Tedford hopes Bears can get back on winning track

SEATTLE — Washington is seen as an up-and-comer in the Pac-12 North as the 2011 season approaches, and Cal is a team on the decline.

Bears coach Jeff Tedford doesn't need reminding just how thin the line can be between those two designations.

Last Nov. 27 in Berkeley, all the Bears needed to do to qualify for a bowl was not let the Huskies score. Washington got the ball at its 21-yard line with just more than four minutes left, trailing 13-10. Other than a somewhat freakish 80-yard pass from Jake Locker to D'Andre Goodwin, Cal's defense had stymied the Huskies all day.

But a 46-yard pass from Locker to Jermaine Kearse moved Washington deep into Bears territory, and a couple Locker runs helped move Washington to the Cal 1. Washington faced fourth down with enough time for one snap.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian decided to go for it, and Chris Polk ran for a touchdown on what the Huskies dubbed "God's Play." Washington went to a bowl game and Cal stayed home with a 5-6 record — the first losing season since Tedford took over in 2002.

For Tedford, the trudge to the locker room was among the toughest he has ever faced.

"It was demoralizing because we had never been in that position before, and for the reality to set in that we are not going to a bowl game, we have never had that feeling," Tedford said. "Obviously, a lot goes into a ballgame. But the reality was, they score on that play and they go and if they don't, we go."

Cal also lost by one at Arizona after missing a chip-shot field goal, and by two to Oregon — the Ducks' closest regular-season game.

Tedford believes the Bears may have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12. Cal led the Pac-10 in total defense last year and was third in points allowed, despite a few inexplicable blowouts. The Bears return just five starters on defense, but analysts say Cal has recruited well on defense the past few years and could reload quickly.

Among the defensive leaders are a pair of ends with local ties — Deandre Coleman of Garfield High School and Trevor Guyton of Redmond.

Regarded as one of the top line prospects in the nation as a senior in 2008, Coleman redshirted in 2009 and played a reserve role last year. Tedford believes he's ready for a breakout season.

"I think there was (a learning curve) because he probably got away with overpowering everyone (in high school) because he's so big," Tedford said. "We had to get him to play low and play with his hands and those types of things, and I think he has done that now and he just needs some experience at that level and speed. You can't get away with just being the biggest guy."

Tedford, who will handle more play-calling this year, has a contract that runs through 2015, making him seemingly secure. But Cal is 17-19 in conference play since 2006, which is starting to elicit grumbling in Berkeley. Tedford vows that will end, and that the last walk off the field in 2011 won't be as bad as 2010.

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