Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A CAL FAN’S NOTES: BIG GAME & PROFESSOR DUNDEES

Just seconds after the final gun Saturday, phones were ringing off the hook. Shrinks every where were calling their wives and telling them to make arrangements for tropical vacations.
They were setting up extra couches and preparing for late night sessions. The football gods had delivered them a double whammy—a narrow, herky-jerky victory over one of the worst teams in the county—and the news that SC was defeated by a team we had dispatched with aplomb—the second such snub to each old blue's manhood.
The conflicting emotions inside each Bear Fan’s head will severely tax the capacity of Bay Area psychologists for weeks to come. And make them rich in the process. How to make sense of it all?
Why couldn’t we be happy with a win?
Why were folks “disappointed” to be Co-Pac 10 champs?
After suffering through 7 Big Game losses in a row, why weren’t fans jumping for joy at our fifth consecutive drubbing over the Stanford State Indians?
And how does one deal with the admiration he felt for the Indian athletes who stood up, fought hard, gave it the Old College Try and nearly pulled the upset off? That’s why God invented post game tailgates.
The excuse is to “wait for the traffic.”
The reality is that unable to cope with conflicting feelings of pain, pleasure, sadness and joy, Old Blues have religiously turned to pay homage at the alter of the plastic beer cup try to come to grips with the incomprehensible.
That’s why we need the Shrinks—preferably Freudian.
For football and Old Blues is about Sex—always has been. We’re interested in conquests, domination, and scoring on Saturdays. We don’t get why “illegal motion” should be a penalty—let alone “backfield” in motion.
We’re consumed by making passes, “end zones”, and swoon at illegal use of the hands and blocking below the waist.
We’re into holding, unnecessary roughness, and like turnovers more than we care to admit.
And of course, we are pre-occupied with “tight ends.” (This was just a test to see how many of you actually took Professor Dundee’s class).
That’s why UCLA’s win, which should have been an “upper”, giving us our first share of the Pac 10 title since 1976, was such a downer.
The Bruins besting the Trojans, was like a friend getting in the back seat of a Volkswagen Bug with the Big Game Queen (do they even have that anymore?), who would only park with you on Panoramic as long as you promised to stay in the front seat.
We nailed (pun intended) OSU and UCLA—yet they conquered our “Dulcinaea Del Toboso.” How could that happen?
The truth is, we must be the least sophisticated fans in the country. Like little children our expectations were way beyond our capacity to understand (the game). Big time College football is so much tougher than we think.
Building a program is so much more difficult than we imagine.
Blame it on Lee Corso (who picked us to win the National Championship), or ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit who picked Deshawn Jackson as a Heisman candidate.
Or Sagarin who’s computer had us #2 in the Country for a while. Like Flounder in Animal House, we screwed up. “We trusted them.”
There’s no need to criticize our quarterbacking. Some of it was outstanding, some of it not. But the poor lad was in his first season. Name the team (not you, Bush or Stoney) which won the National Championship with an untried, first year Sophomore QB? He’s an outstanding young man and a fine talent, but isn’t that a lot to put on the shoulders of a 20 year old who had never completed a college game?
We were favored over Tennessee for God’s sake! Back there!
Who broke into the cool aid?
I know a tall good lookin’ guy who said we’d be favored over SC. He wrote that after we played our best game of the year, demolishing a fine Oregon team. He was reinforced by the quotes from the WSU guys who said we were “relentless” in our physicality and would take SC.
Well, Saturday, we came up against an inferior Stanford eleven which came to play. Good on ‘em mates!
After the game some had tears in their eyes, as they knew the Holy Grail was within their grasp.
In fact, when we were up by just 6, (long shot that it was) had Schneider’s kick been blocked and run back for a TD—had we fumbled, or had any of Longshore’s 4th quarter tosses been picked and run back--we were constantly, one bad break away from defeat.
Give our kids credit. They hung in there and won. That’s huge.
They’re young—and extremely talented. Hopefully, they’ll learn that in the grown up world, talent only goes so far. Character takes teams into the national spotlight—not talent.
Look at Tennessee. Is there a better team, talent wise, out there?
Does anyone think UCLA “out talented” SC?
There’s not much to say about the game. It was difficult to throw as the wind was roaring. It was difficult to catch balls—and we dropped some—as did they.
The conditions on the West Side were extreme. Kids had their shirts off in the Eastern sun, while we froze as the icy winds cut into us in the shade.
(Can’t blame Corso for that one, I guess).
A quick re-cap for those of you in the South Seas:
Cal deferred and Stanford ran 15 plays, picking up only 48 yards, and held the ball for almost 7 minutes, before eschewing a first quarter field goal and turning the ball over on downs.
For some reason, teams all year long have moved on us in the first quarter. Schnieder (Pac 10 Special team Player of the week) then hit a 55 yard field goal to make it three love.
Neither side could move the ball (though Larson had a 72 yard punt which was downed at the Indians 3) and the quarter ended 3 to 0.
After a couple more three and outs, the Indians went 74 yards in 11 plays and tied it 3 all.
We went 74 yards in 9 plays to the Stanford 6, but three incomplete passes led Schnieder again who gave us a 6 to 3 lead.
Thompson thenpicked up an Ostrander fumble (forced once again by Follett. He made his first start and was everywhere), and ran it in for a touch.
We were up 13 to three, but hadn’t scored and offensive touchdown. McCutcheon returned the kick off 68 yards, and soon Ostrander hit Sherman to make it 13 to 10.
We couldn’t mount a drive with 1:10 remaining and the half ended. To start the 2nd half we put together a nice 11 play 80 yard drive with Longshore finding Hawkins down the middle for a 32 yarder to go up 20 to 10.
The game seemed in hand.
On the next drive, however, Ostrander found Moore, who made a one handed grab while pushing DeCoud off with the other hand for a 51 yard TD, and the Indians just wouldn’t go away.
After hitting a 35 yarder, Schnieder was forced to kick a 40 yarder due to a penalty. He hit that one too and we were up by six with almost 5 minutes to go in the third quarter.
It stayed that way until the beginning of the 4th quarter, when Lynch first dropped a pass, then fumbled on our 14. Stanford was poised to go ahead, but settled for a 19 yard (practically and extra point) field goal attempt instead. Miraculously, it was wide left and we took over on the 20.
Lynch was to see no more action. Sadly, it is likely his last play in Memorial Stadium was a lost fumble.
Forsett carried the load and picked up 67 yards in the 4th quarter, until Schnieder hit his 30 yard field goal with 58 seconds left to provide the 9 point cushion, 26 to 17. Probably Tedford said it best (I’m paraphrasing) when he said it is just so hard to get up for a game, after playing for a place in the national spotlight—and then having to come down off that high.
One small sad note, is that Tedford really wanted to play his Seniors, especially Ayoob and Levy. But he had to win the game. And unfortunately, the kids never gave him enough cushion to get those guys, safely, in.
The emotional roller coaster is just too tough in a physical game like football. What we have is a coach. What we have is a staff. What we have is a program. What we lack is some maturity on the fan front.
We need to grow up and understand just what kind of commitment is involved in being a top 10 team, year in and year out. We need to exhibit some character.
Anyone who can’t be happy with a Pac 10 co-championship—who can’t be happy with the 5th win in a row over Stanford—who can’t be happy with a bowl bid—who can’t be happy with a chance for a 10 win season—had better see a shrink.
It’s like relationships. Anyone can do it. It’s just that some folks know how to do it right—and some don’t. And as we all know, the most important ingredient in any relationship is simple: Commitment. The question is: Are Old Blues ready to step up and make that commitment—or are we destined--and do we deserve--to see the object of our dreams always leaving the dance with someone else?

Go Bears, Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70 `

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