What better way can there be to spend a beautiful afternoon in late July than to sit in a tiny room with artificial lights and heat generating technology, speculating over impossible history? Nothing I can think of! Welcome to Game 2 of the Avezzano Cup playoffs. If you missed Round 1, it's here. Playoff rules, such as they are, are right here, although I reserve the right to make them up on the fly. Because I always wanted to be imperialist England.
Game Two features the #2 seed University of California Golden Bears of 2001 (1-11 / 0-8), the worst of a bad lot of Cal football teams of the era, and the worst Cal team since the McKinley administration, against #15 seed University of Colorado 2011 (3-9 / 2-7), the worst Colorado team in .. well, two years. Who will reign subpreme? Will the Bears live down to their seed and survive for a potential finals puke fest with 2008 Washington?
(How is it possible that Cal only managed one spot in the bracket? Just doesn't seem fair, does it? At least Colorado has an excuse..)
How They Got Here
The best thing Cal had going for it in 2001 was its preseason marketing campaign; can you imagine any other school getting away with this?
Alleged head coach Tom Holmoe pulled in well-traveled coordinator Al Borges from UCLA in an effort to provide a spark to an offense that barely managed 320 yards a game in 2000. It worked, sort of -- the '01 Bears managed almost 350 yards a game. Unfortunately, the defense, despite the presence of future probe questioner Scott Fujita, leaked like a disgruntled White House back office lackey, shredded to the tune of 446 yards a game, a deprovement of almost a full football field. This was reflected on the scoreboard.
Expected to compete for the bottom third of the conference title, Cal threw up its hands instead and shouted "Tedford, please." The hibernating Ursas Minor were hammered by 21 points a game in 2001, but were spared a 0-11 record by fate: a game with Rutgers on Sept 15 was rescheduled when college football shut down following 9/11, and Cal managed a 20-10 win in late November over one of the few teams that cared less about playing than they did.
This highlight of the Oregon @ Cal game could be considered mandatory viewing for any team interested in learning the finer points of How To Not Tackle:
The Buffs had nowhere to go but up in 2011 after being destroyed by Dan Hawkins and jumping to the Pac-12, although they weren't quite able to meet the lack of expectations; picked 11th in their new conference, Colorado rolled out to a 0-6 record and in a five game stretch were outscored 234-64.
The marketing department didn't have much to work with, producing a "pump up" video that would at best inspire heads to enter gas ovens from Greeley to Fort Collins:
But Jon Embree's team showed a bit of resilience, knocking off Arizona in Mike Stoops' swan song, and closing the season with a shocking road win over bowl bound Utah. So, something to build on, but not enough to keep them out of the Avezzano Cup.
Benzduck's Line: Colorado 2011 -3 .. Buffs are favored on the basis of a small talent advantage and a big edge in coaching and overall optimism.
Final Score: 2011 Colorado 27, 2001 Cal 23
The Golden Bears took a nine point halftime lead into the 4th quarter, but couldn't survive its own ineptitude. After a three-and-out, Colorado drove 87 yards, almost all on the ground, with Josh Ford going off tackle for 36 yards to bring Colorado within two. Another three-and-out by Cal, and with 5:49 remaining Colorado has a first down at the Cal 12 but settles for a FG and the lead. Cal can only manage one first down, and after Kyle Boller's pass is batted away on 4th and 13 with 1:41 remaining the Buffs cash in another FG for the final margin.
The third quarter reflected the quality of play, with 11 punts (Cal won that contest 6-5). And Cal's final series could stand as a microcosm of its season:
|2001 California (Cal) at 0:51|
|0:51||1/10||own 13||23 - 27||041||Boller gains 2 yards on a bootleg and gets out of bounds.
|0:47||2/8||own 15||23 - 27||041||Boller gains 1 yard on a bootleg.
|0:32||3/7||own 16||23 - 27||131||Boller's pass is to Toler who makes the catch and falls forward for a 8 yd gain.
|0:15||1/10||own 24||23 - 27||131||Boller spikes the ball.
|0:13||2/10||own 24||23 - 27||140||Boller throws the deep ball down field but it is incomplete.
|0:02||3/10||own 24||23 - 27||131||Boller throws the deep ball down field but it is incomplete.|
Thus, the bracket: