Bears Hungry to Fill Bowl Thanksgiving Weekend

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After the Cal football team's second Big Game loss in nine years - and at 48-14, its worst in 80 years - one reporter asked if the Bears would have trouble bringing the same level of energy out for this Saturday's regular season finale against Washington.

"So you're asking are we going to be motivated? We're not going to be motivated to play next week?" coach Jeff Tedford responded indignantly. "This is a big game, but next week is a huge game as well."

Huge because Cal (5-6, 3-5 in the Pac-10) will need one last win at old Memorial Stadium to qualify for even the most nondescript bowl game - perhaps the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl or the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

The fact that the 12:30 p.m. kickoff against the dismal Huskies (4-6, 3-4) is so important is a sign of just how off-track the Bears have gone this season. This has been the most trying season for Jeff Tedford during his time at Berkeley. The blue and gold faithful have seen letdowns before, but not quite like this. Cal hasn't just lost on the road - it's been torn to shreds. Nevada. USC. Oregon State.

Even among that laundry list of losses, it is the latest home embarrassment that marks the pit of the season. With about a fifth of the crowd outfitted in red, it was Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, not Berkeley's reputed quarterback guru, who had Andrew Luck looking like a future Pro Bowler.

Cal likely won't get much help from its fans. Memorial Stadium will open up for one last game before its long-awaited renovations force the team to San Francisco's AT&T Park. It will try to sustain a 43-game attendance streak of at least 50,000, but the Thanksgiving weekend makes those chances unlikely, to say the least.

But a promising sign for the Bears shot at a win - other than the fact that it will get to stay in Strawberry Canyon - is the fact that Washington may be the only Pac-10 team ringing in a more disappointing year. It needs not only a win this Saturday, but another at Washington State a week later to keep its postseason hopes alive.

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker, who would have been a near-lock to go first overall in April's NFL Draft, has battled through a broken rib, but his numbers have suffered. He'll probably still go in the first round, but his decision to return cost him millions in guaranteed money.

A Washington squad that was predicted to be on the up-and-up has suffered in step. With a less-than-stellar defense, Locker is still the only one who truly guides the Huskies' fortunes. In its four wins, the Ferndale, Wash., native has thrown 10 touchdowns to two interceptions. In six losses, the numbers flip to four passing scores and five picks.

Of course, his Cal counterpart has not exactly struck fear in the hearts of opponents. Junior Brock Mansion, who now has three starts under his belt, is completing less than 50 percent of his passes. He's only tossed two scores and has four interceptions in roughly four games of action.

In his first Big Game, he fumbled on two of his first three snaps - losing the second to set up the Cardinal's first three points.

What little offense the Bears' mustered was due more to freshman wideout Keenan Allen. On a fourth-quarter direct snap, he scrambled back and forth across the field before tossing a touchdown to Marvin Jones to prevent the shutout.

It's unsure if he'll play as big of a role against the Huskies; Tedford denied specifically trying to get the ball into Allen's hands.

"It just happened that way," he said. "The reads took us there."

Regardless, the players are confident they'll extend Tedford's bowl streak to eight - he hasn't missed one since his inaugural year at the program helm.

"We are motivated. The character of this team is never going to be to lay down," safety Sean Cattouse said. "We are going to come back. We are going to have a great week of practice. We are going to win that game, and we are going to go to a bowl game."


Jack Wang covers football. Contact him at [email protected]

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