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Washington's Mesphin Forrester breaks up a pass on third down intended for California's Lavelle Hawkins as Mason Foster (left) moves in during the second half of their football game Saturday in Seattle. Washington won 37-23. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
SEATTLE -- Since he arrived at Cal five seasons ago, coach Jeff Tedford has almost always seemed as cool as a rainy November day in Seattle. That's been his image on the sidelines and after games. You never saw him sweat.

Then he blew his cover at the end of Cal's 31-28, dagger-to-the-heart loss to Oregon State last month. He slammed his gigantic play card to the ground. Then he slam-dunked his headset.

Well, Mt. Tedford erupted again Saturday, this time after an embarrassing 37-23 loss to Washington at Husky Stadium.

Tedford's voice could be heard outside of Cal's locker room as he laid into his team. It was the voice of a coach who for the first time at Cal and first time as a head coach is dealing with a team in full freefall.

The Bears have lost five of their past six games after a 5-0 start. They lost to a Husky team that entered the game at 3-7 and was missing Jake Locker, its starting quarterback. The Bears have yet to even secure a bowl game. And a victory over Stanford in two weeks, which once seemed like a lock, is now anything but a sure thing.

"He's definitely frustrated, like everybody else," Cal safety Thomas DeCoud said of Tedford.

For good reason. Nothing Tedford has tried has righted this sinking ship. He got tougher. He loosened up. Now he's getting mad and preparing to turn the Bears' bye week into a week of hell.

"He said we need to get back to working hard," Cal quarterback Nate Longshore said. "We need to get back to focusing on everything we do.


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The Pac-10 is very good, from top to bottom.

"I like the intensity. I like what he's trying to do. I appreciate it. I agree with him. I think that's what's necessary at this point."

Cal has learned exactly how good the Pac-10 is over the past six weeks. At 3-5, the Bears are looking up at six other Pac-10 teams.

After his locker room eruption, a stone-faced Tedford calmly threw himself under the bus when he was asked about the "message" he delivered to his team.

"That they're not coached very well," Tedford said. "That falls on me. We're going to work hard to get back on track. We're going to get back to the basics because right now we're not good enough."

Tedford, of course, deserves plenty of blame. He's Cal's coach, offensive play caller and supreme leader all rolled into one. He doesn't coach the defense, but he hires and fires those who do.

That said, there's more than enough blame to go around. Tedford's players aren't innocent bystanders. Neither is defensive coordinator Bob Gregory. Everyone's played a role in this total team collapse.

Tedford is clearly grasping for answers when he talks about working harder and coaching better. Eleven games into the season, it's far too late for Cal to work and coach their way out of this hole.

Hard work the next two weeks certainly isn't going to fix a Cal run defense that can't stop the run.

Last week USC's Chauncey Washington rushed for 220 yards against the Bears.

That was nothing. Washington senior Louis Rankin and freshman Brandan Johnson combined to rush for 345 yards. Rankin gained 224 on 21 carries before injuring a hip. Johnson took over and gained 121 yards on 23 carries.

Washington's offensive line, which averaged 315 pounds, overpowered the Bears' front four. Yes, Cal was missing starting defensive tackle Matt Malele. But that's not even close to being a good excuse for what happened.

"I don't remember there being a play that they got any penetration," Rankin said of Cal's defensive front. "They really did out-physical those guys up front."

To make matters worse, Washington may have outsmarted the Bears, too.

"Missed assignments," Cal linebacker Anthony Felder said. "Early on we were having trouble recognizing formations."

Those are mistakes you expect to see in the first month of the season, not the in the next-to-last Pac-10 game.

Tedford should have realized it was going to be that kind of day when DeCoud, one of his captains, made a mental error on the opening coin toss.

Washington won the toss and deferred. Instead of electing to receive the opening kick, DeCoud chose to defend the east goal line. So the Bears wound up kicking off to open each half.

Washington drove 71 yards in five plays -- all but 11 yards on the ground -- for a touchdown to open the game. The Huskies drove for a field goal to open the second half, Rankin busting loose on a 46-yard romp.

"We couldn't stop the run, obviously," Tedford said. "We're just having a hard time holding up against the run. Anytime someone runs the ball on you, it's going to be a long day."

It was a long day, all right. And it's going to be an even longer two weeks of practice as the Bears try to get back on track for the Big Game.

"We're fighting for our lives now, trying to stop the wheels from completely falling off," Longshore said.

In truth, the Bears' season is already running on rims.

Contact Eric Gilmore at egilmore@bayareanewsgroup.com.