2012 California Football Week 8: A Big Game Beatdown [21-3L]by Nam Le on Oct, 21 2012
Saturday’s Big Game marked the 30th anniversary of The Play.
Based on how they celebrated it, the Bears should consider checking into Kevin Moen and company’s remaining eligibility. Perhaps they could also see if Ahmad Anderson can fill in at tackle, too.
It was that ugly.
Cal was pushed around, bullied, and physically outclassed from the opening kick. This was not the first time Cal faced a ranked opponent this season, but their performance certainly was not like Ohio State, where the Bears let a victory slip away. This was not even like USC, where the Bears stayed in it for 3 quarters, and had actually had a puncher’s chance late into the second half. This was simply a game where the Bears never really had a chance.
The saying often goes that football is won in the trenches, in 5 yards that offensive and defensive linemen do battle on every play. On Saturday, Cal lost that battle. Badly.
Stanford’s defense dominated the line of scrimmage, throwing around a noticeably smaller Bears front five all day. The damage: 4 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 3 yards rushing on 28 carries, and consistent pressure on nearly every snap. Cardinal linebacker Chase Thomas was a particular nightmare, and certainly lived up to his reputation as one of the Pac-12′s top defenders; he managed to record four of those TFLs by himself, to say nothing of his forced fumble and sack that accompanied them.
With so little time to throw and no running game to speak of, it’s a minor miracle that Zach Maynard played as well as he did, completing 19 of 31 passes for 214 yards. His lone interception came on a 4th and goal when he had to throw somewhere; and when he did – surprise – there was a white Stanford jersey in his face. Maynard has not always played consistently – or well – throughout his time in Berkeley, but as this season has gone on, it has become clear that toughness cannot be questioned. Not when he has picked himself up again and again after sacks. Admittedly, Saturday was not his finest performance, but it certainly wasn’t his worst one either.
The Cardinal continued that physicality on offense, racking up a total of 252 rushing yards on the day – a career high 189 going to tailback Stepfan Taylor. Cal’s defense fought gamely to keep it from being a blowout, but by the fourth quarter they too, were pounded into submission. At that point, blue jerseys were being shoved aside almost effortlessly, perhaps a byproduct of the absurdly high 36:58 they spent on the field. 6 Cal 3 and outs, 2 consecutive turnovers and a lack of extended drives on offense certainly didn’t help on that front.
While Stanford had no real wide receiving threats to speak of, they did have tight end Zach Ertz, who proved to be a matchup problem for the California secondary. Safety Josh Hill often drew Ertz in one on one coverage, but the 6’6, 252 pound behemoth proved too much to handle most of the time, leading all receivers with 134 yards and a touchdown.
Compounding the problems were several baffling decisions by the California coaching staff. Brendan Bigelow was the only player to seriously threaten Stanford all afternoon, and nearly scored two touchdowns by himself in a quarter and a half: one on a long kickoff return, and another on a short screen he nearly took to the end zone. But after he committed the cardinal sin of fumbling, he never really saw the field again, as the staff opted to leave the infinitely less effective Isi Sofele out there instead. Fumbling was inexcusable, but so was not using the team’s biggest offensive weapon more, on a day when weapons were clearly lacking. Even the mighty Keenan Allen was quieted, catching only 4 passes for 43 yards.
Baffling too, was the insistence on running the ball, especially with the team trying to catch up late in the fourth quarter. Maynard had completed several long passes to bring the Bears down to the Stanford 11 yard line, yet Marcus Arroyo called in two consecutive C.J.-Anderson runs anyway, even though time was clearly a factor. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those runs did not quite work – and didn’t all afternoon.
Stanford’s outright domination on Saturday should reignite talk that Jeff Tedford does not deserve to see a 116th Big Game, and rightfully so. The team’s bowl chances have essentially faded as a result of this loss, as they must manage to win 3 of 4 from Utah, Washington, #2 Oregon and #8 Oregon State. They continue to look undisciplined and unprepared, struggling with even average opponents. That much is not due to a lack of talent. Cal continues to recruit well, and boasts many highly ranked players on the roster. But with the money invested into the Student Athlete High Performance Center and New Memorial Stadium, there can no longer be tolerance for 5-7 or 6-6 records – yet that is all the Bears have been in recent seasons. The constant factor in all that mediocrity? The man in charge.
If there is any change to be made at the top, it will likely be after the season, meaning that an already agonizing 2012 campaign would continue with Tedford at the helm for at least another four weeks. Add that to the fact that the Axe will remain in Palo Alto, as well as what this game would have meant toward bowl hopes, and there is only one way to describe how the Golden Bear faithful felt at the end of this one.
Everything Ertz. Bad.
Cover credit to Lance Iversen at the Chronicle.