When Tedford arrived at Cal in 2002, he was heralded as a savior, a saint, and an angel -- if not God himself. But lately, Tedford's halo has been dwindling, and he is looking as mortal as ever.
(1) Was There Any Question Cal Was Going to Lose This Game? I mean, seriously. Cal starts the season on a three game win streak. Cal then goes on a three game lose streak. Cal fans start jumping ship after the third straight loss and it looks like the season is going down the drain. Talk of firing Tedford sooner rather than soon starts popping up. But Cal manages to stop the bleeding by pulling out a win against Utah -- all the while Maynard (Cal QB #15) also has one of his best games in the process. Cal fans rejoice and have a renewed hope that Tedford can pull out 7 wins this season and make it a somewhat respectable reason considering the team's youth. Cal's next game is against a reeling UCLA team that got pummeled 48-12 by Arizona. Cal fans have a growing optimism. Then UCLA has like half of its team suspended for the Cal game (okay, not really, but you know what I mean). UCLA's defense is #106 in the nation for least yards allowed a game (or in other words #15 in the nation for MOST yards allowed a game). UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisal is a dead man walking (about to be fired any minute). Cal fans have even more optimism. Tedford, even if he's lost his coaching magic, surely won't lose to a dead man walking head coach. There is no way in hell Cal loses this game, right? RIGHT???
NAH. We're Cal. OF COURSE WE'RE GOING TO LOSE!
I mean, it's like the perfect storyline. The Football Gods give Cal fans hope. And then they taketh away. I can imagine the football gods rolling on the floor in hysteria as they watch his writhe in misery and heartbreak. Football Gods: Hahahaha. Joke's on the Cal fans!!
I guess it's a bit sad how the attitude of a lot of us has changed over the past few seasons. There was a time when we were expected to win and we did. There was a time when we weren't constantly expecting for us to fumble the ball, throw an interception, get penalized for a personal foul, or get screwed by another horrible Pac-10 ref call. But now, it's almost like a game to see how we're going to screw ourselves. Let's see who can predict how Cal will shoot itself in the foot next! $20 says it's a personal foul! $50 says it's a missed field goal! $100 says it's an interception!
Morale is low. Expectations are low. People are jumping ship. I don't really blame them. People want Maynard benched. People want Tedford fired. Hell, people even want the ROPE COACH REPLACED! Yeah, it's getting THAT bad.
But you know... it wasn't all bad. There were some positives. And here at CGB, when we're not blissfully pumping that sunshine 365 days a week (anybody get the reference???), we're at least trying to stay positive. So after the jump, let's talk about the positives.
(2) The Positives. [This paragraph is intentionally left blank.]
(3) Holy Shiznit Our Offense Sucked. Let me just say this. THE CAL OFFENSE DIDN'T CROSS THE 50 YARD LINE ON THEIR OWN UNTIL 5 MINUTES REMAINING IN THE THIRD QUARTER.
Cal's two scores came off of short-field turnovers. Cal's first scoring drive only required them to go 30 yards. Cals' second scoring drive only required them to go 15 yards. And praise be to Dear Lord Baby Jesus, lyin' there in your ghost manger, just lookin' at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin' 'bout shapes and colors, that Cal even had these opportunities, because Cal just couldn't drive the field. Cal only had TWO drives which moved the ball over 50 yards down the field. And NEITHER of those two drives actually got Cal points.
I mean, watching this offense was just epic face palm after epic face palm.
Things were getting so bad, even Anderson (Cal RB #9) couldn't get one yard on his first two short-yardage attempts!
(3)(a) Our Offense Sucked Because of Turnovers.
What else went wrong? Oh yeah, Cal had 5 turnovers. FIVE! There were four interceptions and lost fumble. Regardless of who was at fault for those INTs, you just really can't win games by handing the ball over like that 5 times. And UCLA was able to score points off of those turnovers too! That crappy UCLA offense will eventually score points given enough chances to bumble and stumble their way into our endzone.
(3)(b) Our Offense Sucked Because We Couldn't Run.
UCLA deserves some credit. They just dominated the interior run game. We weren't getting anywhere. Even CJ Anderson wasn't getting any yardage himself (so you know it was really bad!). After half time, the coaches were making more of an attempt to get our runs to the outside by running outside zone plays, but still... for the most part our run game was very hit and miss.
If you look at the stat sheet, Sofele did have a 4.9 yard average which isn't horrible. In fact, it's probably about average. But it just didn't feel like it was one of those games where we could rely on our run game and it could produce consistently.
(3)(c) Our Offense Sucked Because We Couldn't Pass.
I know that Maynard still had 199 yards passing, but again, it just did not feel like our passing game was something we could rely on to consistently produce. There were drops (Ladner! Calvin!), there were off-target passes. There were collapsing pockets leading to sacks. Ouch! Again, I think you do have to give some credit to UCLA, they just were more physical and dominated.
(4) Defense Lays an Egg. Usually, when the Cal offense sucks, we've (lately) been able to rely on the defense to keep things close. And actually, for the most part, Cal's defense was able to keep things close in the first half despite being forced to protect short fields. But as the game progressed, UCLA's QB was able to continually get yard after yard after yard.
What I found so surprising is that I'm pretty sure UCLA wasn't really doing anything special or new. (I haven't reviewed this game film yet, and honestly, I don't think I will.) It looked to be your pretty basic pistol zone reads. Cal was having its box defenders (LBs and DL) crash in on the RB -- which is fine. But if you do that, then you also have to have another defender looping around to cover the QB on the keeper. And the Cal safeties (whom are the defenders who Pendergast usually has cover the QB on those zone reads) just weren't getting into the QB running lanes to make the tackle for a stop. And even at times when they did, they missed the tackle.
It's not like Cal hasn't seen zone reads before either. We've faced Nevada last year. We've faced Oregon. We run the zone read ourselves! It was very surprising to me to see our defense seem so confused and unprepared for the Bruin's run game. (Not to say that they were unprepared, I'm sure Pendergast had prepared them for the offense, it's just that when it came to game time to execute and perform they just looked confused as @$%@#$ out there)
Addendum: If you want some good quotes, BearTerritory has some good ones in this article. Basically, Pendergast says that the defensive gameplan did account for Prince (UCLA's QB) but our guys were just doing a crappy job taking care of that assignment.
(5) Is it Bridgford Time? I checked my facebook feed after the game and half of my feed was filled with comments about how Maynard should be benched/sucks/is the worst QB ever. And after this 4 INT performance, one can't help but wonder if he's going to get benched soon for Bridgford. But let's think this over.
What's the purpose of playing Bridgford? To get him experience for next year, and to see how good he is against real competition.
What's the trade-off for playing Bridgford? I assume a lot of people might say, "nothing" because he couldn't be any worse than Maynard. But I'm not sure if that's necessarily a given.
It's safe to assume that Tedford wants to win games. If that's the case, then it's safe to assume that he's also playing the QB whom he thinks gives Cal the best chance to win. If that's the case, then it's safe to assume that Maynard is better than Bridgford.
So playing Bridgford would be to play a worse QB than we're already playing. And is that something we want to do? Because Cal is still 4-4 with four games remaining this season. We need two wins to get bowl eligible and that should still be our #1 goal for this season. Cal still can very realistically win its next two games against WSU and OSU. Do we want to play a (presumably) worse QB than Maynard and risk those two wins and bowl eligibility to give Bridgford some experience?
Personally, I don't. I know it sucks to see your team lose game after game with the same dude at QB and the head coach doesn't make a change. But I think it's not quite the time to make a QB change... yet. If Cal loses one of its upcoming two games against WSU or OSU, then I would think it's time to see Bridgford. Because at that point, Cal would be 4-5 with remaining games against OSU, and Top-25 ranked Stanfurd and Arizona State. Even if Cal beats OSU, it's unlikely we upset Stanfurd and/or Arizona State. Thus, Cal's final season record would be 5-7. Since bowl eligibility is not an option, then you might as well start playing Bridgford.
(6) Psyche of the Team? I can't help but wonder why it is that Cal has had so many problems in the past few seasons getting up to beat teams that they -- at least on paper -- should be beating. At the last Sacramento Grid Club meetings, John Crumpacker theorized that ...
I think there's a syndrome at Cal, where the players think they're better than they are. Then, when there's a bad loss, they don't understand how it could happen, and things get very negative.
I think that's an interesting proposition. I can't help but wonder if there is some sort of psyche problem with the team too. I wouldn't go as far to say that the team or Tedford needs to consult a psychologist or something to re-learn how to win or something absurd like that. But the team does seem to lack a ... I guess "focus" would be the best word. Really what I'm trying to point at is that the execution just hasn't been there in the past few years. We've changed position coaches. We've had different team "themes" from year to year ("talent is not enough," and "family") but yet the team just can't quite consistently put together all three phases of the game together for all four quarters.
And I do suppose that fault falls on the coaches' shoulders, and especially Tedford's, but I'm not sure what else can be done. I know this team is sucking in half the games it's playing in, but make no mistake about it, it's not for Tedford's lack of desire to win, or lack of effort. He's trying. He always has been. But clearly whatever he's trying isn't working.
Anyways, let's try not to get too speculative as to whether there are locker room or psyche problems with the team. None of us, including even Mr. Crumpacker himself, are in the locker rooms with the players and coaches so nobody really knows if there is a mentality or psyche problem with the team. But I think it's perfectly understandable to wonder and scratch your head about these sort of things.
(7) I Really Hope This Isn't Hurting Cal's Recruiting. A few weeks ago when Arizona thumped UCLA, Cal commit WR Bryce Treggs hopped onto twitter and mentioned how UCLA had emailed him to watch the game. Obviously, it was quite a funny situation to see a recruit point out how when a team that is recruiting him loses after asking him to watch, it just does not look good for the program. I'm assuming Cal does similar stuff. And if not, I presume at least that Treggs was watching the game since he's committed to Cal. And now Cal just lost to that team... I hope this doesn't cause him to consider other schools.
I am not too concerned about losing Treggs since he seems so committed to the Bears. But what about other players who are undecided and still considering Cal? Losing doesn't help bring in good recruiting classes. Hopefully a lot of recruits weren't tuned into this game. Hopefully Cal doesn't lose potential recruits.
(7) Who has a hotter seat now, Tedford or Maynard? I was wondering this last night after the loss. If Cal fans had a choice between immediately firing Tedford, or benching Maynard, which would they choose? Who is on more of a hot seat now?
Does Maynard get two more games to prove himself? Or have we all seen enough? Does Tedford get one more season to prove himself? Or have we all seen enough?
(8) Is Tedford joining Neuheisal among the ranks of the walking dead? I joked in the beginning of this post that there was no question that Cal was going to lose this game. But seriously now, I think we all expected to win this game. I mean, it wasn't those sure-fire wins like the Presbyterian game, but it seemed like this was one of those games that Cal should win -- and HAD to win in order to ensure a somewhat respectable 7-win season.
But now that Cal has dropped this game, I'm not sure there is anything more that Tedford can do to save himself. Fire Tedford talk is probably at its all-time high, and it's completely justifiable. Most Cal fans seem reserved to the fact that Tedford has at least until the end of the 2012 season to turn things around, but even I'm starting to wonder if he has that much time. If Cal drops three of its remaining four games to finish the season 5-7 overall, I wouldn't be totally surprised to see him go sooner (such as mid-2012 if things aren't going well then). Hell, if Cal drops all of its remaining four games to finish 4-8, then I REALLY wouldn't be surprised to see him go even sooner (at the end of this season???). Or is this just crazy talk? Are Cal fans willing to give Tedford one more season even if this season really goes down the crapper?
Winning cures all, and if Cal can get to 6-6 and win its low-level bowl game, then Tedford just barely buys himself through 2012 to turn things around. If Cal can manage to steal three out of four of its remaining games (thus requiring an upset of either Arizona State or Stanfurd) then it's a for sure thing that Tedford is Cal's head coach through 2012 (unless disaster strikes in the bowl game). If Cal loses three of its final four games but upsets top-ranked Stanfurd... well, I'm not sure what would happen then. Cal wouldn't go to a bowl, but beating top-ranked Stanfurd would be quite a feat. Cal fans might actually be okay with that outcome.
Anyways, unless Cal can win three out of its final four games this season, I think we've just seen one of the nails in the coffin for Tedford. It's not THE nail in the coffin, but it's one of the few nails which are required to close that coffin. Of course, Tedford probably does have through the ENTIRE 2012 season to get Cal to a 9+ win season, but still. I'm not exactly sure if that's possible that Cal wins 9+ games next year. So in other words, we could be seeing the end of the Tedford era.