Kickoffs were a glaring weakness for the Bears in 2009, as their kickoff coverage unit ranked ninth in the Pac-10 and they struggled regularly to land kicks inside the 10-yard line. Field goals were equally bad, as Cal finished the season ranked last in the conference having made just 15 of its 24 attempts. By the end of the season, field-goal duties were assigned on a game-by-game basis just minutes before kickoff based on which kicker -- sophomore Giorgio Tavecchio or freshman Vince D'Amato -- performed better in pre-game warmups.
The Bears' 37-27 loss to Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl five days ago highlighted the troubles in kickoff coverage. After Cal returned an interception for a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead, the Utes returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bears' 30-yard line. As was too often the case this season, Cal was forced to defend a short field, and Utah scored a touchdown for the first of its 27 unanswered points.
Asked after the game about the performance of the special teams units, Tedford said that the team would "evaulate and try to make corrections" in all facets. Players and fans alike were clearly disappointed following the Bears' 8-5 finish to a season that began with high expectations and peaked at a 3-0 start and No. 6 national ranking.
Alamar's best year as special teams coach came in 2006, when Cal ranked fourth in the nation in punt returns with an average of 17.26 yards per return, and eighth in net punting with an average of 38.27 yards. The Bears' punting unit has remained a strength since the 2006 season, with Bryan Anger earning Freshman All-America honors in 2008 and first-team all Pac-10 recognition in 2009.
The success of Alamar's tight ends also went overlooked at times. Craig Stevens was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2007, and Cameron Morrah followed in 2008, going in the seventh round. On a team that featured a young receiving corps and inconsistency at quarterback, Morrah was Cal's leading receiver in the regular season.
But the kicking woes that surfaced in 2007, following the career-ending injury that Tom Schneider suffered in warmups before the Bears' season-opener against Tennessee -- never really got better. Jordan Kay, David Seawright, Tavecchio and D'Amato all took turns handling kicking duties from 2007-09 to varying degrees of inconsistent success.
Cal ranked eighth in kickoff coverage in 2007 and 2008, and finished ninth and fifth, respectively, in those two seasons in field goal percentage.
After the jump we take another look at the firing of Alamar, Tedford's new year's resolution, recaps/analysis of the men's/women's basketball games, and a preview of tonight's matchup against UCSB.
- JO posts his article on Alamar being fired. JO praised Cal's punt/kick-blocking last year and says Alamar had some good returners in his tenure, but says the failures on kick returns became too blatant to ignore after this season.
- Buster Sports says Tedford's new year's resolution should be to wear a Speedo to prove he's not the most boring coach in America.
- DeSean Jackson is the only Cal representative on the nation's all-decade team.
- After a slow start, Cal pulled away to an 85-51 win over Utah Valley. Cal blew the game open with a 10-0 and 13-0 pair of runs early in the second half. PC says he and his teammates were a little rusty at first, but came away with a victory that allowed everyone to get quality minutes. As always, Farudo's game thread is a good barometer of the game as it progressed.
- After the game, Monty talked about how he was excited to see his team take on UCSB's zone. He felt the team started off slowly, but was pleased with the end result and with the aggressiveness of the defense.
- Farudo posts his scouting report for tonight's matchup against UCSB.
- Wilner predicts Washington will win the Pac-10 with Cal coming in at second. Oddly enough, he things UCLA will finish a distant third.
- Women's basketball fell to Boston College 81-69. Cal fell behind by 15 in the first half and made several runs to bring the came close, but always fell behind again.