka Lucas, Oregon/Sabby Piscatelli, Oregon State/Alexis Serna, Oregon State/Michael Okwo, Stanford/Justin Hickman, UCLA/John David Booty, USC/Sedrick Ellis, USC/Ryan Kalil, USC/Dwayne Jarrett, USC/Steve Smith, USC/M'Kristo Bruce, Washington State
OK, we're officially toasted. Our thanks to the staff at Bertola's, to Petros Papadakis, to Petros' grief counselor, and to all the award winners for another wild and unpredictable season of Pac-10 football. See you in San Diego!
What a frustrating game. If you had told us that Cal would hold Nick Fazekas to only 12 points, we'd have the beer on ice before tipoff. As it was, Cal lost the game with a horrific stretch in the 1st half in which its offense consisted of reckless 1 on 3 drives to the basket and low-percentage jumpers.
And then, it was as if Ben flipped a switch. Hardin established good post position, the Bears set very solid screens, and players moved much more quickly without the ball. A 20-6 stretch featured some of DeVon Hardin's best minutes of the year, and inspired play by freshman PG Jerome Randle.
And then the circuit breaker flipped. Nevada came out of a timeout in zone, and the Bears looked like they had never seen one - no cutters to the middle, just passes around the perimeter at 24 feet and a low-percentage three. Cal switched to zone as well, and Nevada cut it to ribbons with an easy two. It's not just experience, either - the Pack's point guard is a true sophomore. Cal simply forgets what it's doing on offense. Once Nevada started rolling with less than three remaining, the Bears stopped moving without the ball and Ayinde Ubaka and Randle had several terrible series of bad shots and turnovers. Game over, opportunity missed.
We've never been in the Braun-bashing camp, but it would be nice to see the juniors and seniors on this team run a consistent offense for forty minutes. Someone - Ben? Ubaka? Robertson? - needs to establish control of this team after bad possessions and remind them to move, screen and work for high-percentage shots.
QB - C- Longshore had another unimpressive outing. Cal's offensive struggles started when teams began cheating the run and daring Longshore to beat them. Nate didn't turn the ball over, but could have on three separate occasions - any one of those could have lost the game for the Bears. He didn't read blitzes very well, and his mechanics were all over the place.
RB - We're giving out split grades. Marshawn Lynch gets a D+. Maybe it was injury, but Marshawn didn't look like he wanted to be out there in the biggest (if not most important) game of the year. Lynch dropped a pass and put the ball on the ground, and he danced to the outside on far too many carries. Justin Forsett gets an A-, because he ran north and south in the fourth quarter and helped the Bears ice the game. This was his best effort of the season - he gets the offensive game ball because no one else deserves it.
WR - C A middling effort; the receivers dropped a number of catchable passes, but DeSean did a nice job of route-running. Hawkins' TD catch redeemed several drops. Stevens was a non-factor, unfortunately (see Coaching, below)
Pass Blocking - C- For the first time in a long time, Cal struggled to pick up the blitz. Stanford had two sacks and numerous pressures; an unacceptable amount considering the talent differential.
Run Blocking - D+ They get the plus for the fourth quarter, when Cal finally opened holes in the Stanford 3-4. Before that, Cal's O-line was handled by an undersized, sparsely talented group of Cardinal defenders. In one of the game's key matchups, Cal could not block Okwo or Maynor on a consistent basis. The run game is officially a Big Problem, and we struggle to imagine how the Bears will run the ball against Texas A&M, which is a hell of a lot better than Stanford.
Pass Rush - B+ Cal blitzed a lot, but also got pressure on a few occasions from its basic four-man rush. In the first half Ostrander made great reads and Stanford's receivers came back to the football. In the second half, the Bears were a second quicker, and Ostrander tried to force big plays instead of dumping off. Four sacks is a good total, but in context not all that impressive - everyone gets at least that many against Stanford's line.
Run Defense - C A team that had averaged 2.1 yards per carry averaged 3, and Stanford's run game controlled the 1st half of play. Some Bears brought their best to the Big Game - notably LB Zack Follett (your Defensive POtG) and DT Brandon Mebane. Others, like MLB Desmond Bishop, struggled to shed blocks and get a helmet on Stanford's backs. For the second consecutive game, our D has made a true freshman RB look better than he is (though both Gable and Gerhart will eventually be terrific players).
Pass Defense - C- Daymeion Hughes had much more trouble with freshman wideout Richard Sherman than he should have. Syd'Quan played a nice game - it's gratifying to see how much he has progressed since the horror-show in Week 1. Moore's TD was a push-off, but it's still unacceptable to get beat by a receiver with one good wheel (and complain to the ref before said receiver enters the end zone).
Special Teams - B Thank God for Tom Schneider - his 4 FGs were the difference in the game. Andrew Larson only punted three times, but netted 45.7 per kick. On the minus side, Cal's return game was non-existent and the Bears allowed a long kick return in the 2nd quarter that set up a Cardinal score. Coaching - D We don't have problems with Tedford's decision to kick in the 4th quarter - it was a reasonable FG attempt and would have put the Bears up by two scores. We do have a problem with Cal treating the Big Game like a non-conference tilt with Minnesota. The intensity was not there, and that goes back to preparation by the coaching staff.
With respect to the offensive scheme, Mike Dunbar got schooled by A.J. Christoff, which is frankly hard to do. We've been pulling our punches a bit with respect to Coach Dunbar, who has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks for his play-calling. We'll jump on his back here, because we had exactly two smart play-calls for the blitz in the entire game - a bubble screen pass to DeSean, and the swing pass to Marshawn in the 1st half. Where was the quick hitter to the TE?
Overall - D+ Yes, we're giving Cal a D+ for a Big Game win. They deserve it for failing to play with any intensity in a rivalry game. Stanford was a horribly over-matched team, and Cal let them dominate large portions of the game. If T.C. Ostrander doesn't turn back into a pumpkin in the 2nd half, we might be talking about the biggest upset in Big Game history. As it is, we're left to discuss the least inspiring Cal victory in the recent history of the rivalry.
#22 - PAUL LARSON - QUARTERBACK/SAFETY (1951-1954) In two years as Cal's starting quarterback Larson threw for nearly 3,000 yards. That might not sound like much, until you consider that Pappy Waldorf was a run-first coach in a very conservative era. Larson's 1537 passing yards during his senior year of 1954 led the nation, and his 1572 yards of total offense in his junior year also led the nation in that category.
Larson did much more than throw - he is tied for third all-time with 12 interceptions, including a critical pick in the 1953 Big Game that preserved a 21-21 tie. He also punted and kicked field goals in 1954, and returned both punts and kicks in three of his varsity seasons, averaging 28.5 yards per kick return and 10.7 per punt return with a touchdown.
Larson finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1954, and was the top vote-getter in the Western region; he was also named to the FWAA All-America team. Larson was also indirectly responsible for the decline of Cal football after Waldorf. If he had not been a star, then prized recruit Ronnie Knox might have cracked the starting lineup in 1954 and not transferred to UCLA. Knox and his father later ratted out Cal boosters to the NCAA, which landed the Bears on probation.
Larson was drafted in the eighth round by the Chicago Cardinals in 1954, and played two seasons in professional football.
An ongoing discussion of California Golden Bears football and basketball...Other college football and basketball news filtered through a west coast bias...Like the actual Tightwad Hill, a bit messy and disorganized, but free!