The truth hurts

It was telling to listen to some of Cal’s defensive players after Saturday’s game. Many of them spoke of it being “gut-check” time. Once again, the Bears allowed an opponent to put together sustained drives against them. And even though the numbers show that it wasn’t the defense’s worst performance, some of that was because of the unforced mistakes UCLA made on offense. Penalties, overthrown passes and some questionable coaching caused some of the Bruins’ drives to stall.

The discourse coming from Cal’s players shows the difference between winning and losing in terms of attitude. The Bears didn’t necessarily play any worse on defense than in some other games this season, but it obviously becomes more magnified in a loss. Whatever the reason, it’s probably a good revelation for the Bears, because their defense is not playing at a championship-caliber level, and it hasn’t for most of the season.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Lady Bear in LA

    Even when we were winning, the defense looked poor, but the problem was overlooked because we were managing to win anyway. Now that we were losing, hopefully the coaches will give the defense some closer and more serious consideration.

  • todd nizzle

    bob gregory needs to go…i’m so sick of sitting back and letting teams pass all over us, while rushing only 3 or 4 guys on every play. is there a team out there that is easier to convert a 3rd and 15 against than cal?

  • Sean

    Sadly my preseason suspicions are beginning to materialize. The Cal football program will only go as far as the defense takes them….Period! Over the last 17 years the two best Cal teams I’ve seen were the ’91 Citrus Bowl team and the ’04 Aaron Rodgers (got jumped by
    Texas) team. The things those two teams had in common where “better than average defenses”.

    As Cal fans we all love what Tedford has done with the program in the last six years, but at some point he’s going to have to take a hard look Bob Gregory, the defensive coordinator. Tedford has proven that he’s capable of producing offense, especially in the first half of the season before everyone gets more film on his schemes (by this point in the season even I can tell what the Javid Best plays are). However, Cal’s defense has underachieved in five of his six seasons as coach and consistently leaves the team vulnerable to bad luck.

    Maybe we can look to Tedford for not instilling a championship attitude in his players. Maybe we can say that at times he gets conservative.
    Maybe other teams just have better players (although I don’t think so in recent years). All of this might have some degree of true. But in the end, those are not the principle causes of Bear choking year in and year out.

    The reason the Bears find a way to break your heart is because they, for some reason, haven’t figured out how to play consistent defense even with good talent on that side of the ball. The casual fan or commentator may look at the last two games and blame turnovers. The turnovers are just a symptom of a greater problem. While pundits and coaches talk about turnovers, the reason turnovers occur is largely due to chance. At some point most teams are going to experience turnovers or have an off day on offense. However, teams with good defenses can overcome turnovers by limiting the other team from scoring touchdowns off of them.

    Cal’s defense gives the team a small margin for error. That is why Cal has rarely won close games over the years (save for this year’s Oregon game and a few others in the past). A “bend but don’t break” style of defense is predicated on waiting for the other team to make a mistake.
    Simply put, Cal’s defense leaves too many games to chance (hoping the other team screws up). As any gambler knows you might get hot for a period, but eventually you will lose.

    Now all Cal fans can hope for is that lady luck can smile on us, and other top teams in Pac-10 will lose. Considering the competition in the Pac this year I think it is possible believe it or not. Oregon has a similar problem as Cal (excellent offense but suspect defense). As I recall last year’s Pac-10 champion had two conference losses as well. In fact, the two co-champions had two losses. It is still possible, but it will be only by luck.

    Ok – I said it. Now I feel a little better. ;-