He threw for 288 yards. He completed nearly two thirds of his passes. He had two touchdowns to just one interception. And despite getting sacked four times, he still had a net rushing gain of 30 yards.
On paper, it sure looked like Zach Maynard had a great game Saturday in Salt Lake City. Then again, on paper, Cal was a better team going into the evening tilt with Utah, and the Bears would be in for an easy victory.
The 49-27 decision told otherwise.
It is worth noting that Maynard could have played the game of his life and it would not have mattered given the lopsided outcome. Additionally, the three sacks he suffered in the first quarter were not exactly his fault.
“He didn’t panic and start throwing the ball into coverage and doing things like that,” said head coach Jeff Tedford. “He hung in there and threw a lot of really nice balls.”
Yet, more than any other player, the only stat that really matters for a quarterback is win or loss. The senior was by no means horrible at Rice-Eccles Stadium. But turning the ball over two times instead of four should not be what make his performance considered good. In fact, Maynard would have had three turnovers had he not had the awareness to recover his first fumble.
At Memorial Stadium, it seems like every time Maynard drops back and airs out a throw, the fans all collectively hold their breath. Tedford said he thinks Maynard has really grown, but in the quarterback’s two years as Cal’s starter, he has thrown 29 touchdowns to 21 interceptions, a ratio only slightly better than his sophomore season at Buffalo.
It’s not just the interceptions, it’s the timing. In two years, Maynard has had a number of game-sealing picks, including one against Ohio State earlier this season. On Saturday, his lone interception did not clinch the victory for the Utes, but it came in the game-changing second quarter.
The Bears kicked a field goal on the second play of the quarter to narrow the score to 14-6. Eight points is one score, a manageable deficit. Two possessions later, Utah ran the ball six times to tack on another touchdown. Cal had to respond quickly before the game got out of hand.
On the first play, at the 25-yard line, Maynard threw behind Keenan Allen. The ball bounced off Allen into the hands of a Utah defensive back. The Utes would score a touchdown on the drive, putting them ahead, 28-6, at the half.
Maynard did not complete a single pass in the quarter, going 0-for-3. Fifty-one of his 69 first-half passing yards came on a single throw, a safe pass to an open Richard Rodgers on a gutsy third-and-one call. The tight end was brought down at Utah’s 19-yard line, but Maynard threw incomplete passes on two of the next three plays before Vincenzo D’Amato’s 48-yard field goal in the nascent second quarter.
According to the stat sheet, Maynard exploded in the second half for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Tedford said he was really pleased with Maynard’s play for the most part.
Indeed, he made some nice throws, hitting Chris Harper for 33 yards and Allen for nine on consecutive plays. But by then, Cal was already down 35-6.
It was only after the Utes’ second kick return for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter, putting them up 49-13, that Maynard threw his two touchdown passes.
Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]