PASADENA, Calif. — Left hand in his pocket, right arm leaning on the podium, Jeff Tedford stood silently Saturday evening, wearied and forlorn. Asked about a quarterback change for next week after current starter Zach Maynard threw four picks in Cal’s 31-14 loss, the head coach chewed his gum and paused.
Chomp. Pause. Chomp. Pause.
He chewed, but he didn’t exactly bite.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll look at the tape and make a determination.”
There was no fiery demeanor, no declaration of confidence, no nothing. Just a silent coach and a silenced team on what should have been a silent Pasadena evening.
UCLA was down six players after a a brawl in its last game. UCLA was downtrodden after getting embarrassed 48-12 on national TV. UCLA will soon be down a head coach, with Rick Neuheisel not likely to last another season.
Instead it was the Bruins’ pistol offense that was doing the firing.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince was running past Cal defenders, and running back Derrick Coleman was running through them. Coleman powered his way for 80 yards and three touchdowns, but Prince was the crown jewel. The junior signal caller ran for 163 yards, effectively eluding the Bears’ secondary and linebacker corps.
The pistol can stun someone at first, but Cal had seen the weapon before. The Bears torched the Bruins, 35-7, last year and said they were prepared after studying tape during the week. Tedford said that the UCLA offense on Saturday “wasn’t a whole lot different” from last year, and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said the offenses were “identical.” Safety Sean Cattouse even lamented after the game that the team had a plan for Prince.
Yet when it came to execution, Cal would miss one-on-one tackles and misread plays, spending a large chunk of the game chasing down Prince’s No. 4 robe. Behind nearly 300 rushing yards, the UCLA football team effectively came back from the dead. And it was the Bears that were digging their own grave.
“The quarterback killed us today,” Tedford said of Prince, though he could have been referring to Maynard.
Three of Maynard’s passes were caught by UCLA safety Tevin McDonald, who had more catches than Cal’s No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers combined. Maynard is pretty inaccurate, but he was able to toss the ice pack cleanly on Neuheisel’s hot seat. Barring an incredible end-of-the-season run or upsets over USC or Stanford, he will still get fired at the end of the season. Only now, after the Bears tossed Saturday’s game away, it seems the glow of his hot seat has dimmed and the calls for him to be fired midseason have been silenced.
Saturday was supposed to be the last straw, the final blow for the Bruins’ season and Neuheisel’s tenure. Cal defensive lineman Trevor Guyton called it “a game we should have won.” Guyton wasn’t all that talkative either after the game, but his silence spoke volumes. He sniffled as he shuffled his way up to the podium. If he looked down when he answered questions, it was not for lack of interest; rather, it was because his eyes were watery.
The senior was asked about UCLA’s intensity, and he took a deep breath before answering that the Bears clearly did not match it.
“Something wasn’t right,” he added.
When something goes wrong, Tedford is the first to admit it — “Turnovers killed us,” he said. But maybe he’s also the last one to know — he still said he will need to review tape before deciding on next week’s starting quarterback.
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