This was supposed to be my “Fire Jeff Tedford” column after Cal’s 27-17 loss dropped the squad to 1-4, the worst start in the Tedford era.
But it isn’t.
This was supposed to be my “Replace Zach Maynard with Zach Kline” column after Maynard threw incomplete passes on 19-of-28 attempts, most of which were not close.
But it’s not.
This was supposed to be my “Start Brendan Bigelow at tailback” column after Bigelow, who averages 20.6 yards a carry, did not touch the ball once on Saturday.
But it won’t be.
The effort was there; the passion was there. At this point, there’s not much more you can ask of this team.
“What do you want me to reassess and hope for?” asked a choked-up Tedford after the game. “We’re gonna work our tails off … We’re not gonna quit. We ain’t quitting.”
Isi Sofele came out of the locker room sniffling. Avery Sebastian seemed disinterested in talking about his impressive play in his first career start. Keenan Allen came out to answer questions despite vomiting during the game.
“I don’t think it’s the flu,” he said, as if that made everything better.
But is losing contagious? It’s three straight games now. Cal has not led in a game since early in the fourth quarter three Saturdays ago.
It would be easy to blame this all on someone. Tedford would make the obvious scapegoat.
Tedford made some questionable decisions Saturday, but it’s not necessarily his fault that passes are incomplete. Maynard made some horrendous throws, but it’s not necessarily his fault he has only a few seconds to get rid of the ball before he’s sacked, and it’s not always his fault when receivers drop balls. It’s not the offensive line’s fault the squad’s best starting field position was the 27-yard line. The list could keep going on.
Even with no rushes from Bigelow, Cal’s running game might have been the highlight of Saturday. Seniors Sofele and C.J. Anderson combined for 183 yards on 23 carries.
There were countless lowlights — the penalties, the turnover, the unsuccessful third downs. Whatever the cause, Cal is 1-4, and the Bears will have to win five of their next seven — including a visit from No. 2 Oregon — just to become bowl eligible.
Starting Kline and Bigelow and firing Tedford and the coordinators sets a bad example. It wouldn’t be worth an 8-4 season next year. It would also be quitting. Save the “Fire Tedford” talk for the offseason. There are still seven weeks. There’s still fight in this Cal club, and maybe some wins too.
“Of course we didn’t envision being here, but now is when our true character comes out,” Tedford said Sunday.
It’s just that fans — students, alumni, really any spectator — we’re worn out, too. Not to the extent of the players and coaches, but Saturdays also take a mental, emotional and physical toll on us. It hurts.
At some point, the numbness will subside. Hopefully it already has. We’ll go back to studying for our unnecessarily early midterms, we’ll return to our normal everyday lives. Next Saturday we’ll come together again to commiserate — or celebrate, who knows? — when Cal hosts UCLA.
I have no moral to this story. Maybe Cal goes on a winning streak, makes a bowl game, and all is forgotten. Maybe Cal keeps losing, and we all go back to the rest of our lives.
Or maybe, like Allen, we’ll get over that sick feeling in our stomachs and return to the field still hungry, still fired up and not ready to give up on the Bears just yet.
Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]