It was a bounce back opportunity for USC and Cal on Saturday after tough losses a week earlier for both teams. Unfortunately for the Bears it was USC who bounced, and they barely broke a sweat doing it.
In my pregame post I wondered which Bears would show up for this game. Cal does have a way of “getting up for the big games,” but their recent history against USC is no indication that a performance like that was coming. The latter was true – Cal got dominated in every phase of the game and it was never close.
The Trojans’ horses
On a day when Matt Barkley continued to moonwalk his way out of Heisman candidacy (22-for-34, 192 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs), it was the run game that kept the Bears’ defense reeling. Silas Redd got the bulk of the work for Southern California, finishing his day with 158 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Redd’s touchdown, a 33-yard run halfway through the first quarter, was almost too easy; the blocking design was effective, with every Bear getting pushed back without issue. Redd wasn’t even touched on his way to the endzone. Curtis McNeal got in on the fun too, putting up 115 yards on 10 carries to round out a 200+ yard game on the ground for USC.
When the run wasn’t working, Barkley was tossing out bubble screens like free swag at Outside Lands. Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who probably spent more than a couple sleepless nights trying to figure out how to stop USC’s wideouts, refused to get burned trying to play press coverage with his corners. He set them up several yards off of the line of scrimmage for virtually every defensive down, paying respects to the abilities of Robert Wood and Marquis Lee. They may have contained Woods (5 catches, 30 yards), but they couldn’t leash up Lee, who went off for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches.
The offensive Bear-adox
It seems like Tedford still hasn’t figured out exactly what kind of offensive he wants to run with quarterback Zach Maynard. His skill set is unique: he runs well in open space but has trouble breaking tackles to get there. He can improvise when he wants to, turning play designs into backyard football, but he often holds the ball too long. He can fit passes into tight windows that make you wonder how they were completed, then he’ll toss the most atrocious overthrow or interception on the very next play.
The Bears’ offense was predicated on some version of the option early on, but when the Trojans effectively stopped that Tedford abandoned the option entirely. Attempting to find a pass and run balance is difficult when you fail to accomplish either, so Cal struggled to move the ball, especially late in the game. Maynard finished his day 18-for-33 for 173 yards and two interceptions – that’s a completion clip of just under 55%. Keenan Allen was Maynard’s favorite target again, catching nine passes for 93 yards, but I doubt that Maynard was Allen’s favorite quarterback Saturday. Allen found himself open on several occasions only to see balls sail well over his head. The receiver was vocal on the field about his frustration with his half brother, often coming back to the huddle shouting at Maynard or throwing his arms in the air.
In the backfield, Cal failed to utilize breakout start Brendan Bigelow, who only saw four touches for 31 yards on the day. CJ Anderson and Isi Sofele were ineffective, combining for 48 yards on 13 carries, so it makes no sense that they didn’t get Bigelow into the game more. Maybe they’re hiding him from the 2013 NFL draft in hopes that he can have a big year for the Bears next season, but he’s sticking out like a sore thumb after his two-touchdown coming out party in Columbus last week. He may be the best running back on Cal’s roster and they need to use him.
Cal now sits at 1-3, with their only win coming against Southern Utah University. Next week they return to Memorial Stadium to face the 3-1 Arizona State Sun Devils. If they really care about winning this year, they should find a way to get their best players more involved. 1-4 would be a disaster for the Bears, and a one way ticket to the hot seat for Tedford.