CAL 20, SUU 17 after three quarters. Oh boy, it's close!
POSTGAME THREAD HERE: REVEL OR COMPLAIN UNTIL YOUR HEART IS CONTENT!
Last week, the California Golden Bears reopened Memorial Stadium on a day that was filled with fanfare and excitement. The overwhelming consensus is that Cal's new digs are beautiful. But how about the team on the field?
Not so much. Cal came away with a lot of self-doubt, if not self-loating, after a thoroughly deflating 31-24 loss to Nevada. As a result, the Bears find themselves 0-1 for the first time since 2006 and only the third time in Jeff Tedford's 11 seasons as Cal head coach.
But that was last week and this is this week. Cal can't change what happened last week, but it can certainly try and right the ship and get in the win column today at Memorial Stadium against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds from the Division I-FCS's Big Sky Conference. There are many reasons why conventional wisdom would favor the Bears in this game. After all, this is a Southern Utah team that is not an FCS powerhouse (the Thunderbirds were 6-5 last year), has never played a Pac-12 opponent, and was dominated by Utah State in a 34-3 loss in last week's season opener. Add to the equation the fact that Cal is 5-0 against FCS teams under Jeff Tedford and has outscored its FCS opposition 257-41, and Cal ought to feel pretty good about its chances today. After last week, however, Cal is in no position to take anything for granted. It would behoove the Bears to come out strong today, play with a sense of urgency, and fix many of the things that went wrong last week.
This is your home base for today's action. Use this post as your pregame thread. Watch for the first quarter thread in the comments. We will also update the top of this post with each quarter's thread, so if you get lost somewhere along the way just come back here to get re-oriented.
More game information for your perusal after the jump. Enjoy the game. GO BEARS!
2012 CALIFORNIA FOOTBALL
Saturday, Sept. 8, 12:00 p.m. (PT)
Cal (0-1) vs. Southern Utah (0-1)
Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
TV: Pac-12 Networks - Rich Cellini (Play-by-Play), Gary Plummer (Analyst), Erin Coscarelli (Sideline)
Cal Commercial Radio: KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst, *Pregame Show), Todd McKim (Sideline, *Pregame Show), Lee Grosscup (^Postgame Show), Kate Scott (^Postgame Show)
*Pregame Show: Lisa and Doug Goldman Plaza, Memorial Stadium
^Postgame Show: Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA
IMG College/Cal Radio Network Affiliates: KFPT 790 AM (Fresno), KGO 810 AM (San Francisco), KLAA 830 AM (Los Angeles), KRAK 910 AM (Los Angeles), KAHI 950 AM (Sacramento), KESP 970 AM (Modesto), KFIG 1430 AM (Fresno), XEPE 1700 AM (San Diego)
All-Access Radio: The Cal commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-Southern Utah game can be heard on the Internet through the All-Access channel on CalBears.com. All-Access can be found under the Multimedia tab at the top of the page at CalBears.com.
Cal Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM, kalx.com (Berkeley) - Isaac Wolf (Play-by-Play), Josh Toyofuku (Analyst), David Fusaro (Analyst)
Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Cal's commercial radio broadcast feed of the Cal-Southern Utah game can be heard on Sirius XM satellite radio on Sirius channel 125 and XM channel.
CalBears.com: Visit CalBears.com for complete coverage of Cal football, including a live play-by-play update via Gametracker.
(All right! No all-Stanfurdite announcing team in the booth this week! Today, we get to listen to former Cal linebacker Gary Plummer on the broadcast. This day is looking up already!)
NOTE: Though the two-deep lists him as the starter at right tackle, Matt Summers-Gavin will miss today's game with an MCL injury in his right knee. Junior tackle Bill Tyndall will start in his place.
This is the first ever meeting between the Bears and Thunderbirds. In fact, this is the first time Southern Utah has ever played against a Pac-12 opponent.
The Thunderbirds feature an experienced quarterback in senior Brad Sorenson, a former BYU recruit who will probably finish his college career owning every meaningful passing record in school history. As Sorenson goes, so goes the Southern Utah offense. Last week against Utah State, it did not go so well, as Sorenson completed only 12 of 31 passes for 153 yards and an interception. Earlier this week, ManBearCal broke down the Southern Utah offense generally, and Sorenson in particular. What can we expect from the Thunderbirds' quarterback?
Depends entirely on whether we generate any sort of pass rush, and moreso whether we can rattle Sorenson early. Expect SUU to do everything they can to give Sorenson time to throw while attempting to keep him upright and sparkling clean. I'd expect quick throws and minimal time to invite the pass rush into the backfield. If they watched Nevada, it's doable unfortunately. Wouldn't be surprised to see Sorenson challenge our inside linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field in coverage. That's looking like it could be our soft underbelly. I'm hopeful that our pass rush looks a little better this Saturday. While we certainly made a few plays in the backfield, our inconsistency was unacceptable. Gonna need the front 7 to apply good pressure to force Sorenson into some hasty throws and mistakes. Then our secondary is gonna be tasked with making plays on third down...rather than giving them up. If we can't do it Saturday, we won't do it this season.
As for the Cal offense, the Bears took their share of criticism on CGB for last week's failed game plan against Nevada. Where, for example, was the Cal running game? Despite returning a 1,300 yard rusher in Isi Sofele and an improved C.J. Anderson at running back, Cal threw the ball more than it passed and found itself in more than its share of 2nd and 3rd-and-long situations. This week, will Cal try harder to impose its will on the ground against the FCS Thunderbirds? Whether it's on the run or on the ground, though, expect Cal to try and take advantage of a Southern Utah defense that has four freshmen starters (at DE, MLB, CB, and SS). The incomparable norcalnick drew his conclusions yesterday about the Cal offense/SUU defense matchup:
Last year, Southern Utah had an average-to-below-average FCS defense, and that defense lost seven key contributors. That defense was then shredded for 581 yards by Utah St., a team that went 7-6 last year in the WAC.
I won't go so far as to say that the Thunderbirds are a bad FCS team, but they aren't Eastern Washington or anything. As long as Cal can send out 5 scholarship athletes to start along the offensive line they should be able to gain plenty of yards and points.
What I want to see from Cal's offense:
-Big holes for Isi and C.J.
-No sacks, no knock downs, and minimal pressure on Maynard.
-Exactly zero procedural penalties (this has nothing to do with SUU, but it would still be nice, wouldn't it?)
-No injuries (duh).
After last week's dud of a performance against Nevada, the Southern Utah Thunderbirds will hopefully be just what the doctor ordered for Cal today. At risk of exuding overconfidence, let's be honest: SUU is a team that Cal should beat and handily. Hopefully, the Bears will come out focused and angry and take care of business against an undermanned FCS opponent. A comfortable victory over the Thunderbirds today will not tell us a whole lot about Cal, but it might inject some confidence into a bunch that could not have felt good after last week's game. On the other hand, anything less than a comfortable victory will create more questions for Coach Tedford and his staff heading into next week's toughie at Ohio State, not to mention induce panic in an already rustled Cal fanbase.