2012 California Football Week 4: Sacks on Sacks on Sacks [27-9L]by Nam Le on Sep, 23 2012
2003. That year still remains the last time the Golden Bears toppled the Trojans.
Think about that for a second. The last time California beat USC, Justin Timberlake had yet to bring sexy back – nobody even knew it had gone missing.
Indeed, since that triple overtime epic, the Bears have rarely been competitive against their southern rivals, losing in largely lopsided affairs. Saturday’s 27-9 disaster was more of the same.
On offense, Cal could never get anything going consistently. Zach Maynard was besieged by red jerseys on nearly every snap, taking seven sacks on the day – to say nothing of the numerous other hits he faced. His statline: an ugly 18 of 33 for 173 yards, plus two interceptions.
He simply had no time to throw – tackles Bill Tyndall, Tyler Rigsbee and Freddie Tagaloa were repeatedly abused by the Trojans, and the interior linemen did only marginally better. USC hit Maynard so consistently and so often, he never found a rhythm in this game. He missed open receivers time and time again on Saturday, including Jacob Wark and Keenan Allen in the red zone twice. And if overthrowing receivers wasn’t enough, it was clear by the second half that Maynard had given up on going through progressions, often locking in on only one receiver.
In fact, Maynard’s inability to see the field ended up turning the tide of the game completely. Late in the third quarter, with California down only one score, Maynard was flushed out of the pocket and rolled to his left. Freshman receiver Bryce Treggs had leaked his way into the end zone, uncovered by any Trojan defender. But for whatever reason, Maynard didn’t see him, and opted to check down to CJ Anderson instead…except the pass found its way to USC defensive back TJ McDonald, instead. The Trojans would tack on a field goal to go up 20-9, and cruised from there.
The only time the Bears seemed adequate on offense Saturday was with sophomore Brendan Bigelow in the backfield – whether as a decoy or with the ball in his hands. Yet, Bigelow never saw the field in the fourth quarter, and only received four carries, despite being the team’s most effective running back on the day. Because they had trouble finishing their red zone possessions on Saturday, California’s decision to underutilize their secret weapon was incredibly baffling.
Defensively, it was another decent effort by the Bears – they made enough plays to keep it close, coming up with three turnovers. Indeed, for the second straight year, the Bears defended Barkley well, limiting him to 192 yards passing and picking him off twice. They even limited the ultra-talented Robert Woods to 30 yards on 5 catches.
The real problem was a spotty effort in run defense, as Trojan running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal both reached the century mark rushing, gashing the California defense for over 7 yards a carry. That statistic becomes even more disappointing when realizing that USC’s run game produced only 28 yards last week against Stanford.
Even though the Bears were heavy underdogs heading into Saturday’s game, the loss itself was not the most discouraging thing. No, after a strong performance at Ohio State last week, the Bears entered the Colliseum with legitimate hope that they could carry that momentum over into conference play, that the improvement they showed in Columbus could be sustained.
That hope was extinguished fairly quickly. In its place? The very sobering reality that 2012 may be another lost – and perhaps even bowlless – season. The team has shown it can compete, but competing thus far has produced nothing in the way of victories. In order to reach the 6 win minimum for postseason play, the Bears must scrounge out 5 on a schedule that boasts no more easy matchups – not a single remaining game can be considered an automatic win.
Buckle up, Cal fans. It’s probably going to be a loooooooooong 8 weeks.