In losing to the Arizona State Sun Devils 27-17 on Saturday, the California Golden Bears’ 2012 season may finally be beyond repair. Now at 1-4 for the first time in coach Jeff Tedford’s 11-year tenure (0-2 in the Pac-12), the Bears face an uphill climb in their hopes to land a bowl bid.
The defense surrendered 17 points to the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-0) in the first half. Meanwhile, Zach Maynard found a way to put together only one successful drive in 30 minutes of play. After wide receiver Keenan Allen took a short pass and turned it into a 44-yard gain, Maynard hit Bryce Treggs and then handed it off to Isi Sofele, who found a huge hole and exploded for a 24-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7. Cal’s defense forced a three-and-out and momentum seemed to be on the home team’s side, but a sloppy possession from the Bears’ offense seemed to deflate Memorial Stadium yet again. The punt resulted in a 12-play ASU drive that ended in a field goal. The Bears’ defense appeared to be on their heels the entire time.
Isi Sofele had a fantastic day running the ball, collecting 105 yards on 15 carries (7.0 avg) to go with his touchdown, but he’ll probably remember this game more for his fumble late in the second quarter. It set up the Sun Devils on Cal’s 37-yard line, and they cashed in on a Kevin Ozier touchdown catch nine plays later.
Both teams found impasse in the third quarter, exchanging only field goals, but Cal pulled within three early in the fourth when Maynard put together an 80-yard drive in less than two minutes. Unfortunately it was the Bears’ defense that would cave next, as Arizona State delivered a dizzying array of pass and run plays en route to a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ozier – his second of the day.
– The Bears’ defense forced ASU to punt six times, and despite allowing 409 yards, played a fairly solid game. Their back-breaking mistake came when they couldn’t get off the field following Maynard’s fourth quarter touchdown pass. The 27-17 lead at that point was too much for Cal’s stagnant offense to overcome.
– Cal’s run game was clicking – Sofele and CJ Anderson combined for 183 yards rushing and a touchdown. Despite their 8.4 ypc average, Cal abandoned the run early in favor of the passing game, which looked as lackluster as ever.
– Was Brendan Bigelow even there for the game? He didn’t record a single return yard, nor did he get a carry on the day. This after Tedford said that he “continues to learn” the game of football, which seems awfully difficult to do from the sideline.
–The shining star of the game was Taylor Kelly, who dismantled California for 292 yards and three touchdowns. He was 26-45 with a completion percentage of 58.7, but he converted on almost 50% of the Sun Devils’ third down tries and spread the ball around to seven different receivers.
–That was in stark contrast to Maynard, who played arguably his worst game of the season. Maynard went 9-for-28 for only 126 yards and a touchdown, and he took six sacks from the sixth-ranked pass rushing team in the nation. Take away his passing to Keenan Allen (4 catches, 79 yards, 1 TD) and his numbers are even more deplorable: 5-for-24, 47 yards, no scores.
Maynard’s performance was punctuated by Cal’s final stand, which saw him throw three consecutive incompletions before being sacked on fourth down to finish the game.
It was an appropriate end to what may be Cal’s defining loss of the season. After all, it has been the inconsistent play of both Maynard and the offensive line that has doomed the Bears from the start.