For third straight Big Game, Cal suffers defeat

(Michael Tao/Staff)
Michael Tao/Staff
(Michael Tao/Staff)

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Memorial Stadium had a streaker. Stanford has the Axe.

With the Cal football team trailing by 18 points at the half on Saturday, a streaker drew cheers from a crowd that had little else to celebrate in the 115th Big Game. With more than twice as many offensive yards as their counterparts, the No. 22 Cardinal routed the Bears, 21-3, for a third consecutive Big Game victory.

Cal (3-5, 2-3 in the Pac-12) now needs to win three of its remaining four games just to qualify for postseason play.

“Their defense is as good as any defense that we’ve played in this conference for years,” said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. “It was a really poor showing offensively. Really disappointed about it.”

For the first time since 1998, the Bears failed to score a Big Game touchdown, a direct result of their lack of production on the ground. Cal finished the game with three net yards rushing. It didn’t matter which of the Bears’ three running backs had the ball — none could amass a run longer than four yards.

“We knew that we needed to stay patient with the run game,” Tedford said. “But we really couldn’t get in a lot of manageable situations, and when we did, we couldn’t convert first downs.”

Offensively, Stanford (5-2, 3-1) did not need a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback to provide an onslaught. Cal gave the Cardinal all the luck they needed — fumbles, blown coverages and, most of all, an anemic offense that led to superb field position and easy scores for Stanford.

It began with faulty special teams play that allowed Drew Terrell to return a punt 37 yards to Cal’s 34-yard line. Minutes later, Stepfan Taylor broke two tackles for a seven-yard touchdown run.

Late in the first quarter, the Bears responded with a 29-yard punt return from Keenan Allen and 31-yard reception by Brendan Bigelow.

But at the two-yard line, Cal actually moved backwards on its three plays and was forced to kick a field goal for its only score of the game.

“We couldn’t block them, there was too much pressure on the passer and we couldn’t convert third downs,” Tedford said. “This team is very stout to run the ball against.”

The Bears’ next two drives both ended in fumbles, the latter by Allen at Cal’s 20-yard line. Quarterback Josh Nunes needed only one play to find tight end Zach Ertz in the end zone for the 21-3 halftime edge.

Even though the 6-foot-6 Ertz is Nunes’ favorite target, there was no defensive back within eye view of Ertz on the previous drive. He slipped past a Cal defense befuddled by a simple play action pass for a 68-yard grab that set up another touchdown.

“It was just a miscommunication defensively,” said safety Josh Hill of Ertz’s long reception. “A lack of communication on our part. I just saw him and had to go catch him.”

It is not as if Stanford is the BCS juggernaut of prior seasons. Its top-25 ranking belies an often mediocre offense — a unit that did not score a touchdown in its previous game.

The Cardinal, losers of two of their previous three tilts, entered Saturday’s game under much different circumstances than those of the Bears. The momentum and confidence Cal gained from its two-game winning streak did not translate to on-field success.

Cal tallied a season-low 217 yards of offense. Meanwhile, Taylor alone finished with 189 rushing yards. But the senior running back and the Cardinal took their collective foot off the gas in a scoreless second half with few big plays on either side. Stanford was comfortably ahead, while Cal could not string together enough positive plays to complete a productive drive.

“Stanford’s defense did a great job filling the gaps,” said quarterback Zach Maynard. “It’s very disappointing, more disappointing than other games because it’s the Big Game.”

Maynard and Nunes had nearly identical stat lines, both throwing for 214 yards on 31 attempts.

The difference: Nunes had a run game and a defense to go with his passing.

Barring a Bears upset of a top-10 team in the season’s final two weeks, only Nunes, not Maynard, will be playing in a bowl game come December.

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

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  • Papa Bear

    Not much a mediocre QB or running backs can do when the o-line is acting like a bunch of swinging doors. That was dreadful.
    Kudos to the defense. Given that they were on the field for almost 37 minutes, they played admirably.

  • We_Got_In

    STANFORD > kal.

  • Concerned alum

    The most penalty yards in FBS, unimaginative play calling that even makes announcers scratch their heads, unprepared players who at times seem like deers in the headlights, the most unmotivated group of players I’ve ever seen, lack of understanding for recognizing the talent on the team, and most importantly, one of the lowest graduation rates amongst the Pac-12 football programs. all point to the failure of the head coach. I’d say these are very good reasons to fire Tedford. I also put a lot of blame on Sandy Barber for extending Tedford’s contract at a time when there was a lot of dissatisfaction among the alum about the wrong direction our football program had taken. We need a new headcoach to put a stop to the slide and revive the program when we still have a ton of talent on the team. Our recruiting class for 2013 is ranked 8th in the Pac-12.

    FIRE TEDFORD

    • Guest

      He’s already gone. His carcass is still there, but it’s pretty clear that his effort isn’t. Come next year, his carcass won’t be either.

    • MondayQB57

      What did you expect from a guy who listed his house for sale? I truly believe Tedford wants to be bought out. I think he hung it up five years ago when he couldn’t take the criticism for the on-side kick against OSU at half-time that allowed OSU to win by 3 points and we lost of NCAA no.1 ranking after 20 minutes.

  • Cal fan

    Close more libraries on campus, increase tuition, and use the money to fund sports. Cal fans deserve better!

  • MondayQB57

    One more reason we were beaten like a mule. Two yards to the goal and we send our lightest and smallest running back into the line. Even if you don’t want to use C.J. for fear they will key on him, where was Eric Stevens. How about a pitch out to Isi so he has a chance to dash to the goal line? Pathetic misuse of personnel and poor play calling.

  • MondayQB57

    Some reasons for our failures today and this whole season:
    1. Our O-line is not much better than a high school line.
    2. Our play calling and choice of personnel for the plays called were the result of coaching incompetence. That was very evident in the four downs on their 2-yard line.
    3. Tedford has proven that matching 4 and 5 star receivers with a 1 star quarterback is a career ending move.
    4. Treggs on two critical occasions came up 1 yard short of the first down. Was this due to his inexperience, poor position coaching (doubtful because Wes Chandler is our WR coach), and/or poor play selection? You make the call.
    The buck stops with the multi-million dollar man (masquerading as a head coach).
    5. Somebody, please give this number to Maynard: 642-2020. Maybe he needs to have an eye exam to explain the reasons he ignored open WRs and visually locks in on one and only one option.
    6. We at least have one trick play against Stanford. None today. Not even a pass attempt from Keenan Allen to Treggs/Harper.
    7. Too much Isi and too little Bigelow.

  • Cal Bear

    It is not as if Stanford is the BCS juggernaut of prior seasons. Its
    top-25 ranking belies an often mediocre offense — a unit that did not
    scored
    a touchdown in its previous game.

    That should be “a unit that did not score a touchdown in its previous game.” Are The Daily Cal writers and editors so distraught by the crushing loss that they no longer bother with proofreading their articles?

  • Nick

    Tedford has done a credible job for a long time but this season may be his last. 3 yards rushing against Stanford is ridiculous. Cal needs a new quarterback next season.

    • MondayQB57

      I respectfully disagree. Tedford was saved by players such as Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson. Tedford won’t admit to this because his ego is way too big.

      • cal_student

        disagree. Having been a cal fan during the 8-10 win seasons, Tedford has done wonders for Cal’s program. Its just time for a change as his lack of imagination, poor QB’s and Lupoi’s dickishness has really lost Cal recently.

        • MondayQB57

          Cal has the next to last graduation rate of all football programs in the Pac-12. Is that success? After Rodgers, what QB has Tedford developed? Truth be told, Rodgers came with talent. If we looked at it your way, what had Oregon done since Tedford’s departure?

    • Guest

      Tedford has a losing conference record for the last 6 years. You might have a different definition of “credible” but a losing record for a man charging nearly $3 million per year for his services is not MY definition of “credible”.

      As far a “needing a new quarterback next season”, considering the one we’ve got is a senior, … uh, duh.

      (Great analysis there, Skippy, ESPN should be calling you any day now).

  • Disgusted Alum

    3 things need to happen –

    1. Coach Tedford needs to be fired. He’s lost the team, the fans, and the alumni. He has squandered an opportunity this year by failing to prepare his team, in addition to not making the changes mid-stream that could have saved this season.
    2. Ron Rivera needs to be hired. Yes, Ron Rivera. I don’t buy that he doesn’t want the security of a long term, performance based contract at his alma mater. Wrap your mind around his, Sandy Barbour – a move of this magnitude is the only way you’ll sell the remaining seat contracts, and he’s the best, most proven coach you might possibly have a shot at.
    3. Zach Klein needs reps – this year – in order to prepare him for next season. Get the 180 lb Maynard out of the way, he is a lost cause. In addition, Bigelow needs more playing time and above all – BETTER COACHING.

    • MondayQB57

      1. Too expensive to fire Tedfraud. We can keep him as head coach for fun raising but we should hire Jim Tressel.

      2. No money to hire and pay Rivera.

      3. Zach Kline – agree. We need a four star QB to throw to five star WRs.

      • Guest

        Tressel is under a show-cause penalty from the NCAA.

        • MondayQB57

          OK, I’ll take Bobby Petrino.

          • Guest

            These are all damaged goods names and, god knows, we’ve had enough of those over the years. What we need is a name to draw the money in to cover the stadium; a name that is already a winner.. We need the football equivalent of Montgomery. Peterson from BSU, maybe; pay him whatever it takes. OR if things get much worse for Baltimore, John Harbaugh, maybe. Petrino? Waaay too damaged. Rivera? Uh, why?? Dude is way below the caliber we need.

            As for Tedford, we either pay him to stay and lose — games and money to cover the stadium — or pay him and win with someone else; covering the stadium costs AND added salary in the process. Considering the alternative, the latter is a no-brainer.

            Money is not the issue. Not with default looming from the crapsh!t product Tedford is putting on the field.

          • MondayQB57

            Let’s double Montgomery’s salary and ask him to coach football and basketball. I think Mike can find a way to get more than 4 inches per carry in the big game. Our O-line was terrible but there are ways to overcome that – maybe not consistently. But I saw no attempts to find something that might work – roll outs by Maynard, pitch outs to Isi, give Bigelow more touches, use Eric Stevens 2 yards from the goal line – none of these were attempted. In fact, it was not apparent if we even had a game plan. Our offense seem to have no focus of attack. Is it because Stanford had no weakness? Montgomery is a master in developing a game plan.

    • guest

      Sandy Barbour gave Tedford a guarantee that he gets paid his millions every year through 2015 even if she gets fires him. Good thinking!

  • Guest

    With all the talent that Tedford has at his disposal (thanks to Lupoi), it is obscene that his program continues to deliver performances like this. Three yards rushing? One 3rd down conversion out of 14 attempts? We’re paying $2.8 million per year for THIS?? We’re on the hook for $321 million for a program that does THIS??

    We cannot afford to keep Tedford in charge any longer. Even if it costs $5 million to cut him loose and another $2 million per year — on top of Tedford’s salary — to find a winning coach, it is our ONLY hope because unless we start winning, we’re gonna default on the stadium.

    • Guest

      The university can’t default on the stadium. The money will come from higher tuition.

      • Guest

        Actually, no. A Cal default leaves taxpayers stuck. That MIGHT be passed on in higher tuition costs (if it comes to that) but there’d have to be a Republican governor for that. And the odds of a Republican every becoming governor again is somewhere between slim and none given the demographics.

        What WILL happen, before a default, is that Tedford gets pushed out the door and someone the caliber of Nick Saban is brought in. (NOT NS, of course, but an equivalent). That’s the good news in all of this. The stadium necessarily puts us in big-time football where it is win or leave. That’s a good thing, by the way

    • Guest

      “We’re paying $2.8 million per year for THIS??”

      My question about the athletic program in general. Goddamn, it’s a UNIVERSITY, not a Greek gymnasium.

      • Guest

        Tedford is the highest paid State employee. The administration keeps raising our tuition for THIS??

        • Guest

          Only a small part of Tedford’s salary comes from the state … less than $200k, I think. Most comes from shoe money. That’s money that doesn’t come from us but it’s money that COULD (and should) be going to buy a better head coach

          • Guest

            Thank you for saying you “think” this because it is not true. No shoe money goes to Tedford. All of his 2.8 million annual compensation, including bonuses, is from Cal Athletics payroll. If you think otherwise, please check the source of your information.

    • MondayQB57

      Talent goes nowhere when it’s grounded by the head coach or when the head coach doesn’t know how to use his talent – in which the head coach be fire.

    • Guest

      Tosh took most of his talent to Washington. Allen is an outstanding talent, and we’ve got a few other very good players, but on the whole you are significantly overstating our talent. Just look at the depth chart: there are major weaknesses all over the field.

      • Guest

        Lupoi brought in the majority of talent for the last 5 years or so. Tom Holmoe did NOT have a Tosh Lupoi; nor did Gilbertson, Mooch, or Snyder.

        Our talent, save the O & D lines, can match just about anyone. QB? Yep, though it’s not seen the field this year. Kline to Allen, Kline to Treggs, Kline to Rodgers … all of that covers a multitude of sins. Sure the O-Line sux but Maynard is so terrible that it doesn’t really matter