Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Cal Fan's Notes: Loose in the Palouse

I heard the rain drops falling around 4 am. When I awoke at 6, it was dark and rainy. The Cougs’ only chance to win was the Curse of the Palouse. Lousy weather. Were the Gods against us again?
Alas, the rain was falling on Sunday morning, not Saturday. I had forgotten it is the Tedford, not the Levy era. It took a moment, but I could relax. When I had awakened on Saturday morn, the sun shone bright and the weather was autumn perfect. Nine hours later, we had beaten and shut down the Cougs 21 to 3. There may have been a few questions about the game, but one answer was for certain.
The happiest man in America this weekend is Phillip Fulmer, the Vols head coach. Tennessee caught Cal in the Diaper stage—not today, after they had matured to Big Boy Pants.
He would not have liked these quotes from The Spokesman-Review: “They kicked my butt on every aspect of the game. They came out and they hit me and hit me and hit me. Every play of the game, they hit me. I got shut out in the sack department, but like I said, they hit me in the mouth every single play.”
That was Defensive end, Mkristo Bruce—he said it was the most physical game he’d been a part of.
When asked about SC and Cal, Bruce (a sure all Pac 10 and maybe All American) said, “Cal wins. They’re relentless. I think Cal is a more relentless football team.”
O linemen, Sean O’Conner and Frampton agreed and choose Cal.
Before these words were uttered, it appeared few were going to fly to beautiful downtown Pullman just for a football game. But just under two hours away lays the fable city of Coeur d-Alene. And that’s where we lit on Thursday night.
Coeur d’Alene has a storied history. President McKinley sent in the Buffalo Soldiers (the all black Calvary troop from Brownsville) to quell a union riot. Eugene Debs showed up, Ethel Barrymore performed there at the opera house, and Walter Johnson pitched an exhibition. It was a favorite spot for prize fights, as well. It was a destination (like San Francisco) for folks from the East. When the silver played out, it died. There's a great book about it's history called Big Trouble, which goes into the assassination of the Governor by the "anarchists" (union guys) and the Pinkerton detective, Mcparland (who tracked down Butch Cassidy), comes in to solve the crime. Clarence Darrow defends the killers.
It is a box we hadn’t checked.
A train ride sounded like the perfect idea, but I couldn’t put aside two weeks to insure that we would arrive on time. So we settled for Southwest—that gave them two days to get us there.
However long it took it was worth it to read the words quoted above, by the Cougar players.
No need to read this screed any further, unless you want to hear about a couple of days in the land of the Hitler Youth.
Thursday night, we had dinner at Brix—not near Yountville, but on Sherman Ave. in the Heart of Couer D’Alene. It was short walk from the Couer D’Alene resort, where our upgraded room (formally a photographer’s dark room and telephone booth) awaited us. What did we care?
We were in beautiful country with a remarkable past.
Brix was hardly what one would expect in Idaho. It was more like San Francisco—lots of precious salads and yuppie dishes. It did not disappoint.
As we left, (yes, we were the last ones there) I went over to give an extra tip to Red-Tie-Mike, our waiter. He, a chick and a waifish guy were chatting over a book at the bar.
As I approached, Mike took another book and covered up the title of the book they were talking about. The little guy with the thin mustache and moppy hair (I’m not making this up) realized that I had seen the cover.
I can’t describe the look he gave me. I didn’t get the title, but the Swastika couldn’t be hidden.
Mr. Metzger may be dead, but clearly his Hitler Youth are still around.
Little did we know that that was just the beginning?
It was up to the Iron Horse—a bar, restaurant and dancing joint. It was a Thursday night, and it was, if not packed, crowded.
Looked like most of the men had just left their Militia meetings.
Who were these people? Who were we? They considered us freaks. But they were nice about it. Cindy and I were clearly the only quasi-hetero-sexual married couple in the place. But they weren’t prejudiced—though I’m sure they wouldn’t have liked people like us moving into their neighborhood, though they might have allowed us to marry their daughters.
The “toos”, piercings, spiked hair and skinned heads exposed our flaws. It was Christopher Isherwood and Berlin before the War. Decadence was everywhere. But we danced with them, and they with us. Cindy asked if I minded when she danced with the creepiest human being I’ve ever seen up close.
“No prob.” I said. “As long as you don’t mind spending the next 8 to 10 years chained to a spike under a stair case, and wearing a dog collar.”
We were not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
The Brian David Mitchell look alike was giving the gals the eye. I wondered if his wives knew he was thinking about cheating on them?
Babes with bellies bigger than their boobs (and that’s saying something) pranced about. I hadn’t heard the music, but at some point Rod Serling entered and for the rest of the night it was Twilight Zone. Our group was dancing with everything that moved—and everything on them moved.
The weirdest part was the cleanliness. We consider ourselves connoisseurs of dive bars. This was a dive bar—but spotless. The restrooms were immaculate. One couldn’t help but go back to psych 101 and think of Freud: Berkeley-ites are Anal Explosives—hair flowing from the head, ears, nose, eyes (you know, like our blind dates back in the day), and these “revolutionaries”—totally anal retentive—clean, shaven, neat, meticulous.
Our den mother, Linda, kept putting beer bottles on the floor just to see what would happen. By the time she returned from a dance (I guess that’s what these kids call it); it was picked up and mopped clean. We were blown away.
Conversation was a little different: “Yep. Had be a good saw once. 48 incher. Lost it in the divorce.” Now what kind of a woman would take a man’s saw, like that?
Friday, was free skate. We hit a dive bar, the Sundowners. Tell them I’m from the Napa Valley. “Good place to get drunk,” says one of the cousins sitting at the bar. After they decided they liked us, they offered us the special spot—up the stairs out the back on a hidden picnic table in the sun. Don’t think they noticed that it was right on the freeway, next to the rusted car and trailer. To them it was special.
Saturday morning we headed out as nervous as Leni Riefenstahl on her first shoot.
The drive down took us through acres and acres of freshly cut and disked wheat fields. As we neared Pullman, we were with good people. “Neighbor’s got 7 feet of topsoil. Gets 90 bushels per acre,” one fellow told me.
Despite Starkey’s ravings about the Curse of the Palouse, the Cougs bring up only fond memories for me. As a freshman, back in ’66, playing for Truck, I remember listening to the radio as Stewie (Wayne Stewart) picked off three—running one in for a touch. Donnie Guest, who joins us every Saturday, and was a winger on Doc’s rugby team with me (notice how I drop record holders), set a record which will never be broken—108 yard field goal return for a touch. (See end why it will stand forever).
The wide receiver on that team—the Bird—Jerry Bradley—joined us for drinks on Friday night (after dinner at Wolf Lodge—the most cowboy of restaurants—in the entire world).
So I wasn’t carrying the baggage of those who were focusing on the fact that we hadn’t won up there since 1979.
We were up at 7am in Warren’s room watching Game Day. Cal is clearly building a brand, as Jackson was featured as possible Heisman Candidate.
Spent the pre-game in the WSU field house, watching other weekend games. Then into the Stadium where Jim Patmount spoke of the ‘66 game. As his late dad was the team doctor, he had been a ball boy—no more than 8 when Bradley, Guest, and Stewie were performing their heroics and now he was up here with his kid. How cool is that?
On the first carry, Lynch knocked off 42 and was caught from behind. Did the safety have the angle, or was it Lynch’s ankle?
We were moving, but they got a pick. (We were to learn after the game that Longshore was sick).
They were three and out, but Nu'u Tafisi blocked Darryl Blunt's punt and recovered it on the WSU 5. Two plays later, Lynch ran 2 yards for the score.
They moved down to our 29, but on 4th and 11 Brink threw to Hill covered by (What’s his name?) oh yes, DaymeionHughes—and the pass was incomplete.
We then went 71 yards on 11 plays to take a 14 to zip lead.
The quarter ended 14-0, but they soon completed a 13 play drive to make it 14 to 3.
They kicked off. We punted. They were driving and then that kid, Daymeion Hughes s intercepted his 6th of the year. I'm pulling for him, but it saddens me that he will break Weed's long standing interception record of 16.
We went 88 yards in 12 plays with Lynch taking it in from 8 yards to go ahead 21 to 3, with 3:27 left in the half. Oddly, that would be the end of the scoring.
It’s easy to criticize Cal’s play in the second half, but don’t forget that the Cougs are a very good college team. They played well, and our defense was outstanding—especially on third and 4th downs.
They had had only three yards on offense the entire day, when Darrell Hudson broke away for70 yards and a first down at our 5. Thompson, who had a tough time at Tennessee, saved a touch down by running him down when it seemed like a sure score.
They “scored”, but it was overturned by review. On 4th and one, they tried a sneak, and we held.
Bottom line: Go back to the top of the page. Our D was awesome, especially on third and 4th downs. Longshore dropped the ball from center on two (maybe three occasions). Me thinks they were long passes, and he might have hurried it, but only they know.
WSU is a fine team. They played us loose (As Tennessee did) so no one could get deep. We do need to figure out how to throw short, when folks are playing back on us.
For the first time this year, on a third down (and 10, no less) we ran it and Lynch picked up a big time first.
The O line is awesome. WSU led the nation in sacks with 27, and got one.
Once can only imagine what plays Tedford is holding in abeyance for SC.
How big was this win? We heard upon arriving back in Oakland that shock waves were felt all the way to the Big Island of Hawaii, where Dzura lives.
In an only at Cal moment, Stoney brought this tall guy up to me. It was Daryl Imhoff. Last time I saw him was in black and white when we had to go to a neighbor’s to watch the NCAA finals on TV. Said he was coming down in December for the Dedication of a Stature for Pete Newell. Now there’s a Bear who should be forever bronzed. Apparently, he will be near Pappy in Faculty Glade.
Imhofff had just walked up to Stoney, and said, “You look like you’re from Cal. I’m from Cal too.” Fortunately, Stoney was wearing his brown colored trousers.
When the game was over, some (alas, but not all) of the bears came down and doffed their hats to the fans.
(Bradley said that the Cougs were upset that we didn’t travel well—that we had returned 1500 tickets).
Bishop took up the baton and conducted the band. Lynch waved the huge flag, and then discovered that it was heavier than he thought. One of the gals gave DeCloud her pompons. It was a Bear moment. One we will never forget—even though my good friend Joe Starky will now have to look for some new pre-game palaver—that the curse of the Palouse is doused forever.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren '70

P.S. Guest's record of 198 yards will never be broken as the NCAA no longer keeps track of yardage greater than 100 yards--at least on punt or field goal returns.

From the Website

Nate Longshore completed 17 of 31 for 176 yards with two interceptions and a rushing TD for Cal. DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan combined for 116 yards on 10 catches to keep WSU's defense off balance.

Lynch, the Pac-10's leading rusher, later ran untouched for an 8-yard score after Daymeion Hughes intercepted Alex Brink's pass on the WSU 12. Hughes' interception was his sixth of the season.

From Tom Wright on the Oregon Win:

And to top off the day the national champion rugby team was introduced between the 3rd and 4th quarters!!

GO BEARS!!!!!!

Forgot to mention last week that up at OSU, Sand Barbour was named NCAA athletic Diretor of the Year. Not bad for a school noted for geeks and Nobel Laureates.

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