2012 California Football Week 2: A Near Shocker [50-39W]by Nam Le on Sep, 09 2012
Only A Late Fourth Quarter Surge Prevents a California Upset
Scoring 50 points should win most football games. The Golden Bears reached that number on Saturday in a 50-31 victory over Southern Utah, but it must have been the closest 19 point victory ever won in college football history. For three quarters, the Thunderbirds stayed strong – the team, expected to give Cal no trouble, trailed only 20-17 going into the fourth.
And then the switch went on.
The Bears rolled up 30 points in the final period, beginning with Keenan Allen’s 19 yard TD reception to open the quarter, and ending with Daniel Lasco’s 77 yard sprint to the end zone. The key play, though, had to be Marc Anthony’s pick-6, giving the team a comfortable 17 point cushion, and jolting it out of an afternoon-long malaise.
In truth, as nice as the team’s fourth quarter was, it should not have taken 30 points in the to put the Thunderbirds back in their cage.
For the second straight week, the Bears got off to a slow start, plagued by far too many preventable mistakes. Despite racking up nearly 300 yards in the first half, Cal led only 20-10. 10 first half penalties for 94 yards certainly didn’t help, including a hold on tight end Richard Rodgers that wiped out a touchdown.
Some of the blame for that falls behind center. A look at the stats sheet will show that Zach Maynard played better this week than he did against the Wolf Pack, but stats can mislead on occasion. They certainly wouldn’t tell you that he overthrew a wide open Isi Sofele in the flat, that he telegraphed an awful interception to a defensive lineman, that he left at least 14 points on the field with his horrendous accuracy. An inability to consistently complete basic throws will doom any offense, even one with such talented weapons as California’s.
And some of the blame for that falls behind coach Jeff Tedford. After all, he is in charge of having the team prepared to play – yet, it rarely has been. No sequence encapsulated that better than late in the second quarter, when the Bears took consecutive timeouts to get the right call in, and still committed a false start penalty.
There were some positives, of course. Outside of giving up a horrendous Hail Mary to end the first half, the California defense played well, racking up five sacks and limiting the ‘Birds to 2.3 yards per carry. And for the second straight week, Chris Harper was outstanding, catching 7 passes for 94 yards to lead the passing attack; the freshman from Encino seems like a star in the making, and moves quite instinctively in the open field.
Still, even though the Bears emerged with their first victory in the 2012 campaign, a sense of dissatisfaction hung over Memorial Stadium at the game’s conclusion. After all, they nearly bungled this one away, despite being 5 touchdown favorites throughout the week.
Early season forecasts had California between six and eight wins, but the team’s alarmingly inadequate play so far indicates that they may not even reach half that number.
With the Bears traveling to USC and Ohio State the next two weeks, little of victory exists if they continue to be so sloppy and lacksadaisical. And beyond those heavyweights, winnable matchups against Washington and Oregon State no longer look like such sure things.
Yes, the season is young. Yes, maybe the penalties and mental lapses are as correctable as Jeff Tedford claims. Maybe Zach Maynard will demonstrate the offseason improvement that has been much discussed and seldom seen [this writer now believes otherwise].
The Cal faithful certainly hope so. But through two weeks, they know and tell this story: the new Bears look exactly the same as the old ones.
No wonder why the Rose Bowl continues to be a dream. Earth to California: the time for hibernation ended a long time ago.
Cover credit to CalBearsOnline.