First of all, let me apologize again for the lack of posts during the game last night. Again, there were some technical problems with the internet access in the L.A. Coliseum press box, and I wasn’t able to get into our blog system after the first quarter.
A few of you have asked about USC’s first touchdown, and why it wasn’t reviewed. Honestly, I didn’t see a good enough replay in the press box to determine if it warranted a review or not. Jeff Tedford said after the game that by the time the team had determined that a review might be in order, the Trojans were already kicking the extra point and it was too late. What I’ve heard is the replay may not have been conclusive enough to reverse the call anyway, but you never know.
The prevailing theme coming out of postgame is that the Bears felt like they had some missed opportunities. Clearly, penalties hurt them, but there were even more untimely penalties for the Trojans. But Cal’s biggest shortcoming was the inability to connect in the passing game. After it became apparent there was just no way the Bears were going to be able to run the ball against USC (which most Trojans opponents have figured out this season), the Bears turned to their passing game. And they actually had open receivers. But both quarterbacks, and mainly Kevin Riley in the second half, simply were off the mark.
Some of that clearly has to do with USC’s pass rush. Yes, Riley missed receivers on plays where he wasn’t under pressure. But sometimes a quarterback can get our of his rhythmn or rush things when he’s generally feeling the heat. I remember when I covered the Super Bowl a few years back when the Raiders lost to Tampa Bay, and Rich Gannon had a miserable game. He was sacked a few times and hit a few others, but even on plays where he wasn’t under pressure, he made some bad throws. Afterward, he said that sometimes when a quarterback is taking hits, it can affect his overall performance, even when he’s not under pressure.
The chances of the Bears going to the Rose Bowl now, of course, look bleak. It’s hard to imagine USC losing to Stanford or UCLA, so even if Cal beats Oregon State this Saturday, it appears the Trojans would be in. Of course, the Beavers will go if they can win out.
But Cal can still wind up with a pretty good season, one to build off of and one that can help recruiting. If the Bears were to win out and finish at 9-3, you’d have to think they’d be ranked around 20th nationally and looking at the Holiday Bowl against a very good team from the Big 12. That could set things up nicely going into next year with a good nucleus of young players coming back.
But this Saturday’s game wont’ be easy. The Beavers are playing confidently and obviously are very good at home. Saturday’s game also helped Cal’s defense prove it can do the job on the road after getting torched in road games against Maryland and Arizona. You have to think the Bears’ defense is going to keep them in every game they play. Now, there’s just the little matter of getting the offense in gear.
You may have seen the latest rankings. Cal dropped out but is the first team of others receiving votes, meaning the Bears are at No. 26. Oregon State moved into the Associated Press top 25 at No. 23, meaning Cal has a chance to knock off a ranked opponent for the second time in three weeks.