Bears, Huskies both need to win for chance at bowl
Sure, there will be plenty of nostalgia for California on Saturday. It will be the Golden Bears' final game at Memorial Stadium before it receives a major facelift, and they play their home games in the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park next season.
Yet Jeff Tedford's players have a lot more to think about: becoming bowl eligible.
They must beat Washington to get there, while Steve Sarkisian's Huskies have to win Saturday and again in their Apple Cup rivalry game with Washington State to reach six victories.
The Bears are trying for a school-record eighth straight bowl berth.
''I don't know if it's a sense of urgency. I would call it more a sense of motivation, great determination to get a 'W' this weekend against Washington, who put it to us last year,'' said Cal junior tailback Shane Vereen, who hopes to add to his career-high 1,061 yards this season.
''They took it to us and we're going to have to show up again on Saturday if we want to extend our season and we want to beat a good Washington team.''
Yes, Cal (5-6, 3-5 Pac-10) certainly must find a way to bounce back from an embarrassing 48-14 home loss to Stanford in last week's Big Game - and everybody knows it will be a lot sweeter to send its 87-year-old stadium out in style considering all the festivities already planned.
Washington (4-6, 3-4 Pac-10) is trying to return to a bowl for the first time since 2002.
The Huskies are well rested after a 24-7 victory over UCLA last Thursday night. Winning two more games would be a big step for this rebuilding program that in its best days would play in a bowl game almost every winter.
''The bowl game would be great for a lot of reasons,'' Sarkisian said. ''Let's not kid ourselves here. From the first standpoint of, from our seniors, who have had four to five years of adversity, to give them that opportunity, to be in a hotel room for Christmas and to be at a bowl game, and to get gifts and all of those things that that entails. I think it's important.''
This is the second time under Tedford that Cal has needed to win its regular-season finale to secure a bowl bid. In 2003, the Bears came through with a 28-16 victory in the Big Game to make the Insight Bowl. Cal is 5-2 in its first seven bowls with Tedford as coach.
Tedford is thinking more about extending the season than avoiding a losing record.
''That's enough motivation,'' he said. ''I don't really look at it the other way on the negative side of it, more the positive aspects that could come out of it if we play well and get a victory.''
A week after Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck had his way with the Bears - 16 of 20 passes completed for 235 yards and two touchdowns, along with a 58-yard run - Cal will look to slow down Washington QB Jake Locker, who went 10 of 21 passing for 68 yards and ran for a touchdown in the Huskies' win over UCLA just 2 1/2 weeks after cracking a rib.
Despite the unimpressive numbers, Tedford knows Locker is a threat.
''You still see a guy who's very explosive. He's big, he's fast, he gets in the open field,'' Tedford said. ''They have designed runs for him where he can get in the open field and he can hurt you. Moves the pocket, makes plays with his legs and then getting out of the pocket and throwing the football. He can throw it accurately in designed passes and he can make things happen when things break down, and he has weapons around him.''
A year ago in Seattle, Locker had one of his best games ever against the Bears. He threw for three touchdowns, ran for two more and Washington whipped 19th-ranked Cal 42-10.
He came back for his final season - rather than leave early for the NFL - for another shot at playing in the postseason.
''It's one of the big reasons I came back, the opportunity to do that, to play in a bowl game and go hang out somewhere for a week with the team and do some fun things,'' Locker said. ''But as coach told us and I think it's very true, you can't win both without winning the first, so you can't get ahead of yourself and have to focus on what's in front of you - and that's the Cal Bears at this point.''