Stanford's offense has taken a step back in 2012, but redshirt junior tight end Zach Ertz has been as productive as ever. Ertz is the Cardinal's leading receiver by a wide margin, and is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions.
Cardinal Sports Report's Kyle Bonagura spoke with Ertz,an East Bay native, after a recent practice about Saturday's Big Game.
Cardinal Sports Report: Growing up in the East Bay, what was your earliest Big Game memory?
Zach Ertz: I went to a Cal game years back at Memorial Stadium and Teyo Johnson was the go-to-guy for Stanford. I was sitting up above, kind of behind one of the end zones, and I think he scored a touchdown. I think I was around 8, 10, somewhere around there.
CSR: It's the 30th anniversary of The Play. What does that play mean to you?
ZE: The game in never truly over, regardless of what the score is or however many you're down or however little time is left and you just have to play out every game.
CSR: Nine players on Cal played in the East Bay Athletic League, the same league you played in while at Monte Vista High. Do you still monitor what's going on at the high school level?
ZE: (Monte Vista assistant coach) Chris Babcock does a good job of sending out little 'Stang reports. We all get those, all the old ex-Monte Vista guys. We still keep up with that. We went to the game when they played Foothill -- me, Ryan (Hewitt), Josh (Mauro) and Ben Gardner because Ben's cousin is on the team.
CSR: Quite a few players from the league -- Sean Mannion, Joe Southwick -- are having some success in college football. Do you keep tabs on those guys you played against?
ZE: I saw (Boise State quarterback) Joe Southwick play a little bit against Michigan State and against BYU in that game they won 7-6. It's good to see. It's fun to see other guys. I always pay attention to (USC safety) Drew McAllister, obviously, because we were so close.
Note- McAllister briefly lived with Ertz when they were high school teammates.
CSR: Cal has two Monte Vista alums on the roster -- Bryce McGovern and David Wilkerson -- how often do you see those guys?
ZE: I see them every now and then when I go home. We like to get together and throw. Bryce and myself and (Stanford QB Brett Nottingham) and some of the guys who play at Davis. I'm actually good friends with Bryce's sister. She was in my grade over at Monte Vista. I still keep in touch with her. We hang out every now and then when we go home.
CSR: Cal coach Jeff Tedford's son, Quinn, went to Monte Vista. Did Cal recruit you?
ZE: They offered me, but they didn't recruit me too hard. I don't know if they didn't' really want me or what. I think (Stanford special teams coach Pete Alamar) was their tight ends coach then.
CSR: If they had recruited you more, would you have been interested?
ZE: Probably not. I mean this place compared to there, it's pretty self explanatory.
CSR: I know you'll approach it the same, but how is the Big Game different?
ZE: I think just growing up in the Bay Area, being from here, makes it a little different for me. I grew up going to the games, seeing them play. There are a lot of Cal graduates in the Bay Area, so it's always fun to beat them and have bragging rights.
CSR: Has it been different on campus this week than in past years because the game is in October?
ZE: I would say it's pretty much the same. The students are getting ready for the game, they're pretty pumped up. The fountains are still red and they had the Big Game rally. It's a lot of the same stuff.
CSR: What do you need to do to win?
ZE: We have to be able to run the ball. This offense starts with Stepfan. He's the key cog in this offense, he kind of sets up everything else. So, we have to get him going early. That'll hopefully help set up the passing game and we just have to get over the road woes. We've had a couple tough games on the road as an offense, but hopefully that'll change this week.