Jeff Tedford had more excuses than answers following Saturday’s loss.
The Cal football team’s head coach continued to attribute the 49-27 loss predominantly to the 21 points the Bears gave away to Utah on two kickoff returns for touchdowns and scoop fumble for a touchdown.
But Cal was down 42-13 before the second kick return touchdown and 42-6 before the Bears’ three late touchdowns. Zach Maynard threw for 219 of his 288 passing yards in the second half, which was almost trivial following a four-yard second quarter.
“Was this one of the worst games I could remember? This year, yeah,” Tedford said.
Needing to win out to make a bowl, the Bears (3-6, 2-4 in the Pac-12) are on track for their worst season since 2001, when the club went 1-10 and fired Tom Holmoe. Tedford was hired and led Cal to a 59-30 record in his first seven seasons. Since 2009, the Bears are just 23-24.
“It’s new territory, and it’s not fun, I can tell you like that,” Tedford said. “I’m not gonna put the blame on one thing … You can’t put your finger on one thing.”
Each week there is a new leak in Cal’s suddenly defunct system.
At Ohio State, blown coverage by the Bears led to the Buckeyes’ game-winning touchdown. Versus USC, Maynard was sacked nine times. Against Stanford, Cal could not run the ball, rushing for three total yards in the 21-3 loss.
In Salt Lake City, besides the critical 21 points, there were two other turnovers, the punchless first-half offense and an injury-depleted roster.
While Tedford is correct that new problems arrive every week, it is not as if early-season woes have gone away.
Pass protection remains an issue. The Bears have still allowed more sacks than any team in the country after giving up four more Saturday.
Cal ranks last in the conference in time of possession and 119th in the nation in penalties.
“It’s gotta be utmost important that when we go to the practice field, that every day is for a purpose and every drill is for a purpose,” Tedford said. “There’s pressure all the time. I have a knot in my stomach every single week.”
The squad’s relatively mediocre 2012 campaign has seen occasional flashes of success. The Bears beat No. 25 UCLA by 26 points on Oct. 6 before going on the road and dispatching Washington State.
Defensive end Todd Barr said it was frustrating that the team can’t sustain that level of play.
“We just have to have confidence and faith and know that we can be a good team,” Barr said. “We’re really reevaluating ourselves and looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying, ‘What is it we are doing wrong as a whole team,’ trying to fix it before it gets out of hand.”
Looking at a possible 3-9 season, many would say things are already out of hand.
In the last two weeks, Cal has headed into halftime with a combined score of 49-9. Stanford is a top-15 team, but Utah had not won a Pac-12 game before embarrassing the Bears.
Barr attributed the team’s losing streak to “little mistakes here and there.” Tedford said the squad needs to tighten up details by focusing on technique and fundamentals in practice.
With a Friday game, the Bears have a short week to turn things around. Washington, with two upsets of top-10 teams this season, has beaten Cal three years straight.
“The way our backs are against the wall, we just have to keep fighting and never give up,” Barr said. “Go all out, we have nothing to lose.”
Except their season and their coach.
Jonathan Kuperberg covers football. Contact him at [email protected]