There’s been a lot of talk about Zach Maynard’s first quarter suspension in Saturday’s 31-24 season-opening loss to Nevada.
Why the first quarter and not the rest of the game? Why not give other players more notice? Why suspend him at all?
We don’t know everything that went into head coach Jeff Tedford’s decision to sit Maynard. Here’s what we do know.
Earlier this summer, Maynard missed a tutoring appointment with a coach. And as a senior, as a quarterback and as a Cal student-athlete, Maynard is expected to be accountable not just on the field but in the classroom as well. Kudos to Tedford for what could not have been an easy determination.
Because the decision was made in early June, it is interesting that the players were not told until Friday (Maynard told his half-brother Keenan Allen on Thursday). Last week in practice, Maynard still took the majority of first-team snaps, though backup Allan Bridgford did take more first-team snaps than usual.
Even though the players defended and complimented Bridgford’s performance — “Bridg did a great job starting the game for us,” Maynard said after the game — Bridgford was shaky at best. The junior was incomplete on seven of his eight pass attempts. Cal had just one true first down while Bridgford was on the field. (Maynard, meanwhile, threw for a first down on his first pass attempt, more than doubling Bridgford’s yardage total on a single throw).
“It’s very difficult to watch a game, knowing you can’t be out there with your boys for the first quarter,” Maynard said.
It took a while for Maynard to get into a rhythm, but once he did he was solid (17-for-30, 247 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions). However, once he did, the Bears were already down 14-0.
So would starting Maynard have made a difference? Of course. Maynard even admitted as much. “If I was able to start the game in the first quarter,” he said, “it would have been a little bit different.”
Would that have changed the outcome? Probably not. There are a multitude of reasons why Cal lost — mostly the defense allowing 450 total yards and four touchdowns — and Bridgford starting is nowhere near the top of that list.
I get not telling the team in June when the decision to bench Maynard was made. He’s the starting quarterback, a team leader. It would not have been good for morale. And aside from that first quarter, Maynard is expected to be leading the offense every other quarter of the season.
The decision not to tell the team until Friday is more surprising. The coaches could have told the offense about the first quarter switch-up and had Maynard and Bridgford split first-team reps during the week in practice. But had Bridgford completed another pass or two, had Isi Sofele or C.J. Anderson broken a few more tackles, had the defense not put Cal in a 7-0 hole, then we wouldn’t even be talking about this. It wasn’t just Bridgford who failed to execute — the entire team was ineffective in that first quarter.
Some may place the blame on the return to Memorial Stadium and the excitement and the pressure that came with it.
I don’t think that was it, and neither did Maynard.
“We’ve been here for a pretty good while, maybe a month,” he said. “It’s just a stadium, you know. It’s huge, it’s nice for us. But we’re a football team, we’ve still gotta win games.”
The Bears will have a better chance of doing that when they host Southern Utah at noon on Saturday.