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Cal defeats Oregon, 31-24

Posted by Steve | September 30, 2007 at 12:03 am | In Games | 11 Comments

Goal-line fumble

In a tough, well-fought battle, the #6 Bears survived a relatively low-scoring showdown in Eugene, Oregon. With both teams coming in averaging well over 40 points per game and questionable defenses, it was expected to be an offensive showcase. During the first half, however, both defenses stepped up, and neither offense was able to find their rhythm. It wasn’t until the final minutes of the second quarter that Oregon was able to find the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.

The second half, however, was more of the shootout that everybody expected. DeSean Jackson had a breakout performance, catching 11 passes for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once again, DeSean managed to fake out the Oregon secondary. On his first touchdown, he faked an inside route, then cut outside for a wide open 25-yard strike. On his second, he caught a short pass, stutter stepped, then exploded down the sideline past the defender. It was great to see DeSean come out and play like a true Heisman candidate. Equally important was Justin Forsett. Despite a slow first half, he managed 101 yards on 25 carries, including 2 touchdowns.

The biggest question most people in the country had about Cal so far this season was whether the defense could hold up against a top-ranked team. This game should go a long way towards silencing that crowd, as Oregon came in ranked 6th in the nation for total yards, 4th for rushing yards, and 7th for points scored. The Bears held them to only 24 points, half of their average 48.5. During the first half, and especially during the fourth quarter, the defense came up huge, coming up with the first two interceptions against Dennis Dixon this year, the first of which set up the go-ahead touchdown. Then came the biggest play of the game, the goal-line forced fumble with only 22 seconds to play.

On the offensive side of the ball, Cal struggled to find their rhythm during the first half, managing to score only 3 points. The O-line seemed to have a little difficulty controlling the line, as nearly each of Forsett’s touches had first contact behind the line of scrimmage. They looked much improved in the second half, as initial successes in both running and passing the ball forced Oregon’s defense to honor and protect against both aspects of the offense.

The scariest point in the game came with only about six and a half minutes to play in the game. With the score tied at 24, Nate Longshore was drilled from the side, his legs buckling sideways underneath him. It brought back flashbacks of two years ago to when a similar tackle took Longshore out for the season. He came out of the game for the rest of the drive, had his ankle taped up, then came back on the next possession. Despite being in the game, his ankle was still clearly bothering him, as he even had trouble with the kneel-down on the very last possession. Both Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Peele were also banged up during the game. Next week’s bye couldn’t come at a better time, as hopefully the extra week of rest will allow all the players to recover from injuries.

With so many upsets this weekend, and the win coming on ABC with the ESPN College GameDay crew in tow, Cal should be moving up in the polls. Oregon may also not move down very far. Here’s what happened in the top 10 this weekend:

  • #1 USC squeaked out a 27-24 win over unranked Washington
  • #3 Oklahoma lost 24-27 to unranked Colorado
  • #4 Florida lost 20-17 to unranked Auburn
  • #5 West Virginia lost 13-21 to #18 South Florida
  • #7 Texas was routed 41-21 by unranked Kansas State
  • #10 Rutgers lost 34-24 to unranked Maryland

The last time that 5 of the top 10 teams lost occurred back in 2003. Look for Cal to be moving up to #3 in the polls this week, and for LSU to gain ground on USC after their shaky victory. Also look for DeSean to move back up in the Heisman watch after his stellar performance, perhaps even as far as #3 behind Darren McFadden and Andre Woodson.

Links:

Today’s test in Eugene

Posted by Eric | September 29, 2007 at 9:04 am | In Games | 4 Comments

Here we go, with today possibly the biggest test of the season. Here’s some reading material while we wait for the game.

  • Jon Okane’s injury/personnel update: Matt Malele is back, but Zack Follett, Will Ta’ufo’ou, Rulon Davis, Tom Schneider are definitely out. Closed practices this past week.
  • ESPN’s video simulation of the game: Cal 42, Oregon 35. Scouts Inc picks the Ducks 38-35. Feldman also picks the Ducks 45-35, saying Oregon is the west coast version of West Virginia (note: Mountaineers fell this weekend)
  • TBIOOF’s Cal-Oregon preview: this will be a war, a game so close that “penalties and turnovers will mark the winner.”
  • RBBID has two responses to an Oregon’s blog analysis.
  • Bears’ Necessity details a free method to watch the game online.
  • ESPN’s feature on Cal’s offense being more than a “one-man show.

And just for fun, spotted signs on ESPN GameDay:

  • “Les Miles, More Tedford”
  • “54,000! Disappointed Fans!”
  • “SEC: Soft, Easy, Conference” / “SECond to the Pac-10″
  • “Fact: Dwight Schrute likes the Ducks”
  • … more to come?

GO BEARS.

Coverage map for Cal-Oregon

Posted by Eric | September 26, 2007 at 12:04 pm | In Games | 11 Comments

September 29, 2007 ABC coverage map

ABC has released its coverage map for Saturday. The match up with Oregon will only be shown on stations within the white section of the map. While this includes all of the west coast and more, it would have seemed fitting to have full national coverage (ABC’s national 5pm slot is taken by USC-Washington State) for such a high-profile game - ESPN calls it “one for the ages no matter where you live.”

DeCoud Pac-10 PotW

Posted by Eric | September 25, 2007 at 10:56 am | In Awards, Defense | No Comments

Free safety Thomas DeCoud has been named the Pac-10 Player of the Week (defensive) for his massive effort in Saturday’s victory over Arizona. He was a key player in stifling the Wildcats’ spread offense, and this award is well-deserved.

DeCoud, a senior from Pinole, Calif., made the big plays on defense in California’s 45-27 win against Arizona. DeCoud posted 10 tackles, including a quarterback sack for -12 yards. He also intercepted a pass, forced a fumble that a teammate returned for a touchdown and recovered a fumble that set up another California touchdown. The Golden Bear defense forced four Arizona turnovers.

RB Justin Forsett was also nominated for the award (offense).

ESPN GameDay to Eugene

Posted by Eric | September 23, 2007 at 4:37 pm | In Games | 8 Comments
ESPN College GameDay graphic
Graphic credit: my Bear Territory

ESPN GameDay has made it official that the program is coming to Eugene for Saturday’s match-up between the #11 Ducks and our #6 Bears.

This is another opportunity for Cal to make a statement on the national stage over a top-15 team. This time, the race for the conference championship is on the line and ESPN GameDay will be there to showcase the battle.

Autzen Stadium will be an unfriendly environment, with the Ducks looking for revenge after last season’s blowout (the then-#16 Bears crushed #11 Oregon 45-24). Cal hasn’t left Eugene with a W since the beginning of the Tedford era as well.

This Saturday will be the test that determines whether Cal lives up to the expectations and hype. Let’s hope that the Bears step up to the challenge with the nation watching.

#6 AP, Coaches, Harris

Posted by Eric | September 23, 2007 at 4:25 pm | In Ranks/Predictions | No Comments

Cal is now the consensus #6 team in the nation.

While the Bears were already #6 in the AP poll, they have now risen to the same spot in the USA Today/Coaches poll (moving past Wisconsin who struggled against Iowa, and leapfrogging Texas). Meanwhile, the first Harris Poll was released, with Cal also taking the #6 slot. The Coaches’ and Harris polls make up the bulk of the BCS ranking calculation, so the Bears are in a good position for a BCS berth if the season continues to go well.

As a side note, Oregon is now #11 in the AP, #12 in the Coaches, and #10 in the Harris poll.

Bears “romp” on the Wildcats

Posted by Eric | September 23, 2007 at 3:41 pm | In Games | 2 Comments

ESPN may list Cal’s win on its headlines as a “romp” but those watching the game may have seen an uglier picture. While the 45-27 win was solid, the offense was not always clicking (especially in the passing game), and the defense allowed some big plays. Most concerning of all was the Bears’ 14 penalties for a whopping 121 yards. The officiating was horrible as usual, but that is no excuse for the highest amount of penalties/yards in Coach Jeff Tedford’s tenure at Cal.

Cal needs to get things smoothed out before facing Oregon on Saturday, but this win over Arizona serves as a good conference-opening tuneup before the big boys. Most of all, the team needs to get disciplined and avoid the penalties to keep their momentum going.

Here are some highlight clips from Versus: Justin Forsett’s first TD, Lavelle Hawkins‘ TD reception, an Arizona TD, and Forsett’s second TD. The Versus TV coverage was bad, including a bizarre video outage and then a totally unacceptable twenty-something minute commercial break. They need to get their act together before the Big Game in a couple of months.

As always, here are the media rounds for the game.

SF Chronicle: “Cal payback: razing Arizona”

Safety Thomas DeCoud used the haunting memories to fuel his fire, and tailback Justin Forsett played through a hobbled ankle and a quadriceps contusion, because the bitter taste of a year ago was renewed in his craw. DeCoud set the tone in Saturday’s 45-27 payback in Strawberry Canyon, and when Arizona made a late threat, Forsett slammed the door shut. …

Arizona, however, mounted a comeback as the Bears’ offense stalled with Forsett on the sideline. … “They were about to give us our first L of the season, and I wasn’t about to let that happen,” said Forsett, who totaled 117 yards and two scores on 23 carries. “I decided to get in there and be a spark.” …

While No. 6 Cal (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-10) has gotten rid of the Tennessee and Arizona ghosts from a year ago, it still hasn’t played a complete game. The Bears let Tennessee cut their 17-point lead to 7, saw Colorado State turn a 20-point thumping into a 6-point thriller and outscored Louisiana Tech only 14-6 in the second half of last week’s 42-12 win.

“We can’t take any quarters off,” Forsett said. “We’re one step away from playing a complete game, but we’ve got to put all of the pieces together.”

AP: “No. 6 Cal Settles Score, Beats Arizona”

Three weeks after the Bears avenged last year’s season-opening loss to Tennessee, they flattened the Wildcats by taking a 25-point lead in the first 13 minutes.

“Last year’s game was in the motivational tape we watched today,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “Our guys were very motivated to play this game after last year’s game.”

The Bears were sloppy after their fast start, committing 14 penalties for 121 yards, but Forsett did more than enough to secure Cal’s 10th straight win at Memorial Stadium.

Contra Costa Times: “Banged-up back seals Cal victory”

It didn’t appear there would be any nervous moments after the Bears (4-0) scored on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter and defensive end Tyson Alualu returned a fumble recovery 4 yards for another touchdown.

But Cal’s offense stalled a bit in the second half, and the Wildcats’ spread offense began to wear down the Bears’ defense. Quarterback Willie Tuitama, who was 42 of 61 for 309 yards, led Arizona on a couple of sustained scoring drives to make the game competitive again. The 61 attempts were an Arizona record.

Arizona Daily Star: “UA loses 45-27 to Cal”

Arizona learned one of football’s simplest lessons in Saturday’s 45-27 loss to California: Don’t let a good team get ahead of you early.

The sixth-ranked Golden Bears scored 28 points in the first quarter and withstood a late Arizona push to win in the team’s Pac-10 opener at Memorial Stadium. The Wildcats (1-3 overall, 0-1 Pac-10) outscored the Golden Bears in the second half, but could get no closer than 11 points.

After Jason Bondzio’s 32-yard field goal pulled the UA to within 38-27 with 13 minutes remaining, Cal drove 74 yards to put the game away.

Arizona Republic: “Miscues cost Cats”

Arizona receiver Mike Thomas caught a short pass, broke a couple of tackles and ran down the middle of the field for a 65-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half Saturday against No. 6 California.

The Wildcats were going to get back into the game, right? Nope.

A personal foul flag on the play negated the touchdown. Three plays later, the Wildcats fumbled it away.

And that was the kind of day, and year, it has been for Arizona, which lost to the Golden Bears 45-27 in Memorial Stadium in front of 56,021.

Contra Costa Times: “Receiver Longshore isn’t really an option”

Cal committed 14 penalties - the most in Tedford’s six seasons in Berkeley - for 121 yards, including a handful of personal fouls. The Bears were flagged for two personal fouls - roughing the passer, against defensive end Cameron Jordan, and a late hit by safety Robert Peele - to extend an Arizona drive in the fourth quarter with Cal protecting its 45-27 lead.

“There were a couple things that were poor judgment,” Tedford said. “Guys were trying to make plays. A couple of those calls where ticky-tack down the stretch. I was getting ready to tell (Jordan) good job because he pulled off the quarterback and just touched him with his hands. He didn’t go into him with his head or anything like that. I didn’t agree with that call.”

ESPN: “Top 25 Overview”

It was over when… Cal found three different ways to score four touchdowns in the first quarter. The Bears ran two in, threw another and returned a fumble for a score. Gameball goes to… Justin Forsett. The Bears’ senior running back carried the ball 23 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns, including the final score of the game. Stat of the game… 20. Cal thwarted Arizona’s rushing attempts — holding the Cats to 20 yards on 20 carries. Arizona also turned the ball over four times.

Saturday: Revenge vs. Arizona

Posted by Eric | September 21, 2007 at 9:24 am | In Games | 1 Comment

Arizona helmetCal helmet

Arizona Republic: “UA wary of revenge-seeking Cal”

Arizona’s 24-20 upset victory last November over the then-No. 8 Bears ruined a possible Pac-10 title and Bowl Championship Series invitation for Cal.

At a team meeting Sunday, Cal coach Jeff Tedford told his team not to forget the game, in which UA rallied from a 17-3 second-half deficit before 55,519 fans at Arizona Stadium.

“We brought it back into their minds so they know what that game was all about,” Tedford said. “There’s no question we have enough guys on this team that remember.”

USA Today: “Weekend Forecast”

We saw how motivated the Golden Bears were to get revenge against Tennessee in the opener. Now they’re focused on the Wildcats after a loss in Tucson cost them the Pac-10 title. [Note: this is wrong - Cal shared the title with USC last year] A rough start to the year gets worse for Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who has already seen his team lose to BYU and New Mexico. California 42, Arizona 21

ESPN: “Feldman: Week 4 Picks”

Cal 34, Arizona 10: The Golden Bears’ offense can score with anybody, and Arizona has been a huge disappointment thus far. Mike Stoops’ team is not responding to him and the Cats are very undisciplined. Not a good indicator for a road team.

Contra Costa Times: “One more game for ‘redemption’”

ONLY A MATTER OF HOURS now until Cal vs. Arizona and the best kind of football weekend there is — one enhanced by boiling blood and a trail of tears.

We can sense your skepticism from here. But we assure you, Arizona is indeed on the schedule this week. …

Cal should have no such problem achieving a blood-boiling, teary-eyed state Saturday. Not given last year’s loss to Arizona — that was a lookahead game, by the way, coming the week before a highly anticipated matchup with USC — in which the Bears played themselves out of a Rose Bowl berth.

That makes Saturday’s game a revenge game. Or a redemption game. Whichever, it was such obvious motivational plutonium that Tedford was already backing away from it early this week.

Tucson Citizen: “Wildcat’s defense tries to rebound”

Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops says the Wildcats need to play with an edge or they could look foolish at No. 6 California.

When you play a great team that will expose you at any given moment, you have to play on edge or you will get flat-out embarrassed,” Stoops said. “That is what is so great about this week. The focus will be there.

Cal is so good. They make you execute. You better be in the right position, or they will embarrass you.”

Arizona Republic: “UA challenge: Match Cal offense”

The University of Arizona football team’s improving offense might have to score a lot of points to hang with an explosive California squad on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif. But can the Wildcats beat the No. 6 Golden Bears in the game… if it’s a shootout?

“I don’t know if we can score big numbers. I would like to think that 27 (points) would have been good enough last week to win,” Arizona coach Mike Stoops said, referring to Saturday night’s 29-27 loss to New Mexico.

“I don’t know if it would be realistic to go up there and score 40-some points. Hopefully we can control the football and control the time and limit their touches. (Cal is) a hard team to slow down, but we are going to have to.”

Unless the struggling UA defense can play more aggressively, quarterback Willie Tuitama and the offense will have to keep up with the California offense.

Contra Costa Times: “Jackson, Cason eager for marquee matchup”

Not only will the Bears be attempting to atone for their 24-20 loss last season in Tucson that essentially knocked them out of a Rose Bowl bid, but the contest will feature one of the marquee individual matchups in college football this season when Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson lines up against Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason.

Jackson and Cason arguably are the best players in the country at their positions. Both were preseason All-Americans. The Sporting News ranks Jackson as the nation’s No. 1 receiver and Cason as the No. 1 cornerback.

There’s more. Jackson and Cason are both from Long Beach and have known each other since high school. Jackson attended Long Beach Poly and Cason went to nearby Los Alamitos.

The players have developed a friendly rivalry, although the friendly part disappears once they take the field.

Cal picks up Arizona DB

Posted by Alex | September 19, 2007 at 1:11 pm | In Recruiting | 2 Comments

Marc Anthony, a DB out of Arizona has committed to the Bears.  He is a 6′0″ 185 lbs player who primarily plays cornerback. Rated as a 3 star recruit by Scout.com and as a 4 star recruit by Rivals, he is a great get for the Bears.

Anthony is a big cornerback and has the ability to compete physically against the big receivers in the Pac-10.  Yet, he retains enough speed (4.5 40) to keep up with the speed of the conference.  Also, his commitment shows the continually lengthening arms of Cal’s recruiting as Tedford again reaches into another state to pick up a top recruit.  Something interesting of note is that Anthony is a cousin of true freshman DE Cameron Jordan.

Anthony will come in and improve Cal’s young DB corps which already looks quite solid.

Malele, Davis’ foot injuries not serious

Posted by Eric | September 18, 2007 at 5:22 pm | In Players/Alumni | No Comments

Great news: the foot injuries sustained by DT Matt Malele and DE Rulon Davis are far less serious than originally suggested.

It was feared after the Louisiana Tech game that Davis had a stress fracture in his foot and Malele tore his plantar fascia tendon. Yesterday’s MRIs must have been negative, as Jon Okanes reports: “Malele has a strained muscle in his foot while Davis has a sprained foot.”

Losing these two for the season would have been devastating to the Bears’ defensive line unit. Instead, they are now day-to-day but it is not certain whether they will be playing on Saturday against Arizona. Hopefully they will recover speedily and be ready at least by the time Cal visits Oregon on the 29th.

Also, LB Zach Follett remains day-to-day with a neck stinger and WR/PR DeSean Jackson is still struggling with his sprained thumb. According to Coach Jeff Tedford, Jackson “probably won’t catch a pass in practice this week to preserve” it.

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