Think of it like finding $20 in a trash heap.
Yeah, the loss to Ohio State sucked. After a mediocre start, the Bears absolutely eviscerated the Buckeyes in the third quarter. One field goal attempt with two minutes left and Cal could have taken the lead.
Although the result was ephemerally disheartening, encouraging signs emerged from an objectively distant survey of the wreckage.
Mohawk aficionado Zach Maynard followed up an efficient performance against Southern Utah last week with likely the greatest start of his career.
Faced with a tough Big Ten defense and 105,232 people screaming at him, Maynard completed 70.3 percent of his passes for 280 yards and a touchdown. Debatably his only major miscue was a desperation throw at the end of the game, which resulted in an interception after the game was essentially over.
The offense moved through the Ohio State defense dynamically and decisively, with Maynard leading the way on a steady diet of play-action rollout passes.
The uncharacteristic amount of rollouts Maynard attempted proves Jeff Tedford has made adjustments to his offensive game planning, with successful results. The Cal offense hasn’t looked that smooth all year.
Cal’s offensive attack finally established some type of identity: lots of five to 10 yard passes coupled with a steady running attack. Isi Sofele was competent, and Brendan Bigelow stretched the defense with two big runs.
Maynard’s accuracy and play propelled the offensive upgrade. After finishing last year with the worst completion percentage in the conference, his 71.7 percent completion percentage over the past two games would rank 15th in the country and second in the Pac-12.
Call it small sample size or whatever other cynical remarks you want to make about 2012 Maynard, but 2011 Zach simply wouldn’t be able to execute that quality of a performance. His past two performances this year rank among the three most efficient of his career.
If Maynard really is among the better quarterbacks in the conference, the Bears must be seen in a new light as they begin their Pac-12 schedule.
Put on your pessimistic post-Nevada glasses, and go ahead and say Cal will finish 4th or 5th in the North and miss a bowl game.
But with the offensive attack the Bears put together against the Buckeyes on Saturday, UCLA and Washington at home start looking like winnable games.
At the very least, Cal proved they are capable of hanging with any team in the country.
How many of those results tilt in the Bears’ favor will correlate with the ability for the neck-bearded kid to prove this game was no fluke.
Michael Rosen covers football. Email him at [email protected].