Cal's Win - and More
by Glenn Dickey
Oct 25, 2006

CAL’S OVERTIME win against Washington was a much closer game than any of us expected, but it was a gratifying one because the Bears proved they can win on what was very much an off-day.

“You’re not going to be perfect for the whole season,” said Cal coach Jeff Tedford at yesterday’s media lunch. “For a couple of games, we seemed to be clicking on all cylinders offensively. I wouldn’t say we’ve bogged down the last couple of games, but there have been some things, like not converting on third down. We (coaches) will use the bye week to look at game videos and see if we’ve become a little too predictable.”

The Bears have players Tedford likes to call “difference makers”. One of them, Marshawn Lynch, stepped up big-time against the Huskies. Lynch did not start because he hadn’t practiced all week, but he scored the touchdown that put Cal ahead with 1:52 left in the game and then the winning touchdown in overtime “How much he’d play was a game day decision,” said Tedford. “I left it up to Marshawn to tell me how he felt after the pre-game workouts. He told me he felt great, so I put him in the game early.”

Lynch was so excited after the game that he hopped onto the golf cart used to take injured players into the dressing room and drove it around the field for a bit, as the fans – especially the students – cheered him on. He was criticized by a panelist on a national show because the cart was supposed to be used for injured players, but there were no players who needed it. Another panelist said he could have been penalized. Huh? The game was over.

Tedford didn’t see the cart ride because he had gone into the dressing room but he saw a shot of it on ESPN later. “I’ve told him not to do that again,” he said. “Players aren’t insured when they do something like that.” But Tedford was surprised that Lynch was criticized for it. “I just saw it as a sign that he was excited.”

Lynch has been consistent all season, averaging more than 100 yards a game and 7.2 yards per carry, but his ankle problems have probably cost him serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy because he hasn’t carried enough times. Against Portland State, for instance, he had more than 100 yards in just six carries in the first half, but Tedford didn’t play him in the second half. “It wouldn’t have made sense to keep him in there to get 200 or 300 yards if it meant further injury to his ankle.”

The bye week will give Lynch and other injured Bears a chance to recuperate, and it will also give them a chance to reflect on what can happen when they take an opponent lightly, as they certainly did with Washington. That was never going to be a worry for the UCLA game at Berkeley on Nov. 4 or the USC game on Nov. 18 in Los Angeles, but the Bears’ two other opponents, Arizona and Stanford, are bottom feeders in the Pac-10.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: I much prefer the college system for overtime games. The pro version, where a coin flip decides which team gets to receive, often results in the receiving team just getting close enough to kick a field goal. In the college version, each team gets equal cracks from the other team’s 25, which is fairer and much more exciting.

One thing that drives me crazy, though: The NCAA’s policy of counting sacks as lost rushing yardage. This makes no sense at all, because it’s a passing play, not a run, and it skews the yardage. How many times have you seen sentences like this, “Team X rushed for only 87 yards,” when the writer doesn’t explain that the quarterback lost 30 yards on sacks?

PAC-10 OFFICIATING: The end of the Oregon-Oklahoma game was especially embarrassing, but the truth is, Pac-10 officiating is routinely bad.

There was a call right at the start of the Cal-Washington game that was indicative. Nate Longshore went back to pass but, as soon as he turned around, he was confronted by a blitzing Huskies defender. He tried to pass to the “hot” receiver to the right. When the pass was knocked down, he was called for intentional grounding. Ridiculous.

Equally ridiculous is the league office’s edict to let plays keep going and not blow the whistle. The All-America Conference, in which the 49ers started, had a rule that a back or receiver could get up and run again even after he'd been tackled. That rule was dropped because running backs, especially, were getting hammered because tacklers piled on to make sure they wouldn’t get up. The same thing is going to happen to Pac-10 running backs, with Lynch being a prime example because of the way he keeps going after he’s hit. Not blowing the whistle just encourages defenders to pile on.

That rule should be dropped, and so should the rule that all the officials should be from the Pac-10 if it’s an intersectional game at the home field of a Pac-10 team. Officials from the other conference should be included in the crew. That way, there would be a chance that half the officials would be competent.

GOOD NEWS: Leon Powe is starting to show what he can do as he learns the Boston Celtics system. Some Cal fans questioned his decision to leave school early, but I thought it was the only decision he could make, given his family background. With his work ethic and determination, I think he’ll make it big in the NBA.

PERSONAL BIAS: Years ago, when I’d watch nationally televised games with my dad, he’d insist that the announcers were biased against his team. What they really were, of course, was not biased for his team.

Now, I often get the same kind of accusation from some of my readers. Chief among them lately are Raider fans, who insist I’m anti-Raiders. Of course, when Jon Gruden was here (and, much earlier, in the ‘70s) I consistently praised the Raiders. Though there was a glimmer of hope in their Sunday win over Arizona, it’s been hard to find positives lately for a team which has the worst record in the NFL for the last three-plus years, which just broke an 11-game losing streak and which was the last NFL team to win a game this season.

Most Giants fans who write me agree with my criticism of Giants management, but there’s one Giants loyalist who thinks it’s because I’m rooting for what he calls “your A’s.” There’s no question I admire the A’s, because they’re doing the right things, but I had an equal admiration for the way the Giants did it in the 1997-2002 period, and I wrote that. When Brian Sabean started to make those strange decisions in 2003 – Edgardo Alfonso, Ray Durham, A. J. Pierzynski, Armando Benitez – I became critical. Strange, isn’t it?

As long-time readers know, there’s one team I root for: the Cal Bears. But that didn’t stop me from being very critical of Tom Holmoe, and of Ben Braun last season. I write what I see. Don’t blame the messenger.


LETTERS: I've updated this section.

REAL ESTATE: If you’re buying or selling a house in Oakland or Piedmont, check out the link to my wife’s site, Please visit NancyDickey.com at the bottom of my home page.

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