|California gets back to basics before Big Game|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 28 November 2007 00:24|
So in a week previously reserved for holiday relaxation and resting up for Saturday's 110th Big Game against Stanford, Tedford put the Golden Bears through remedial classes in Football 101.
``It's almost like training camp again,'' safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``It's back to the start, to Square One, and we'll go from there.''
The simple drills are Tedford's last-ditch attempt to restore the vigor to a Cal (6-5, 3-5 Pac-10) squad that has plummeted from the heights of the national polls to the lowest abyss of his coaching staff's six seasons in Berkeley.
While their fellow Cal students made plans to get away last week, the Bears were hard at work in quiet Strawberry Canyon on salvaging what's left of their season. Cal still could finish with a rivalry victory, a minor bowl appearance and a measure of pride - but there's still no guarantee they'll leave the 2007 season with any of the three.
Cal is likely to land in San Francisco's Emerald Bowl with a sixth straight win over the Cardinal (3-8, 2-6), but an upset loss might even push the Bears out of the bowl picture altogether.
Tailback Justin Forsett, the Pac-10's leading rusher and one of the Bears' few bright spots, would prefer to avoid any uncertainty about Cal's fifth straight postseason appearance.
``We've been struggling, but this team always has heart,'' said Forsett, who leads the conference with 13 rushing touchdowns and 119.1 yards per game. ``It doesn't matter what game it is, or what we're playing for. We come out and play like we're undefeated.''
Forsett's faith in his teammates is admirable, but it hasn't been rewarded in recent weeks. Cal's six-game skid includes only a three-point win over Washington State surrounded by five losses of varying embarrassment value.
Tedford said he was proud of his players after a narrow defeat against USC, but the coach had lost that loving feeling by the time Cal was embarrassed by the Huskies in Seattle. The calm, cerebral Cal mastermind could be heard yelling at his team through the doors of the visitors' locker room in Husky Stadium in an outburst that surprised even his seniors.
``We knew what he was saying was the truth,'' Forsett said. ``He doesn't really show too much emotion most times. He's not really a yell-in-your-face type of guy. Nobody likes to hear that, but we needed to talk about it. Then we came back to work at home, and we went back to the little things that got away from us.''
The Bears are back at work this week on a game plan to beat the Cardinal, who also have lost five of six since their astonishing win over USC. Cal should have major advantages at most positions, but after the tribulations of the season's second half, Tedford isn't taking anything for granted.
``I can guarantee you it's not from a lack of effort,'' Tedford said. ``I have a lot of respect for our players, and it hurts me for the players more than anything. They're the guys who have lifted all the weights and done all the running. It's our job to put them in a place to be successful. Hopefully, we're doing that this week.''