David Phillips Field, Daceyville, Sydney Australia
The University of California held their open practice session on Thursday with a light walk through before Saturday’s big Sydney Cup game to played against the University of Hawaii. It marks the beginning of the college football season in spectacular fashion with a unique Australian setting.
The Cal Bears looked extremely settled during their walk through routines and will go into the game as strong 22 point favorites according to the Las Vegas betting markets. The spread is between 22½ and 19 points with the Wynn offering 19½ points and the MGM Mirage offering a 20 point spread.
The one factor the betting markets and college football pundits haven’t taken into account is how either side will adapt to the conditions presented at the ANZ Stadium. The stadium was the site of the Sydney 2000 Olympic games opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics program. The surface is notoriously greasy and slippery and with wet weather forecast, the importance of ball security and the possibility of turn-overs are extremely high.
That fact wasn’t lost on Cal Bears head coach Sonny Dykes when we asked him at the post-training press conference about that very issue “It’s something we emphasize year round. It’s the first thing we talk to our team about. In college football the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the football game. Obviously not turning over the football is going to be critical”.
Sporting the traditional navy blue colors, Cal displayed a specially designed logo of the map of Australia with the iconic Cal name and they looked sharp during their walk-throughs.
Also fronting the media was Cal starting Quarterback Davis Webb who has signed on to the Cal program after an interrupted career with the Texas Tech Red Raiders of Lubbock. Webb appeared confident and relaxed and spoke about the challenge of learning a new football program “It’s been not too bad. My teammates have been great.It’s been an easy transition as my teammates have embraced me, just like how Sydney has. It’s been really easy working out for two months. I’ve been here for 9 weeks, yet I feel like I’ve been here for two years. We’ve bonded over the summer”.
Despite the mantle of the Cal Bears being the pre-game favorites over the Hawaii Warriors, Defensive End Devante Wilson wasn’t expecting an easy football game “We’re expecting a tough team. Their offense is pretty good from what we’ve seen on film, so we’re expecting a dog fight”.
The Cal Bears looked settled and have brought everything from the United States bar the kitchen sink. Many alumni, friends and family and a full support staff were in attendance at the open training session at Dave Phillips Field.
It was an impressive , professional glimpse into the world of college football. We were advised by the Cal Bears Associate Director of Athletic Communicstions, Kyle McRae that normally media in the USA aren’t allowed the same kind of close access or chance to fully observe a walk through session. Due to the unique Australian setting, McRae told us that they were keen to spread the gospel of college football, hence the opportunity to view the session.
It was fascinating watching the various groups of defensive, offensive and special teams go through their paces. Assistant coaches held play books up for all of the players to see as they went through their choreography of various plays. After all was said and done, the players, friends, family and alumni all gathered around head coach Sonny Dykes for a summation.
It was an incredible day as it’s not often you can walk down the streets of Daceyville and attend a premier college football program’s training session. The Cal Bears are to be congratulated for presenting such a unique opportunity to the Sydney media. It should be a superb game on Saturday and an exciting event. Let the college football season of 2016 begin!
The Sydney Cup, Pac 12 / MWC College Football Game between the Hawaii Warriors vs Cal Bears will be played at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Australia.
USA Times: Friday August 26, 2016 kick off : 7pm Pacific Time
Australian time: Saturday August 27, 2016 kick-off 12 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time