Midweek Notebook: Week 12Bears Prefer Slow Buildup to Big Game
Cal-Stanford NotebookFootball beat writer Matt Kawahara shares his thoughts on Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart, the importance of the Big Game and the wild season in the Pac-10.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Category: Sports > Fall > Football
The first visible signs that this is Big Game week were out at practice on Tuesday, although coach Jeff Tedford said that the Cal football team won't fully address the history of its rivalry with Stanford until later in the week.
As per tradition, the Bears' scout team players decorated their helmets with materials like white tape, red "S" logos and Stanford trees. Still, Tedford said that he doesn't typically sense a different feel in practice until it gets close to Saturday --- and that he prefers a more focused mood for the first couple of days, anyway.
"As the week goes on, (the excitement) starts to escalate throughout the week," Tedford said. "Early in the week they're just trying to comprehend what the game plan is, what we're trying to get done. ... (Lingering soreness from the previous weekend's game) seems to dissipate as the week goes on, and the enthusiasm just increases."
Tedford said that the team will likely bring the Axe -- which Cal recaptured last season after losing it in 2007 to end a five-year winning streak -- out to practice on Thursday or Friday. The Bears will attend the annual Bonfire Rally on Friday night, the same day that Tedford will tell the team a little about the history of the Axe and the importance of the rivalry -- mainly for the benefit of the freshmen.
"I think it's important (to address the history)," Tedford said. "It's a great rivalry, it's a great tradition. And anytime you're affiliated with it, you absolutely want to know what it's all about."
For at least one freshman, however, the lessons started early. Senior left tackle Mike Tepper said during Monday's press conference that the offensive line had assigned freshman center Mark Brazinski a six-to-eight page paper on the history of the Big Game and the Stanford Axe -- due Tuesday and complete with one-inch margins, citations and no help from Wikipedia.
Tepper said that these "periodical research assignments" typically require one-to-two pages from Brazinski. The linemen, however, felt that the importance and longevity of the Big Game called for the freshman native of Basking Ridge, N.J., to delve into more detail.
"This is something we said, 'Hey, you need to go big,'" Tepper said.
Vereen Ready to Shoulder Running Load -- Again
With Jahvid Best ruled out of Saturday's game, tailback Shane Vereen will again receive the majority of the carries. How often he is spelled by redshirt freshman Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Tedford said, will be determined by "feel" during the game.
The No. 2 runner for the Bears against Arizona last Saturday, DeBoskie-Johnson had just one carry, which went for 12 yards. Vereen had a career-high 30 carries.
"The reality of it is you have a redshirt freshman (DeBoskie-Johnson) and a true freshman (Isi Sofele) behind him," Tedford said. "We have a lot of trust in Shane without a doubt. Shane has proven over and over that he can carry the load, and has for a couple years."
When Best has been healthy, he and Vereen have often shared carries at close to a 70-30 split, although Tedford has made it clear that that number is just a product of how running backs coach Ron Gould shuffles the two backs and not a previously planned share.
Vereen said that he was "more exhausted after the game" than normal, but that he has no lingering injuries beside the normal bumps and bruises.
"Coach (Gould) has done a great job of getting me in shape, getting me mentally prepared to take a lot of reps," Vereen said. "I've felt like I can go the distance."
-- Tight end Anthony Miller practiced on Tuesday and will play in Saturday's game. Nose guard Derrick Hill was in a yellow jersey and is day-to-day.
-- Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Wildcats. Tavecchio converted four of his five field goal attempts -- including two from 46 yards -- and had two key tackles on kickoff coverage late in the fourth quarter.
-- Best is scheduled to address the media after practice on Wednesday. Besides a short television interview with Versus prior to the Arizona game, the tailback has not spoken to media since his frightening fall and concussion during Cal's game on Nov. 7.
Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]
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