2012 California Football Week 1: An “Embearassing” Opening [31-24L]by Nam Le on Sep, 02 2012
After a season spent across the Bay in AT&T Park, the Golden Bears returned to their rightful home on yesterday, opening the 2012 campaign in front of a sold-out crowd of over 61,000.
And what a disastrous opener it was.
Despite being an 11 point favorite over Nevada, when the final whistle blew, California found themselves on the wrong side of a 31-24 score.
The problems began nearly as soon as the game started. Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo hounded the Bears from the second drive on, repeatedly picking apart a vulnerable-looking California secondary on his way to a 230 yard afternoon. Even in obvious passing situations, Marc Anthony, Steve Williams and company struggled to stop a fairly average group of Nevada receivers – a potentially troubling trend if it continues in future weeks.
The sophomore from Brea, California also tacked on another 99 yards on the ground. Though he was kept in check outside of a 49 yard TD run, Fajardo gained enough on his carries and short passes to keep the chains moving, as Nevada controlled the ball for 35:06, compared to a paltry 24:54 for California.
Much will be made about Cal’s struggles with the Pistol offense, as Saturday marked their third consecutive loss against the scheme. But in truth, they limited most of the damage by Fajardo and running back Stepfhon Jefferson – Nevada rushed for a total of 220 yards, but it took them 57 carries to get there.Photo credits from KSL.com
The real issue was their inability to get off the field on third down, as Nevada converted 11 of 20 attempts, extending drives and burning up precious clock.
On the other side of the ball, Cal’s performance was similarly spotty, particularly in the opening quarter. Backup quarterback Allan Bridgford failed to record a first down and went 1-for-8 passing, leaving California in a 14-0 hole by the time Zach Maynard returned. Several untimely penalties did not help.
Maynard played well enough – a relief, considering some of last year’s disastrous performances – but missed several easy throws to the sideline, something that bugged him in 2011 as well. Still, he made few major mistakes, and eventually threw two touchdowns as he rallied the team back from its early deficit. The second of those, a 13 yard strike to Chris Harper, ended up tying the game at 24-24.
In fact, Harper was one of the few bright spots on the day. CJ Anderson and Isi Sofele had a combined total of 19 carries for 87 yards, but they were more or less bottled up and ineffective the entire afternoon. With the ground game out of commission, Harper and fellow freshman Bryce Treggs came up big in their college debuts, scoring 14 of Cal’s 24 points by themselves.
Ultimately, though, the Bears allowed one third down conversion too many, as Nevada took a 31-24 lead with :36 left on the clock.
That would be the final score, sending many a Cal fan home unhappy. Most expected that Saturday would be a celebration of the team’s return to Berkeley. What they got was another disappointing, unsatisfying performance against a beatable opponent.
Some things just don’t change, new surroundings be damned.
Cover for article borrowed from a user at BearInsider.com