BearTalk

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A bye week reflection

By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 at 9:44 am in Mid-week.

One of the prevalent themes coming from the locker room after Saturday’s game is that the Bears are much better equipped to handle this setback than they were last season. Zack Follett and Worrell Williams, among others, stressed that the Bears won’t let the loss simmer.

 

There are a couple of reasons to believe the Bears. No. 1, they have a bye week. Yes, on the one hand, they probably would like to get back on the field as soon as possible to get back on track. But on the other hand, it will probably be a good break for Cal, to get healthy and get their minds right.

 

Coach Jeff Tedford said after the game that he is very confident the team has the leadership necessary to bounce back from Saturday’s loss. Of course, it helps to bounce back when the next game is a home contest against lowly Colorado State. The Bears should be ready to roll against the Rams, who will probably be outmanned and face a very motivated Cal team.

 

But perhaps the biggest reason why the Bears will be able to handle their first loss of the season is that simply this is a different season, one that comes with less expectations and pressure. When Cal lost its first game of the season last year, as we all know, the Bears were on the verge of becoming the No. 1 team in the country. Thoughts of Bowl Championship Series berths were dancing in the minds of Old Blues. The stakes were much higher at that point. And when the Bears lost again the following week, it felt like a potentially special season was unraveling.

 

This year, nobody expects the Bears to go to a BCS game or even win the Pac-10. Yes, the wins in the first two games of the season elevated hopes and expectations, but now there is a loss on their record, it seems like this is really not a bad spot for Cal to be in:  Two of the first three games on the road, all three against major schools, one of them in conference play. Winning all three wasn’t out of the question, but winning two of three is still quite an accomplishment for a team trying to bounce back from last year’s second-half collapse.

 

The immediate future still looks pretty encouraging for the Bears. They should pound Colorado State. Then Arizona State comes to town, and as last night’s loss to UNLV indicates, the Sun Devils may not be ready for prime time just yet. Cal will get them at home, and then will have another bye after that game. If the Bears can win both games and be 4-1 heading into another week off, they could set themselves up for a pretty good second half of the season.

 

The bye week will also come at a good time for running backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, each of whom got banged up Saturday. It sure made for some uneasy moments when Best was crushed on the hit by Maryland defensive back Kevin Barnes. Even though it appears Best is completely recovered from his hip injury, it’s got to still be back in everyone’s mind. Best laying on the field for a few minutes afterward just compounded things.

 

But Best seemed fine after the game. He admitted to being a little sore, but the way he bounced back from that vicious hit should alleviate any concerns that he lacks the toughness or durability to be an every-down type of player.

 

The Bears will have a normal practice week this week, practicing Tuesday through Thursday before taking the weekend off. As usual, the coaching staff will let a lot of the younger players get much of the reps before beginning game planning for Colorado State at the start of next week.

 

 

 

 

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  • GC

    “Coach Jeff Tedford said after the game that he is very confident the team has the leadership necessary to bounce back from Saturday’s loss. Of course, it helps to bounce back when the next game is a home contest against lowly Colorado State. The Bears should be ready to roll against the Rams, who will probably be outmanned and face a very motivated Cal team.”

    JO win, lose, or draw, you have to remember that CAL lost to a lowly Maryland team.

  • Robert

    J.O. are there any positions that may be won or lost during this time off? Where are the closest battles?

  • Go Bears!

    I love your positive out look Jon! I hope you’re right.

  • cal85

    I think the one silver lining to come out of the debacle was the number of passes completed to the WRs. Yes, Maryland is not $C, but I believe the game reps are invaluable. Prior to that, it seemed like both the receivers and Riley were thinking, “it hasn’t been like that in practice!” As much as I didn’t want to run up the score against WSU, I was hoping that Riley would stay in longer just to get more time with his WRs.

    Until the vertical game becomes better situated, teams will continue to stack up against the run or short pass to the RBs.

  • E-dog

    Let’s not let Kevin Riley off scotch free here. That nasty hit on Best was completely Riley’s fault. In fact, Riley sucked arse the whole first half. His timimg was off and he was very slow to get the ball out of his hands. What the hell? Riley needs to watch the tape and figure out how to speed things up a bit and not set up his key players for hits like that.

  • CalAlum97

    Riley was slow to get the ball off because his receivers were wrapped in Terp-blankets all day long. And while the O-line was terrible in opening holes for the running game, their pass protection was pretty decent. A huge number of sacks on Riley were coverage sacks. Same goes for flushing Riley out of the pocket, the line could only hold off the rush for so long and Riley could only hold the ball for so long. Where he did suck is his deep passes, many overthrows. But I think this was due to him never being able to get into a rhythm due to the constant sacks and pocket-flushes. He’s a good QB and a strong leader, I don’t think the Maryland game was indicative of his ability.

  • Jethro

    As bad as the offense, defense, and special teams played, I think this game turned on two “bad luck” plays in the first half:

    1) Sean Young falls down on a timing route and Riley throws an INT that leads to 7 quick points; and

    2) The refs blow the safety call (where was the review if a review actually occurred?) that would have given the Bears a big momentum boost just before the end of the first half.

    Maybe then the Bears don’t miss that chip-shot field goal at the end of the half and we have a 14 to 11 game with momentum on the Bears side, instead of going into the locker room down 21-6 with our daubers dragging.

    The second half would have looked completely different under this scenario, but ultimately Cal would have to come out of its funk without the benefit of Maryland’s soft “prevent” defense and without Maryland’s offense just running the ball to chew up time.

  • rollonubears

    i think Jethro nailed it. unfortunately, Tedford is too shy to raise hell and scream at the officials. this absence of player advocacy destroys team confidence. kids want their coach to have their back, especially in those scenarios. when a coach just sits there, it brings the whole team down. let loose, tedford. show these men you care about them and you’re not going to just stand there while officials try to take the game out of your hands. get tossed out, if you need to. pick up the intensity, man, it’s embarrassing.

  • southseasbear

    Rollon, Tedford did give the refs a tongue lashing late in the game. The announcers didn’t say anything about it, but he could be heard on TV yelling “timeout” and then “bulls**t.” I’m not sure what he saw, but appeared he expected a penalty to be called. At the end of the time out, he remained on the field and demonstrated throwing a flag while mouthing something (I think it was along the lines of “throw the flag”), and had to be escorted off. Again, the announcers said nothing (at that point half of what they were saying had nothing to do with the game itself) so I don’t know what the issue was but Tedford did take issue with some aspect of the officiating.

  • Wingnut

    JT has to get back to Cal football. Run your small backs up the middle and force a desperation third down pass. Genius, my arse. $3 million for garbage.

  • dball

    Yes, Riley threw what in rugby terms is called a “hospital pass” to Best, thank God he didn’t end up in the hospital. Riley’s a stud though, the complete opposite of “don’t-let-me-play-the-4th-quarter” Longshore. In fact, Riley and the offensive line were at their best in the 4th quarter, whereas Longshore had to rely on having a great start and just protecting the lead.

  • Cal 08

    I noticed watching the game that DJ HOLT is a monster run stuffer on the inside. I hope they play him more because I believe he’s a much better run stopper than either felder or williams. If it was up to me he’d be on the field on 1st and 2nd downs because those are usually the running downs. I hope TEDFORD realizes this.

    GO BEARS!!!!

  • 07

    southwesbear, i noticed that too during the game.

    i think it was on a play when maryland’s tailback clearly did a little move before the ball was snapped, which caused 3-4 of our players to point it out to the refs for a false start. it was so blatent, but instead of the right call (false start), the ball was snapped, our defense was out of focus for a split second, but I think it came out to only a 4 yd gain.

    it’s funny when tedford is on camera when he’s clearly pissed off. some other times come to mind: 1) earlier this year when we were up by 50+ against WSU and something about special teams got him crazy pissed 2) the time was it steve levy when he handed the ball off in the holiday bowl game at the very end when he was supposd to take a knee (grabbed his helmet and yelled in his face hahahah), and 3) that time last year (i think) when one of the opposing players on a kick return stepped on the back of our guys. Tedford did a demonstration of this to the refs to no avail.

    So no, I dont think it’s fair to say tedford doesn’t have his players’ backs. I think the players clearly know he does, that he works ridiculous hours for the team so they can succeed, and just because you can’t hear him or see him pissed off at bad calls, doesn’t mean he isn’t showing it to his players and the refs.

    There’s just situations when you have terrible, terrible pac-10 refs, and that’s its own explanation. No need to try to explain it. It is what it is.

  • commonsense

    This article is laughable. The “lowly” Colorado State Rams are 1-1 against the Bears this decade (the win coming at Cal), and last years final score was a lot closer than Bears fans care to remember (yes, against a Bears team that was hovering in the Top 5). Oh yeah and the MWC went 4 for 4 against the Pac-10 this past weekend (including the 59-0 thumping of BYU over UCLA) so it seems the entire Pac-10, with the obvious exception of USC is “not ready for prime time”. Cal probably wins this game, but at least do your homework before you assume they won’t leave it all on the field.

  • Tyler M.

    07, your #3 scenario was at the ’06 Oregon game. An Oregon player did sort-of a jump kick into the chest of a Cal player. The funny thing is that it occurred right in front on the official. SportsCenter took a few seconds to point this out in the game highlights.

  • RAF

    KEVIN RILEY AND THE LONG BALL — LACK OF A POWER BACK. These were my two huge concerns that I mentioned on the Washington St Post. I was disappointed to see the problems could not fixed. Kevin still hasn’t shown a hint of accuracy on his deep passes. His throws weren’t even in the same ZIP code as his receivers! Awful. Stats are deceiving, yes 423 passing, but that was on a million throws, 56% comp and 7.3yrd average! As for the run, Maryland stuffed vereen and best who aren’t power / ‘move the pile’ backs. I dunno how competitive we can be with top teams in the conference with these two deficiencies…

  • Teff EdFord (also from Concord)

    Riley hit some deep balls in the MSU game, so it’s certainly possib;e…how many total reps has he had with the receivers? THere’s a reason we weren’t ranked this year at the season’s start – there is a steep learning curve.
    As for Tedford getting upset…whaddya want, “I’m a man, I’m 40!?!”?! I think he’s probably trying to tone it down, especially after Oregon State last year. I bet there’s still a divit in the field where the headset hit. Going ballistic looks cool, is great for post-game news, but I doubt it results in anything positive. There’s been a lot of winning coaches that don’t flip out. And, if the players start imitiating the coach…yikes.

  • Jan K Oski

    wise words, Teff… A college coach is suppose to be a good example in forming young men into adults who positively contribute to society. Throwing a fit equivalent to a 2 year old conflicts with that end. I know that some players respond in a positive way to other people’s rage, but that isn’t true for everyone or even the majority of us… GO BEARS!

  • DEWZ

    Wrong. I think Colorado State beats Cal….just like UNLV beat Arizona. We are looking too far ahead.

  • Wearing My Sun Bowl Shirt

    Clearly the early game start hurt us. There were some blown calls (safety, an offensive pass interference, etc.). However, we played soft and did not control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. That is really where the game was lost. Mack not only failed to dominate (a top 2 center in the country should dominate), but his 15 yard late hit foul killed a crucial drive in the 2nd half. Best had little room to run all day, and even their backup running back ran all over us.

    Riley did not play well. To say he finally came around in the fourth quarter is not entirely fair considering “he came around” against a prevent defense which allowed Riley to have unlimited time to find an open receiver. Riley does a terrible job of looking off his first receiver. All those coverage sacks are often just because it takes him too long to move to his second option. You’ll notice if the primary option isn’t open, Riley will start to scramble. At least working on his progressions is an obvious thing to identify and practice. I was actually somewhat surprised Longshore did not get a chance when Riley continued to struggle.

    The kicking game – is there seriously no one on campus that can kick the ball to the 5 yard line on a kick off? Maybe someone on the women’s soccer team? The field position we are giving up is ridiculous. And I know kickers aren’t too busy during practice; maybe we should try kicking an onside kick or two while we stand around. The three attempts were absolutely pathetic (and by the way, no reason to kick the first one – seven minutes left down two scores and three timeouts, you don’t need the onside kick yet, particularly when you are that bad at it).

    One bright side – Boateng is legit. I don’t care who is #1 on the depth charts or anything else; he is by far our best receiver right now. He is a Dwayne Jarrett-type. We can open things up a lot more with him out there. He might not be our fastest receiver, but he is the only wr routinely getting open (Morrah is often open as well). He needs to get more looks, particularly downfield. The playcalling has been rather unimaginative this year, so hopefully a receiver that can make some plays will give Tedford and co. more confidence to not continue to run screens and draws on third and long.

  • CalBear84

    Offense obviously has the potential; but the play calling has to help them out! Hey Cignetti! The screen pass is a low percentage play; after the first one, which was called back, Maryland was waiting for every one. Red zone offense? What’s with the shotgun inside the 10? I’m not sure who was missing their blocks, but it certainly wasn’t Ta’ufo’ou. That man was pancaking people on every block. We need to add power to the running game … give him the damn football!

  • MDS

    Keep talkin’ We are going to show the “mighty” bears a thing or two about playin’ ball. Overlooking CSU will cost you.

  • Kent Wilson

    Riley was terrible…OL could not open holes for Best or Vereen…WRs were terrible…defense was manhandled all day long!

    Riley throwing for 400 yds is very deceiving, most of the yardage comes in the 2nd half, when Maryland was playing very soft. when the game was in doubt, Riley was terribly inconsistent, he overthrew many receivers who were open. But equal amount of the blame has to go to the WRs, WRs have to learn to keep moving once Riley is outside of the pocket, many times the WRs would simply run their routes in then stop…they made no additional effort to get open after the initial play broke down. Whe the game was in doubt, Riley was terribly indecisive in the pocket…it’s as if he is afraid to throw an INT, he’s got to learn to trust his WRs and his own instincts. Riley and the WRs should get better as they gain more experience.

    my biggest worry for Cal is on defense. Cal stunk on defense last year…and considering that they were retuning 9 starters from a year ago, I expected Cal to have a solid D this year. But their performance against Michigan St. and now Maryland, suggest that teams are going to consistently move the ball against the Bears D. The Cal D, just does not get too many 3 and outs. Cal generates minimal pass rush with 4 players rushing the QB…and their DB play is erratic. Thompson is very solid at CB, but no other DB player is consistently good. Given the experience level on the defensive side of the ball, it appears that they are not improving from year to year. I don’t know if this is due to poor coaching or poor scheming…all I know is that the defense has underperformed for the past 4 to 5 years.

  • CalAlum97

    Contra Costa Times, are we going to read about USC CB Shareece Wright pleading not guilty to felony resisting arrest and failure to appear, or is it going to be quietly swept under the rug.

    http://usc.freedomblogging.com/2008/09/17/shareece-wright-pleads-not-guilty-gets-stern-warning/

    Oops, wrong blog! ;)

  • Goldiebear

    Wingnut #10–

    Tedford isn’t calling the plays anymore, remember?. Cignetti has that job now.

    The coaching staff should have realized that after watching Best and Vereen bust up the middle for 80+ yard TD’s, Maryland would be trying to make sure that it didn’t happen to them also. Thus, very little success with that approach Saturday. I still don’t get why Will T doesn’t get some carries to soften up the opponent’s defense. For sure he won’t have many 20+ yard plays but he would probably gain 5-6 yards on a consistent basis.

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Robert, I don’t think the bye week will have too much of an effect on the depth chart. Mitchell Schwartz and Chet Teofilo may swap sides on the offensive line. But really when the coaches evaluate the younger players during the bye week, it’s really with one eye on the future.