Texas, Cal aim for momentum in Holiday Bowl
In some locales, the coaching “hot seat” has been replaced by a couch. Actually, it’s a sectional.
Seating capacity has been maximized in today’s win-big-or-else world of college football. It has become almost an annual rite that about 20 percent of FBS programs will change coaches.
Yet despite recent rumors and speculation, California coach Jeff Tedford and Texas coach Mack Brown, whose teams meet in Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl, remain comfortably off the hot seat and in the driver’s seats for their programs.
“I don’t think anybody wants to go through that,” said Tedford, who is completing his 10th season in Berkeley. “[College football] is very challenging and competitive. And because it’s competitive and you’re dealing with 17- to 23-year-old kids, things are up and down. You do your best to stay on top. Good coaches typically land on their feet. But it’s not pretty.”
Both Tedford and Brown have been subject to ugly rumors.
Both programs slumped to 5-7 finishes in 2010 and have had decent 2011 campaigns that were tarnished by blowout losses – Cal 43-15 to Oregon; Texas 55-17 to Oklahoma. Those mundane seasons led to speculation that their jobs were in jeopardy.
Yet the athletic directors for both programs disputed the speculation.
“His job security is rock solid,” Cal AD Sandy Barbour said earlier this season. “I think Jeff is uniquely equipped to be the head coach at Cal. We are so fortunate to have him lead our program.”
Texas AD DeLoss Dodds was equally adamant that reports of Brown being forced to retire were nonsense.
“I can’t even imagine why someone would start something like this,” Dodds said. “… It’s certainly not the truth. And people ought to be more careful about what they are reporting.”
Reports surfaced Monday that Dodds was considering adding a year to Brown’s contract, which currently has five seasons to go.
Tedford and Brown also have much more in common than the backing of their athletic directors. Their tenures have been remarkably similar.
Cal managed just one victory the season before Tedford arrived. Since then, the Bears have posted nine winning records in 10 seasons and Tedford has presided over more victories than any coach in Cal history.
Texas managed just four wins the year before Brown took over. But he eventually has led the Longhorns to their first national championship in 35 years, two Big 12 championships and a string of nine consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories.
Each coach also led his team to a 10-1 regular-season record in 2004, and though was seven years ago, that adds a shot of spice for this season’s Holiday Bowl.
Cal’s only regular-season loss (23-17) came to No. 1 USC, which stopped the Aaron Rodgers-led Bears at the Trojans’ 9 in the final minute. Texas’ only loss was to No. 2 Oklahoma, and USC and Oklahoma went on to play for the national title.
Cal was hoping to make its first Rose Bowl appearance in more than 50 years; Texas was hoping to make its first appearance in a BCS bowl. Texas eventually was picked to face Michigan in the Rose Bowl, where Vince Young led the Longhorns to a thrilling 38-37 victory. Cal went to the Holiday Bowl. Obviously uninspired, the Bears lost 45-31 to Texas Tech.
Disappointed Cal fans blamed their Rose Bowl snub on Brown for imploring BCS voters to rank the Longhorns high enough to get into the Rose Bowl. But Cal closing the season with a lackluster 26-16 victory over a 7-5 Southern Miss team likely was just as much a factor. Still, it remains a sore subject for some in Berkeley.
“I was taken aback I was asked so much about it at the Holiday Bowl press conference,” Brown said last week. “It surprised me because I thought we had moved on.”
Tedford knows some fans haven’t forgotten.
“It’s interesting. Some of the people probably do [have bitterness],” he said. “It’s been a long time since Cal went to the Rose Bowl and we felt that year we deserved to go, but it didn’t turn out. Back then, there were a lot of hard feelings. But 2004 was a long time ago. No one on our team played then or even knew about it.”
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No doubt, the players would rather look ahead.
“It [winning the Holiday Bowl] would mean a lot,” All-Pac 12 receiver Keenan Allen said. “It would show we can deal with big teams and we can go out and compete with big teams. It shows we can have a run for the BCS.”
Cal enters the Holiday Bowl having won three of its past four. The only loss was by three points to No. 4 Stanford. Quarterback Zach Maynard was inconsistent throughout the season, but threw only one interception in the past four games. Cal also is dramatically upgrading its facilities to provide the “wow” factor that will provide a boost in recruiting. The future looks good in Berkeley.
Meanwhile, Texas closed the season with a 27-25 victory over Texas A&M. The Longhorns currently have the top-ranked recruiting class and figure to return 17 starters. Brown recently said the Holiday Bowl could lead to “another national championship in the next two to three years.”
So both coaches have much to look forward to.
Still, if their teams struggle in 2012, there is always room on the sofa.
A look at the game
California will win if: QB Zach Maynard played well in the Bears’ final two regular-season games and needs to keep that trend going. He needs to get the ball to his talented receivers, who will be working largely against man-to-man coverage. Defensively, the Bears must stop the run and put the onus for moving the football on Texas’ inexperienced and inconsistent quarterbacks.
Texas will win if: The Longhorns have to be able to run consistently. Defensively, their defensive backs have to prevent WRs Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones from making big plays.
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