Southern Utah Reaction Roundtable # 2: Did we learn anything?

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 08: Quarterback Zach Maynard #15 of the California Golden Bears throws the ball against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds during the first quarter at Memorial Coliseum on September 8, 2012 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

In yesterday's roundtable, we asked ourselves whether we felt worse, better, or the same about the 2012 Cal football season after Saturday's 50-31 win over Southern Utah. Today, your CGB writers and mods ask another question -- well, two actually: did this game tell us anything meaningful about the Bears? Can we make any assumptions based on this performance?

TwistNHook: Whenever we have these C-level games, people try not to read too much into it. If things go well, people go "Well, that was a lot of fun, but what does it mean against the Portland States or UC Davises of the world?" But when it doesn't go quite as well, then people say "We couldn't even stomp down the Portland States or UC Davises of the world!" Here, I think what we learned was that Cal still makes unfortunate errors that allow these other teams to stay in the game. Based on the stats, Cal shouldn't have been even close to SUU here. However, thanks to turn overs etc, it was 20-17 going into the 4th. Cal kept shooting itself in the foot (as it has for so many years), but was able to overcome itself. That is probably because SUU isn't that good of a team. But when we face better teams (like tOSU this week), I had a bad feeling, we won't be able to overcome our own errors quite as much.

Berkelium97: It told us that we're still a penalty-prone, inconsistent mess on offense. Defensively we looked okay (I won't worry too much about SU's garbage time scores), although I am disappointed we couldn't generate pressure more consistently. Wasn't their center only 250lbs? Finally, special teams coverage is still a disaster. On the plus side, we know D'Amato's range is exactly 47.

(More thoughts from your CGB writers and mods after the jump.)

LeonPowe: Our young guys look really talented and dynamic. So now, KA21 should look better because he can't be keyed in on like he was last season.

atomsareenough: Did the game tell us anything meaningful? No, not really, beyond what I just said (we're talented but sloppy). We expected to win comfortably against Southern Utah. We did. A couple of fluke plays made the score closer than it should have been, and we had too many 3-and-outs, and the defense seemed to give ground much too easily at the end of the game, but I'm not going to read too much into that I suppose. I'm really concerned about the injuries to Chris McCain and Richard Rodgers, though. If those guys are out for a long period of time, then that game cost us pretty dearly for pretty much no gain. Hell, since it was so close we didn't even get to send our backups in to get any serious playing time. Sigh. I hate games like this against FCS schools. So little to gain, so much to lose.

unclesam22: Meaningful takeaways from this game? Not really. It's frustrating to see Cal struggle against FCS competition but at the end of the day, it's a W, which is more than Arkansas can say. So I took away the fact that despite all of the issues and problems that seem systemic within this team, they at least kept fighting in a game that was closer than it should have been.

Ohio Bear: This was the sixth time that Cal has played an FCS school during Jeff Tedford's tenure as Cal head coach and I don't think I can say we learned anything meaningful about our team in any of the previous five games (except, maybe, the 2010 season opener against UC-Davis when we learned that Keenan Allen was probably as good as advertised). This time, however, my fear is that we learned something meaningful about our Bears in a negative way. After a poor opening game performance, I was hoping to see Cal play with an edge, and really take it to an inferior opponent. While I can understand (but don't like) college players sleepwalking through a game against an overmatched FCS opponent, I thought that Cal's poor opening game performance would mean a more focused team against SUU. Instead, what we got was a mistake-filled, lackluster performance in which we started slowly and then threatened to give the game away in the third quarter after we had seemingly taken control of it in the second quarter. My fear is that the meaningful takeaway is that what we've seen in the first two games is who we are -- a team susceptible to mental and physical errors. I hope my fear turns out to be unfounded.

As for what we can assume based on this performance? Not only can we assume that Vincenzo D'Amato's FG range is not much more than 47 yards, we can also probably assume that our opponents will be chomping at the bit to return kickoffs against us. Kickoff coverage does not appear to be a strength of this team -- even when it manages to be offside on the kickoff (something Cal's coverage unit was guilty of twice on Saturday).

* * *

And, finally, Vincent S took home yesterday's positive thinking award for being the only one of yesterday's CGB roundtablers who focused on things that made him feel better about the team. Vincent S did not specifically weigh in on today's roundtable questions, but, clearly, this means yesterday's answers were supposed to apply to today's questions as well. So we will reprise those here. What a positive guy, that Vincent S!

Vincent S: I'm going to exclusively cover reasons that make me feel better.

1. Young receiver play. While Chris Harper has had a couple of fumbles (and all of them have had a few drops), our incoming receivers have stepped up and made some big plays (e.g. Treggs, Harper catching passes for TD's against Nevada). Their downfield blocking skills also look very promising, and that bodes well for the running game. I feel comfortable saying Keenan Allen is no longer the only receiver threat on this team.

2. Bill Tyndall's play. Although MSG was out, Tyndall stepped up against SUU and filled in quite well. Of course, SUU linemen are different from the linemen of Ohio State and USC, but it was a good sign that Tyndall was at least holding his own yesterday.

3. Running game got going again. All of the running backs were busting off big gains through wide open holes yesterday, capped off with a great Daniel Lasco scamper. Again, SUU's defense is a far cry from our next two opponents', but it was encouraging to see a staple of a Tedford team back on track.

4. Kickoff return/coverage improvement. kickoff returns seem to have improved. We seem to be starting with much better field position than in years past; now if only we could sustain a drive using that advantage... On the other side, maybe this is a function of the rule change, but kickoff coverage looks relatively solid, though we have had one or two heart-stopping moments.

5. Cornerback open-field tackling. This is a very specific item, but I've lost count at how many times I've seen our cornerbacks - Steve Williams especially - make a great stop in a one-on-one matchup in space. Williams almost looks Syd'Quan Thompson-esque in his ability to wrap up and stop forward progress sometimes.

What did you learn from Saturday's game, CGB? Share with us in the comments. Be gentle. Or not.

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