And we're on to the Round of 32! How exciting. The first matchup is former QB Mike Pawlawski taking on DB Syd'Quan Thompson. Mike Pawlawski beat Bob Milano, while Syd'Quan Thompson beat Vinny Strang.
You can see the full bracket here. Voting ends on Friday at noon, so vote early and vote often! GO BEARS!
Pete Newell Regional
Mike Pawlawski (3)
The old-timers remember him and the team he led quite fondly, perhaps in the same way the younger minds remember Rodgers and 2004. Pawlawski was Cal's starting quarterback in 1990 and 1991. The 1991 team went 10-2 and won the Florida Citrus Bowl against ACC champion Clemson-Cal's first appearance in a New Year's Day Bowl since the 1959 Rose Bowl game. Pawlawski had an outstanding 1991 season, winning co-Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors with Washington WR Mario Bailey. And Pawlawski's 1990 team went 7-4-1 with a win in the Copper Bowl (nka the Insight Bowl), which was Cal's first bowl appearance since the 1979 Garden State Bowl.
LeonPowe and California Pete offer their thoughts on Pawlawski and the 1991 team he quarterbacked-
LeonPowe: Quarterback for the 1991 Citrus Bowl Championship teams. Coming out of high school he had no arm strength, no accuracy and was rated by one recruiting service as "the worst recruit in the Pac-10"
Damned if he didn’t will and win his way to becoming the Pac-10 offensive player of the year in 1991. And this was with a UW team that won the National Championship. I really dislike attributing stuff like "intangibles" and "leadership" – because good players usually prove themselves in some measurable way. Mike really didn’t – he had okay stats and won a lot. But it was the little things. Like when he scored on a keeper and knocked out the opposing linebacker. Like when he played special teams to get on the field. Like when he took an offense full of talent (Russ, Brian Treggs, Mike Caldwell, Greg Zomalt, Lindsay Chapman) and molded them in his image – they became a cocky, loud-mouthed, trashtalking offense that WON. Back-to-back Bowl Games (huge for Cal at the time).
In my freshman year after Pawlawski had graduated a lot of fans and students said (not jokingly either) that they should bring Pawlawski back . . .to coach the linebackers.
Ohio Bear: Until the 2004 team came along, the 1991 team was the best of my Cal fandom. And I think the 1991 team was better overall than the 2006 team.
California Pete: I think the 1991 team would have a great chance against the 2004 team, although the 91ers’ penchant for personal fouls probably would do them in. Both teams were Rose Bowl worthy—far better than the teams sent most recently by the likes of WSU and Stanford—but both unfortunately shared the conference with two of the all-time greats: UW 1991 and USC 2004.
He is dealing with neck issues in retirement, but many of us have seen him broadcast a Cal game, several this past season, and he seems to be in generally good spirits.
And let's put ourselves in good spirits with some highlights of that 1990 team!
Syd'Quan Thompson (6)
My first memories of Syd'Quan Thompson was his performance against Tennessee. Most Cal fans will remember it wasn't good. Tennessee was scoring touchdowns on him. The aftermath of his performance was devastating. People were ripping him left and right saying how bad he sucks and how he shouldn't be playing. But what a lot of those people didn't realize was that Syd's problems against Tennessee were because he was wearing a cast on one of his wrists and he couldn't tackle. The problems weren't that he was blowing coverages. And if my memory serves me correctly, I don't think Tennessee really scored a touchdown over Syd; their touchdowns came from underneath passes where their WRs sort of ran over Syd's one handed attempts to pull them down. In other words, Syd's problems weren't really his coverage abilities. I'm not sure many Cal fans realized that though.
In my eyes, when I saw Syd see his first real reps in practice and on the field in 2006, my opinion was that Syd was a solid practice player. He covered his men well, and was around the ball when it was headed in his direction. He seemed like a solid player with a pretty good chance at being a great CB. A lot of Cal fans thought to the contrary though.
(Photo from The Daily Nathan)
I had no idea Syd'Quan Thompson would be as good as he is today but I got my first hint that he might be this good at the 2006 Cal Football Awards banquet. At that banquet Daymeion Hughes (now Dante Hughes) won one of the defensive player awards.
When he took the stage to accept his award, he went through the usual thanks to family, coaches, and friends. Then he did something a little different. He went on to encourage the younger CBs to keep at it, practice hard, and don't give up. He said they could be as good as him. Then he singled out Syd'Quan Thompson. He said to Syd, in front of the entire banquet, that Syd could be better than him. He said it many times. "Syd, you can be better than me." He said it with conviction. He knew it.
I've talked about this many times before, but when somebody really good at their trade points out that someone else can be just as good or even better, you better listen. Those that are some of the best at their trade know what it takes to become the best, and who has what it comes to be the best. In 2006, Dante Hughes was one of the best CBs in the nation. He knew what it takes to get there, and he saw that Syd'Quan Thompson had it too.