At the Press Conference
The loss to then 12th ranked Purdue turned on a fumbled fair catch by Arizona, a Purdue fumble near their goal line that got out-of-bounds before Arizona could recover it, an Arizona fake punt that failed, and a deep sideline pass to an Arizona receiver – 5 yards beyond the defender – that was dropped.
Two Cal beat writers questioned Tedford about the hit that Jonathan Makonnen took during the Arizona game last year, a tremendous hit that served to fire up the Cal team for the rest of that game, won by Cal 38-0 last year in Tucson.
"That was not a cheap shot," said Tedford, "It was a totally legal hit, the kind of hit a Cal guy would put on his opponent if he had the chance. It served to fire up the team, last year, but there's no carry over to this year."
"Arizona might try to stack against the run. New Mexico State tried to overload the inside defense, but we have lots of ways to go outside."
Remembering New Mexico State
Commenting on the New Mexico State game, Tedford said that if he had been asked immediately after the game how many rushing yards the Cal defense had given up– and which team had dominated the ball-possession clock - he would have gotten the numbers entirely wrong. He said it felt like New Mexico State had run up a lot of yards – many more than was in fact the case.
Though Tedford's teams normally play a 4-3 defense with four down linemen and three linebackers, Cal used three defensive linemen during much of the NMSt game. The 3 man D-line is sometimes characterized as a bend-but-don't break defense because it relies on linebackers and DBs to play a contain defense and to make more of the tackles.
The 3 man D-line also decreases straight-ahead pressure on the quarterback, but adds to linebacker and defensive back flexibility both as to blitzes and to the ability to drop into pass coverage.
"You just have to mix it up against the spread offense," said Tedford. "You have to disguise your fronts and go at them from different angles or they will pick you apart."
Heading into the Pac-10 Season
The Saturday game against Arizona turns the corner into Pac-10 competition. "Teams in the Pac-10 are more physical," said Tedford, "Every game from here on out will be a dogfight."
Asked about Joe Ayoob's running ability, Tedford noted (with a smile) Joe's three running touchdowns against NMSt. "One on a bootleg, one on a quarterback draw, one on a plunge across the line. He can run, but we don't have a lot of plays in the book that are deliberately designed for that."
The young Bears appear to be learning each week, and with the exception of special teams play last Saturday, each unit seems to be improving, gaining experience, and learning to play together. As always, Tedford emphasized the need for consistency, while also saying, "The team effort is great, they've been playing hard, but they're young so there are some moments of adversity. The key is to handle that adversity, to put it behind you and to keep on playing."
Tedford addressed the problems encountered by special teams. The kick-off return for a touchdown drew two Tedford comments: "There was the deception, of course, but we also had an important cover guy knocked out of his lane." He also explained how New Mexico State effectively "stressed" one point in the Cal line during the failed extra point and field goal attempts – by using a good attacking scheme to overload one O-lineman.
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"We still have a million miles to go to put it all together," said Joe Ayoob. "But this team does seem like the kind of team that – when it's needed – will put it together. We just haven't had that much of a sense of urgency yet, but coming into Pac-10 play I'm sure it's going to be there, because it's for real now. I'm expecting to see a full game out of us this week."
After that 0-11 start, you're up to something like 60% completions. Coach Tedford constantly talks about consistency. For you – at quarterback - what does that mean?
"For me, it means my mechanics – throwing the ball – being balanced – having my feet in the right place at the right time, following through on the throw, keeping my hands where they are supposed to be.
"When I do all that, it seems like I throw the ball a lot crisper, with more authority, and I've been doing better at that week by week. In the New Mexico game, when I missed some passes – like that pass to (tight end) Craig (Stevens) over the middle early in the game – I didn't set my feet well and I just kind of put it out there and as a result I missed him.
"But most other times in that game that I wanted to throw the ball, I set my feet and made a good throw. So staying more consistent in that way is my key.
DeSean Jackson (9 receptions) really did a good job for you. That means you now have another guy on the field who is being really productive.
"Yes – DeSean – I threw him some 5 or 6 yard hitches and he probably gained about 100 yards out of them (big grin). And there was that nice catch on the TD too. So you can just give the ball to him and he'll make guys miss, then he'll get down the field.
"We have a lot of confidence in him, we can just get him the ball like that. And the same goes for Rob (Jordan), Lavelle (Hawkins), Sam (deSa) and all those guys. Lavelle is another one of those guys that if he can make a couple of guys miss with his athletic ability, with his speed he can go all the way.
"He tried to do that this last game, he went backwards a few steps and ended up losing a first down. But you know, that's the type of player he is, he might make a bad play, then the next time you see that he might take it for a touchdown. It's kind of hard sometimes to tell when he's going to do something good – or sometimes not so good, but he's a heck of a player and we need him on the field to be successful."
Are there any plays in the offense that are specifically designed for you to run the football?
"Yes, a few, like a couple of draw plays, that's about it, there aren't any where someone actually pulls out (from the O-line) to block for me. At least not yet.
"I'm happy with that, I like to keep my running threat in the back of the defensive coordinator's mind, keeping it as a spur of the moment thing where the play can develop a lot faster."
How's your comfort level on the field? Say you're back in the pocket, looking down field, are you relaxed now, are you comfortable?
"Definitely. I'd say its about 8 or 8.5 out of 10, compared to the beginning of the season where it was about a 5. So it's been steadily climbing each week, and I'm getting happier and happier with the way I am playing."
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"Maybe the best guy I've faced so far was that guy at Sacramento State," said Ryan O'Callaghan. "Yeah, it probably was. At least he had a motor and he tried. Not that the other guys didn't try, but they just weren't as effective."
You wear guys down –
"Yeah, that pretty much happens every game. Sometimes it gets pretty sad out there."
"Yeah – sometimes the other guy's effort gets pretty bad. It happens to us too, we slow down some toward the end of the game, you can really see that on film, but we have been in better shape that the other guys."
You've been around the Pac-10 before, you know there are some better teams ahead.
"Yes, Arizona has a great defense, they played pretty well against us last year even though we won. We've already watched last year's game on film – we'll be ready for them."
Gearing up for Pac-10 play?
"Yes, it all changes now. It gets a lot harder, and you're going for something now. From here on out, we're not going to face a bad team."
* * * * *
On the Berkeley Beat
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that Cal football players were involved in conversations with Meleia Willis-Starbuck just before she was shot and killed on College Avenue near Dwight Way on July 17th at 2:00 am.
Coach Tedford confirmed at his press conference that Cal team members were present when the shooting occurred, one of them redshirt freshman Gary Doxy, but emphasized, "No student athletes have been implicated in any wrong-doing." He also described - again - the focus coaches place on instructing team members on "making good decisions."
The shooting incident occurred outside the residence hall used by Cal's Summer Bridge students, a group that included the incoming freshmen of the Cal team. (Junior college transfers do not participate). One Cal player, unidentified, may have been wounded by a passing bullet, but the wound was so slight that Tedford said it did not draw blood and was the kind of wound that could be caused by a fingernail scratch.
On Tuesday the Berkeley Police department confirmed that there are "no suspects in the case aside from the two already arrested," referring to Christopher Hollis, the alleged shooter and Christopher Wilson, the alleged driver of the car that brought Hollis to the scene and drove him away afterwards.
Notes from the Recovery Ward:
Offensive linemen Aaron Merz and Andrew Cameron continue their recovery from concussions. Both suited up Monday and did some light drill. They practiced Tuesday to gauge progress. Tedford indicated that a side effect of a concussion is that players don't feel well after physical activity, so that is one indicator monitored during the recovery process.
Noah Smith is on schedule to rejoin the team during the bye week of October 29th.
Lavelle Hawkins' injury has been reported to be an ankle sprain, severity unknown. Tedford indicated that Hawkins would be watched during practice drills – or perhaps light calisthenics - to see how his recovery is progressing.
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