We're never right in our predictions, so allow us to crow a bit for picking a three-point Cal victory in the 60s. (OK it was 4, but still...) Nice to escape with the split, considering that we essentially played seven guys tonight (that's OK, since Sendek wore his guys out - the 2nd guy off his bench played six minutes in an overtime game).
Taylor Harrison played all of four minutes (one more than Alex Pribble). Is Ben waiting for something, or is this how it's going to be? We would hope to see more of him Wednesday against the Lopez twins.
Cal was only +2 from the line (compared with Stanford's +18 Thursday).
Eric Vierneisel is turning into the super sub, logging thirty minutes in relief. Had more assists than turnovers, which is rare. Took only three fewer shots than Anderson, which is dumb.
#5 - ROD FRANZ - GUARD (1946-1949) Here's a list of Golden Bears who were three-time selections as a first team All-American:
1. Rod Franz
Franz enrolled at Cal in 1946 following his release from the Army Air Corps, and became an immediate starter for an awful 2-7 team that scored in double digits only three times all year. Franz wasn't the problem; he started most of the year and was named an Honorable Mention All-America by some services. Despite being of average size - 6'0"/189 - Franz was smart and quick - an excellent pulling guard and a sure tackler.
In 1947 Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf became Cal's head coach after a successful stint at Northwestern. Franz (and another Cal sophomore who we'll shortly meet) embraced the new coach's running offense, and led the post-war revival of Golden Bear football. The formerly hapless Bear offense surged to average 27.5 points per game, while allowing only 11. A 39-14 loss to USC at home was the only thing separating Cal from its first trip to the Rose Bowl in a decade. Franz was named first-team All-America by the Football Coaches and Grantland Rice.
The following year Franz and his teammates got past USC and everyone else en route to a 10-0 regular season and a #1 ranking. The Bears lost a tight Rose Bowl to Waldorf's former team, Northwestern on a touchdown with three minutes to play. Franz was again an All-America choice, this time by the Associated Press and the New York Sun.
In 1949 Jackie Jensen was gone, and the Bears were led by QB Bob Celeri, but thanks to Franz's leadership and blocking, the results were the same. Cal again rolled to an undefeated 10-0 regular season behind an even more powerful offense that averaged 28 points per game. But again the Bears fell short in the Rose Bowl, losing to Ohio State on a field goal in the last two minutes. This time Franz was a unanimous choice as All-America, and was featured on the cover of Sport Magazine for his heroics. Franz became only the second PCC player to make All-America three times (WSU's Ed Goddard was the first).
With neither the body nor the driving interest for professional football, Franz was drafted as an afterthought in the 26th round by Philadelphia. He coached at Cal for two years, and then pursued a business career. A College Football Hall of Famer, Franz died Nov. 27, 1999, at Sacramento, Califorina.
We didn't watch a lick of basketball last night, and we hope none of you did, either. It was an interesting night, though, inside the numbers. We learned that:
Cal is up against it, but they're not ready to roll over. Would have been easy to quit against the Wildcats after their 23-12 run to open the 2nd half, but the Bears clawed back to finish within nine. Given the injuries, we'll judge Braun less on Ws and Ls this year and more on improvement and mental toughness - the Bears certainly showed the latter Thursday.
SC had a couple of guys weak with flu and still beat UW. Taj Gibson was one of them; and he bettered Spencer Hawes with 22 points and 10 boards.
WSU got average offensive games from their backcourt and still came within one possession of beating UCLA at Pauley. They're not a deep team, but their starting five plays very tough D. It's hard to imagine that WSU can keep it up playing an eight-man rotation through March, though.
ASU lost to Stanford for two reasons - 1) the Cardinal shot 35 foul shots, 18 more than the Devils. How a Pac-10 team gets dominated like that at home is beyond us. And it wasn't like Stanford's bigs were getting it done - the Lopez twins shot one free throw between them. Anthony Goods was 11-13, which tells us that ASU's guards are reaching and grabbing. 2) The Devils were 3-16 from three-point range.
The keys for a Cal victory tomorrow? Sendek will keep the score down and limit possessions with a deliberate style. ASU's problem is that they start two frosh and a sophomore, and a third freshman (Josh Shipp) is the first guy off the bench. That spells turnovers if Cal can bring its A game on defense. Jeff Pendergraph (top) will test Anderson, and Cal will need to put a body on Serge Angounou on the boards. Another tough set of matchups for Cal, but at least the Devils are young and streaky. We see Ubaka and Anderson generating enough offense to escape Arizona with the split.
We'll let our earlier profile of the great Sam Chapman stand as a summary of what he meant to his beloved University. What's saddest about this news is that Sam passed away on the 22nd, but the news is only now filtering out. Let's hope he's remembered in appropriate fashion by the University and Athletic Department - as the (second) greatest two-sport athlete in California history and a gentleman.
QB: A. Nate is back. After a shaky 1st series when he threw an out pattern into the turf, Longshore displayed the type of accuracy and good decision-making we grew to expect over the first half of the season. His pass to Stevens on Cal's answering drive in the 1st quarter was simply beautiful. His one interception - a miscommunication with the receivers - was like quick kicking on first down.
RB: A. Marshawn, thanks for the memories. Justin, welcome back to your 2005 form. You're the man now, dog. Will Ta'ufo'ou, welcome to the starting lineup. You blocked pretty well last night, though we need to work on your route running a bit before Tennessee.
Run Blocking: A++. We have slagged this unit something fierce over the past two months, but they absolutely dominated Texas A&M. Everyone played well, but special kudos to Erik Robertson, who was a beast, and Mike Gibson. Alex Mack was terrific too except for his bad snap to Longshore in shotgun. We worried that A&M's option would wear down the Cal defense; in reality, Cal's OL broke A&M's will on their second possession of the 2nd half.
Pass Blocking: A. No sacks, and not much pressure on Longshore. Nothing more to say, really - an almost perfect performance. We were surprised that A&M didn't gamble and blitz more to generate some sort of pressure. Their passive defensive game plan was a mystery to everyone but the A&M coaches themselves.
Receiver Play: A Good receivers find holes in the zone and sit down. That's exactly what our wides did all night against a mushy zone from the Aggies. Hawkins showed great concentration on his TD reception on 4th down. Stevens had a very nice game.
Run Defense: B- In the first quarter, Cal looked as though it hadn't practiced against the option. Our DEs were almost invisible, and our backers - Mickey Pimentel in particular - kept biting on the QB keeper, leaving pitch men wide open on the perimeter. Then Bob Gregory made the adjustment of the game, switching to a 6-2-3 with Justin Moye and Pimentel/Williams standing up at DE and Bishop and Follett in the middle. This worked like a charm, and drained the momentum from A&M's run game. The Bears moved away from this 6 man look at times but seemed to always have at least five across the line. In so doing, Gregory masked the true weakness of our defense - Tafisi and Ma'afala - against the triple option.
Desmond Bishop played his finest game as a Golden Bear. He was all over the field, and his ferocious hitting intimidated the Aggie backs. Thanks for everything, Desmond.
Pass Defense: B+ Our packages looked pretty good, with a few hiccups as Syd'Quan was at time unaware of down and distance and gave a generous cushion. DB tackling in the 1st quarter was awful - Hicks missed at least a couple of clean shots - but the Bears tightened up as the game progressed.
Special Teams: C Schneider missed a FG; our return game never got going (the one nice return by Forsett came back on penalty); and A&M easily converted on their fake punt in the 1st quarter. It looked like the Bears were ill-prepared for the fake, despite the fact that the situation and A&M's formation both suggested it was coming.
Coaching: A As noted above, Gregory made very good adjustments in the run defense. The play-calling showed much better balance, and Tedford/Dunbar were willing to take what the soft Aggie zone gave them, instead of forcing the run in the 1st half. The 4th down call to Hawkins was the type of aggressive play-calling the Cal nation has been seeking for weeks. Special thanks to Coach Michalczik - whatever he did for the past month certainly worked, as our OL had its best effort since the Oregon game.
Overall: A This was a statement game - a statement that the 2006 Golden Bears will be remembered for much more than debacles in Knoxville, Tucson and Los Angeles. This is how good Cal can be - good enough to physically whip a strong team on both sides of the football. Tedford will spend the offseason plugging holes and figuring how to coax consistency from his charges in 2007.
It's nice to win in San Diego. Report card to come post-hangover tomorrow, but suffice to say there will be more than a couple of A's. We want to play Tennessee next week, but we can wait until next year, I suppose. GO BEARS!!!
The Pac is really taking it in the shorts so far this bowl season. It was a down year for the conference to be sure, but we're surprised with the margins of defeat considering the competition (Hawaii? FSU?). Read the game thread from BN for amusement - Dorrell's good will from the SC game has already evaporated over there.
We open the Pac schedule tonight at McKale. As noted earlier, we think UCLA's the best team in the conference, but Arizona is a more difficult match-up for the Hardin-less Bears because of their two active bigs - Radenovic and Budinger. Look for a fair amount of zone from Cal. Our only hope is that Arizona has a real off night from the perimeter, and Cal has big games from the big two (Anderson and Ubaka) and a third scorer (Wilkes?). Even that might not be enough. Prediction: Arizona 79 California 60
We hope you all have a great game in America's Finest City, or wherever you may be. See you tomorrow with the report card. Go Bears!
Let us first say that this is the most important bowl game for the University of California since the 1951 Rose Bowl. That says something about the Holiday Bowl, and even more about Cal football history between Pappy and St. Jeff.
Our Golden Bears sputtered to the finish line with uninspired performances against Arizona, USC and Stanford. Nate Longshore has seemingly regressed since the UCLA game. Our run blocking has vanished, forcing #10 to do too much on his own. Our opponent, Texas A&M, is playing as well as any team in the Big XII right now and would acquit themselves well in several of the BCS games.
And like it or not, Cal has developed a (largely undeserved) reputation as a candy bar program - one whose hardened exterior gives way under pressure to reveal a soft, nougaty center. Now reputations don't mean much when they're referenced by national know-nothings like the ESPN bunch, or the Fox bunch, or pretty much anyone who is compensated for reading cue cards into a teleprompter. They can matter quite a bit, however, when they permeate the cerebral cortexes of impressionable seventeen-year olds in the process of choosing a university.
California can take a giant step toward rewriting the conventional wisdom about its football team by standing up to the yard-chewing three-headed option attack of Texas A&M.
This is precisely the type of game that the Bears are supposed to lose. The matchups don't favor Cal. The Bears have done just fine against schools that bang away inside, but the Aggies are a ball-faking misdirection team that encourages over-pursuit and burns defenses who lack discipline. On defense, the Ags are reasonably stout against the run, and Cal had a hard time pushing Stanford off the football in early December.
There are exactly three matchups that absolutely work in Cal's favor: our receivers on their secondary, their punt cover team against DeSean Jackson, and their field goal kicker v. gravity. Is that enough to get a win Thursday night? Maybe. It depends on a few things:
Will Longshore display a mature pocket presence, going through his progressions and waiting for receivers to find soft spots in the zone?
Will Cal's offensive line have a (typically) good game in pass protect, with zero sacks and few pressures?
Can the line establish some sort of threat on the ground, to force both linebackers and the Whip backer to cheat toward the line of scrimmage on 1st and 2nd down?
Will Cal go vertical whenever the opportunity presents itself?
We're eternal optimists up on Tightwad Hill, so we answer yes to all of these questions. If the answer to two or more is "no," then Cal could lose ugly, because A&M seems like a cinch to score 24 points. We think Cal will need to score at least three touchdowns to win the Holiday Bowl, and we think we'll get them: two through the air and one on the winged feet of your Holiday Bowl MVP, DeSean Jackson. Add in a big dose of Tom Schneider, and Cal has the victory. Gig 'em, Bears!
They'd never admit it, but Pac-10 teams like Arizona and UCLA used to breathe a small sigh of relief when they got through their tough non-conference games. After some Big East or ACC roadies, how tough could home dates with the Washington schools be?
This year that has all changed. This year there are only a couple of gimmes on the schedule (and ASU may be a tougher test as their freshmen gain game experience.) Only one thing is for certain in the suddenly tough Pac-10: If you lose to Oregon State at home, you have a problem. Everything else could be a bit of a challenge.
The Pac-10 schedule used to be a cake walk for the one or two elite conference teams. This year it is The Octagon. Two coaches enter, one coach leaves. Here's where things stand from our vantage point on the eve of conference play:
1. UCLA Best win: 65-62 over Texas A&M in Anaheim. Worst loss: NA. The Schedule: Pretty tough, though only A&M is an elite team (Kentucky and Ga Tech look to disappoint). The Good: Just about everything, but particularly their defensive effort. UCLA is holding opponents to 42% from the field and 32% from three. The Bruins' turnover advantage is 212-143. The Bad: Despite recent improvement, the Bruins' free throw shooting is still dangerously poor. The Surprise: We didn't think Russell Westbrook would log more minutes than James Keefe among Bruin freshmen. Everything else has gone according to expectations. The question: No questions, really. We assume the best coach in the Pac 10 will improve free-throw shooting and cut down the nets at Staples next March.
2. Arizona Best win: 79-71 over Memphis in Tucson. Worst loss: 93-90 at Virginia. The Schedule: Toughest among the Pac-10 teams; three of the 'Cats' non-conference opponents will go Dancing in March. The Good: Almost everything, but especially their improvement on the defensive end. Opponents are shooting only 40% against the Cats. The Bad: Kirk Walters isn't getting better from his bout with mononucleosis, which is both scary and troubling for an Arizona team that's light on big bangers. The Surprise: Two words: Ivan Radenovic. We expected improvement, but he's leading the Cats in scoring as well as rebounding. The question: If Chase Budinger looks this good this soon, how good is he going to be come March? And wasn't he in the Spin Doctors?
3. Oregon Best win: 57-50 at Georgetown. Worst loss: NA. Schedule: Pretty lame. A 12-point win over Nebraska came at home. The Good: Everyone knows Oregon can score. The question was whether the Ducks could defend and rebound? So far the answer is yes - Oregon is averaging 40 boards a game and have forced nearly 20 turnovers per game. The Bad: They've been dinged up (maybe that's good news, given their record) and need to stay healthy to compete for the conference crown. The Surprise: That we're talking about conference championships and Oregon and it's not meant to be funny. Oh, and Tajuan Porter's just a little bit better than we thought - averaging 18.2 with a high of 38. The Question: with Porter's emergence, will there be enough basketballs to go around once everyone's healthy in Eugene? Chemistry has never been Ernie Kent's strongest subject.
4. Washington State Best win: 77-67 over Gonzaga in Seattle. Worst loss: 69-55 at Utah. Schedule: Just OK, though only two roadies after their opening tournament. The Good: Derrick Low is playing as well as any 2-guard in the conference, shooting 44% from three-point range. The Bad: WSU is a backcourt team that has been out-rebounded against a largely creampuff schedule. The Surprise: They're 11-1. Is that surprising enough for you? The Question: Can the Cougs' frontcourt hold up against bigger teams in conference play?
5. Washington Best win: 88-72 over LSU in Seattle. Worst loss: 97-77 at Gonzaga. Schedule: Embarrassing - only two quality opponents (Gonzaga and LSU). The Good: With the emergence of freshman SF Quincy Poindexter, the Dawgs have great scoring balance with four starters in double figures. Spencer Hawes looks to have his sea legs. The Bad: Elite teams shouldn't have 193 turnovers through eleven games (nine of which were against gimpy opponents). The Surprise: The loss to Gonzaga was a complete meltdown and UW showed a lack of composure, which has been unusual under Romar. The Question: Can Justin Dentmon establish control over this team and limit the mistakes that plagued UW in the Gonzaga debacle?
6. USC Best win: 60-56 over Wichita State in LA. Worst loss: 68-55 v Kansas State in LA. The Schedule: Pretty good compared with their peers - Kansas, South Carolina, Wichita, KSU. The Good: Tim Floyd coaches defense, and it's finally rubbed off on this group of Trojans. Opponents are shooting a ridiculous 33% for the season against SC. The Bad: Turnovers - just like the Huskies, USC struggles to complete possessions and has suffered 248 turnovers in 13 games. That breeds inconsistency and bad losses like the Kansas State debacle. The Surprise: Tim Floyd has guided SC to a 10-3 start while holding open auditions: Ten Trojans (including Pruitt) average double figures in minutes played. The Question: Will newly-returned Gabe Pruitt commit to the same defensive intensity that his mates have shown over the first two months?
7. California Best win: 78-48 over Kansas State in Berkeley. Worst loss: 72-67 v USD in Berkeley. The Schedule: Pretty weak - and the Bears have been found wanting against the good teams on the schedule - DePaul and SDSU. The Good: Ryan Freaking Anderson, that's who. Cal has played good defense on the whole, holding opponents to 42%. The Bad: A team that needs wing scoring isn't getting much of it. Omar Wilkes has been OK, averaging 10 ppg, but Theo Robertson hasn't taken a step forward. Oh, and DeVon Hardin is hurt. The Surprise: Other than Anderson, there's the FT shooting, much improved at 80%. The Question: How do you replace a guy who is the cornerstone of your defensive system and one of only two offensive threats from the post? (BTW, don't flame us for ranking SC ahead of Cal - we're aware of the K-State scores, but who among you thinks Cal is a better team than the Trojans right now?)
8. Stanford Best win: 70-59 over Texas Tech in Oakland. Worst loss: 79-45 to Air Force in Palo Alto. The Schedule: Meh, but then the Cardinal always sprinkle in a tough non-con or two during conference play. The Good: The Lopez twins have shown flashes (and inconsistency) in the early going - Robin is averaging 2.5 blocks per game; Lawrence Hill has emerged as a real scoring threat, averaging 15 ppg on 58% shooting. The Bad: The Cardinal just don't have enough scoring to compete with good offensive teams. Anthony Goods is only averaging double figures because he shoots too damn much. The Surprise: Hill, basically - we weren't prepared for 58% from the field, even against gimps in non-conference play. The question: How much longer can Stanford afford to start two guards who shoot below 40% from the field?
9. Arizona State Best win: 67-64 over Iowa in Tempe. Worst loss: 75-71 to Northern Arizona in Tempe. The Schedule: Character-building, with trips to tough environments at Minnesota and Xavier. The Good: The kids are alright - four true freshmen average more than 85 minutes per game. Herb Sendek is figuring out who can play, and has started four different starting lineups. Freshman Christian Polk leads the team with 15 ppg. The Bad: ASU just doesn't have much beyond the talented kids and senior forward Serge Angounou. The Surprise: Beating Iowa was a stunner, even if the Hawkeyes are really down this year. The Question: Can Sendek keep the kids' morale up through what should be a difficult conference schedule? If so, ASU looks like a breakout team in '07-'08.
10. Oregon State Best win: none. Worst loss: 85-41 at Hawaii. The Schedule: Pathetic. It's one thing to play low-majors and D-1AA teams. It's another to play losing low-majors and D-1AAers. The Good: Marcel Jones has played well, averaging 16 a game. The Bad: Everything else. The Beavers shoot 42% from the field and 63% from the line and have been out-rebounded by D-1AA teams. The Surprise: Sasa Cuic has been awful, shooting 36% from the field. The Question: Will they win more than two conference games?
Lewis Black does a great rant about San Diego weathermen, and how that's got to be the easiest job in the world. But we beg to differ. San Diego does have weather - why, it rained last night!
No rain now, but lots of wind. Yes, it's windy here in San Diego. Windier than it's been in some time. Wind-advisory, bent-over pine tree 40 MPH windy.
They say the wind will die down for tomorrow night's game (to 15 MPH), but then they always do. Bundle up for the game, and hope that Nate Longshore has learned how to cope with whatever elements do present themselves at the Q.
#6 - VIC BOTTARI - HALFBACK (1936-1938) Cal's 6th greatest Golden Bear was 5'9" and weighed 175 pounds; he was reputed to have flat feet. To this day his surviving teammates struggle to find nice things to say about his athletic skills. A local sportswriter in the days before political correctness referred to him as "that dumpy Italian from Vallejo." He had toughness, vision and a work ethic - and not much else.
You see, Vic Bottari wasn't really a football player. He was a football hero. Doug Flutie's a good comparison, actually - different era, different position, but just about the same brand of magic on a football field.
As a sophomore in 1936, the lightly-regarded Bottari languished on the Golden Bears' bench and the Bears struggled to a 3-4 start. In the eighth game, against USC in the Coliseum, coach Stub Allison inserted Bottari at offensive halfback with the Bears down 7-6 in the 2nd half. On first down Bottari took a pitch and completed a pass to the Trojan 31-yard line. On the next play he hit Sam Chapman for the touchdown that won the game, 13-7.
From that point forward, Bottari never left the Cal starting lineup. He starred alongside Sam Chapman for the 1937 Thunder Team that finished the season 10-0-1. The only blemish - a scoreless tie with Washington in Berkeley - came with Bottari slowed by a knee injury that required a brace. In the Rose Bowl, Bottari was all the offense and defense that Cal required to dispatch Alabama 13-0. He rushed 34 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He also led a defensive backfield that intercepted five Alabama passes. Crimson Tide head coach Frank Thomas credited the victory to Bottari, shaking his head and smiling when sportswriters asked him for a comment on the little halfback's MVP performance. Bottari was a first-team all-PCC choice at halfback, and finished eighth in the Heisman voting (despite not being named to a single All-America squad.
As a senior, Vallejo Vic was named team captain and carried the workload in the backfield in the absence of Chapman and quarterback Johnny Meek. He had another outstanding season capped by an unforgettable defensive performance against Stanford. The Indians had a first and goal late from the Cal two yard line as the Bears clung to a 6-0 lead. Four times Stanford tried to run the ball in for the winning score, and four times Bottari stopped the runner short of the end zone.
Bottari finished fifth in the Heisman voting that year, and was named first team All-America by virtually every service. He finished his Cal career with 1,536 yards rushing on 388 carries, with 22 touchdowns. While Bottari's primary fame came from his efforts with a football in his hands, he may have been an even better defensive back. How good was he on the other side of the football? When Sports Illustrated named an all-time All-Pac 10 squad in 2001, they selected three DBs: Kenny Easley, Ronnie Lott...and Vic Bottari.
Following his graduation, Vic Bottari turned down a handsome offer from the football Brooklyn Dodgers and entered the coaching ranks. After a few years in that profession, he switched to insurance and built a successful business over several decades. He died on January 7, 2003 at the age of 86, having lived long enough to attend his elections to three Halls of Fame - the University of California (of which he was a charter inductee), the Rose Bowl, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Punting - Justin Brantly averages 45.3 yards per kick. The bad news for Aggies? Opponents have only called for four fair catches all season (in 47 punts). That's an absurdly low number - by contrast Andrew Larson has induced 16 fair catches in 48 tries. And that means DeSean should get his opportunities, provided Cal can control the A&M ground game.
Kicking - Matt Szymanski kicks off; Layne Neumann handles field goals and PATs. Neumann's only attempted two kicks beyond 40 yards, and he missed them both. Inside forty, he's basically money, missing only once in 13 tries.
Return Game - Chad Schroeder, the starting wide receiver, returns punts and does just OK, averaging over seven yards an attempt with a long of thirty and no touchdowns. Odd stat #2 - A&M has returned exactly 21 kickoffs all season. And we thought Cal was a bit low with 28. When they do get the ball on kick return, they're pretty good - Kerry Franks averages just under 30 yards per return and had a 99 yard return for a TD against Texas Tech. The Ags are solid on kick cover, but less so on punt cover, allowing almost ten yards per return.
A&M's special teams have had other hiccups this season - blocked field goals, penalties, bad snaps. It's probably the worst unit on the TAMU squad, and it faces the best special teams unit in the Pac-10 on Thursday.
Recently we said Howdy! and exchanged pre-game thoughts and some light-hearted Q&A with the 12th Manchild, a proud member of the A&M blogosphere (along with TAMU & Baseball and probably others). He's a youngun' but he knows his football (read #4 and #5 for proof). Our A's to his Q's will be posted here - here are his responses to our gentle missives:
TH: First, a three-part question on Aggie traditions: a) Do you ever get so good at yelling that you don't need the practice? b) Have you ever been in a class that was dismissed because Reveille barked? Is that just an urban legend? c) Have you ever actually gigged anything?
12th: A. While as an individual yell-er, you may know every yell ever used in the history of the 12th Man, and your voice may be in game shape, even Vince Young needed to practice with the rest of his team. Yell practice serves as an opportunity for the 12th Man to come together before the actual game and go over a few things:
review the pass-backs (hand signals indicating which yell) and actual yells
work on making sure odd and even rows are "Sawing" in opposite directions
constantly improving our balance (the 1st and 2nd deck bleachers on the student side are terribly wobbly... especially when one is innebriated, which is what the vast majority of students are at midnight on a friday night)
it facilitates better communication between the yell leaders and the 12th Man. Like how they scolded people for booing Fran's decision to punt during the Nebraska game (Aggies are renowned for not booing, we make the sound of a horse pissing on something instead...), and we give feedback to the yell leaders on how lame or good their 'fables' and speeches are.
b) I've never personally had a class with Rev, but some of my friends have and a prof actually will cancel class sometimes. Yet, with Reveille VII it's becoming a very rare practice. You'll see at the game that the poor little inbred will NOT SHUT UP. Listen for her, she'll be the one barking throughout the national anthem and during any solemn moments of silence. The mascot corporal will spend most of the game bent over muzzling Rev with his hands.
c) Besides your mom? OHHHHHHH.... but I digress, during my time here at A&M, I've met some people from east Texas (an interesting breed..) who actually have gone frog gigging at night. Yet, with the spread of electricity -> TV -> Playstation to the region since the early 20th century, I believe the pastime has declined in popularity.
TH: What does Jorvorskie Lane eat in a typical day? Please be specific - we want types of foods and quantities.
12th: During the season, Fran & Co. keep Jorvorskie on a strict diet consisting of:
Freeb!rds. lots and lots of Freeb!rds burritos. Super-Monster size ONLY (envision a small shoulder-fired missile, except..girthier). Filled with steak, chicken, and the remains of various Big XII safeties & cornerbacks who thought to singlehandedly smite him in the open field.
Shakes made from expired buttermilk and cement mix.
a steady intake of Timex, Omega, and TAG Heuer. Especially on gameday.
a mystery meat that only Jorvorskie and his mad scientist nutritionist truly know the identity of. Remember the 'Aggie Nut Squeeze' all over YouTube earlier this season? Those freshmen were tasked with concealing Jorvorskie's post-game snack from the public, yet were caught sneaking glances. Their punishment: self-mutilation on national tv.
TH: Do Aggies worry about the circumstances surrounding Coach Fran's departure from Tuscaloosa - do you fear that he'll leave you high and dry also at some point? 12th: Ahh yes..the Bama Betrayal. Sure, you can call it all kinds of terrible and negative things, but if that were you at the helm of a fast sinking ship, sabotaged by your predecessors, would you have turned away a lifeboat the size of Texas A&M? As far as Fran leaving, get outta here. The only way someone leaves the head coaching job at Texas A&M is by way of a boot. His wife calls their home in College Station their "pine box home", because the only way they're leaving it is in a pine box. So, as far as I'm concerned, Texas A&M is Fran's final head coaching job.
TH: Why doesn't Fran utilize both Lane and Goodson more often in the backfield at the same time? Seems like the threat of three runners (with McGee) would put much more stress on the opponent's line-backing corps.
12th: Wow. Great question. I will attempt a coherent, multi-part answer:
I don't think Lane is as good at blocking as he is at running people over..if that makes sense. It's one thing to destroy a man in your way and it's another to seek out a player and force him to move in a chosen direction. Not only that, but the J-Train needs some time on the sideline to regain some steam as well..
Our FB, Chris Alexander, is a phenomenal blocker. Pass block and run block.On every single one of Mike Goodson's long yardage runs, you will see Alexander lay someone out. We can count on Alexander to play consistently well in any formation, no matter what the play.
While increasing the number of times Goodson and Lane are both on the field could lead to a decrease in offensive production, you're right about it making things more difficult for the LBs. Which is exactly why we featured the Lane & Goodson set much more during the Oklahoma game.
In conclusion, Fran and Koenning have found the Goodson & Lane set effective only when used as a psychological tool against tough run defenses, increasing the effectiveness of our misdirection plays. Other than that, I say we don't need to fix an offense that doesn't appear to broken.
TH: What's the one matchup you worry about going into Thursday? What's the one you look forward to?
12th: There are two matchups that I'm losing sleep over as we get closer to the game. DeSean Jackson vs our entire secondary AND Marshawn Lynch vs. our 1st Qtr. Defense. While our secondary has shown great improvement since September, we're still extremely vulnerable to a WR that knows how to sit in the holes of a secondary in zone coverage. Mix that knowledge with Jackson's nasty speed and we're in trouble. For unexplained reasons, our defense always seems to give up the most yardage and points in the first quarter of our games (example: OU game). Allowing Lynch to romp all over us for a full quarter would be disastrous.
The matchup I'm looking forward to: Stephen McGee vs Desmond Bishop. It's not that I don't respect his 84 tackles and his 4 years of experience, or that in the open field he wouldn't crush McGee, I just don't think Bishop and the rest of his LB brethren will be prepared for balls to the wall style of option McGee runs (nobody is). McGee's option experience and his ability to sell the counters and the option-pass will have Bishop two-steps behind on every play.
Our thanks again to the 12th Manchild and our best wishes for a clean, injury-free game on Thursday.
#7 - CRAIG MORTON - QUARTERBACK (1962-1964) This particular subdivision of the 50 Greatest Golden Bears is filled with champions - players whose teams won conference championships and bowl games. Larry Craig Morton never played on a winner; during his tenure as Cal's starting quarterback the Golden Bears went 8-21-1.
In fact, all those Cal teams had was #4. Every opponent knew that they could double the receivers and rush the quarterback without much fear of any other weapons on the Cal side. And still Craig Morton still completed pass after pass - enough passes to rewrite the Cal record book in virtually every category except rushing by a quarterback. Over his career Morton completed 355 of 641 passes for 4,501 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Morton's Cal career started slowly; he was injured in pre-season practice returning punts (which shows just how inept Cal's leadership was back then) and played only four games in a dismal 1-9 season. But even on an over-matched squad, he showed flashes of brilliance, completing 274 yards against Penn State and guiding the Bears to a near upset (21-23) of Rip Engle's 9-2 squad.
As a senior Morton shone against the best competition in near upsets of Big Ten powers Minnesota and Illinois. Against the Illini, rated 3rd in the nation behind Dick Butkus, Morton threw for 251 yards, but came up just short in a 20-14 loss. The Gophers surrendered 257 yards, and Morton later torched UCLA for 288 yards through the air, breaking his own Cal record in the process. For the year he completed 60% of his passes against defenses designed to stop him and only him (the Bears never had a running back exceed 520 yards rushing in any of Morton's seasons on the varsity).
After Morton directed Cal to an upset win over Navy in 1964, Midshipmen coach Wayne Hardin called Morton the best college quarterback he had ever seen. Hardin would know; the year before his Middies featured a Heisman winner named Staubach behind center. A member of the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, Morton also earned the 1964 Pop Warner Award as the most valuable senior football player on the West Coast.
Morton was a first-team All-America choice by several services, who selected him over Heisman winner John Huarte of Notre Dame. He finished seventh in the Heisman balloting, but the professional scouts weren't interested in the views of the Downtown Athletic Club. They rated the 6'4"/210 Morton one of two top QB prospects in the NFL draft, along with Alabama's Joe Namath. Morton went 6th to the Dallas Cowboys, and directed them to a Super Bowl in 1971. When his star was eventually eclipsed by teammate Staubach, he moved on to Denver and led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1978; of course, the opponent was Stabuach's Cowboys, who pummeled Denver 27-10.
Today Craig Morton remains connected to his alma mater, soliciting major gifts on behalf of the Athletic Department, and participating (as the "Cal" vote) in the Harris Interactive college football poll.
This was the worst-performing unit for A&M in 2005 - A&M was dead last (117th) against the pass, allowing more than 300 yards a game.
In response to the Aggies' troubles, defensive coordinator switched from a standard 4-3-4 to a 4-2-5 formation in the off-season. The fifth DB is called the Whip back, but he plays the same role as the "rover" in most other 4-2-5 systems or the Devil Back in the old ASU defenses.
The fifth DB has certainly helped, since A&M has improved its national ranking to #48, allowing only 186.8 ypg. Opposing quarterbacks' completion percentage fell from 60.6% to 53.5%. The Aggies picked off 10 passes and allowed only 13 touchdown passes from opposing quarterbacks.
It's not all positive, though. Ten picks is a pretty low number for a good team - the Aggies lack lots of playmakers in the defensive backfield. They are very young on the corner, and have faced only one passing attack of Cal's sophistication and skill: that game ended in a 31-27 defeat to Texas Tech.
Their starting corners had exactly one year of experience between them prior to the '06 kickoff. Sophomore Danny Gorrer starts ahead of returning starter Marquis Carpenter. On the other side is RS freshman Jordan Peterson. Peterson had two picks on the season, tying for the team lead, and led the Aggies with 8 pass breakups. A former HS QB, Peterson is very fast, running a leg in the 4x100 meter relay for the Texas HS state champions in 2004.
Strong safety Melvin Bullitt (right) is the best defender in the secondary; he had seven tackles for loss among his 75 stops and also had seven pass breakups. Bullitt was named 1st team All-Big XII by the conference's coaches.
Devin Gregg (above left) starts at the free; he's strongest in run support and finished third on the Aggie defense with 57 tackles. The Whip back is junior Brock Newton, a 5'11"/183 junior; he started seven games in 2006 after starting every game at safety his sophomore season. Japhus Brown, a 5'11"/199 junior will also see time in this spot.
You may have been waiting for a match-up that really favored the Golden Bears - this may be it. A&M's secondary hits hard and plays terrific run support, but we're not convinced they can cope with Cal's passing attack, provided that Longshore is on his game. The corners in particular look vulnerable. A&M will run lots of zone, and the presence of a 5th DB could complicate reads for Longshore. Still, we like this unit matchup above almost all others in the Holiday Bowl.
#8 - RUSSELL WHITE - RUNNING BACK (1990-1992) I've probably never been more optimistic than I was at 1:15 pm on September 15, 1990. That's the approximate time that Russell White took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against the Miami Hurricanes. It was the first time he touched the ball for the Bears, and it augured Great Things.
Russell White wasn't a better running back than Marshawn Lynch. He was a lot more important, though. Go back to that time. Cal had just gone through the 1980s, its worst decade in football history - one winning season in ten tries. Its favorite son had come back to Berkeley and utterly failed as head coach. No one yet knew who Mike Pawlawski or Sean Dawkins were. But everyone knew Russell - or at least they thought they did - and he gave the student body and alumni some hope that things would get better.
Cal's all-time leading rusher was perhaps the biggest recruiting coup in school history. Controversy surrounded White's decision to move from Crespi HS to Berkeley, since he was a Prop 48 student who had not achieved a qualifying SAT score. A summer of tutoring revealed that Russell was dyslexic, and he would go on to earn his degree in social welfare in four years with a B average.
He would also go on to become Cal's all-time leading rusher, behind 1,000 yard efforts in 1991 and 1992. Fifteen times he rushed for at least 100 yards in a game, including a 229-yard effort in Cal's record setting 52-30 beatdown of USC in 1991. With White, the Bears reversed a decade of futility and won back-to-back bowls in 1990 and 1991. His '91 season, with 1,177 yards rushing and fourteen touchdowns earned White first-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Foundation and the FWAA.
In 1991 Russell White faced the same decision that faces Lynch today - turn pro, and be drafted as a high 1st round choice, or return to Cal for his senior year. White chose the latter option, bulked up in the off-season, and suffered through a disappointing 4-7 campaign under new coach Keith Gilbertson. By April 1993 the bloom was off White's rose, and he fell to the third round and the Los Angeles Rams. A year later, he was done with football. A huge mistake? Well, he did get that degree, and today he's doing something he loves - coaching and teaching at Desert Chapel High School in Palm Springs.
As an aside, White is also responsible for one of the stranger highlights in recent Cal history:
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