Tuesday, September 13, 2011


                Thoughts from an itinerant fan the week after a great win in Colorado and before we play the Presbyterian Blue Hose (One assumes the only reason we didn’t schedule Pippy Long Stockings is that she had a prior commitment).

                Before Amtrak descends into the City of Denver the last tunnel you pass through is two miles long.  It’s a metaphor for being a Cal fan.  You have no idea where you’re going, why you’re doing it, when you will get there, and you’re left completely in the dark wondering why you decided to take this route in the first place.

                “Country” an ardent Buff’s fan, from Stone Gap, Virginia meets me at the station.  Stone Gap?  It’s at the westernmost point in the state.  “Y’all can stahy-and with one foot in Virgin-ya, one foot in Tan-nass-see, and pah-eiss on Kentucky.”

                He knows his football.

                More than that he and Connie know tailgating.  We’re talking gas grills, tents, tables, chairs, flowers, steaks marinated all night, hors d'oeuvres up the wazoo and maybe a beer or two—or three—that is if you’ve finished your Bloody Mary.

                RG had a Cal Tailgate going just outside Folsom Stadium as well.  LOTS of Bears have kids who’ve attended Colorado so there is much camaraderie.  The annual tailgate trophy was presented (we’ve got photographic proof), though I have no idea what the trophy is for or how one wins it.

                Day started off poorly, however with an e-mail from Jennifer Kapp that Will wouldn’t be playing due to a concussion.  Can’t tell you what a thrill it is to watch a kid play, knowing that you watched his father play three years (when you were a kid) and actually got his Chin Strap in the tunnel after the ’58 Big Game (when Patton and Hart stopped Skip Face from scoring a two point conversion—sending Kapp and the boys to the ’59 Rose Bowl against Randy Duncan and Iowa).

                Everyone wants to get into the stadium in time to see Ralphie the Buffalo run around the field.    That mean, tough looking Buffalo sprinting furiously around the field is actually a chick.   Besides, after as few beers, she was kinda cute.

                Wikipedia describes it thusly: The team of "Ralphie Runners," who are varsity student-athletes, run Ralphie around Folsom Field in a horse shoe pattern before each half of each home game. It takes five Ralphie Handlers to run her around the field: two up front on each side to steer her around the field, two in the back on each side to help guide her, and one in far back to control her speed, called the "loop" position. Ralphie can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour 

Must admit it’s awfully dramatic and gets the adrenalin going. 
                (BTW What  Wikipedia doesn’t tell you we learned from one of RG’s pals who was an original handler of Ralphie I back in the late 60’s.  Apparently the guys were drinking so much and running so much that they were constantly puking—“Ralphing” as we called it back then.  So they named her “Ralphie.”  As Casey Stengel used to say, “Ya’ kin look it up.”)

                Between the beers and buffalos a football game broke out.  And what a game it was. 
                I’ll leave it to others to get the stats right and the meat and potatoes of what happened.  But here are a few random thoughts:

                HOW GOOD ARE WE?  Maybe the most interesting thing that happened, (Next to Zach Maynard’s game winning toss to Bro Allen), however, might have been that Fresno State scored 29 against Nebraska and actually led at half-time.  We manhandled the Bull Dogs.

                Nahhhh!  We can’t be in Nebraska’s league (though they may try to join ours), but it does make for some fun tailgate talk.

                DOES STANFORD STATE HAVE THE BEST QB IN THE BAY AREA?  (ok.  It is disingenuous to compare Maynard to Luck after two games against two (probably) inferior teams, but Napa’s Kevin Crossland hired Zach Maynard two summers ago (Coach Andy was trying to get alumni to hire these kids for $15 bucks an hour just to do yard work, move furniture, paint—whatever), and told me back then that the kid has what it takes and would become the starter.

                I was skeptical, but clearly Croz saw what we’re all seeing—the composure, leadership, and gun slinging swagger (not to be confused with cockiness) that is simply willing Cal to win all by himself.

                Wins over the Bull Dogs and Buffs does not a great team make—but ……….

                BACK TO BASICS:  Remember (I’m going to write this every week) Ray Willsey’s redundant admonition “Stress the kicking game for there the breaks are made." 

                How important was that first blocked extra point?  Buffs send it into overtime with a gimmie field goal.  And they knew that they had that for the last 4 plays, allowing them to try things they might not have had they known they needed to score a TD.

                ET TU BRUTE:  “I come to praise Marc Anthony, not to bury him.”  (Or did Marc Antony say that about Caesar?)  Before folks bury him for being unable to cover Richardson one on one, someone ought to check out the defensive scheme.

                 We put no pressure on Hansen and he had a career day.  The best explanation I heard for that was that they are a great “screening” team so we didn’t want to blitz line backers, but, yikes:  Hawaii sacked him 7 times.

                Thee and me could have gained 284 yards working alone against any DB when a QB has that much time. 

                My guess is that Anthony comes back big.  Anyone remember a kid named Syd'Quan Thompson against Tennessee a few years back?

          Before you blame the kid, check the scheme.

                DEFENSE ANYONE?  D stepped up Big in overtime, though Buff coach made the classic coaching mistake—helping us out immensely.  Richardson had treated Marc Anthony, the way Burton had treated Liz Taylor.  He was having his way with him, doing whatever he pleased.

                Then on their last series, Richardson was out on first down.  He came back in on 2nd down, but they didn’t throw to him.  On 3rd down he lined up on the left side, away from Anthony.  The long cross field pass was errant and Williams actually should have intercepted.  

                In other words, Coach Jon Embree got too cute.  He outthought himself.  He should have lined Richardson up against Antony, and gone mano a mano and see who won—3 plays in a row.

                Certain coaches do this often.  They like their system better than their players.  Others realize that if you have Jerry Rice—that’s whose getting the ball in go-to situations.

                DROPS AND PROPS:        Tight end play was like marriage.  It was the Agony and the Ecstasy all wrapped up in one.  Some drops, then two TD’s, one in which Miller Carried the kid into the end zone, as though he were an accordion grinder’s monkey on his back.

                RUNNING FROM THE RUN:  One thing I can’t figure.  Can we run?  Not once did we run three plays in a row—except in the 4th quarter, and on the 3rd play Anderson took it in for a 19 yard TD.   

                This is a blatant “trend” in our offense.  If we get stopped for little or no gain on first down, it’s ALWAYS a pass next play.  If that is incomplete—it’s NEVER  a run on third down.  Ergo:  Defenses know with 90% certainty whether we are going to run or pass.   This has been going on for years.

                ROCKIE MOUNTAIN LOW:  Leaving Sunday morning (September 11th) was just creepy.  Going to the airport.  Being in the airport.  I wasn’t afraid of nefarious activity it just brought up images I didn’t care to think about. 

                My friend, Dick Cawley went down over Lockerbie on Flight 103.

                Mark Bingham was a rugger and an American hero.  I met him, but never knew him.  How many thousands of lives were saved because he (or one of his fellow passengers) shouted, “Let’s roll.”  

                I never knew Brent Woodall, but saw him play.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all their family members.  They were great, great golden Bears—in every aspect of the word.