Opposing Views: California

The Big Game Week edition of opposing views features a panel discussion with the good folks – pen names included – from California Golden Blogs.

The Bootleg: Jeff Tedford: What went wrong? How did the heights he achieved – most wins of any Cal coach in history, all those bowl berths, a whiff of the No. 1 ranking in 2007 – so quickly become the depths Sonny Dykes inherited?

LeonPowe: I think it was a combination of lots of recruiting misses, reaches for talented players who may not have fit the Cal campus culture as much as we would've liked, what once was an elegant pro-style offense becoming bloated by so many different options (Wildcat! Spread!) and the Tosh debacle all adding up to losing teams, bad academics and an offense too complicated for QBs not named Aaron Rodgers to operate. [Ed: Defensive assistant coach Tosh Lupoi defected to Washington prior to the 2012 season, taking his expertise – and many recruits – with him to Seattle.]

Ruey Yen: Yen: I think Tedford was mentally burned out by the end of his tenure. I do have a doctorate, but not a medical one, but I think he might already have had a precursor to his recent health problem, which reportedly cost him his offensive coordinator job with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Early in the Tedford era, you heard about how hands-on he was with his QB, playing some special QB checker and the like with Aaron Rodgers. Those stories become rare by the time of Zach Maynard. Like LeonPowe said, the playbook got saturated with too much stuff. The talented (but not as mentally mature) players missed the one-on-one tutelage their early predecessors got.

TB: Let’s talk Sonny Dykes. To go from 1-11 to 5-5 in the span of one year is pretty incredible. What are his strengths? How has he done it? Who are the players most responsible for the turnaround, and what will the expectations be for this team in 2015?

LeonPowe: I think his strengths have really been about defining a team culture and, as silly as it sounds, instilling a connection to the university and town at large. What others might call school spirit, but being accessible, and not apart from the university has really been a refreshing change. The on-field stuff will come as he (hopefully) goes through some recruiting cycles and picks up a lot more defenders (both quantity and quality), as well as more offensive linemen, while maintaining the WR and other skill position pipelines. In terms of this year’s players, obviously you have to start with the maturation of Jared Goff and Daniel Lasco and the entire WR corps, but I think it's much more about the team spirit. Expectations for me, without looking at the schedule, are for seven-plus wins and a decent bowl game in 2015.

Nick Kranz: A large part of it is replacing the offensive quagmire that was the late Tedford offense with a coherent, successful, modern system. Cal has always had talent on the offensive side of the ball, but it simply wasn't being used until Dykes came in. And let's be honest, the defense isn't significantly different yet. But Dykes was hired to create a legitimately dangerous offense, and he has done so.

TB: Please explain the term “Stanfurd.” Why does The Tree, the Band, etc. inspire so much anger from the Blues? What’s everybody’s problem?

Ruey Yen: We don't want to be sued by the Stanford lawyers. Given the proximity of the schools, I'm pretty sure that every Cal fan/student is actually pretty decent friend/co-worker/even spouse with at least one Stanford alum. The main issue for Cal fans concerning Stanford is the entitlement (typical of all private schools) exhibited by a small subset of the Stanford community. As for the Tree (have you seen it?) and the Band (have you hear them play? Or try to be clever?), I think that hatred are pretty self-explanatory.

Nick Kranz: There's nothing much to explain about “Stanfurd” (which, for the record, I don't really use). It's an insult of the most childish type of derision, and roughly similar to the many Stanford fans that favor “Kal” when discussing the Bears. The Tree doesn't particularly bother me, but the Band is another matter. The Band annoys me because it's wildly unsuccessful at what it attempts to be, which is funny. I've seen the Stanford Band many times, and not just against Cal, and they have never succeeded in even making me giggle. If you're going to intentionally avoid being musical, or march in interesting formations, then you have to actually deliver some sort of entertainment value. Once the shock value wears off (and after roughly 20 Big Games, I've reached that point ages ago), there's nothing left.

TB: How many Big Games have you been to? What was your first, and what do you remember most about it? Also, talk about your best and worst memories as well.

LeonPowe: I've attended four as a student (1992-1996) and four more as an alum (2002-2006). For the rest, I've been living overseas and have been huddled around a fuzzy illegal stream or listening to a Joe Starkey radio broadcast. (Hard to say which is more difficult to understand.)

My first Big Game was in 1992, and not only was the game a blowout in favor of Stanford, but there was a giant, embarrassing brawl on the field after the game which culminated in a war of orange throwing. Yes, I participated, because of the non-wisdom of crowds. [ED: The aftermath of Stanford’s 41-21 win was ugly, thanks to some seriously fracked up Cal fan behavior.]

Instead of the best experiences, I like to harken back to several memories which continue to keep me warm in cold winter months, like Tyrone Edwards strapping on high tops to run for 200-plus yards, blowing Stanford out on The Farm in 1993 and carrying around a giant piece of turf for hours after the game. [Ed: It was Lindsey Chapman in 1993 and Edwards a year later taking turns bludgeoning the Cardinal run defense.] You had Marshawn Lynch running 100 yards to gain 45 and a touchdown as a freshman. Of course, there was Mike Mohammed picking off Andrew Luck when Harbaugh should've been running Toby Gerhart.

Ruey Yen: As someone that has moved East since graduation, I haven't been to a Big Game since 2004 (which actually took place after I graduated, but I had the week off from grad school and still knew people in town). My favorite memory has got to be 2002 when Cal broke a streak of six consecutive losses and we took down the goal post and paraded it around Telegraph. I'm not sure if people are aware (since many people don't do stuff with alumni groups later), but all the Big Game viewings are a joint affair from Los Angeles to the East Coast (D.C. and Philly). Watching the game in such proximity to Stanford fans has definitely made some of these recent blowout losses very difficult to stomach.

Nick Kranz: I think this year will be my 20th Big Game. I was nine when I watched Cal's 1994 win, and my most distinct memory was walking down Prospect Street outside Memorial Stadium, with Cal students at frats, sororities and apartments hanging out of every window and balcony, shouting cheers and leading revelry, as everybody celebrated. I've only witnessed eight Cal wins, and they've all been great. Mike Mohammed's interception, Marshawn's freshman touchdown, Jahvid's hook-and-lateral, Geoff MacArthur's catch after catch, watching T.C. Ostrander get sacked like eight times . . . all wonderful. Low points? The seven-game streak [Ed: 1995-2001] just was one long blur of no hope. It was easy not to invest too much at the time. But 2007 and 2010 were particularly painful turning points. I lost some faith in Jeff Tedford after the 2007 Big Game, and all faith after the 2010 Big Game …only to wait two more years before a change was made. Sigh.

TB: Talk about the evolution of the Big Game over the last 20-25 years. Isn’t it ironic how the game is not as important to as many people as it once was, yet both Cal and Stanford have reached heights fans of the ’50s through ’80s could have only imagined? Both sides spent a generation as Pac-10 also-rans, while Washington, USC and UCLA ruled the conference. Cal and Stanford combined for one bowl game in the ’80s. Yet this game is not the guaranteed sell-out it was back then, and it seems to get lost in the fragmented Bay Area sports scene. Do you think it’s still “Big?”

LeonPowe: It will never stop being important to me or my friends. Cal and Stanford could both be 0-for the season or playing with a Rose Bowl berth on the line. It will always be the Big Game. During the early 2000’s, there was a lot of talk that the rivalry was over, as the Tedford teams rolled over a succession of bad Stanford teams. Now, I hear similar rumblings from the Stanford side. The pendulum will always swing. Stanford will always be our rival. The Big Game will always be the most important game of the year. We want the Axe.

Ruey Yen: I guess I am now an Old Blue, but I definitely value the Big Game way above all the other games. Yes, the fans who jump aboard during the nationally prominent years recently for both school may want to beat U$C or Oregon more, but if you suffered through the Holmoe era like I had, you really cherish the cathartic moment when a long losing streak to your main rival Stanford is over (hopefully this Saturday). I have spent time at a school that doesn't have a clear rival, and having a rival is a rather precious thing. We, both Cal and Stanford, should cherish what we have. The kumbaya can come after the game on Saturday though.

Nick Kranz: At the risk of being a homer, I feel like the waning importance is pretty one-sided. Tickets in Cal sections are always hard to come by, and I'm always approached by many buyers and very few sellers. Quite frankly, the lack of enthusiasm from Stanford fans – despite a level of success never seen in Cardinal history – absolutely flummoxes me. [Ed: Judging by the expanses of empty seats on the Cal side of Stanford Stadium during the 1999, 2001 and 2013 Big Games, Bear backers lacked a stomach for the Cardinal’s success. Yours truly flew home from college at Syracuse to watch both the 1997 and 2000 games.]

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