It seems that every NCAA team plays at least one opponent that’s primed for a good steamrolling – just ask Oklahoma State why they scheduled Savannah State.
The California Golden Bears seem to have a much-needed ego boost coming their way on Saturday when they face the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds (and yes, I had to Google that). The Bears will be coming into the game as heavy favorites, but Vegas probably has more confidence in the Bears than Cal’s fans do after a disappointing 31-24 loss to Nevada last Saturday.
About those Thunderbirds
There’s nothing about Southern Utah that should be keeping the Bears awake at night, but keep an eye on both SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen and wide receiver Fatu Moala nonetheless. Sorensen, a BYU-transfer, has thrown for over 3,000 yards in each of his last two seasons. Moala had 5 catches for 68 yards in last week’s 34-3 loss to Utah State, so he has emerged as Sorensen’s favorite target. Despite John Breech of CBS Sports calling Sorensen “an FCS quarterback with an FBS arm,” the Thunderbirds only mustered 209 total yards of offense with the quarterback last week.
SUU’s defense had as poor a performance as their offense did in the opener. They allowed Utah State to gather 581 yards of offense, over 300 of which came off the arm of quarterback Chuckie Keeton (you can’t make these names up). Utah State was 8-for-12 converting 3rd downs against the Thunderbirds – a stat that should bode well for Zach Maynard’s rhythm and Cal’s ability to keep time of possession on their side.
Cal’s big controversy
Head Coach Jeff Tedford’s decision to bench Maynard for the beginning of last week’s game was met with scrutiny from both fans and the media alike. The team faced a 7-0 deficit early, due to defensive failings and the ineptitude of the offense with backup Allan Bridgford at the helm. Cal made up ground once Maynard returned to the game, but even he ended up being the subject of Berkeley’s ire; 247 yards and 2 touchdowns isn’t enough if it comes with a loss … especially when the school’s trying to christen a newly refurbished stadium.
This week, however, will be all about improved numbers. As long as Maynard went to all his classes, there should be no backups starting this game — a win should be a guarantee. Fans will be looking for progression from both Tedford’s game plan and Maynard’s performance.
Running back Isi Sofele was completely left out of Cal’s game plan last week and the running game wasn’t clicking without him. Giving Sofele a healthy number of touches this week couldn’t hurt. Maynard will need to minimize mistakes and dominate through the air if he’s interested in winning over the fans. Getting Keenan Allen involved wouldn’t hurt, either.
— Athletic Directory Sandy Barbour probably wishes she could go back in time and undo the uniform changes from Week 1. Running the Bears out onto the field with white helmets instead of rolling with tradition was not a popular decision, one they should probably avoid for the rest of the season.
— Right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin will sit out of Saturday’s game with a right MCL injury, according various reports. He is week-to-week but the injury will not require surgery. “People have played through those sometimes,” Coach Tedford said of the injury. “It just depends on the level of swelling and soreness.” Redshirt junior Bill Tyndall will place in his place.