Nov. 16, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO - Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, senior offensive lineman Mike Tepper and senior linebacker Devin Bishop addressed the press at the Big Game Media Luncheon at Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant on Monday. The 112th Big Game will be played between Cal (7-3, 4-3 Pac-10) and Stanford (7-3, 6-2 Pac-10) at Stanford Stadium this Saturday, Nov. 21 (4:30 p.m.). The game will be televised live nationally by Versus. Cal is ranked No. 25 in the latest BCS Standings, while Stanford checks in at No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 17 in both the BCS Standings and USA Today poll. Following are selected comments of what Tedford, Tepper and Bishop had to say.
HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
"First, off it's a pleasure to be here. I'm honored again to be a part of the Big Game. Going into our eighth season here [at Cal], every year it seems to be more challenging. We have a great deal of respect for Stanford and what coach [Jim] Harbaugh has done there. If you look at it, they are probably the hottest team in the country right now. You have to give coach Harbaugh a lot of credit for what they've done there. They're playing very physical, they believe in themselves, they execute at every level - offensively, defensively and special teams. We're going to need to have a great week of preparation to be successful. It's a great tradition. It's something that every year I learn to appreciate more and more. I'm just honored to be here and to be a part of it."
On Stanford scoring a combined 106 points the last two weeks against Oregon and at USC
"It's unbelievably impressive what they've done. They play so physical. Their offensive line is the best offensive line in the conference. They're big, they're athletic. [They have] physical tight ends, fullback is very physical. Toby [Gerhart] is a runner that doesn't go down with arm tackles and has the speed in the open field to break the long one. Those games are no fluke. There wasn't anything flukish about those games. Those were dominating performances. We have our hands full without a doubt. They play very well on defense as well and on special teams they make big plays. It's probably the most impressive thing I've seen - their performances against USC and Oregon. That's not easy to do. You really have to give them a lot of credit for where they are and what they've accomplished."
On Stanford QB Andrew Luck
"Andrew Luck is, I really believe, the most underrated player in the country. You don't hear a lot about him, but we've had a chance to watch a lot of tape on him this year through crossover games and he's unbelievably poised, confident and accurate as a passer. He also has a great escape dimension. If you try to pressure him, he's going to get out of there and make plays. He's very smart with the football; he doesn't turn the football over. They've done a great job of coaching him. He understands what he's looking for, where he's going with the football. He just does a great job of what they're doing on offense. He's one of the most impressive quarterbacks I've seen this year."
On the status of Cal TB Jahvid Best for the Big Game at Stanford on Saturday
"No chance Jahvid will play."
On whether he feels Cal is the underdog in this Saturday's Big Game at Stanford, especially without TB Jahvid Best
"I would have to say realistically, yeah, I haven't seen who's favored or whatever, but I would anticipate that we're an underdog. Whatever the point thing is I don't know. They have played so well to put themselves in the position that they are, and you can't take anything away from them. Not having a player like Jahvid Best, let's be honest the guy is one of the best players in the country, so to say `We're not going to miss Jahvid Best.' That doesn't mean that our other guys aren't going to step up and play. Our other guys are going to step up and play very hard and compete as they always do. That's why I'm very proud of our team for the way they compete week-in and week-out. Other people will step up in his place."
On Cal's defensive performance against Arizona last Saturday
"It was big, there's no doubt because coming into the game Arizona was a very explosive offense, both running the ball and throwing the ball. I thought our guys played very well - up front, in the secondary - but two different styles of football [Arizona and this week's opponent Stanford]. Arizona is a spread attack. They're going to spread you out, and dink and dunk you. Stanford is going to line up and knock you off the ball, and then they're going to play-action and get the ball down the field. They're very difficult to defend. Two different styles, but I think it said a lot about our defense last week. They really stepped up and rose to the occasion, and played a good football game."
On the challenges presented by Stanford RB Toby Gerhart
"He catches the ball well out of the backfield. He's a great protector in pass protection. He's an all-around great player. I would agree with coach Harbaugh in saying that he deserves consideration to be one of the top players in the country. There's no question about it. He's performed very well. The people around him have afforded him the ability to do that, but I don't think you're going to find many tougher runners than Toby Gerhart. He's a hard runner, he catches the football well, and pass protects well, runs routes well. He's an all-around great player."
On the keys to a Cal victory
"Try to slow the run game down. It comes down to football. You put pressure on the passer, you try to slow down the run game, win the turnover battle, don't turn the ball over. Field position is very important. Special teams is big to create position. Offensively, we are going to have to do just the opposite. We're going to have to be able to run the football a little bit, we're going to have to be able to protect our passer and make some plays in the passing game. It's football, that's what it comes down to."
On Stanford's defense
"They're solid. Any defense that plays against Oregon, they're going to stretch you pretty thin and they're very explosive. But, they're physical up front. They play very, very hard. Their linebackers are physical; they can run. The secondary is very solid with corners that can cover. There are no flaws; there are no chinks in their armor. You're going to have to earn everything you get against them."
On Cal TB Shane Vereen and his workload after rushing a career-high 30 times against Arizona last Saturday
"We'll see how the flow of the game goes. Coach [Ron] Gould our running backs coach, he's always responsible to spell those guys when he thinks they need a break to try to keep them fresh. We don't have a set plan going into the game that it's this many carries, or that many carries. It really goes on the feel of the game and how Shane's [Vereen] feeling, and that's to be determined throughout the game."
On the Pac-10 round-robin schedule
"I'm kind of with [Stanford head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] in that I think it's something that we need to evaluate as a conference. We need to all get together as coaches with the commissioner and find out `how is it affecting our conference?' because we all beat up on each other. There are a lot of teams in the Pac-10 that are ranked, but each week it's a battle. I will have to tell you initially when we voted on this thing years ago, I felt like we should play everyone because I thought it was only fair that everybody have to play each other to be the outright conference champion. I felt like you had to go through the better teams ... if someone won a conference championship and they didn't have to play one of the stronger teams in the conference, then I didn't think that that was fair. But, there's so much parity in the conference right now. Each and every week is so competitive. We have to look and see how it's affecting our conference as far as on the national landscape. I think that's very important. Like Jim said, I'm sure that's a conversation that we'll have at our Pac-10 meetings."
SENIOR OL MIKE TEPPER
On the Big Game
"Losing in '06 to USC was pretty bad, but losing the Axe in '07 was the worst feeling I ever had in my life. It tears you apart and tears the community apart. It means a lot to us. I think we're definitely going to be pretty motivated to bring back a victory."
On the trials and tribulations of a college season
"It's not always about how you start out, it's about how you finish. You've got to learn to grow as the year goes on as a team, as an individual, in the sport. Stanford has obviously done that and they're a pretty good team. We have to come out prepared. We learned from Oregon State, and we learned from Arizona. We're going to work to bring our best game this Saturday."
"They're great football players. They're physical up front. They have two physical [defensive] tackles up front ... their defensive ends are fast and strong, so we have our plate full."
SENIOR LB DEVIN BISHOP
On Cal's running game without injured TB Jahvid Best "We have a lot of confidence in our running backs. Jahvid's injury was a big impact on us, but we're playing for Jahvid here, and you know we're going to continue forward and keep doing our best."
On Stanford running back Toby Gerhart
"He's a very, very good running back. We have been watching game film on him and you can't get him down with a regular arm tackle. You have to gang tackle him. He's a great running back and that makes the game more exciting to know that we all have to come together."