Bears can’t break Trojans in first conference tilt

Derek Remsburg/Senior Staff
Derek Remsburg/Senior Staff
Derek Remsburg/Senior Staff

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LOS ANGELES — With another opportunity to stun a top-15 team on the road, the Cal football team had its upset hopes dashed by an inability to convert touchdowns in the red zone.

Despite winning the turnover battle on Saturday, the Bears could not win the war, falling to USC, 27-9. The No. 13 Trojans (3-1, 1-1 in the Pac-12) tacked on 10 points in the fourth quarter to make a reasonably close game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum look like a rout on the scoreboard.

“I thought we had a chance to win; we had a lot of opportunities,” said Cal cornerback Steve Williams. “We always have chances in games to win, we just got to overcome the hump.”

The Bears (1-3, 0-1) opened the second half with consecutive impressive drives — impressive, at least, until they reached the red zone. Cal’s 106 yards on the two possessions was more than its entire first-half haul, but the offense stalled inside the 20-yard line and settled for two field goals to bring the score to 17-9 to the Trojans.

“Against this team, top teams, you can’t win the game with field goals,” said wide receiver Keenan Allen.

After linebacker Chris McCain forced a fumble at USC’s 45-yard line on the ensuing drive, the Bears had a chance to tie the game in the middle of the third quarter. A 17-yard catch by Allen and a 13-yard run by C.J. Anderson had Cal at the Trojans’ 14-yard line.

It was now or never for the Bears.

On second down, Zach Maynard deluded a defender, rolled left and — in the tradition of many a Cal quarterback against the Trojans — threw an interception, his second of the game.

Maynard, who completed 18-of-33 passes for 173 yards, was under pressure all afternoon and was sacked seven times.

“Zach was under a lot of duress,” said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. “When you’re under duress, you’re throwing a little bit too soon.”

USC retaliated with a field goal of its own, leaving the Bears with 14 minutes of play to make up 11 points. The lead proved to be too substantial.

The Bears were lucky to be down only 14 at halftime. USC tailback Curtis McNeal outgained the entire Cal offense in the half, and he and Silas Redd provided an unexpected one-two punch in the backfield for the Trojans’ usually pass-happy offense.

With Cal focused on USC’s dynamic receiving duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, McNeal and Redd ran for 273 combined yards. After the tandem totaled just 53 yards in last week’s loss to Stanford, USC ran the ball 40 times on Saturday, surprising Williams and the Cal defense.

What kept the Trojans from blowing the game open in the first half was Matt Barkley’s two interceptions. The preseason Heisman Trophy frontrunner was picked off in the end zone on USC’s first drive of the game and later at the Bears’ 26-yard line, stopping what would have likely been another USC score.

The Bears had two decent drives in that half, even converting on two third downs and a fourth downs on one possession. But Vincenzo D’Amato’s name was always called at the end. The junior kicker, who missed all three of his attempts in last week’s 35-28 heartbreaker at Ohio State, was wide right on a 35-yard try before nailing a 24-yarder to put Cal on the board with five minutes to go in the half.

“We just couldn’t put it in in the red zone,” Tedford said. “We’re encouraged, but there’s a lot of plays to be made.”

Even with a 1-3 start to the season, Tedford is not worried about rattling off enough wins to become bowl eligible. But the squad knows there is little room for error.

“I told the boys today, ‘We can’t lose anymore,’” Maynard said after the game. “It lays in our hands. It’s on us.”

Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected].

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  • unbearable

    Let’s face it, Cal is
    just not a good TEAM. Why? they don’t have good coaching. Tedfurd is mediocre at best, Pretendergra$$ defense is a frikin’ sieve!!! Cal deserves better than this. Hire a proven winning coach that’s capable of beating the elite teams, and challenging for conference championships each year. Get rid of Tedfurd before it gets worse, ala Holmoe!

  • RaH

    I don’t understand why the Bears can’t be USC!? It must be psychological. Cal needs to take Shaw away from the Farm. They know how to win…

  • Guest

    Things must get bad … horrible, awful, intolerable … before they will get better because it is only then that we will get change. Anger & frustration do not promote change in college football *nearly* as much as does apathy and when the stands are 1/4 full because fans cannot stand to watch the product on the field, things *will* change.
    Look down the road and you can see the new coach a-comin’. Tedford is gone because this horrible, awful, intolerable season is upon us. Embrace the concept that Cal will be bad this year because it’s only then that things will get better.
    Whatever you do, though, do not go to any home games and don’t let your friends do so either. Cal stuff? Don’t buy it. Just turn your back on the whole process because you *can* make the difference in a brighter tomorrow for Cal football.
    Rock the apathy!

  • MondayQB57

    The game clock did what the game warden couldn’t – euthanize the bears. I’m glad it’s over. I’ll be more glad when Tedford is over. Someone, please buy his house fast so he can get the h— out of here and save my sanity. I can’t bear watching the same old east-west game that get’s no yardage. I can’t bear watching Furd run all over SC and all they did was run it up the gut. No, arrogant Tedford has to stick to his program. Oregon got tired of that and guess where they are after Tedford left. That’s what I call a $2,000,000 hood-wink.

  • MondayQB57

    So, I was looking back for nostalgic reason. I couldn’t help but notice that Cal has scored only three touchdowns against USC since 2008.

  • http://twitter.com/CalGiantsNiners Cal SFGiants Niners

    The usual mistakes and the usual excuses by the Head Coach. Bowl eligible? What, for the “Who Gives A Damn” bowl in Nowhere, USA?

    While it was unrealistic to expect Cal to win the last 2 road games against top 25 teams, they did have their chances but predictably self-destructed.

    It’s so time for a coaching change at even this point in the season. I’d like to see what Clancy could do with the talent on this team.

    But, as with the disaster that was Holmoe, this Cal administration will most likely repeat the same mistake and wait it out for another 3+ years.

    • Disgusted Alum

      Gee, what a surprise – we lost to SC for the umpteenth time. FIRE Tedford already! I wonder how Ron Rivera would feel with the same job security and a chance to coach his alma mater? Something to ponder, Sany Barbour.

      • Guest

        Ron Rivera??
        Dude, when we finally dump Tedford — and you can bet that this is JT’s last hurrah; 7-5 or he’s out — we *will* be replacing him with a Best-of-Breed coach; someone who has had success and wants to move on. Ault from Nevada, Peterson from Boise, “Chucky” Gruden? Maybe.
        Enough with the promising but inexperienced no-name who’s never before run a successful program because we’ve had an endless string of those — Tedford, Holmoe, Gilbertson, Mooch, Theder, Kapp — and we know how that story will end.

        • I_h8_disqus

          I hope that Sandy is thinking the same thing. Though I don’t think Gruden is a fit, I do like the idea of trying to get the Nevada or Boise St. coach. Though this will mean that Sandy has to start paying more money. If we want to be elite, then we have to pay. Of course, that will mean a lot more revenue too, once the wins start coming in. Michigan was paid millions to face Alabama in their game this season. Those kind of pay days would eliminate any need for the university to pay anything to the athletic department.

      • I_h8_disqus

        Ron is the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers. He is not going to step away from that new job with its potential to coach Cal.

    • sshafikh

      I agree with everything you said except giving the rain to Clancy. He’s one of the worst defensive coordinators Cal has had. The only person on the coaching staff who’s been consistently good is the running back coach Gould. I can’t wait until Tedford is fired.

      • MondayQB57

        BEAR in mind that it was Tedfraud who says Clancy shares his wimpy bend-but-don’t break defense philosophy. The keep on playing the 3-4 with little blitzing. Hence, we’ve been the doormats of the Pac-10 from a defense standpoint.

    • http://twitter.com/CalGiantsNiners Cal SFGiants Niners

      The Cal defense kept the team in the game today. I don’t agree he’s the worst-did you see the Bob Gregory coached D before Pendergast? Just awful. But it’s hard to judge because it appears that Tedford has his hand in everything about this team, including not finding a COMPETENT field goal kicker.

      There is just so many things wrong about the adult leadership of this team, but the administration will pretend that all is swell in Berkeleyville because we have the new training facilities and the remodeled stadium. What we don’t have is a COMPETENT head coach!