As a Cal fan, do you embrace the impressive results of the Utah win and look forward to the rest of the season with optimism? Or do you continue dwelling on the painful defeats to Oregon and USC and wonder 'how have we gotten here?!' Or both? I find myself trying to to take the first view, but my mind keeps pushing me towards the second group.
Wednesday's meeting of the Sacramento Grid Club was more upbeat than prior weeks because Cal looked so good. But with a chance to talk to Chronicle Beat Writer John Crumpacker about the general trajectory of the program over the last few years, it was difficult to push some of the uglier results to the back of ones mind.
I will say this much: It was nice to watch the highlights of the game and not want to turn away in pain every few seconds. Other than some offensive struggles in the first quarter, there weren't really any plays that were downright bad for Cal on either side of the ball. That's something we haven't been able to say since Arizona St. last year, not counting the irrelevant Presbyterian game. For one week that's enough for me!
In addition to talking to John Crumpacker, the Grid Club heard from Daily Bruin writer Sam Strong. Hit the jump for what they had to say:
The Grid Club also heard from QB Coach Marcus Arroyo but due to some amplifier feedback and interviewing duties I couldn't accurately paraphrase coach Arroyo's answers in a fashion that would remotely do them justice. Sorry!
As always, thanks to the wonderful CalBear81 for her excellent notes, allowing me to better paraphrase our speakers!
Utah and the next three games are really the key to Cal's season. Win those and you get at least 7 wins, a bowl game, a winning season and you reach the expectations many put out for the season.
Despite his occasional struggles, I do like what Zach Maynard can do. It's a learning experience, and he is adjusting to the speed of the game. I don't think people should be too surprised about the USC game. One one hand you have a defensive coordinator with years and years of experience in the NFL, and on the other hand you have a young kid with one year at Buffalo and a few games at Cal. So as hard as it is, patience I think is needed for Zach.
It's a very exciting time to be on campus, and the new stadium will be something to take pride in. It's been fun to see how things change and look different each day coming to practice.
Thoughts on the Cal UCLA game:
I'm thinking it will be 31-9, Cal. UCLA is just so depleted right now. In terms of storylines I'm looking to from a writer's perspective: I'm looking at the brother vs. brother angle because Mychal Kendrick's brother is a linebacker for UCLA, and both wear #30. It's the only time they'll play each other in college because his brother is a freshman at UCLA. I'm also looking at Jerry Rice Jr. getting his first chance to play. I covered his dad for years while on the 49er beat, which reminds me of how long I've been in this business! And while we're on that note, I'll be doing a story later in the year on Richard Rodgers and his father, who of course was involved prominently in The Play.
Why can't we sell out at AT&T?
Last year's finish really put a damper on things, and the baseball park is unfamiliar and it's just not a great place to watch football, so lots of fans don't want to go there. The fans have soured on the Bears with some of the terrible results they've had over the last few years, and they're wondering why Cal can't get a quality quarterback.
Should we be worried that Coach Pendergast wants to go back to the NFL?
I don't know what his career goals are. I'm still not sure what to make of him as a defensive coordinator for Cal. The defense will have a good game, and then a terrible one, though I think the defense was just outgunned against Oregon, and it was the offensive mistakes and turnovers that doomed Cal against USC. They are stopping the run very well.
On Cal 'plateauing' - do you buy the idea that coaches have the ability to coach a team to a certain level and not beyond that?
Tedford is really a victim of his early success, building up a bad program so quickly. It's tough to say if he has reached his peak. The bad conference losses over the last few years raise real questions. Tedford is happy at Cal, and he's done a lot of good for the program. But it is fair to say that some of these bad losses raise questions about his ability.
The first 4 1/2 years of Tedford's tenure were characterized by excellent QB play, overachieving teams, limiting mistakes, etc. Since the Oregon St. loss in 2007 it's been is some ways the exact opposite. What, if anything, changed, or is it just random chance?
That's tough to answer, but I think there's a syndrome at Cal, where the players think they're better than they are. Then, when there's a bad loss, they don't understand how it could happen, and things get very negative. I hope there's a different mental attitude to this year's team.
On the proposal to give players an extra $2,000 a year
I just talked to the players, and of course they're very much in favor of it. In fact, I've got an article coming out about it. It's a real challenge for them, and the extra cost of living in the Bay Area is an extra burden. I'm in favor of the change.
Sam Strong, Daily Bruin
How are UCLA fans feeling about everything going on?
The suspensions are a big problem - we'll be playing some walk-ons. The team is selling it as 'an opportunity for guys to step up.' They might bounce back and play with some emotion, but I don't see that happening.
How much will the suspensions hurt UCLA?
They're huge. Beyond catching the ball, the four suspended WRs are key for blocking on running plays. There's an offensive lineman suspended for half a game, and his backup is injured.
Do the majority of UCLA fans want Neuheisel and Dan Guerrero fired?
The students don't seem to care as much as the alums. I think Neuheisel and Guerrero are a package deal. If Neuheisel is fired it would mean Guerrero would be hiring his 3rd coach, and that doesn't reflect well on an athletic director.
Was the first half against Arizona an anomaly or an accurate reflection of UCLA's talent?
I've never seen a game where UCLA was out of it so quickly - they were out of it at the coin toss. I don't think it's an accurate reflection of UCLA's talent, it probably more reflected UCLA's coaching.
Neuheisel had an 'on-the-edge' reputation at Colorado and Washington - but after the suspensions he has the chance to burn some red shirts and has decided not to. Has he been on the straight-and-narrow at UCLA?
Neuheisel for all of UCLA's struggles, is a smart guy, and he knows that he can't afford to slip up again. Actually, he's proven that he cares more about UCLA's best interests than his own career, because it would probably be in his best interest to burn some red shirts to try to find a way to get UCLA to play better this year and save his job, but he hasn't done that. Also, a few years ago he kicked some players off the team for getting arrested, and those players all ended up at different Pac-12 schools, one of which played a role in the fight last week for Arizona.
How has student support for the team been?
The students don't seem to care, even about the basketball team. Losing certainly doesn't help, and the student section is rarely full. I've been disappointed since getting on campus, it's not what I hoped for coming to UCLA.
How is the team feeling amidst all of the controversy?
It's hard to tell - I don't have access to meetings or anything like that. I think there is something about Neuheisel's self-touted relentless optimism that seems to wear on people after a while. The players don't seem to be buying into it any more.
There's no reason to believe that UCLA is going to win the game. UCLA's defense will likely be outclassed by Cal's WRs. The line is Cal by 6 and I think Cal will cover.