This season, a top 25 Cal team was upset by unranked Maryland in week three and last weekend lost to unranked Arizona. Both losses dropped the Bears out of the top 25, and have fans questioning the coaching staff, game plan, and philosophy. Under Tedford, Cal has pulled four upsets against four top 25 teams while being unranked. However, those games came during his first 18 games as a head coach in 2002-03. He has elevated Cal football to unprecedented heights, taking Cal to five bowl games in his six seasons – it would have been six bowl games but Cal was ineligible in 2002 with a 7-5 record. In the 40 years prior to his arrival, Cal had been to just five bowl games.
Despite the loss to Arizona that dropped the California Golden Bears out of sole possession of first place in the Pac-10, the players seem resilient and ready to move on to UCLA. It is all one can ask for in today's demanding world of college football. The players are treated almost as professionals, but they still must balance school, football, friends, and family. A lingering loss can wreck havoc on a college player's mind. As we saw last year, Cal drops consecutive games to unranked foes and the season started to unravel.
"Last year, that killed us," said Cal linebacker Worrell Williams at Tuesday's press conference. "We were looking at the big picture. We knew how good we were. This year I haven't heard about guys talk about Rose Bowl or anything like that, bowl games. Guys are just worried about the next week. Really, it's been the first time it's been like that since I've been here."
Two years ago, No. 8 Cal's outright title hopes were erased with an upset loss at Arizona. The lesson obviously was not learned this time around in Tucson.
"It was a really hard loss," said Cal safety Marcus Ezeff. "But at the same time, we have to tip our hats off to Arizona."
"It's the little small things that killed us," said Williams. "Nothing big, nothing surprising…what are you going to do now? It's football, sometimes some teams are going to get some. It's about getting your mindset right and be ready for it."
Cal left guard Mark Boskovich had a different take, something that has plagued the Bears most of this season after securing a lead at halftime.
"We just came out slow," said Boskovich of the Bears' second half start. "We were just content with the lead we had and that's what hurt us. We didn't go out there to win, it seemed like we just went out there to not lose."
"It's not the end of the world," said Williams. "We we're first in the Pac-10, now we're tied for first."
With the two losses, Cal still even has a chance at an at-large BCS bowl berth but it will be difficult and almost impossible to earn. There is no margin for error, and the only ranked opponent left on the schedule to impress voters is at No. 5 USC on November 8. A win at the Coliseum is needed regardless, if Cal believes it can still win the Pac-10. Even then, the subsequent trip to Oregon State on November 15 could prove to be more difficult to overcome.
"We feel as a team that we're going to win the Pac-10," said Cal safety Marcus Ezeff. "Everyone in the Pac-10 who's tied [for first], right, has one loss. We control our own destiny."
"Every game counts!"
"That's the motto coming into this year," said Ezeff. "Sometimes you look back, what happens in the past is the past. We are a better team than last week. We just have to bounce back."
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