Don’t dub Maynard Cal’s savior just yet

SAN FRANCISCO — Two passes into Cal’s season, Zach Maynard went to the sideline and apologized to Jeff Tedford. Who wouldn’t, with a quarterback rating of -200?

His first incompletion erased by an illegal formation penalty, the Bears’ new starter walked away from his first series 0-of-1, with an interception and the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Photo gallery: Cal vs. Fresno State

Except Zach Maynard turned into Atlas. The Buffalo transfer shook off the worst imaginable start in his new colors, giving 9,000-odd fans three first-quarter touchdown drives for braving the traffic to Candlestick. He started hitting big third-down passes. He picked up big yards on designed runs, and scrambled to extend plays. He didn’t fill fans with worry every time he lined up.

But this still wasn’t the making of a savior — not yet.

Maynard soberly rated his performance in the 36-21 win as “4 1/2 or 5 out of 10,” and he gets plenty of slack for his first bit of action in nearly two years. But how good was Fresno State, really? It won’t be the worst team Cal plays this season — circle Sept. 17 for that one — but the Bulldogs didn’t show much bite in the so-called Battle of the Bay.

It didn’t feel nearly that bad, but Maynard finished with an ugly 16-of-35 showing against a team that lost its last game 40-17 — to Northern Illinois in the Humanitarian Bowl. He floated passes that would have been easy picks for better squads, and he had the benefit of two wideouts that completely outclassed the Bulldogs’ defensive backs.

Sure, he’s dangerously quick on the ground and was able to unleash those few weapons in a way his immediate predecessors never did, turning Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen into the program’s first duo to top 100 receiving yards each since 2006.

But there’s the rub: Cal’s armory still looks dangerously sparse. Allen is a star in the waiting and Jones is a solid No. 1 wide receiver, but who’s behind them? Somewhat stunningly, only four different players caught balls on Saturday. Last season, the only time so few Bears recorded receptions was at Oregon State — also known as Brock Mansion’s debut.

One caveat is that Cal left several plays on the field, and right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin proclaimed that his team could have doubled its score had it not looked so rusty. Another is that redshirt freshman Kaelin Clay, one of the fastest players on the roster, sat out nearly all of fall camp with a torn meniscus.

But seniors Michael Calvin and Coleman Edmond round out the top five, and neither has shown signs of emerging after underachieving in 2010. Calvin — a 6-foot-3, 215-pound target who has had an injury-plagued career — was limited to a four-yard catch, while Edmond made his only contributions as a kick returner.

What does bode well for Maynard is the way this team has rallied around him. Being named a starter two weeks after spring gave him a chance to quickly grow into the leadership role, and he’s seized control of what several players say is the most “together” team they’ve seen.

Less than a year ago, the team looked frustratingly uninspired (i.e. Washington State, Washington). And when Maynard gave the ball away on Cal’s own 16-yard line, the Bears could have folded and surprised no one. Instead, they trusted each other.

“I usually get mad when quarterbacks throw picks,” running back Isi Sofele said. “But when Zach threw it, I just dusted it off … I have a lot of faith in Zach.”

Faith — maybe he hasn’t quite earned the fans’, but for now, he has the team’s.

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  • Viewofvenus

    How many picks now against USC? Was it 6? Man, he belongs in the backfield as a scat back, but he does NOT have the abilities to handle an offense.  That last pick he threw in the flat, went directly to the waiting DB !! How could Maynard not see that since he never turned his head from the flat the whole time!!!

  • Anonymous

    Do any of you folks look forward to basketball?  It’s less frustrating.  There’s a coach who really understands the game and he does not stubbornly cling to the same old plays.  Aside from the Warriors, he has not had a losing season for the past two decades or more.  Poor Warriors.  They should have dumped Chris Mullins.  But their loss is our gain.  Go Bears!!!

  • Anonymous

    That final play gave Maynard no option but to throw it high; too bad for him and us, it was too high.  That final play would have been more appropriately a third down play because of the inherent risk of a one-option failure.  Why not roll Maynard out on a bootleg with a possible pass to  a TE and another receiver and give him some options?

  • FilthyLucre

    In 2010 the Cal Bears went 5-7, totally worth it amirite?Top 5 salaries in UC system 2010:Jeff Tedford Berkeley HEAD COACH $2,349,037.96
    Benjamin Clark Howland UCLA HEAD COACH $2,076,534.61
    Ronald W. Busuttil UCLA PROFESSOR $1,984,857.89
    Michael J. Montgomery Berkeley HEAD COACH $1,859,133.28
    Khalil M Tabsh UCLA CLINICAL PROFESSOR $1,783,005.00Read more:

    • Anonymous

      Just think of it as the cost of increasing our graduation rate for football players from approximately 50% to whatever it is today (I’d like to say approximately 90%).  It’s additional scholarship money going to a coaching staff.  In the old days, Kaelin Clay would be playing but as of now, he has not played due to academic problems.

  • Being skeptical is a pre cursor to the desire for self gratification using Cal Football success as the reward.  If  you can understand that….then understand this….Maynard is the real deal. 
     Those kids love playing for each other and their coaches as well.  That  game was a typical first game.  Mistakes and adjustments were made.  Zach Maynard  is all but ready to raise the bar on the quality of Cal’s QB play.  I sat in the Fresno State section last week.  So, don’t think I’m a homie.  Cal’s offensive line play needs to improve quickly, if we are to be competitive in the higher ranked Pac 10 Schools.  Our backs seem to be able to  run just fine…..and will be ok……to complement our passing game.  (Covaughn, see the film….you missed the hole….you should have scored and received the glory due you<next time stud muffin)  Please do not even say one negative comment about the Bear defense.  Derek Carr will be playing on Sundays.  He is very good passer.  Our DB's shut down Fresno's receivers all day long.  Our d line and linebackers seem to be having fun smacking guys around.  Cal's depth on defense is my bright spot.Now, Georgio, that kid is a good kicker.  If he can produce under pressure, he will be very good.  He lined up bit short on the PAT's and was blocked twice, but he made a 40 something field goal that was beauty.(againsts the wind)….he adjusted his Pat ball to be higher later in the game and had no problem.  Please Georgio, take a whole extra yard, if you need it…Your center can get your holder the ball.  No fear, Georgio.  Why am I qualified to give advice here….because I'm Tony the Toe.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure how anyone can be sold on Zach Maynard.  Nice to see a column at Cal saying as much.  I don’t think it is being a downer or overly pessimistic to have real concerns going forward.  Found a harsh play by play critique of Maynard’s performance on California Golden Blogs.  Might be a worthwhile read for people on either side of the fence.

    • MondayQB57

      Zach has made things happen and he’s kept us in games.  Granted, he’s not first round material but what’s our choice?  Or should I say, do we have a choice?  Unfortunately, this is a game where our D shows it is clearly overrated.

  • Nice article; heck of a lot better than anything the Chron puts out.  The San Francisco Chronicle being the journalistic equivalent of the Blue Hose football team, however, that’s not so difficult. Nonetheless, good job.

    • Anonymous

      I agree.  The Chron lacks in both quantity and quality coverage of Cal, but so do most professional bay area journalism outlets.   And professional journalists are paid really to describe what happens, not to analyze it, which is unfortunate.  It is the nature of the business.  Or else their sources wouldn’t talk to them, and then they lose their job.  But even when BA columnists write about Cal, it’s really soft stuff that neither takes a stand, nor is it critical enough when necessary.

  • CED

     …iving 9,000-odd fans three first-quarter touchdown drives for braving the traffic to Candlestick.”


  • Anonymous

    I think Maynard is going to get better as the season rolls along and from the little bit I saw of him I feel better about him, than I did about Riley and Riley had the luxury of 2 great running backs. The offense seemed to be trying to give this game away. Both Allen and Jones made some spectacular catches but at the same time both missed some easy passes they should have caught. Penalties (11) committed by Cal also contributed to keeping the score close and giving Fresno confidence. Tavecchio didn’t help matters with his 2 missed extra points ( why haven’t the Bears tried to recruit a kicker?). So if Cal can get rid of some of the brain farts they should developed into a decent team. Fresno was a good barometer for Cal and next weeks game will be a barometer to see how well Tedford and the coaching staff can prepare the team for a road game. In the past they have done terrible on the road., bad coaching preparation. 

    • Maynard benefits by not having a lot of Tedford’s coaching. The longer QB’s stay in Tedford’s program, the worse they get.

      • Edisaac

        Ya, like Rogers.

        • Foothilllax

          or Boller (ok terrible pro career, but at least he got there!)