Cal takes over first place in Pac-10

November 1st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Cal takes over first place in Pac-10

BERKELEY, Calif. - Now that's what you call a helpful bye weekend.
While the Golden Bears rested their injuries, visited family and went to see friends play small-college football last week, California moved back into the top 10 and took sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 without lifting a football.
That's because USC lost at Oregon State, ending the Trojans' three-year conference winning streak and leaving the 10th-ranked Golden Bears (7-1, 5-0) as the only unbeaten team in Pac-10 play. After three years of looking up at USC, Cal is on top with a seven-game winning streak and a favorable setup to its remaining schedule.
Cal already has beaten the three Pac-10 teams with two conference losses apiece behind the Bears and second-place USC, who meet Nov. 18 at the Coliseum. That means Cal even has a small cushion in its quest for the school's first conference title since 1975 and the Bears' first Rose Bowl bid in 48 years.
Cal got back in a normal rhythm Tuesday with practice at Memorial Stadium in preparation for Saturday's visit from UCLA (4-4, 2-3).
But given coach Jeff Tedford's determination to keep outside distractions away from his players, the first-place Bears won't spend much time thinking about their lofty perch.
"It feels good, but it doesn't really matter," quarterback Nate Longshore said. "It's similar to that (No. 9) preseason ranking. It's nice for now, but we'll see what happens. We've got four regular-season games left, and we're not thinking past UCLA on Saturday, because that's the most important one."
While Tedford and his assistants spent two days on the recruiting trail, the players briefly dispersed. Longshore spent Saturday watching a friend who plays Division III football in Southern California.
He was getting constant text-messages from pals on the score of the USC game - until he turned off his phone.
"It was nice to just relax and not think about that," Longshore said.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop also received texts about USC's loss while watching his little brother play community-college ball in San Francisco. Cousins Marshawn Lynch and Robert Jordan had planned to go to the University of San Diego to watch Josh Johnson, Lynch's high-school quarterback who now leads the undefeated Toreros.
But they all reconvened in Berkeley on Sunday for a spirited, lengthy practice described by both coaches and players as the best of the year. Any pressure from their first-place standing apparently hasn't affected their work ethic.
"If you think too much about it, you'll be in trouble," receiver Lavelle Hawkins said. "We just want to stay focused on the things we need to fix."
In truth, the offense could use a little tinkering. Longshore hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the last two games - also the most narrow victories in Cal's winning streak. The Bears overwhelmed their previous five opponents, scoring at least 40 points apiece in all five victories.
Lynch, still the Pac-10's leader in rushing and total touchdowns despite having the week off, carried the Bears to their overtime victory over Washington before the bye. After getting a week to rest his two sprained ankles, his health should be less of a concern when the Bruins arrive.
"I'm not sure that he's going to be completely healthy this year," Tedford said. "There will be times when it's irritated, and he has to come out. Hopefully we can manage that."

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