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The Life

October 20, 2008

(at UA 42, Cal 27)

Thank you, red pants. Thank you.

Keola Antolin was born in Hawaii and his first name means “the life,” as in, “I can’t for Keola of me figure out this Wildcat football team.”

From October 2006 to October 2008 Mike Stoops is 4-3 (.571) against ranked teams. That means his Wildcats are 10-9 (.526) against unranked teams during the same span. Go ahead and try to make sense of that.

Cal is undefeated this year…except when they play a GRONK! Maryland’s Dan scored a touchdown to help beat the Bears earlier this year, while Rob and Chris did their thing here. Jeff Tedford may want to avoid scheduling little brother Glenn’s Williamsville North High School.

More nonsense: Willie Tuitama has thrown just three interceptions this year. Two of them have come on screen passes.

There were a combined 31 points scored in both the second and third quarters Saturday night. Cal got us 17-14 in the second, but I think we made up for it with 28-3 in the third.

I do like 28-point quarters. Considering we only scored 23 at Stanford it’s safe to say we like playing at home.

It’s also safe to say that Keola is a little sore today. In addition to 22 touches from scrimmage we also made him return kicks the entire game. It was like he was back in high school. The only thing missing was standing with the homecoming court at halftime.

Warning, potential maturing: On the opening possession of the third quarter the Cats were down ten but didn’t panic. After a run, a pass and another run we had two first downs. Then, on 1st and 10, Willie Tuitama faked the handoff and threw deep to Mike Thomas for the touchdown that got us back in the ballgame and started the scoring explosion.

But…having to take a timeout on an extra point in a tie game? Are they trying to set the record for most heart attacks at a single sporting event?

More from the We Can Laugh About It Now Because We Won file: Mike Stoops again turned his defensive timeouts into points for the other team before halftime. Even though it was the correct call – taking timeout as the Bears faced 3rd and 23 with 1:41 left in the second quarter – all it did was allow us to go three-and-out, give up a 34-yard punt return, allow two quick outs, and watch Cal kick a field goal to push the lead to ten. The next time the other team tries to run out the clock to end the half, we may want to just let them.

All in all it was the same madness we’ve come to expect from the Cal-Arizona series. The Cats and Bears have now played 28 times and each side has an identical 13-13-2 record. Because of our relationship as college football’s Corsican Brothers, don’t be surprised if Cal recovers from this loss and ends up exactly one win short of the Rose Bowl.

Bear fans are the ones who most understand our tortured gridiron existence. One year ago they came nine yards short of becoming the #1 team in the land. Instead they lost six of their final seven games to finish in 7th place and a game out of the Pac cellar. It was like they had their version of going from 12-1 to 41-7 all in the same season.

While we bemoan 30 years without the Rose Bowl, the Bears’ run of sadness is at 49 seasons and counting. The last Cal to have a streak that long was Ripken, Jr.

Speaking of losing streaks, an added bonus in picking up a big win is we finally get to enjoy the disaster that is Arizona State football right now. When we previewed their schedule last year we knew the Devils would get off to a fast start but we banked on them having a four-or-five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. But then 5-0 turned into 8-0 and then 10-2, which wasn’t pleasant in the least.

This year we hoped Georgia would kick off a five-game Sunny slide, but UNLV got the ball rolling a week earlier. When ASU takes the field this Saturday it will have been a full 48 days since their last win. That’s a lot of Wildcat peace.

Back to our first-place Cats, as hard as it was not to overreact to last week’s loss, we need to try our darndest to avoid overreacting to this win. It may not have taken as long, but we still only have what we’ve had the last two years: two upset losses and one upset win. The challenge now is to do something different.

Beating USC would be different.

The Trojans remain the only Pac-10 team Mike Stoops hasn’t beaten. USC wins the league every year and they’re the heavy favorite once again since they already beat Oregon and they get Cal at home.

(It’s worth nothing USC may have already lost to their biggest challenger this year. Oregon State also plays both Cal and Oregon at home so they’ve got to be considered a dark-horse contender. The Beavers’ biggest problem? It’s the same as USC’s: They have to travel to Arizona Stadium.)

Here we go. The neighborhood bully is coming into our backyard, and we might just have a big enough slingshot this time. We’re sizable underdogs for a reason, but our program is facing a huge opportunity and that’s all you can ask for.

We’ll deal with reality if we have to next week, but for the first six days of this week we control our own destiny, and on the seventh day, we face it.

Let’s see if Keola and company are ready for the life.

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