Cal Road Wrap
Thursday, November 6, 5:00 p.m. PT
It seems like yesterday that the Ducks were preparing to host the Huskies in the 2008 opener. Technically, that game was 67 days ago, but time flies during the college football season.
Here we are in November with the final true regular season road trip now in the books. Sorry, but "at" Oregon State does not count as a road trip, even though the crowd will likely be much more hostile than the home folks in Berkeley last week.
To the recap...
1:15 p.m. - The team begins gathering in Autzen Stadium for a final walkthrough prior to the 4:30 flight to the Bay Area. Right guard Mark Lewis is kicking field goals and right-handed QB Justin Roper is throwing left-handed with surprising ease and accuracy. Lewis knocks one through from 40-yards or so that clears the cross bar and comes straight down on top of the main support post (absolute dead center), sending the ball backwards through the uprights.
3:30 p.m. - A brief scare at the luggage drop off site as four buses sit idling and empty. Could the team be here already? Did I not read the itinerary properly? Nah, they were just waiting to pick up the Arizona State Sun Devils. In hindsight, we should have just waited for them and had a rematch on the tarmac instead of flying off to monsoon territory.
4:00 p.m. - Early boarding means an early departure.
Trick or Treat. As for this costume, your guess is as good as mine.
4:29 p.m. - Wheels up. We're in the air ahead of schedule for the quick up and down flight.
5:30 p.m. - The plane begins its descent just as the hot meal arrives. Since the business office decided that airplane meals count against normal meal money (to the tune of $18 for dinner), my options are to scarf down a cheeseburger with melted cheese the temperature of molten lava in less than two minutes, or hope there is a decent place within walking distance of the hotel to spend some of my kids' college funds at. I go with the burger and immediately start getting the stink eye from our normally friendly flight attendants, who need to pick up everything before landing. I manage a few bites of salad before surrendering my tray for the good of the cause.
6:00 p.m. - On the ground in Oakland, the staff buses head for the hotel in Walnut Creek, while the team's motor coaches depart for Berkeley and Memorial Stadium. On one of the team buses, we watch the documentary Ancient Warriors.
6:15 p.m. - The Ducks arrive at what is often described as the worst football facility in the Pac-10. No arguments here. Because we are about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, the locker rooms haven't been unlocked. Most of the players go down to check out the field while the rest of the team grabs seats in the bleachers. Since nothing could have possibly prepared the Ducks for what would happen from a weather standpoint on gameday, making this detour was essentially pointless.
Jake Hucko (near) and Mark Lewis brave potential splinters at Memorial Stadium.
6:40 p.m. - After learning some more about the Vikings and their plundering, we switch to Me, Myself and Irene for the jaunt over to Walnut Creek.
7:00 p.m. - We arrive at the hotel. Unlike last week, I pick up the correct bag (this time I put a luggage tag with my name on it) and find my room. My roommate Jason Harris is busy eating candy and watching Jerry Springer. Ticket guy, no surprise there.
7:30 p.m. - Since Jason has to hang out in the hotel waiting to sort out player/guest tickets, I hook on with a crew heading off to a function at a local Duck fan's house.
10:15 p.m. - Back at the hotel, there is plenty of activity in the lobby restaurant area. Former Duck and current Cal equipment man Ed Garland is holding court, explaining, among other things, why he was MIA earlier at the stadium and failed to unlock the locker rooms.
11:59 p.m. - The weather outside is starting to turn and it's time to call it a night.
8:30 a.m. - After getting used to killing time most Saturday's on the road, there is no chance to do so on this day. I do my best to have the same breakfast as the week before.
9:30 a.m. - It's obvious at this point that the weather forecasters are going to be on the money with their predictions of driving rain and swirling wind conditions for the first day of November.
10:15 a.m. - Blustery but not yet raining, Cal's temporary open-air press box is as dry as it's going to be all day. A few Golden Bears staffers make the rounds, letting everyone know that they will be passing out plastic bags shortly, followed by towels once it really starts pouring.
Trust me, this is not a typical press box scene.
10:45 a.m. - After a few teasing cloud bursts, the wet stuff arrives for good. The language in the press box goes from PG-13 to NC-17 in a hurry. I'm contemplating typing notes on my phone throughout the game instead of risking the life of my MacBook Pro.
11:15 a.m. - The players are doing their best, pretending like they don't notice the crazy weather as they go through normal warm-up routines.
Jeremiah Masoli's headphones were undoubtedly a bit moist after warm-ups.
11:45 a.m. - Representatives from the Sun Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl are in attendance. Do they know something about today's matchup that we don't?
12:37 p.m. - Oregon wins the toss and defers to the second half. The defense comes out making plays and sets the tone. Spencer Paysinger comes up with a pick and the Ducks drive down for six as Masoli carves through Cal's front seven and dances past blocks from Jaison Williams and Terence Scott on his way to the endzone.
12:50 p.m. - T.J. Ward forces a fumble, the second of what will be five Cal turnovers, but the Ducks are done scoring points off turnovers in this game.
The TV on the right shorted out and did not make it through the 2nd quarter.
3:30 p.m. - The rest of the game passes by too quickly or not fast enough, I still can't decide. The Ducks only commit four penalties in the entire contest, but they all influenced the scoring, whether it was keeping Cal scoring drives alive, or killing their own. They had a plus-3 turnover margin and lost. They had career efforts from Ward, Nick Reed and Jeremiah Johnson and lost. For whatever reason, a victory wasn't in the cards.
6:00 p.m. - With Pac-10 title hopes sufficiently quashed, the ride back to Oakland is quiet. The collective disappointment is obvious, as no one seems to care much about how the other results are unfolding from around college football.
6:45 p.m. - Wheels up and we're on our way back to Eugene much earlier than normal. Despite the early evening hour, you'd think it was 2 a.m. based on the lack of noise coming from the main cabin. A comedy - although I can't remember what, exactly - is popped into the plane's VCR and does nothing to cure the day's disappointment.
Whoops, wrong order.
That's more like it, but there's no way I'll be able to make it even halfway through the steak before it's time to land. However, the veggies and rice were solid.
8:15 p.m. - On the ground in Eugene. A week earlier, we'd only be in the 2nd quarter, romping towards victory at Sun Devil Stadium. What a difference a week makes.
The Ducks are now auctioning game used
footballs! Only one ball per game will be offered so this is your
chance to take home a one-of-a-kind Nike Collegiate football touched by your
favorite Oregon players - scuff marks and all! What are you waiting for? – GO BID