With the Cal football team’s 1-3 start, panic has ensued in Berkeley and the blogosphere — but not amongst players and coaches.
Already one-third of the way through the season, the Bears need to win five of their remaining eight games just to become bowl eligible. Yet Cal head coach Jeff Tedford is confident the squad will still reach the postseason.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said. “We’ve got to make enough plays to get over the hump.”
The Bears have shown flashes of greatness, but their inability to execute on key plays and overall inconsistency has led to the season’s slow start. After Saturday’s loss to USC, the players talked repeatedly about missed opportunities. The Trojans gave Cal ample chances to seize the game. Unlike the 2009 matchup — when on the game’s first possession the No. 24 Bears drove all the way to USC’s six-yard line before quarterback Kevin Riley threw an interception in the end zone — the Trojans were the squad squandering an early score on Saturday.
USC took the opening kickoff and moved to the seven-yard line before Matt Barkley tossed a pass into the eager hands of Cal cornerback Steve Williams. Barkley may be the media’s darling, but Williams was apparently not impressed.
“Matt Barkley kind of just stared at the receiver,” Williams said. “That wasn’t a very good play from the quarterback. I didn’t think he would make a decision like that.”
Mo’ tailbacks, mo’ problems
Despite having a seemingly unlimited arsenal of running backs, the Bears’ run game Saturday was virtually nonexistent. Isi Sofele was the No. 18 rusher in the country last year with 1,322 yards, but the senior gained just 16 yards on eight carries Saturday. C.J. Anderson had a little more success, netting 32 yards on five attempts. Brendan Bigelow, the star of the Ohio State game, averaged 7.8 yards on his four rushes. All three are capable, but USC’s front seven dismantled the Bears’ offensive line.
Because Cal couldn’t establish a run game, quarterback Zach Maynard was under even more pressure.
“They were crashing our run game, and we just didn’t have some plays pan out,” Maynard said. “They liked to stack the box.”
— Junior Spencer Hagan, who injured his knee against Ohio State on Sept. 15, is out for season, Tedford confirmed Saturday. Hagan, listed as the No. 2 tight end on the preseason depth chart, reportedly has a torn MCL and ACL and a lateral tear in his meniscus.
— Junior wide receiver Keenan Allen caught nine passes on Saturday to move into fourth-place all time on Cal’s career receptions list. With 173 receptions, Allen needs just eight more to pass Brian Treggs, father of current Cal freshman receiver Bryce Treggs.
Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at email@example.com