We all know that Cal fans are a loyal bunch, but even I was impressed at the crowd on hand for the last meeting of the year. Despite the most demoralizing Big Game loss since the Holmoecaust and a meeting just a day before a major holiday a solid crowd of fans alums were on hand to talk a little football. And they were lucky enough to hear from an excellent group of guests.
We began with everybody's favorite position coach, Ron Gould. Coach Gould's incredible success with Cal's running backs has been well documented and earned him the respect and admiration of all Cal fans.
For the Washington perspective the Grid Club talked to respected Seattle Times beat writer Bob Condotta. But the highlight was hearing from Dave Lambros, a frequent and popular Grid Club guest. Dave is a Pac-10 ref, specifically a back judge, and an all around nice guy - he quickly showed off his referee eyes by informing me that I had left my dome light on in the parking lot! My wife (who came with me to the meeting on her birthday) immediately recognized him as the ref who taught some football rules at the Cal women's huddle last summer. Unfortunately Dave only had 45 minutes or so to answer questions - I could have spent hours asking him to explain some 100 or so plays that have confused me in 17 odd years of football fanaticism.
Note: As always, all guest responses are paraphrased based on my notes and best recollections. I again extend my thanks to Calbear81, who was in attendance and allowed me to borrow her notes when I was interviewing Bob Condotta.
Do you keep in touch with some of your former players?
Absolutely! Justin Forsett just got my kids tickets to an upcoming game!
Thoughts on Cal's performance against Stanford
We're disappointed. We didn't play our best game, we didn't execute, and we didn't rebound from a slow start. We were watching the tape and we kept seeing plays and say 'this play should be a touchdown.'
How do you assess Cal's run/pass balance?
We always want to be balanced, so we're trying to come up with plays and formations to help out the passing game. Brock is getting more and more comfortable and we need to do a better job protecting him.
Thoughts on Washington:
They have a very dynamic offense. We have to contain Locker and control the ball of offense. The kids are doing a great job, working hard in practice, working on specific formations we think will do well vs. UW.
On injuries on the running back depth chart:
My job this year is getting younger guys ready and keeping Shane and Isi healthy. Will Kapp is a versatile back and can be used in an emergency situation.
What fundamentals and techniques do you focus on in practice that have made Cal's running backs so successful?
Kids frequently come into college with poor fundamentals, so it's something we have to really focus on. We also have to work really hard to teach them to understand everything that's happening on the field, because when you understand what's going on you play faster and you play in control. We really focus on balance and ball security.
On Washington's season so far and the team's mindset going into the game:
The preseason goal was to make a bowl game, and now UW must beat Cal and WSU to achieve that goal. The team is still highly motivated to get there, even if the season has been a bit of a let down. Jake Locker hasn't had the season tat people expected and the offense isn't as dynamic as it was last year. Meanwhile the defense wasn't expected to be great, but allowing 138 combined points in a three game losing streak to Arizona, Stanford, and Oregon was unexpected.
On Jake Locker's injury:
He will definitely play despite his broken rib, and he's taking all of the first team snaps in practice. Against UCLA he didn't run much to avoid getting hit.
How will Washington attack Cal's defense?
Washington will probably look to isolate their wide receivers in space on the ends, similar to what Stanford did. UW has excellent WRs (Aguilar and Kearse) when they are healthy, though injuries have limited production. They will still try to run the ball, and it's likely that Locker will run more than he did against UCLA.
Cal has relied on Shane Vereen - how has UW been against the run?
Everybody except for UCLA has run well against Washington, and UCLA struggled because there was no threat from the passing game. UW has given up 21 running TDs in the Pac-10 alone, and 6 more against Nebraska, worst in the conference, so Cal should plan to run the ball.
How much time will Brock Mansion have to throw the ball?
The Husky pass rush has been poor all year. Cal should be able to give Mansion time. 2 of 4 d line starters are out with injuries, and the line has struggled to get pressure sending just 4 linemen. They have been sending more and more blitzers to get any pressure.
Washington has been up and down this year - how would you describe Sarkisian's development of his team?
Well, other than perhaps the USC game UW has beaten the bad teams they should beat and lost badly to good teams. USC was the anomaly, but it was Jake Locker's best game and USC blew it at the end on a missed field goal. When Locker decided to come back it immediately raised expectations, so the team's struggles have been concerning.