2004 will loom large over Holiday Bowl

Players were not even in high school when Texas edged out Cal for Rose Bowl bid, but will be proxies for Golden Bear fans still hurt by circumstances.

Jeff Tedford knows what is coming and tried to diffuse it immediately.

But the Holiday Bowl between California and Texas is going to be about one thing until kickoff Dec. 28 at Qualcomm Stadium: 2004.

The better part of the next month is going to be spent rehashing the circumstances that sent the Longhorns to Pasadena and the Golden Bears to San Diego.

For his part, Tedford said, "I don't remember much about it except for feeling like there was a great opportunity there."

For everyone else, especially Old Blues still waiting for their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1959, they remember Texas head coach Mack Brown lobbying, glad-handing and politicking to get his team up to No. 4 in the BCS, securing an automatic berth in the Granddaddy of Them All.

Texas would knock off Michigan as time expired in a thriller, laying the foundation for its return visit a year later that would end with the BCS title.

Cal was relegated to the Holiday Bowl, where a disinterested, disengaged and disappointed team was thumped by Texas Tech, 45-31.

Since then Brown has been if not Public Enemy No. 1, then on the most wanted list for Cal fans.

Tedford said he holds no ill will and considers Brown "a friend.

"I've gotten to know Mack over the years. We've had chances to visit and hang out," he said.

Now there is a chance for the fan base to exact a measure of satisfaction, although not in the ideal circumstances.

Cal (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) and Texas (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) are almost mirror images of one another, not where they want to be and hoping to use this game as a launching point to bigger and better things in 2012.

Both are back in the postseason after disappointing 5-7 campaigns last season.

"I don't know what Texas' run had been, but I know it was pretty extensive," Tedford said. "I know we had been bowl eligible every year that we've been here. So now, we've been bowl eligible for nine of the last 10 years. It's great to be back and to be able to practice and compete against such a great team like Texas."

Both have relied on defense and a strong running game to protect new starting quarterback.

But Cal closed on a high, winning three of its last four and pushing No. 4 Stanford in a 31-28 loss, whereas Texas lost three of its last four, salvaging November with a last-second win at rival Texas A&M.

"That's the mark of a quality football team, one that continues to improve and get better. I think this team did that," Tedford said. "It shows a lot of character to fight through some adversity earlier in the year to play well down the stretch."

The players that did so much this season were not even in high school when 2004 happened, but for fans, they will be playing for more than a win.

They will be playing for a bit of redemption.

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