The way his team performed down the stretch, Jeff Tedford had no
room to be picky about California's postseason destination.
"We feel fortunate to still be playing, to be able to practice,
to continue to get better," Tedford said Sunday, after the Golden
Bears accepted an invitation to the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl and a date with
"This gives our seniors a chance to play another game," the
coach said. "I feel we're on the right track, going to a third
straight bowl. We came into this season as the youngest team in the
conference. We're on the way as a program with consistency. I'm
proud of our consistency."
Cal and BYU, of the Mountain West Conference, will play Dec. 22
in Las Vegas. After a 5-0 start, the Bears lost four of their final
six games -- beating only Washington State and Stanford in that
stretch. They fell out of the rankings after starting the season at
Still, this inexperienced Cal bunch finished 7-4 to reach a
third straight bowl game during Tedford's four-year tenure and
ended on a high note with a commanding 27-3 win over archrival
Stanford in the 108th Big Game on Nov. 19.
Tedford considers the positive thing about this year's
postseason preparation the fact his players don't have to face the
constant questioning about whether the Bears received a raw deal by
not being picked for a Bowl Championship Series game. Cal was
overlooked for a BCS bid in 2004 despite a 10-1 regular-season
record that featured a respectable 23-17 loss to Southern
California as the lone blemish, and the Trojans went on to its
second straight national title.
The Bears wound up losing 45-31 to Texas Tech in the Holiday
Bowl after a thrilling 52-49 Insight Bowl victory over Virginia
Tech in 2003 for the school's first bowl win in 10 years.
"We're not going to prepare any differently," Tedford said.
"It wasn't that we hadn't prepared well last time. There was so
much negativity about the BCS last year that every day we got asked
the same question about whether we had gotten over the BCS thing.
"'Do you feel slighted that you're in the Holiday Bowl?' That
never went away. Our players don't have that kind of attention
going into this bowl game."
They're happy about that, too, and want to forget their
frustrating finish to last season in the Holiday Bowl.
"We were a little disappointed last year because we expected to
go to a BCS bowl," linebacker Ryan Foltz said. "That doesn't
explain why we didn't play so well. We just picked the wrong time
to play a mediocre game."
BYU, which finished 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West
Conference, accepted its invitation on Nov. 22. Cougars coach
Bronco Mendenhall will use this game as a measuring stick for his
program against one of the Pac-10's top teams.
"They play in a tough conference and have a great football
tradition," Mendenhall said. "This will serve as an appropriate
way to measure our program in relation to the goals that have been
Cal and BYU have played only twice previously, with the Cougars
winning both meetings -- 38-28 in 1999 and 44-16 in 2001 during the
Bears' 1-10 season in coach Tom Holmoe's final year.
Now, strangely enough, Holmoe is the athletic director at BYU.
"I look at this matchup as the opportunity for the Cougars to
compete against a very fine Golden Bear team," Holmoe said.
"During the bowl festivities, I will enjoy catching up with my Cal
friends, including the players, coaches, staff, boosters, alums and
the Cal band."
Cal senior center Marvin Philip has some connections of his own
on the other team -- three cousins. Philip is a Mormon and spent two
years on a mission before returning to Berkeley in the spring of
"I've always wanted to play against BYU," he said. "They're a
very good team."