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Our next 2nd round match up comes out of the Pappy Waldorf Region and has Jerome Randle taking on Ron Rivera. Jerome easily took down the #VoteLay Campaign while Ron narrowly beat Jocelyn Forrest. We'll take a closer look at both of them and then you can cast your vote to decide who moves on. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and voting will end Friday at noon. GO BEARS!
Randle's evolution as a player was remarkable. When I first watched him sophomore year I cringed watching him run the offense. I don't play much basketball, but when I do I'm usually the point guard, and the things Randle did are NOT things that would make my teammates happy. The shots themselves weren't that bad. I'm guessing if he was taking them in the first place he was hitting them in practice, and the next two years proved he could make those shots.
No, it was the lack of ball movement and inability to get the ball to the bigs that really exasperated me. The process of watching our plays developed was chaotic, and not in an enjoyable Nellie-ball sort of way. You could see the team unravel during conference play as they ran into smarter and more efficient teams. That's the point guard mantra--run the offense, make your teammates make happy. Bad point guards lead to bad teams, and that was what Cal was in 2008.
(The most curious thing was that Randle and Ryan Anderson never really gelled. Although people opine what would've been if Ryan had returned for a year (or two) with Monty, Jerome probably would've left as he was already on the fence after the Braun firing, and we'd have probably had two years of Nikola Knezevic running point guard. Think we're Pac-10 champions this year if that happens?)
His maturation was exceptional under Monty though. First he got the alpha dog streak as the team's on-the-court leader in his junior campaign. That he went from an inconsistent shooter shooter to one of college's most efficent offensive players (53rd in the nation in 09) in a year without great bigs to set picks for him lends credence to Montgomery's teaching methods. Amazing what putting a system in place does for good players.
Second, his endurance for a guy his size was exceptional. He played an average of 35 minutes the past two seasons, and that's including blowouts. And it wasn't like the guy was taking plays off either--he handled the ball on over a fourth of our possessions the past two seasons. It not only underscored the importance of Randle, but the faith Monty had in letting him play those long minutes. It wore him out last season, but his performances were solid from beginning to end this year.
Finally, he embraced his teammates and ran with them as they ran with each other. Although his 2009 campaign was more spectacular than his 2010 season, I felt he played even better this year. He sublimated his individual talents in search of the team goal, which was the conference crown. The final stretch of the Pac-10 season (where they won nine out of their last ten games) was perhaps the best basketball he ever played as a Bear. He stepped up when they needed him, he stepped aside when others were ready to carry the load. And they got that conference ring.
It's fitting to look at Ron Rivera with Texas A&M upcoming on the schedule, since Rivera will forever be defined (at least to our thinking) by the A&M game his senior year. With 1:20 left in that game, Cal and the Aggies were tied at 17 and Cal had the ball deep in A&M territory. On 4th and short, the Bears set up for an easy field goal attempt, and Randy Pratt knocked it through for a three-point lead and, apparently, the win. Then Joe Kapp lost his mind.
The Aggies had jumped offside, and for some reason Kapp took the points off the board to go for a touchdown. This was the precise moment when Old Blues looked at each other and realized that this coaching experiment would not work out. On the next snap from center Gale Gilbert lost the handle and A&M recovered the fumble at their own two yard line. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle to our fourteen-year old eyes.
A&M Coach Jackie Sherrill called a toss sweep - a dumb call deep in your own territory, but not quite Kapp-esque. The ball arrived to Hawkins at approximately the same time as Rivera, who was coming on a run blitz. Rivera was traveling a bit faster than the pigskin, and he knocked Hawkins backwards into the A&M end zone for an improbable safety - and the upset win for Cal.
Rivera had many more shining moments as Cal's best defender of the early 1980s. He was named team captain as a sophomore, and led the Golden Bears in tackles from 1981 to 1983. In 1983 he set a record that still stands with 26.5 tackles for loss including 13 sacks. For his efforts Rivera was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac 10 and was a consensus choice for All-America at linebacker. He was also the first Golden Bear to become a finalist for the Lombardi Award.
Rivera was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the 1984 draft, and became the first Puerto Rican to play professional football. Following his retirement in 1992, Rivera entered the coaching ranks and is now the highly-regarded defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears.
And readers share some memories:
"Ron Rivera also had a hand in helping erase the dumbest coaching mistake in Cal history when he tackled a Texas A&M running back in the end zone scoring a safety, when coach Joe Kapp had taken 3 points off the board." ~LeonPowe
"I remember that game oh so well, even though I could only listen to it on the radio. It was the first game of the 1983 season, making it Cal's very next game after The Play. Cal had it won with the FG. Then there was a penalty, and Kapp decided to take the 3 points off the board and try for a TD. The next play, Cal fumbled. But then the next play, Rivera got us the safety. Cal wins! In Texas!" ~CalBear81
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