Thursday night update

The Bears parted ways for the weekend off this afternoon, but not before they had a spirited practice in which scout team players had the opportunity to participate in a brief scrimmage.

Some of the players who stood out were wide receiver Ian Albrecht and defensive end Trevor Guyton. On the first play of the scrimmage, quarterback Brock Mansion connected with Albrecht on a rollout after a play fake, and Albrecht raced upfield for a long touchdown play. He was mobbed by the rest of the offense, as the Bears veterans really got into watching the future of the program go at it.

Albrecht made another nice play when he out-jumped cornerback Josh Hill on a pass from Mansion for a substantial gain. Hill almost got revenge on the next play when he jumped a route and almost picked off a Mansion pass that would have surely been returned for a touchdown.

Mansion also got the offense fired up when he took off running and lowered his shoulder on an attempted tackle by safety Chris Little.

Guyton, meanwhile, followed up a good day of practice Wednesday by causing some havoc at the line of scrimmage, stopping a few ball carriers for short gains with some big hits.

“When you’re redshirting, you kind of get overlooked sometimes,” Guyton said. “It gets frustrating. I felt like this scrimmage would be a chance to show what I’m actually doing.”

While the coaching staff obviously is evaluating the young players closely, the scrimmage is more a tip of the hat to the scout team for their hard work.

“It’s giving them an opportunity to play and let them have some fun,” Tedford said. “They’re always working tol prepare the team for who we’re playing. It’s great to let them get into our offense and defense and let them cut loose and play. We’re always coaching them on cards. It’s nice to let them play.”

Tedford said after practice he didn’t have any new information yet on the knee injury to wide receiver Marvin Jones, who was examined by a doctor Thursday. The initial diagnosis is a sprained knee, and Tedford said it’s hard to estimate how long he’ll be out because he didn’t know the severity yet.

A number of players didn’t practice during the drills before the scrimmage, but they are almost all precuationary. Safety Bernard Hicks suffered a leg bruise Wednesday and was held out Thursday. DB Sean Cattouse has a mild hamstring pull but is expected to be fine by next Saturday’s game against Colorado State.

Running back Shane Vereen still has a pretty noticeable limp but was able to do more on his own today than yesterday. Tedford seems confident Vereen will be OK by next week.

The Bears are now off until a short practice Sunday afternoon. They will have their usual day off on Monday before resuming a usual schedule for a game week on Tuesday.


Wednesday night update

Bye week practices always seem to have an extra dose of energy because there is no game planning going on and everyone is getting into the act. With no need for scout teams, third and fourth-stringers get reps and there can be some real spirited sessions.

The first couple of days of practice this week have been like that. Coach Jeff Tedford has been very pleased with practice so far this week, as the Bears paid special attention to fundamentals and details after Saturday’s loss at Maryland.

“I thought they had two really good days of practice,” Tedford said Wednesday night. “We hit quite a bit the past two days. I felt like we got a lot out of it.”

Unfortunately with hitting comes the risk of injury, and freshman wide receiver Marvin Jones went down in a heap midway through practice. He was attended to on the turf for several minutes before being helped to the sidelines. Tedford said after practice that he believed Jones suffered a sprained knee, but Tedford had just gotten a preliminary report as he walked off the field. There will probably be more information tomorrow, but it looks as though Jones will miss at least some time.

Jones hadn’t made quite the impact some had anticipated early on, catching just one pass for 8 yards so far. But his absence still will have a significant impact as the Bears continue to try to find consistency in their passing game.

The Bears have also spent the past two days flip-flopping Chet Teofilo and Mitchell Schwartz on the offensive line. Schwartz has been taking reps at left tackle while Teofilo has been on the right side. Tedford said it’s simply something the team is taking a look at, but Schwartz has been so good this season as a redshirt freshman that it’s something that could stick. Teofilo was slated to play the right side anyway this season, but moved to the left when Mike Tepper couldn’t go to begin the season.

Speaking of Tepper, Tedford said Wednesday he still didn’t know when Tepper would start practicing, but thought he might know more by the end of the week. Tepper has spent the first few weeks of the season wearing a limited contact yellow jersey and playing on the scout team defense.

A couple highlights from Wednesday:

–Freshman defensive tackle Trevor Guyton had a couple of nice plays, including one where he steamrolled fullback Brian Holley and sacked quarterback Beau Sweeney.

–Defensive end Sean Brown also played well, blowing up tight end Spencer Ladner on one individual pass protection drill.

–Right guard Noris Malele, who has really improved over last season, was getting down field to block and also nicely picked up linebacker Zack Follett on a blitz. That earned a high-five from offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.

As expected, the Bears are taking it easy with some of their banged up players during the bye week. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson and running back Shane Vereen are wearing red jerseys and not practicing. Vereen still has a noticeable limp after suffering a sprained ankle Saturday. Thompson’s shoulder is fine, but he simply doesn’t really need the practice this week. Thompson is still very involved taking mental reps.

Wide receiver Michael Calvin and running back Jahvid Best are wearing yellow jerseys and just practicing in limited fashion.

The Bears will have one more practice this week on Thursday, which will end with a mini-scrimmage involving the younger players. They will then break for the weekend before coming back to start preparing for Colorado State.


A bye week reflection

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.






A couple pressing post-game issues

–Jeff Tedford said after today’s game that the officials did indeed review Da’Rel Scott’s run from the 1-yard line that appeared to be a safety on the replay.

–Tedford also said that Shane Vereen suffered an ankle sprain but it doesn’t appear to be serious.

–Most guys said after the game that they didn’t feel affected by the time change. They actually said, if anything, it was the heat and humidity that was the hardest adjustment. But nobody blamed the loss on it or said it was a major factor.

–More than one player pointed out that this year’s team is better-equipped to handle adversity than last year’s because of the improved leadership on the roster. The Bears seem pretty sure the loss wont’ linger.

–One of the major themes during postgame interviews: The Bears got beat on both sides of the ball for most of the game, plain and simple.

–Jahvid Best said he felt a little sore after the game, but not much more than that. He also said the hit he took from Maryland’s Kevin Barnes was the hardest he’d ever taken in his life.


Third quarter stats

First downs: Cal 14, Maryland 17

Total yards: Cal 216, Maryland 244

Third down conversions: Cal 2-9, Maryland 6-9

Rushing: Vereen 5-23, Best 9-19, Scott 16-87, Meggett 6-27

Passing: Riley 16-30-1, 184, Turner 14-18, 150, 2 TDs

Receiving: Cunningham 4-68, Gronkowski 4-24.

Tackles: Alualu 7, Philstin 11.


Halftime stats

First downs: Cal 9, Maryland 12

Total yards: Cal 161, Maryland 174.

Third down conversions: Cal 0-5, Maryland 4-6

Rushing: Vereen 4-19, Best 5-(-1), Scott 15-73.

Passing: Riley 13-23-1 135. Turner 11-14, 106, 1 TD

Receiving: Cunningham 4-68, Gronkowski 4-24, 1 TD

Tackles: Felder, Alualu 5, Philstin 6.


Haltime thoughts

If the time change really is affecting Cal, it’s probably compounded by the fact that it’s hot and muggy on the field. The Bears definitely seem a step slow on defense. Maryland’s offensive line is opening up gaping holes for tailback Da’Rel Scott.

Cal’s lack of passing game is really magnified today because the Bears aren’t getting much of a running game going. And the Bears’ offensive line is struggling to protect quarterback Kevin Riley, another sign Cal appears sluggish. The offensive line rarely allows pressure, but Maryland’s blitzes are providing problems.

I don’t have an update on Jahvid Best’s status. If and when I do, I’ll pass it along.

A couple of notes:

–Syd’Quan Thompson is returning punts. He was expected to be the Bears’ primary punt returner but didn’t handle those duties during the first two games as he healed up from a sprained shoulder.

–That was David Seawright’s first missed field goal of the season.

I’ll post halftime stat higlights when I get them.