DG on PX - Time for Cal to look beyond Roses

Cal offensive tackle Mike Tepper

Cal was supposed to go to the Rose Bowl this season. After losing a bowl game played before Christmas, one player says the Bears, more specifically some fans, must aim higher.

SAN DIEGO – Mike Tepper has three words for Cal fans that think an 8-5 season is good enough.

"Screw you guys."

Moments after playing his final college game, a 37-27 Poinsettia Bowl loss to Utah, the senior offensive lineman sat in the bowels of Qualcomm Stadium and said Cal should win a national championship.

"It should be our expectation. If it isn't the expectation by our fans, our fans are messed up," Tepper said.

"I go on the boards and read stuff occasionally. ‘I was here when we were 2-and-whatever and 8-5 is a good season for Cal.' Screw you guys. You need to get your priorities straight. This is a football program as much as it an academic institution and you need to expect it. If you don't have those expectations, you need to walk away from this university because that's not what our university is interested in.

"You need to push the football team to be the best as possible. If you don't, you don't have your priorities straight."

And maybe that's the problem for the Golden Bears. They are aiming too low.

Fans came into this season thinking Cal would finally quench its Rose Bowl thirst after more than five decades wandering through the desert.

No talk of the other game in Pasadena. No talk of national championships. Just Rose Bowl before I die.

Oregon doesn't care about New Year's Day. Coach Chip Kelly's goal was to go from nine – the Ducks' ranking in the final polls of 2008 – to one. As in No. 1. As in holding up the crystal football.

For all Pete Carroll's bravado about owning the Rose Bowl, USC has regarded the last three seasons as a disappointment - inside the program and out – for playing its last game on Jan. 1.

Cal fans seem to want the path of least resistance: whatever takes them to the Rose Bowl. If it means, someone else playing for the title and the Bears backing in, so be it.

"We're not going to accept anything but victory," Tepper said.

"(Athletic director) Sandy (Barbour), Coach (Jeff Tedford), all the coaches and players, we all believe we can win a national championship. We just got to do it. As much as they hold us to that, why doesn't our fan base as well? I like our fans. I think they're great. They traveled pretty well, but people who don't buy this as a bad season are incorrect."

The Bears have the talent to win. The players are there. Running back Jahvid Best was healthy when Oregon and USC pushed around Cal. Defensive lineman Tyson Alualu is a beast. Up and down the roster are the necessary athletes.

Many will put the blame on Tedford for a passive offensive game plan or defensive coordinator Bob Gregory for a secondary that missed tackles and assignments all night long or special teams coach Pete Alamar for a 61-yard kick return that put the Utes right back in the game after falling behind 14-0.

Wrong again, according to Tepper.

"If you're getting paid as much as our coaches are, you're going to have a good game plan. If you don't, they are going to make adjustments on the sidelines and make it a good game plan," he said. "I think it is player execution.

"Once again, it was everyone taking turns. We missed protections. Kevin didn't throw the ball fast enough on a protection. He overthrew a fullback. I missed a block on a run play. I know Mark Boskovich missed a block on a run play that if he would have hit, he would have separated and it would have been six points. We took turns making mistakes.

"This team has enough talent to beat Florida or Alabama or anything, I think it's a sense of urgency on the players. It was spotty (all season long)."

This isn't a disgruntled player running his mouth on his way out the door. Tepper has given six years to Cal. He missed one season with a torn pectoral and lost another in a profound act of heroism, protecting a female friend and ending up with a broken leg after being hit by a car.

Most importantly, he's right.

Tedford is one of the highest paid employees in the state of California. The university is spending millions to upgrade Memorial Stadium.

If you don't want to win it all, drop the program.

Otherwise, what's the point?

That is Tepper's point.

Dan Greenspan blogs about the Pac-10 for CollegeFootballNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dangreenspan or email him at greenspancfn@gmail.com.

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