Sunday night update

Cal held its usual brief Sunday conditioning workout tonight. Afterward, Jeff Tedford said the team came out of Saturday’s game in pretty good shape healthwise.

The only concern is punter Bryan Anger, who suffered a sprained knee trying to get away a punt after mishandling the snap from Nick Sundberg. Anger is going to undergo an MRI on Tuesday and Tedford said the punter will rest most of the week. Anger said he thought he will play Saturday at Washington State.

Tedford provided some interesting insight about the mishandled snap after the game.

“One of the problems with having such a great snapper like Nick Sundberg is he snaps it so fast and so hard that you really have to be a great athlete to catch it,” he said. “That thing was smoking when it got to Bryan. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen again.”

Tedford said he was pleased with what he saw after reviewing the tape of the game. He hadn’t started working on Washington State as of Sunday night.


Final notes on Michigan State

–Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory is in his seventh year at Cal, and for the first time since he’s been in Berkeley, he spent the game on the sidelines Saturday.

Gregory has always been in the press box for games, but the Bears decided it might be better for Gregory to be in the mix with his players during the game.

“We kind of felt it was an organizational thing,” Gregory said. “We thought it was a good thing to do. Just being able to look at all those guys and see them, and not have to go through somebody (to communicate)…”

Linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson took Gregory’s place in the press box.

–Jahvid Best’s hefty 277 total yards could have been augmented even more had he not ran into his own man on a potentially big run.

Best had broken through the line of scrimmage and had gotten into the secondary when he ran into wide receiver Sean Young from behind. Best said he tried to wait for Young to get on his block but couldn’t stop himself.

“I was trying to get to the sideline,” Best said. “Sean wasn’t on the guy right then, so I wanted to wait until he was on the block. I just got there too quick.”

“He would have been gone,” Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said.

–Other postgame notes:

Six Bears made their first career starts: RB Shane Vereen, RT Mitchell Scwhartz, Young, LG Chris Guarnero, LB Eddie Young and CB Darian Hagan.

Vereen finished with 101 yards on just nine carries. His 81-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was a backbreaker for Michigan State.

Vereen and Best (111 yards) became the first Cal duo to rush for 100 yards each since Justin Forsett (124) and Marshawn Lynch (111) in the 2006 Holiday Bowl.

Cameron Morrah’s 50-yard catch in the second quarter was a career-high.


Defining moments

One of the compelling things about Saturday’s game was there were a handful of plays that proved to be pivotal.

–Michigan State had an apparent touchdown overturned by instant replay after it was ruled that wide receiver Mark Dell trapped a pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-6 in the first quarter. Dell made a sensational play just to make it close, going out in an all-out dive with Darian Hagan defending. I actually was surprised the call was overturned because it appeared to be so very close. I figured it would be ruled as inconclusive.

–On Cal’s touchdown drive in the third quarter, Shane Vereen picked up a first down on 3rd-and-4 from the Bears’ own 30. It came on a screen pass and was very close. The chain gang came out to measure and Vereen just got past the marker.

–True freshman Mychal Kendricks made a play I’m sure he’d like to take back when he bowled over MSU punter Aaron Bates attempting to make a block. It may have been one of the more blatant roughing calls ever. It gave the Spartans another first down, and they scored a touchdown two plays later.

–The biggest play, as I mentioned in an previous post, was Kevin Riley’s pass to tight end Cameron Morrah on 3rd-and-13 from the 49 in the fourth quarter and the Bears hanging on to a 24-21 lead. MSU nose guard Ryan Wheat looked as though he had Riley sacked, but Riley somehow got the pass off and Morrah made a nice catch with Spartans safety Dan Fortener on him.

“It was one-on-one and the guy’s back was turned so I thought Cam had a good chance to make the play,” Riley said.

–Dell caught a 52-yard pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer with Cal defensive backs Brett Johnson and Darian Hagan all over him. It looked as though Dell was sharing possession, but the refs ruled it a catch.




Michigan State: A look back

Before kickoff last night, it was really hard to determine just how good or what kind of team the Bears will be this season. Obviously, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, but I thought we started to get a gauge on some key issues against the Spartans, and it resulted in good news for Cal.

–Probably the most positive development was how the Bears defended the run. That was the biggest concern about the switch to the 3-4 defense. Michigan State is believed to have one of the most potent running attacks in the Big Ten with NFL draft prospect Javon Ringer in its backfield. The Bears held the Spartans to just 81 yards on the ground on a 2.6 average.

Obviously, the Bears allowed some yards in the passing game, and that will have to improve. Michigan State came up with some big plays through the air, especially late in the game. Spartans receiver Mark Dell had nine catches for 202 yards, the first opposing receiver to have over 200 yards against Cal since 2005.

–Tailback Jahvid Best looked exhausted at the end of the game and took a long time to come into the interview room afterward as he received treatment from the training staff. Best said he was slightly cramping late in the game.

It certainly looks as though Best is going to be able to handle the heavy workload the Bears have planned for him. He had 24 carries, five catches and four kick returns and amassed 277 total yards. His explosiveness was on display, especially on his 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter in which he made a quick cut to the outside and easily outran the Spartans defense to the corner of the end zone.

“They kind of blocked up the middle,” Best said. “I just saw the pylon and ran for it.”

–The game also confirmed what we knew already. The Bears’ receiving corps is a work in progress. Sean Young played well, but other than that no receiver made an impact. Young had four catches for 81 yards but there was only one other reception by a wide receiver (LaReylle Cunningham for six yards).

Nyan Boateng had a couple of drops and Marvin Jones wasn’t a factor. Michael Calvin played sparingly because of a sprained toe. The Bears are going to need their receivers to do a better job of getting open because they won’t be able to always depend on tight end Cameron Morrah or their running backs catching passes out of the backfield.

–You got to hand it to Kevin Riley for answering Michigan State scores by leading Cal on scoring drives. AFter Otis Wiley’s 31-yard interception return for a touchdown cut the Bears lead to 10-7 in the second quarter, Riley immediately threw a 42-yard screen pass to Best followed by a 24-yard completion to Young. Best ended up scoring on a 2-yard run on a drive that took just 48 seconds.

After the Spartans cut it to 17-14 on Ringer’s 1-yard run, Riley again forged a drive, leading the Bears 76 yards on eight plays and ending on a 4-yard TD pass to Morrah. Then after Ringer’s 10-yard run made it 24-21, Riley and the Bears answered immediately again, going 59 yards on nine plays and ending on fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou’s first career touchdown catch, a 5-yarder to push it back to 31-21

–Speaking of that drive, it probably included the play of the game when Riley found Morrah on 3rd-and-13 for a 26-yard gain. Riley was being pulled down by MSU nose tackle Ryan Wheat but still managed to get the ball downfield to Morrah despite having safety Dan Fortener draped all over him.

–I guess cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson’s shoulder is OK. Thompson, who didn’t practice in a full capacity at practice last week until Thursday after missing a lot of time with a sprained shoulder, had a terrific game. It wasn’t only his interception near the end of the first half, but MSU receivers simply struggled to get open against him. He broke up three passes and also had five tackles. That may have been a better game than any Thompson played all of last season.

More later…


Now that’s confidence

Don’t know if you all noticed on the replay, but Kevin Riley already had his arms outstretched signaling touchdown while his pass to Cameron Morrah was still in flight. Of course, when you’re that wide open, it’s probably a pretty easy prediction to make.

Very important drive for Cal to answer there. Key play: The four-yard pass to Shane Vereen on 3rd-and-4. It was very close and the Bears may have enjoyed a generous spot.

Good playcalling as well on the drive. The Bears were running and doing the short stuff, and you just got the feeling they would go to play action and try to stretch the field at some point. That allowed Sean Young to get behind his defender to haul in his 42-yard catch that set up the score.


Halftime update

Obviously, that wasn’t the greatest moment for Nate Longshore. What started out as a pretty good relief effort turned into disaster. You have to wonder how much Longshore will see the field again in the near future. It will likely take an injury to really ineffective play by Kevin Riley to make it happen. And I wouldn’t bet on Riley going in the tank.

A nice gesture by Riley as well: As Longshore returned to the field after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, he was showered with boos. Riley started to warm up on the sidelines, and motioned to the student section to knock off the booing. Pretty good teammate.

The Bears have to be happy with their first half in the 3-4 defense. MIchigan State hasn’t moved the ball very consistently, and they’re doing a pretty good job against the run. Stopping the run was the biggest concern coming into the game in the 3-4, especially against the Spartans’ potent ground game, led by Javon Ringer.

Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson has had a terrific game, capped off with his interception at the end of the first half. MSU receivers simply cann’t get open against him,a nd he’s been around the ball consistently.

After a slow start, Jahvid Best is showing up in the boxscore. He has 63 yards on 12 carries and 58 yards on four catches.

Kevin Riley is 7-for-9 for 91 yards. Tight end Cameron Morrah has three catches for 63 yards.

Ringer has just 39 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback Bryan Moyer has struggled, going 9-for-22 for 107 yards and a pick.

More to come….


First quarter update

Clearly, the defense has been the story so far for Cal. The Bears have been able to keep Javon Ringer in check, and the secondary is doing an excellent job with downfield coverage, especially cornerbacks Syd’Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan, who have been blanketing MSU’s wide receivers.

Cal hasn’t done much on offense, although there are signs the running game might be coming around now.

The MVP of the game so far? Maybe punter Bryan Anger: Two punts, 57.5 average.