Dec. 22, 2003
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The California Golden Bears arrived in Scottsdale, Ariz., early Sunday afternoon, ready to continue their 2003 Insight Bowl preparations. The team took the field at the nearby Indian School Park Sports Facility, the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants' minor league team, with thoughts of winning the school's first bowl game in a decade.
The tall task of defeating perennial national power Virginia Tech (8-4, 4-3, 4th in the Big East), falls squarely on the shoulders of the Cal players and coaching staff, but they are not shuddering from the challenge according to starting safety Ryan Gutierrez. The junior from Clovis, Calif., recorded 81 tackles on the season, including five for loss. Gutierrez talks about the Bear's mindset entering bowl week in the latest addition of Golden Bear Q & A.
Q. What does being in a bowl game mean to you and the program?
"This game is huge because it is like the beginning of the rest of the programs history. A win over Virginia Tech will do a lot for our morale going into next season. It is important that we end this year on a good note. This is the biggest game I have ever been apart of. This game is not just about winning a bowl game; it is about gaining the nation's respect for our program. Personally, this game means a lot because it gives me a chance to gage my abilities against a top-notch team with top-notch players."
Q. How is the team handling the anxiety that comes with playing a big game?
"We are actually pretty calm as a team right now. The coaches have down a good job setting the tone and keeping us focused on the task at hand. I think as the game draws closer we may begin to experience a small case of the nerves, but we'll be fine. We play big games every week. We play in hostile environments all the time - this type of pressure is nothing new to us."
Q. What kind of team is the 2003 Golden Bears?
"We are a team that has no fear. We respect everyone we play, but we fear no one. I think we have finally reached our stride. I think we are finally realizing how good we can be. We have played in every type of game imaginable over the last two years. We have been behind big and came back; we have played nail-biters, and even competed in a few overtime games, so we are a team that's battle tested and ready for anything out there. I think we are a team on the cusp of something great, and we are anxious to take it to the next level."