If Cal is suffering from any lack of confidence after two lopsided losses that turned its season upside down, it certainly hasn't reached linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
"We have to win every game from now on," Kendricks said. "We can't lose again. I don't think we are, either. Actually, I know we're not. We're going to win this week."
The Bears still seem a confident bunch despite consecutive defeats to Oregon and USC by a combined score of 72-6. Last week's bye helped them restore some confidence at practice while also clearing their minds by getting away from football for the weekend.
Kendricks, the Pac-10's leading tackler (9.2 per game), said the Bears have to play with more of a swagger and backed it up with his comments at the team's weekly media luncheon Tuesday.
"That's going to be my answer every game," Kendricks said. "I don't think we're going to lose. That's going to be my answer forever."
There's no question a win Saturday at UCLA could do wonders for the Bears' psyche as well as their prospects for the rest of the season. A victory would move them to 4-2 overall, with three of the following four games at home. A loss would make them one of two winless Pac-10 teams and set up a showdown against lowly Washington State for last place in the conference standings.
"We have to have this win," said Cal receiver Nyan Boateng, who is expected back Saturday after missing two games with a fractured right foot. "Our backs are against the wall right now. This is the national championship right here. We have to go out and win this. Once we win, I think we can get rolling."
The Bears believe they worked out a lot of their problems during bye week practices, something that afforded them time to concentrate more on themselves because they weren't implementing a game plan for an opponent. In most years, Cal coach Jeff Tedford allows the scout team players to get most of the reps during the bye week. But this time his starters and backups saw the majority of the action.
Tedford also introduced some new practice rituals in an attempt to work on intangibles. The team began and ended practice by assembling in a big huddle, and jumping up and down and hooting and hollering, as though they were about to take the field for a game.
"That's the swagger that we have all day, every day," Kendricks said. "That was fun. That's what they're trying to install in us. You have to have fun while you're doing this. We always have a sense of urgency and we always want to win, but I feel like having fun while we're out there playing is just going to help us play better."
Tuesday's storm forced Cal to alter its routine. With heavy rains pounding Memorial Stadium's field, the Bears practiced inside at the on-campus recreational sports facility next to Haas Pavilion. There was some talk of practicing part of the week at Witter Rugby Field to prepare for the natural grass at the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of people had high hopes for us. The season isn't over," Cal safety Marcus Ezeff said. "The season is brand new now. That's how we're looking at it. We're going to try to go 7-0 as well as get a possible bowl bid. Even though we lost these two games, I don't think it's ruined team chemistry. I think we're fine."