Well, this should be an interesting clash of stereotypes. We've got the peace-loving hippies of Cal-Berkeley and the fightin' farmers of Texas A&M. I get the feeling that Bonfire wouldn't go over too well on the Cal campus.
This season has been so bizarre. Actually, Fran's tenure has been bizarre. One year we're horrible and the next we're quite good then we're horrible then we're quite good again. This season has reminded me so much of the 2004 season and at the same time a little bit like the 1990 season, which I have only read about.
As a result of our fine finish to the regular season we will be spending our late December in beautiful San Diego. This instantly leads my mind to this fine gentleman:
Ron Burgundy: It's a fact. It's the greatest city in the history of mankind. Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale's vagina.
Veronica Corningstone: No, there's no way that's correct.
Ron Burgundy: I'm sorry, I was trying to impress you. I don't know what it means. I'll be honest, I don't think anyone knows what it means anymore. Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago.
Veronica Corningstone: Doesn't it mean Saint Diego?
Ron Burgundy: No. No.
Veronica Corningstone: No, that's - that's what it means. Really.
Ron Burgundy: Well, agree to disagree.
A Little History LessonTo the casual fan, Cal is probably best known for "The Play". You know the one....November 20, 1982....Stanford....John Elway....a 57-yard kickoff return....a trombone player. I still get a goofy grin on my face whenever I see that play. The sheer craziness of it is something that could only happen in college football.
Oh the band is out on the field!! He's gonna go into the endzone!!! He got into the endzone!! [voice quite hoarse at this point] Will it count? The Bears have scored [CANNON GOES OFF] but the bands are out on the field.
Seriously, the fact that the name Gary Tyrrell, a collegiate band member, rings a bell with me is what makes the play so great.
This will be Cal's second time to play in the Holiday Bowl following their appearance 2004 against texas tech. The 10-1 Golden Bears were ranked #4 in every poll (their only loss was to national champs, USC) and were on the bubble of receiving a BCS at-large bid and ended up getting screwed.
Their week 3 game at Southern Miss had to be rescheduled as a result of a hurricane and it was made up just one day before the final poll voting took place. It was now a nation broadcast on ESPN game because of the implications. Mack "Ol' Yella Teeth" Brown made his plea to the voters to put
texasVince Young into the BCS. The game with Southern Miss was closer-than-expected as Cal finally put Southern Miss away 26-16 with a Marshawn Lynch TD with under 5 minutes remaining. The 10 point victory wasn't enough to hold off the pleaing longhorns who, although idle, jumped Cal in the rankings and took the at-large bid.
They ended up playing a 7-4 texas tech team who throttled them 45-31 (after a late Cal TD with under 1 minute to play). It seemed to most that the team was disappointed that they weren't in the BSC game and came into the Holiday Bowl let down. tech threw for over 500 yards. Remember, this was a texas tech team that we beat that season.
Like Cal, this will be our second appearance in the Holiday Bowl. Our first trip was in that 1990 season I mentioned earlier. It was probably the most dominant big-game A&M performance in the programs history. We played 10-1 BYU and Heisman Trophy winner, Ty Detmer. Ty ought to be glad the game was played after the Heisman ceremony. The Wrecking Crew completely destroyed him, literally, as both his shoulders were dislocated throughout the game. We forced 3 fumbles as Quintin Coryatt (#44) and William Thomas (#11) were in Detmer's face all day long. The offense rolled BYU as well, as we ran for 341 yards and 5 TDs. We also completed 16-of-18 passes including 4 TD passes.
Bucky scores again
Bucky Richardson led the way offensively as he ran for 119 yards and two TDs, completed 9-of-11 passes for 203 yards and a TD, and caught a 22 yard TD reception. Yeah, he was the game's MVP.
Debut of 12th Man Kickoff Team
This bowl game will be the third time that Cal and A&M have faced off against each other after a home-and-home series back in the early '80s (1981 in Berkeley & 1983 at Kyle Field). Interestingly, the visiting team won each of those contests by 1 point and by 2 points, respectively (29-28 & 19-17). I don't know anything of the first contest but the second game marked the debut of the 12th Man Kickoff team and Jackie Sherrill shocked the world with an onside kick to open the game, it backfired though and Cal recovered. We ended up losing on a safety with less than 2 minutes on the board.
Overall LookFor the 15th time in school history Cal has won 9 or more games and this Holiday Bowl will mark the longest Bowl Game streak in the program's history with 4 consecutive appearances.
Our Ags have been up and down over the last four seasons. Our last bowl game was the 2005 Cotton Bowl after a very impressive season against one of the most difficult schedules in the nation (3 of our 4 regular season losses were to BCS teams -- OU, Utah, & texas who were a collective 34-2 on the season). This will be our 16th bowl game in the last 22 years and marks the 19th time in school history that our Ags have won 9 or more games.Cal (9-3; 7-2) TAMU (9-3; 5-3) ========================== ============================= 09/02 @Tenn (23) L 35-18 09/02 The Citadel W 35-3 09/09 Minnesota W 42-17 09/09 ULaLa W 51-7 09/16 Portland St W 42-16 09/16 v. Army W 28-24 09/23 Ariz St (22) W 49-21 09/23 LaTech W 45-14 09/30 @OreSt W 45-24 09/30 texas tech (23) L 31-27 10/07 Oregon (11) W 45-24 10/07 @Kansas W 21-18 10/14 @WashSt W 21-3 10/14 Missouri (19) W 25-19 10/21 Washington W 31-24 10/21 @Oklahoma St W 34-33 11/04 UCLA W 38-24 10/28 @Baylor W 31-21 11/11 @Arizona L 24-20 11/04 Oklahoma (18) L 17-16 11/18 @USC (4) L 23-9 11/11 Nebraska (25) L 28-27 12/02 Stanford W 26-17 11/24 @texas (10) W 12-7 (you can click on the A&M opponents to read the preview and the score to read the recap)
Cal started the season ranked as high as 9th with a very rough season opener on the road at #23 Tennessee. The Vols surprised everyone by essentially dominating the Bears but the Bears bounced back and slowly worked their way back up the rankings to #8 winning after victories in their next 8 contests. They finally fell on the road to Mike Stoops Arizona team and then to #4 USC on back-to-back weekends.
After finding out we would be playing Cal I took the time to watch the first half of their final regular season game against Stanford.
Here are some notes I jotted down:
Stanford was hanging in the game at the end of the half down 13-10 and wasn't really out of the game until Cal hit a FG on their last possession with 58 seconds left putting them up by 9 at 26-17. The bottom line is that they scored only 1 offensive TD against a worse than bad Stanford team (they're 1-11 on the year). Had they played anyone else they would be in the middle of a three game losing streak.
- Kicker Tom Schneider has a good leg....he hit FGs from 55, 23, 40, & 30 yards but he did miss a 42 yarder. That is pretty good range.
- I must admit....I love their jerseys.
- Stanford ran well against their defense in the 1st Q but after that couldn't muster anything on the ground.
- When Stanford blitzed, they just dumped the ball off to Marshawn Lynch with a screen pass.
- WR DeSean Jackson will give us trouble....he is quick and Stanford's players played deep and gave him a lot of room....our DBs tend to do that as well. Jackson finished with 7 catches for 127 yards.
- Cal was really bad on 3rd down conversions converting only 6-of-15 (0-of-4 in the first half).
- They gave up a big 68 yard KO return (113 on three KO returns).
Cal Offense v. A&M DefenseCal Offense A&M Defense =========== =========== 156 (39) Rushing 123 (46) 255 (16) Passing 187 (41) 411 (14) Total 312 (37) 31.8 (14) Scoring 18.5 (32)
Cal is going to put yards and points on the board. They have a very strong passing attack as well as one of the upper-tier tailbacks in the nation. They run a spread offense, which is like just about every Big 12 team runs now, so it won't be something unlike anything we haven't seen before.
When I went through the numbers I was surprised to find that their offense is quite balanced. It appears that they intend to keep the splits 50/50 when they can but will go one way or the other when need-be. I still think about the Pac-10 stereotype being 70/30 in favor of passing.R%:P% ========== Tenn 35:65 L Minn 61:39 W WSU 56:44 W PoSt 46:54 W ASU 51:49 W OrSt 52:48 W Ore 45:55 W WSU 56:44 W UW 49:51 W UCLA 59:41 W Ariz 39:61 L USC 41:59 L Stan 52:48 W
As you can see they run the ball quite a bit. It would appear that the running game is actually very important for them. Their 3 losses are the only three games where they ran the ball lower than 45% of the time. Coach Darnell....stop the run first!
Cal is ranked 16th nationally in pass offense but we've faced a few teams that throw the ball around even more (texas tech-#3, Baylor-#8, & Mizzou-#11) and went 2-1 in those games, although I'm not sure any of those teams have the athleticism or speed that Cal does.
Cal QB Nate Longshore
Cal's passing offense is led by sophomore QB Nate Longshore (wears #9) who took over for senior Joe Ayoob (Stuart Scott's boy -- it's Booya backwards) after the two battled back and forth following Aaron Rogers's tenure ended in 2004.Com-Att Yds TD/INT =================== Nate Longshore.. 208-353 2786 23/12
He is far from a mobile QB rushing for an average of -4.4 yards per carry.
Not everyone is sold on Longshore's ability after very shaky performances in their two late season losses.Att-Cmp Yds TD/INT ======================= Tenn 20-11 85 0/1 Minn 31-22 300 4/0 PorSt 23-15 225 2/1 ASU 26-18 270 4/1 OSU 31-22 341 4/1 ORE 26-14 189 3/1 ------- WSU 31-17 176 0/2 UW 36-21 291 0/0 UCLA 24-20 266 3/0 Ari 36-17 250 1/3 USC 38-17 176 1/2 Stan 31-14 217 1/0
As you can see he performed much better in the first half of the season (17 TD to 5 INTs) than he did in the second half (6 TDs to 7 INTs). This could be a huge factor in this ballgame....we all know that the Ags don't lose when they win the turnover battle.
Longshore has 4 main targets (all with 30 or more receptions) in #1 DeSean Jackson, #11 Robert Jordan, #7 Lavelle Hawkins, and RB #10 Marshawn Lynch. Jackson is one of the best WRs we've faced this season, although that list is a long one as we've faced a chunk of future NFLers.No. Yds Avg TD Lng Avg/G Ht ========================================= D.Jackson 54 979 18.1 9 62 81.6 6-0 R.Jordan 43 511 11.9 4 44 42.6 5-11 L.Hawkins 42 672 16.0 4 44 56.0 5-11 M.Lynch 31 311 10.0 4 28 25.9 5-11
I find it fascinating that they have had that kind of success throwing the ball with sub-6'2" wideouts. It's just that most of the upper-tier WRs we've faced have been much taller than our DBs. This could help level the field a little bit for us. I noticed in the texas game that once the longhorns got into the redzone we saw Alton Dixon at DB replacing Jordan Peterson. It'll be interesting to see if this continues even with the shorter WRs.
Jackson was joined by Marshawn Lynch on the first team All Pac-10 team but Lynch took home a little extra hardware when he was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. In addition to his receiving numbers, Lynch ran for over 1,200 yards and 9 TDs on 203 carries (6.1 ypc). He wasn't the lone back HC Jeff Tedford used. Texas-native Justin Forsett ran for 502 yards and 3 TDs on 111 carries (4.5 ypc). He was recruited by A&M but was not offered a scholarship. He's the small kind of back (5'8", 180 lbs), like Army's RB, that kind of scares me.M.Lynch J.Forsett Att Yds TD Avg Lng Att Yds TD Avg Lng ================== ================== Tenn 12 74 2 6.2 22 5 1 0 0.2 8 Minn 27 139 2 5.1 15 12 77 0 6.4 18 PorSt 6 112 1 18.7 71 11 11 1 1.0 13 ASU 17 124 0 7.3 40 5 19 0 3.8 25 OSU 17 106 1 6.2 27 5 19 0 3.8 6 ORE 7 50 0 7.1 24 27 167 1 6.0 48 WSU 25 165 2 6.1 42 8 25 0 3.1 5 UW 21 150 2 7.1 30 11 33 1 3.0 9 UCLA 20 81 1 4.1 14 11 60 0 5.5 15 Ari 16 102 0 6.4 56 3 14 0 4.7 21 USC 20 88 0 4.4 17 2 5 0 2.5 4 Stan 15 67 0 4.5 13 11 75 0 6.8 19
Lynch is the best back we've faced this year (remember that Adrian Peterson didn't play in the OU game). It is going to be difficult to stop him and at the same time keep the WRs at bay. Shoot, it's going to be difficult to keep him at bay both rushing and receiving. Remember, he has over 300 yards receiving this season out of the backfield.
Cal put together a page for him in hopes to boost his visibility to the media, it's pretty impressive. There are game-by-game highlight clips of him throughout his career. Also, Lynch was named 15th on Tightwad Hill's Top 50 Golden Bears players list.
Looking at Forsett's long runs and then at his average it would appear that he gets caught behind the LOS quite a bit. He owned Oregon though, didn't he? The reason he got all the carries was because Lynch left the game with an injury.
I should note that senior fullback, and lead blocker for Lynch, Byron Storer will miss the game after breaking his arm in practice. This can't be a bad thing for us.
As mentioned earlier, I watched the first half of Cal's game against Stanford and Lynch kept trying to get the ball to the edge instead of running it up the middle like the announcers wanted him to. I also noticed that when Stanford blitzed Longshore got the ball to Lynch on a screen.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to make note of how impressed I have been with Gary Darnell as our defensive coordinator this season (as well as Coach Bill Clay-safeties and Coach Van Malone-cornerbacks). He came into a horrendous situation and while we're not back to the Wrecking Crew of the 90's we are infinitely better than we've been in recent years. When we hired Darnell I said that this move would make or break Fran. Darnell certainly took the pressure off of his head coach.RushD PassD TotalD ScoreD ======================================================== 2003 225.1 (112)* 206.42 (40) 431.50 (96)* 38.8 (115)+ 2004 142.5 (55) 244.25 (93)* 386.75 (63)* 23.3 (47) 2005 139.2 (38) 304.64 (117)+ 443.82 (108)+ 31.2 (96)* -------------------------------------------------------------- 2006 123.0 (46) 186.80 (41) 309.80 (37) 18.5 (32) *Indicates that at the time it was one of the three worst seasons in modern Aggie history (post-1950) +Indicates worst season in modern Aggie history INT FF Sacks 3DC 2003 6 16 19 44% 2004 13 16 28 44% 2005 12 14 26 48% ---------------------- 2006 10 11 20 29%
Those are vast improvements.
A&M Offense v. Cal DefenseQue the classic Pac-10 plays no defense jokes....A&M Offense Cal Defense =========== =========== 211 (7) Rushing 122 (45) 191 (68) Passing 245 (108) 401 (19) Total 368 (90) 29.3 (27) Scoring 20.1 (43)
Cal hasn't faced a running game like ours. Oregon and Minnesota are the only teams they've faced in the top 44 rushing offenses. I would hope that Fran sticks with the running game like he did against texas (who was ranked 111th in pass defense) but there is no telling.
If we do choose to throw the ball, lets keep it away from #13 Daymeion Hughes. He is a 1st team All-American and was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Look, the guy has 10 INTs and 11 pass breakups on the season.
Everyone also needs to keep an eye on #10 Desmond Bishop. The former JUCO-tranfer LBer was named 2nd Team All Pac-10 in his first season with the Golden Bears last year and 1st team this year. He leads all Cal defenders with 114 tackles....the next player has 67. He has 14 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 FF, 2 fumble recoveries, and 3 INTs. The word disruptive comes to mind.
We've got to get things going on the ground with J-Train and Mike Goodson but I'd really like to see Tellus be given the opportunity to step up and play big on the big stage. Throwing to Howard Morrow would make me happy too.
I haven't really gone into as much depth in any previous previews on special teams but DeSean Jackson forces me to.
Jackson is the best punt returner in the nation. He runs a 4.29 40-yard dash and is better than uber-hyped Ted Ginn Jr. of Ohio State. Jackson led the nation with an average of 18.2 ypr including 4 TDs in only 26 returns. For comparison we average 8 yards per return. He was awarded the first annual Randy Moss Return Man Award as the nation's top returner.
12thManChild posted each of his 4 TD returns. The Oregon return was flat out sick.
Justin Brantly's importance has been raised as he is going to have to either keep the ball away from Jackson or boom them over his head. He is currently the #5 punter in the nation averaging 45.43 ypp which puts him behind only Shane Lechler in the school's single season punting record book (Lechler averaged 47 ypp in '97 and 46.5 ypp in '99). As a sophomore, Justin is 7 punts shy of the 100 punt minimum to qualify for the career record book. His career average of 44.3 ypp would be just behind Lechler's 44.7 ypp.
OverviewThe keys for A&M will be to make Longshore beat us passing the ball, minimize Lynch's contributions, and of course win the turnover battle. It would help if we didn't let Jackson get loose on a return.
My bags are packed, my tickets are in hand, and my 12th Man Towel is in top form.
I'm flying out of Houston on Wednesday morning (flight leaves at 7am CST) and I land in San Diego at 9am CST. I'll have all day on Wednesday to travel around on my own. I also have a good chunk of Thursday as kickoff isn't until 5pm PST.
I'd like to see the famed Gaslight District, the Pacific Ocean, La Jolla, PetCo Park, the San Diego Zoo....and visit an In-N-Out Burger. I've never been to one and really just have to try it out.
This past summer my brother, Sean, planned out a road trip to California and it just so happened that he was going to be in San Diego on the 28th. I got tickets for myself, him, and his two co-road trippers. I just found out Friday night that one of his buddies bailed on him and he won't be able to road trip that far for that long with just one other driver.
He is now going to fly into Orange County and drive down from there, essentially cutting out his road trip from Houston across the country.
As it turns out, the unused ticket will not be unused as my old man surprised me yesterday afternoon by telling me that he will be taking that seat. He is flying in with my brother and they will drive down to San Diego on Wednesday afternoon.
Unbelievably, I have been to 50 A&M football games and this will be the first time I have ever sat with him. He already thinks that I am nuts so I'm not too worried about scaring him with my game day enthusiasm.
Of course, we will be attending Yell Practice on Wednesday night. I was a little disappointed to find that due to city noise ordinances we will have to hold it indoors....so we're going to meet in an underground parking garage. It's gonna be crazy loud. Here are the details from the press release:Location:That really sucks. I'll have to check out the logistics of getting to and from there. I'm always leery of parking in a "number of surface lots". Regardless, I'll see you out there.
Underground Parking Garage
San Diego Convention Center
111 West Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101
Due to outdoor assembly and sound ordinances in the City of San Diego, midnight yell practice for the Texas A&M vs. California Holiday Bowl football game will be held inside the underground parking garage of the San Diego Convention Center. The convention center is located downtown, within easy walking distance of the vibrant Gaslamp District.
Fans should enter the parking garage by foot along Harbor Drive between 1st and 5th Avenues. Fans will not be allowed to park vehicles in the garage during midnight yell practice. there are a number of surface parking lots within easy walking distance of the garage.
I imagine that either before or after Yell we'll check out the Gas Light District.
The weather for those of us traveling will be nice. It looks to be sunny with highs in the upper 60s and lows right around 50. 60% chance of rain on Wednesday but it should be gorgeous on Thursday and Friday. Might want to bring a jacket for night and jeans and a t-shirt for the day.
I think that on Wednesday we're going to try and take a tour of beautiful new PetCo Park. They are running special holiday tours to take advantage of tourists and will have 3 tours per day (10:30am/12:30pm/2:30pm) from Tuesday through Sunday. It's $9 a head.
If we make the 10:30 tour at PetCo we'll be done with that around noon and that'll give us a few hours to go up the coast to La Jolla in the afternoon. I don't know what exactly we'll do up there so I hope that is enough time.
Wednesday night is game time. I think you know where I'll be. Kickoff is 5pm PST (7pm CST) on ESPN. Kirk Herbsteit and Chris Fowler will be calling it (the A team) and Erin Andrews will be on the sidelines.
Thursday morning my old man flys back to Houston and I fly back in the late afternoon (5pm). Sean, his friend and I are going to hit up the San Diego Zoo after we drop dad off at the airport.
That should about do it.
Other Stuff That Didn't Fit Elsewhere
- Cal was 2-3 outside of Memorial Stadium and out of sight from the famous Tightwad Hill. This season while we went 5-0. Let's hope that we can keep the goose egg at the end of that.
- Apparently the big flag is a big deal for the Holiday Bowl.
- All-Big 12 Aggies:
I'll be honest with you, how Mark Dodge is not at least HM baffles me but the fact that Chris Harrington wasn't 1st or 2nd team is just sheer politics. 9 of the 10 1st team DLmen are seniors. It looks like they took one senior DL from every team that had one. Justin Brantly got shafted also because even though he finished 5th in the nation in punting there were two Big 12 punters ahead of him, including two time Ray Guy Award winner Daniel Sepulveda.
- 1st Team: DB Melvin Bullitt
- 2nd Team: RB Jorvorskie Lane, FB Chris Alexander, TE Martellus Bennett, OL Cody Wallace
- Honorable Mention: P Justin Brantly, RB Mike Goodson, OL Kirk Elder, DL Chris Harrington, QB Stephen McGee, WR Chad Schroeder, LB Misi Tupe, LB Justin Warren
- All-Pac 10 Golden Bears:
- 1st Team: RB Marshawn Lynch, WR DeSean Jackson, OL Alex Mack, DL Brandon Mebane, LB Desmond Bishop, DB Daymeion Hughes, PR DeSean Jackson
- 2nd Team: TE Craig Stevens, OL Mike Gibson, DL Nu'u Tafisi, PK Andrew Larson, ST Byron Storer
- Honorable Mention: OT Andrew Cameron, OLB Zack Follett, WR Lavelle Hawkins, WR Robert Jordan, QB Nate Longshore, OLB Mickey Pimentel, OG Erik Robertson
- Cal's Media Guide is available for free online.
- Coach Fran has changed two player's positions during the extra bowl practice time. Former QB RS-So Jamie McCoy has moved to WR and Freshman WR Kenny Brown has moved to safety.
- How can you not love Martellus Bennett?
In ReviewBEAT THE HELL OUTTA CAL! WHOOP!
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