Thursday, October 09, 2008

ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

Just received my first phone call of the week that wasn’t a margin call. And this is Thursday.

Looks like the same task force which was assigned to bail out the Bears after the tragic loss to Oregon St. last year is in charge of bailing out the Government this year.

Stocks are a bit like the Bears. If we get to 7 should we sell?

After Saturday’s defeat of a game ASU team, one has to like the Bears chances for this year. We have a lot of speed and a lot of talent—especially on defense. (I seem to remember Tedford saying we had less talent but more chemistry—but it appears some talent is there).

Are we an elite top ten team? Only time will tell. But we are good—at least we have been better, by a lot, than anyone we’ve played ( I know we lost to Maryland, but if you were choosing up sides, you’d chose us). In time, I think the shutting down of that Michigan offense will look really huge—of course I thought Maryland must be a good team because they beat us, then they went and lost another (after rising to 27 in the rankings) to some Podunk team, so who knows.

Saturday was a day any Cal fan could relate to. I woke up early, full of eager anticipation. The light was like the Bears—golden. It was sunny in St. Helena—cloudy at game time down in Berkeley.

There’s nothing like football in the fall, especially when the sun is out and the game is at 12:30.

That is our natural rhythm. For an entire century, Cal fans could wake up on a Saturday morning in the fall and know that at 12:30 or one o’clock, they could be in Strawberry Canyon and view college football in perhaps the most picturesque venue in the country.

There was a time when Saturday morning’s meant gin fizz parties and then walks to the Stadium, up through the Blind School, past the fraternities and sororities—dodging footballs tossed in the streets and enduring the hoots and hollers of drunken fraternity boys as they pea cocked around in front of the co-eds.

The hustle and bustle of game day generated an excitement all its own. You could count on it. Fall Saturdays were like Levis, comfortable—always there—always dependable.

Alas, we got our wish. Gladstone messed with our heads and hired Tedford. Sandy insured we'd keep him--and that changed everything. Suddenly, we got good.

Except we soon learned, that in order to compete with the Big Boys we had to act like the Big Boys (that’s code for spend money the way the SC’s, Nebraska’s, Tennessee’s and Miami’s do). And there’s only one place to get that kind of money: The dreaded one-eyed Moloch, TV.

Once one sells her soul to the device which started when that English bloke, Edwin Belin first patented the transmission of photographs via wires, one is on Madison Ave. time, not his own or his school’s. Men in grey flannel suits call the shots—and Universities across the land dance to their tune. The dollars are too big to do otherwise.

Ergo: we all receive tickets in the mail with the ubiquitous TBA stamped where 12:30pm once went. Kick off times are as erratic as a politicians promises. They can change four or five times before they are put into play. Sometimes, even game day changes—and we take it. We have no choice.

That’s how we end up having one season with Big Game after Thanksgiving, and another with three games on, a bye, two games on, another bye—six games on—a break for thanksgiving—and finally the end of the season against Stan……no Washington. Go Figure!

Madison Ave. owns us. But as Dr. Laura says, “You chose him honey. Now ya gotta stay with him for the sake of the kiddoes.”

Bye’s have their advantages—maybe Best (due we dare refer to this week as “Best’s Bye”--will be able to play on two weeks rest (having once dislocated my knee on a golf course—don’t ask—I would tend to doubt it, but we can be hopeful).

Anyway, the kick off time for ASU was “Old School.” I called Stoney to see what time the tailgate would begin. “Hey, 9:30 at the latest. This is an important Game!”

He was right of course. We wouldn’t be upholding our end if we waited until 10am to drink beer. Everyone’s got to sacrifice for the sake of the team.

The drive down to Cal was “Old School” as well. Fall in the Napa Valley is post card perfect.

Stopped by “The Boys” tailgate in Bowles hall parking lot (everyone is dislocated thanks to Ayr, Burlap, Dumpster Muffin and the grandstanding Mayor of Berkely (an ex-bear, to boot).

One of the brotherhood (I could tell you his name but then I’d have to kill you) said the decision had been made—Longshore. We tossed it back and forth (for some unknown reason coach Tedford never calls us to ask our advice), and the consensus was that Riley can make plays—is a winner, a gamer and perhaps has the brighter future, but his past performances had been inconsistent, so Longshore deserves a shot. He does throw a pretty ball. However, it’s like making a pass at a costumed gal at a Halloween party in San Francisco. You many connect—-just not necessarily with whom you intended.

When I walked on the field with the Sons of California (low turnout due to the weather I guess), to let the team run out between us, I mentioned that I’d heard Nate was going to start. They all told me that the announcer had already announced Riley—and that as usual I didn’t know diddley-squat.

When #6 took the field after the kick off, I held my tongue. (Little did they know that the “Brotherhood” still operates even after the purge of the 60’s. In every massacre there’s always at least one survivor).

This was a game which demonstrated that Tedford is building a program, not just an occasional good football team.

Longshore played well. The second half was hum drum, but the defense bailed us out. Actually, Bryan Anger bailed us out with an unbelievable 71 yard punt down to the four yard line with four minutes to go. The dreaded TD followed by an on-side kick, seemed a bit more distant. When he punts, the ball appears to go above the rim of the stadium.

Vareen filled in admirablely for Best getting almost 100 yards. Looks like injuries on the O line are preventing us from breaking out the way we will towards the end of the year, should Tepper and others return.

The D was superlative. (We can’t forget that the Wildcats were picked 15th in the pre-season. As an aside, the coaches’ poll had Michigan St. at 24 when we beat them).

The DB’s are playing some ball. #26 Hagan looks like a future star. #17 Conte comes in and shuts ‘em down (even got a pick on a beautiful break to the ball) #11 Catthouse (like the old Indian joke, “Why do you ask, two dogs barking,” was he named…..oh never mind)---played a tough safety and got a pick, The ubiquitous #5 Syd’quan Thompson will play on Sundays.

The LB’s are living up to their pre season billing. Follet is always around the ball. The only thing we lack are some Ronnie Lott type sticks. They could come.
Cameron Jordan had two sacks, forced a fumble and three tackles for losses. He was Pac 10 Defensive player of the week. Anger was special teams player (7 punts—47.4 yd/punt).

Said it before—will say it again—-my guess is that we have more good football players than ever before. (Last year a scout for the Eagles took notes on 17 players. I don’t know how many are still here, and maybe we have fewer pro prospects, but we have what appears to be more good college players than ever before. Again, time will tell.

But for a team with untested receivers, an unresolved qb situation, and injuries to our best back (Best) top tackle (Tepper) and top defensive end (Roulon Davis) we ain’t too bad. Some folks are stepping up, and that kind of depth has not been seen in our lifetime—maybe.

On the other hand, as the Sty said, "Arizona has "trap" written all over it."k Hopefully, he was talking about his golf game.




Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70
www.jeffwarren.com/