Home Can't Be The Only 'Where' The Heart Is

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Rain poured down on Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon, drizzling over the blue and yellow ponchos that had braved the Bay Area gloom. A 40-game attendance streak of at least 50,000 hit 41, but just barely.

As the skies opened up, Cal treated the lowest home crowd in almost two years to an endless pounding of Arizona State, outclassing the Sun Devils in every imaginable way. Last week's blowout to USC may have had fans filing in late, but the Bears' 50-17 laugher had them scattering out early.

"It looked today by the crowd that some people have given up on us, but I'm proud of our team that they haven't given up on themselves," coach Jeff Tedford said. "That's what it was about this week, about heart, because that got questioned this week ... It was nothing but negative all week long by outsiders.

"The only ones who believed were in ones in that locker room."

Calling out the fans and media made for one of Tedford's more colorful quotes this season, but it's not an entirely accurate assessment of what us outsiders have been saying.

The question has not been whether or not Cal has the heart defend its home field. Guarded safely within the welcoming green hills of Strawberry Canyon, the Bears' seven losses over the past seven years have only come against either Oregon State or USC.

It's whether or not they have the gumption to do the same on the road. At this point, it's a question that's been spat out of too many mouths.

Cal plays well at home - sometimes extremely well, as it did this past weekend.

The players should be praised for doing so; they delivered a beating so brutal, it appeared to have compromised ASU coach Dennis Erickson's handle on grammar during the post-game press conference.

Cal's defense allowed only three offensive points. That field goal capped an opening drive that should ended with an interception on the game's very first pass. Cal's offense piled up 139 more yards and nearly twice as many first downs.

"It's our home. That doesn't happen at home," linebacker Mychal Kendricks said, because there was really nothing else to say.

No one knows why it happens away from home - all the time. Tedford himself said the Bears prepare the same way from game to game; they fly to road games with at least a day to spare.

A time zone difference might explain Maryland two years ago, but not USC, Oregon, Washington or Utah (in California). It's not as if the team is forced to sleep in Motel 6s.

There's no magical elixir filling the orange Gatorade coolers at Memorial Stadium - at least, not that I know of. But still, consistency eludes Cal.

"I wish it was in a bottle," Tedford said. "I wish you could bottle it and know each and every week."

It's a tired refrain, but the Bears must find a way to carry over their success - bottle or no bottle. Those in the locker room know that, more than anyone else.

They fly north to Oregon State soon, presumably ready to take on a Beavers squad that lost its best receiver for the season. Considering that the rest of the home slate includes both Oregon and Stanford, the Pac-10's top two teams, Cal could use a win.

"Handling adversity is going to test our true character," Tedford said.

Take-home exams don't count for full credit.

Tags: JEFF TEDFORD, CAL FOOTBALL


Come home with Jack at [email protected]



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