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November 28, 2010

Vereen talks the NFL Draft in postgame notebook

BERKELEY-The record book got quite a workout following Saturday's season-ending loss for the Cal football team, thanks in large part to tailback Shane Vereen.

With his 23-carry, 106-yard performance against Washington, Vereen finished off a season in which he posted career-bests in almost every category. He finished 2010 with 1,167 rushing yards (ninth all-time on the Cal single-season charts) and 13 touchdowns on 231 carries for a 5.05-yard-per-carry average. Vereen is now among the school's career leaders in rushing TDs (29, tied for third), all-purpose yards (his 4,076 rank fifth, all-time), rushing yards (2,834, No. 7), 100-yard rushing games (11, No. 7) and scoring (210 points, tied for ninth).

Unfortunately for Vereen, his last two milestones-crossing the 1,000-yard plateau and registering his 11th 100-yard game-came in defeat, as his Bears fell to Stanford last week and to the Huskies on Saturday.

"It's tough. A lot is going through my mind right now," Vereen said. "We really wanted to come out today and win this one for the seniors, with a chance to get another bowl game. At times, I guess, this is just how things go. Everything happens for a reason. It's tough right now, but we'll come together. We're a family. We'll stay a family. We'll bounce back and we'll be alright next season."

While Vereen gestured at the possibility of returning for his senior season, it is very likely that the fourth-year junior will opt to leave for the professional ranks. His comments after the game were tinged with a sense of finality.

"I don't have any idea about that decision, right now. I'm not too sure," Vereen said. "That decision, win or lose, it'd be the same. We'll see what happens."

Vereen has gone through quite a bit in his four seasons at Cal. When he arrived on campus, the Bears were coming off of a co-Pac-10 Championship and a 10-win season. This year, to say the least, has been disappointing.

"Luck of the draw. Bad luck. It's hard to pinpoint anything, specifically," Vereen said, when asked what had changed in the program since he was a freshman. "We had the talent, we had the team. We just didn't execute at times, things didn't go our way at times. You can't really pinpoint one specific thing."

The gut-punch for Vereen came as he watched the Huskies celebrate as time expired.

"I saw Washington hurry up to the ball, I thought our defense was ready, I think they were ready, and for whatever reason, he was able to squeeze through and get in there for a touchdown," he said. "Walking off the field, it was just a great sense of disappointment. Missed opportunity. It's definitely one that we want back."

Senior linebacker Mike Mohamed was at a loss for words when describing the final sequence, which saw three straight rushes by Washington QB Jake Locker, followed by a one-yard, fourth-down TD run by Chris Polk to ice the game.

"Everything, you know? Everything from my four and a half years here to, 'What the heck just happened?'" said Mohamed, of what went through his mind. "It's kind of surreal. I'm not quite sure how I dealt with it. I was just really disappointed, and just walked off the field."

Mohamed left the locker room for his final time as a Bear, and was easily the most emotional player in the postgame interview session.

"I'm really disappointed. I'm not ready to put up my pads," Mohamed said. "I definitely thought we were going to walk away with a win and get to play another day, but that's just the way it goes."

Asked what the feeling was in the locker room following the loss, Mohamed cited anger, embarrassment and frustration as the overall mood.

"I think a little bit of everything," Mohamed said. "We've been so good at home, and, with the exception of the Stanford game, we were really close, just one play away. So, yeah, we're disappointed, angry that we couldn't do more, sad, just everything."

Cal started the season with a 4-0 record at home before falling to Oregon, Stanford and Washington in three straight contests in Strawberry Canyon to close out the season.

Like Vereen, Mohamed came to Berkeley as part of a program ostensibly on the rise, only to see the team falter as the years wore on.

"I'm not sure if anything really needs to change. We've had great teams over the years; we just couldn't finish. I don't know what the answer is," Mohamed said. "We have plenty of talent, plenty of good players out there. We've just got to find a way to get it done, and hopefully, starting next year, they can turn that around. Unfortunately, being my senior year, we had a losing season. It's pretty hard to describe how much that hurts. Hopefully, next year, they turn it around."

Mohamed has recorded double-digit tackles five times this season and 11 times in his career. He is Cal's active career leaders in tackles and ends his collegiate career at No. 4 on the school's all-time list with a total of 340. He finished the game with 14 tackles, raising his season-long tally to 95 for a 7.9 per-game average. The senior out of Brawley, Calif., also recorded a sack and a forced fumble, which was recovered and returned by senior defensive end Cameron Jordan for a touchdown.

"I'm happy that I scored a touchdown, I'm happy that my family saw me score this touchdown-my whole family was out this time, my grandma, my cousin, my baby sister came out from Boise to see me play, my dad and my brother were there, and of course my mother came out and watched me play for the first time this season, so I'm just real thankful for my whole family being there," said Jordan. "I'm real thankful for everyone who's ever come to see me play a game. I've got nothing but love for Cal. That's what I'm about."
Jordan recorded six tackles-two for a loss-in his final game for the Bears. 2010 marked his best season for Cal, with 62 tackles and 12.5 TFLs.

"We've always had great kids and great talent," Jordan said as he reflected on his time in the program. "The Pac-10 is just that difficult. You never know what you're going to get. Every team can beat you, and that's what's so great about this conference. This year, we just had a rougher time."

Notebook
• Saturday was the 90th meeting between Cal and Washington, and with the 16-13 win, the Huskies now take a 48-38-4 all-time series lead. Head coach Jeff Tedford is now 6-3 lifetime against Washington, including a 3-1 mark at Memorial Stadium.

• Saturday marked the second time under Tedford that the Bears have ever needed to win their final regular season game to secure bowl eligibility. The last time Cal was in a similar position was in 2003, when the Bears came up with a 28-16 Big Game win for their seventh win and a spot in the Insight Bowl versus Virginia Tech.

• In the second half, the Huskies took a lead on their first play from scrimmage with an 80-yard TD pass from Locker to D'Andre Goodwin, the longest completion surrendered by Cal all season.

• Saturday's loss marked the end of the 88th season at California Memorial Stadium for the Bears, who will move across the Bay to play their home games in San Francisco's AT&T Park in 2011. Cal returns to a renovated and retrofitted home in 2012.

• By finishing with a 5-7 record, the Bears post their first losing season under Tedford's watch-the first sub-.500 campaign since Cal went 1-10 in 2001.

"I'm not a big excuse maker, because you've got to step up," Tedford said. "Injuries have played a role. Mike, early in the year, against Nevada, I'm not sure if we would have won the game, but he would have made a difference, having our best player on defense there. But, losing Kevin (Riley) and losing our third- and fourth-string tailbacks, we're down to two tight ends today and they were both hurt, but you have to play through it. It's football. I'm not making any excuses about that. We lost our third, fourth and fifth-string tight ends, but like I said, it's college football and everybody has to deal with it, so I'm not boo-hooing it about the injury deal. It is what it is, and you have to play through it. You just have to make sure that your depth is prepared to play and can step up. That's one of the keys going into the offseason, is making sure that happens, that there's quality depth in places and there's not a drop-off when guys go down."

Tedford finishes his ninth year at Cal with 72 wins, two behind the Bears' all-time leader, Andy Smith (74 from 1916 to 1925) and one shy of James Schaeffer (73 from 1909-1915).

"Obviously, you work long and hard, and the players have invested a lot with time and energy and effort that dates all the way back to January," Tedford said. "You have goals going in. Obviously, today was the first time we've been in this situation here in nine years to come down to the last game, so it's very disappointing. They players had a good week in practice and they were motivated to go compete today. It's very unfortunate. I felt bad for the seniors, because they've given a lot to this program."

• Today was the final home game and the last regular season game for 16 Cal seniors. Among those are linebacker Keith Browner, strong safety Chris Conte, defensive lineman Michael Costanzo, starting right tackle Donovan Edwards, offensive lineman Richard Fisher, tight end Garry Graffort, starting center Chris Guarnero, cornerback Darian Hagan, defensive tackle Derrick Hill, Jordan, linebacker Jerome Meadows, Mohamed, cornerback Bryant Nnabuife, linebacker Jarred Price, senior QB Kevin Riley-who walked out to a loud ovation sans crutches-and wide receiver Jeremy Ross.

• The Bears ended the season with three straight losses, the first such streak since 2007, when Cal lost to USC, Washington and Stanford to finish the regular season before winning the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force.

• True freshman Keenan Allen had a season- and career-long 45-yard rush, finishing the game with seven carries for 71 yards and team-highs of four catches and 46 receiving yards. His eight punt-return yards and 37 kick-return yards give him a total of 156 all-purpose yards on the day. It was the fifth game in which Allen has posted more than 100 yards of total offense, including four of his last five contests.

• Cornerback Marc Anthony made his team-leading second interception today.

• Junior punter Bryan Anger had eight punts today for a 42.9-yard average, with three punts of 50-plus yards and a long of 56, with two boots inside the 20.

• Junior placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio connected on his two longest field goals of the season, kicking a career-long 53-yarder to end the first half, the longest field goal since school-record-tying 55-yarder by Tom Schneider on Dec. 2, 2006, in the Big Game; followed by a 47-yarder in the 4th quarter. Both kicks were go-ahead field goals. Tavecchio's previous career long was a 51-yarder at Arizona State in 2009.


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