Beating Nevada might seem a given for the Cal football team in its first game Saturday in its renovated stadium, but not for coach Jeff Tedford. “I remember what happened the last time we played,” Tedford said.
That would be in 2010, when the Bears got ambushed by the Wolfpack 52-31 in Reno. The Wolfpack no longer have multitalented Colin Kaepernick, who is now with the 49ers, but they still have the Pistol offense, which is unlike any other offense used in college football today. With the quarterback taking a direct snap from center about five yards back and then having the option of handing the ball off to a running back, passing or running himself, it’s much like the single wing, which was last used by a major-college team with UCLA in the mid-’50s.
Despite any worries he has about the Wolfpack, Tedford is more confident about this season than he has been in some time.
One reason is that he finally has the high-performance center he’s campaigned for and a remodeled stadium.
Both are beauties. The Simpson High Performance Center, which will be used for all sports, is much more expansive and modern than what the team had before. It also has a large room where athletes can study before and after practice, which enables Tedford to keep a closer look at their academic progress, one of his priorities.
The stadium still has its historic outer walls, but the interior has been modernized and expanded, so those going to the games will have much broader walkways and modern bathrooms. Chair seats have replaced the old benches, and there are hand rails for those needing them. The field has been sunk so those sitting in the first eight rows will now be able to see the game, instead of the backs of players standing on the sidelines. The field itself is an artificial turf that has a spongy feeling, nothing like the concrete-hard turf of years ago.
The players have responded enthusiastically to the remodeled stadium.
“I had to remind them that it’s still all about how well we play,” Tedford said. “I feel the same way about our facilities. Now, we’ve had the last obstacle removed, so we have no excuses.”
The other reason for optimism is the play of Zach Maynard in the second half last season.
“It just clicked in for him,” Tedford said. “I looked up the statistics and in the second half, he was the 13th-best quarterback statistically in the country — and he was the only one in the first year of the program.”
Cal faces a lot of problems this season, with USC rated No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press poll, and Oregon and its nonstop offense in the same conference. The Bears also have a schedule without a bye.
“I’ve never had that before,” Tedford said. “Typically, you like to have a bye in midseason when your players are tired and banged up, so we’ll just have to see how that plays out.”
And after their first two games against lesser opponents, the Bears play Ohio State and USC back-to-back on the road. Ouch!
Still, Tedford is optimistic. We’ll soon see if that feeling is justified.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.