Football: Tuesday night update

Cal held its weekly press luncheon today and, as expected, most of the talk was about recovering from the Oregon nightmare and moving on to USC. A full transcript of quotes is below, but a few points to highlight:

–Most everybody involved insists that the team just had a bad day, that it made its share of mistakes. They give Oregon credit for playing very well, but also say a lot of the responsibility falls on them.

I find this to be a very important question. Is it really because the Bears simply made mistakes? Could there be that many mistakes that would lead to a 39-point loss? The Ducks looked faster, stronger and better prepared than Cal. It begs the question whether it was simply an off-day for the Bears or the team has some probelms that simply weren’t demonstrated during  the first three games. Of course, nothing like playing USC to get some of those questions answered.

–Cal may have made mistakes, but Jeff Tedford admitted after the game Saturday that his team was beat up physically. Oregon dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Is that because of mistakes? Perhaps Cal’s players lost grasp of their fundamentals and techniques, allowing the Ducks to loook stronger or faster. Again, Saturday will help answer that question.

–I’ve heard a lot of negative stuff being said about Kevin Riley’s performance against Oregon. I don’t think much of his poor game was his fault. HIs offensive line couldn’t protect him for most of the game, and he was on the run most of the time. He did miss a couple of throws, but he clearly would have been in a better rhythmn had he had even slightly more time to throw.

Riley said Tuesday that on the first play from scrimmage, when left tackle Mike Tepper was beaten for a sack, Shane Vereen was wide open in the end zone. Riley never had a chance to get it to him.

–Best quote of the day came when Tedford was asked if there is something “that keeps coming up” when he watches film of USC over the years. “I see great players. That keeps coming up.”

–A couple of the defensive players said Tuesday that Oregon did some things they didn’t expect. The Ducks made some subtle changes to their blocking schemes that forced Cal to adjust, and obviously they got tight end Ed Dickson open over and over again on play action passes.

“We were expecting a really lateral offensive line, like what they’ve been showing the past few years and the past three games they’ve played,” defensive end Tyson Alualu said.

On the subject of Dickson repeatedly getting open, linebacker Devin Bishop said: “That confused me. The whole time we were trying to figure out exactly what was happening. They were running a lot and then would catch us off guard with play action, and the tight end was the person who was open.”

–During a conference call with the Bay Area media, USC coach Pete Carroll said it wasn’t so much what Cal did wrong, but what Oregon did right.

“I saw an Oregon team that was on fire,” Carroll said. “With their crowd, they kind of caught momentum early and just didn’t let up in all phases.”

And now, on to today’s press luncheon comments:

–For Jeff Tedford and Kevin Riley, click here.


On whether it was a bad day or there are bigger problems

Watching film, that just wasn’t our team. It wasn’t our identity. There’s no doubt in my mind that nobody is doubting what we can do here at Cal. I definitely feel like everybody is ready to respond to show America what we’re really about.

On what went wrong on defense

I just think we were in the wrong places, missing tackles. That’s what we have to work on, the little things, as far as technique. Then I think we’ll be good.

On whether Oregon did anything they didn’t expect

We were expecting a really lateral offensive line, like what they’ve been showing the past few years and the past three games they’ve played. They kind of changed it up. They ran some power. We adjusted to it, but the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now. We’re just ready to get after it and unload on USC.

On balancing long-term goals with taking care of business this week

Obviously, that goal of being undefeated is out. In our mind, we can still win the Pac-10. At the same time, we have to take it day by day and one game at a time. We have to stay focused on USC and not get ahead of ourselves and think about Pac-10 championships. From here on out, it’s focusing on that opponent each week.

On USC quartergback Matt Barkley

We have to get after the quarterback. We have to get in his face on every pass play.



On whether it was just a bad day or there are bigger problems

It was a bad day. The first three games, we played tough. We battled. The Minnesota game said a lot — being tied in a hostile environment and then coming back to win it. I don’t really have an explanation for what happened, but we don’t feel like that was us out there. We’re focusing on turning it around and getting back to playing the Cal football that we know we can be.

On the mood of the team

I think everybody was conditioning a little bit harder on Sunday. We know what we did the previous week obviously didn’t work. It’s going to take a little bit of extra effort to go out there and perform like we know we can.

On how new linebackers Mychal Kendricks, D.J. Holt and Devin Bishop did against Oregon

With their offense last week, you have to be patient and wait for the play to come to you. When things weren’t going our way, a couple guys kind of got impatient. One thing that we did not do is quit. We were out there fighting the whole time. It was just a tough situation. We feel like we’re going to get it back on track.

On how Cal’s new linebackers are doing in general

They’re doing a great job. They haven’t played very much. They’ve really done a good job of staying up with the weekly game plan. They’ve impressed me a lot. They’re proving a lot of people wrong. They’re not having a hard time adjusting.

On USC quarterback Matt Barkley

Anytime you lose a quarterback like Sanchez, it’s going to be tough to replace. But Barkley has done a good job. One of our things is stop the run and then try to rattle him because he is a true freshman. Make the reads tougher on him, bringing pressure so there’s always a guy in his face. Try to flush him out of the pocket, see if we can get him flustered.

On Barkley’s inexperience

Last year, Sanchez had been there awhile. He knew what to expect, he knows how to handle the adversity a little bit better than guys just coming out of high school. That will be a big focus this week, but the biggest focus will be stopping the run.



On the pain of watching the film of the Oregon game

It was pretty tough. We grade as an offensive line. Looking back at it, it came down to fundamentals and execution. That’s on us as athletes. Coaches push us really hard and we have to make it happen out there on the field.

On how much Oregon stacked the box

When you can pretty much throw a hand grenade on that side of the line and blow up ten of their players…we knew it was coming. That’s the frustrating thing about it. We prepared accordingly

On the offensive line’s struggles against Oregon

I think a lot of it is there is so much going on around us that some of the younger, inexperienced players might have had some trouble for the first time. We prepared for everything. Looking back on it, I think it was just execution, fundamentals and a sense of urgency to get the job done.

On the offense’s problems against Oregon

It was like we were playing 10-man football. One person would always not be executing. It came down to execution. Certain plays, we didn’t execute as an offense, as a unit.

On whether the team’s belief is shaken

We still believe in each other and we still believe in our goals. We have long-term goals. It’s not just one game. We realize it was a squandered opportunity to get a big win, and that’s all it was. We can still achieve everything we want to achieve and still have a great season. We all know that wasn’t the way we play. We believe in how we can play, and that just wasn’t us.

On whether USC’s defense looks different with so many new faces

Where they line up and how they play football is the same. Those guys (from last year) were senior men who had been training with the USC strength and conditioning coach. I don’t know how long they’ve been in the program, but you could see the older guys from last year had experience.



On getting past Oregon

Everyone wins and loses in football. That’s just part of it. We just have to put it behind us and look forward to next week. That’s what we’re focusing on right now. Obviously, it’s pretty hard because it was something we weren’t expecting to happen to us. But we have to keep moving forward.

On the problems on defense

It was missed assignments, missed tackles. The small things added up. They capitalized and scored on the opportunities they had.

On things Oregon did differently on offense

They made subtle changes in their blocking schemes up front. Some small things, like pulling an extra guy or putting more guys in motion. We changed up later in the second half, but by that time it was too late.

On tight end Ed Dickson’s success

That confused me. The whole time we were trying to figure out exactly what was happening. They were running a lot and then would catch us off guard with play action, and the tight end was the person who was open.

On whether the team’s confidence is shaken

We can see on tape that we are a good football team. It definitely was an off-day for us. Our pride and tradition is to be a great, physical football team. We were definitely off that day.

On what the team needs to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again

We have to practice as if we’re trying to be perfect. It consists of a whole team, not individuals, motivating each other and making sure that everybody keeps their head in the game and forgets about this last week. If we come together, I think we can move forward.

On how he’s feeling out there finally playing a lot

I’m comfortable out there. I’ve been doing it most of my life. I have good guys around me. Even though some of them are young and inexperienced, they’re still very talented guys. And I’m always comfortable with (Mohamed). I know he always has my back because he has more experience.



On injured running back Stafon Johnson

He’s had a very good morning. He’s responding and communicating. He’s had an uplifting morning for everybody else. He had a very difficult night. A long, long surgery and very intricate procedures taking place. His spirit is very good and everybody is very hopeful for a great return.

On how the team is dealing with Johnson’s injury

They’re taking it very strongly. This is a very well-liked, loved guy in the program and knows everybody and is a great contributor and has done a marvelous job building friendships and relationships. Everybody feels it. When you spend this much time together, everybody feels everybody’s pain. We’re all sharing in it.

On Jahvid Best

He’s an incredible player and they have a great system to get him the football in many ways and we have to do everything we can think of to try to slow him down. We have to make all kinds of adjustments for what he can do. He’s just a very unique player and they understand his talents.

On how the tape of the Oregon game will help USC prepare for Cal

That was an extraordinarily effective game for Oregon and surprised everybody. We try to study that stuff and make sure we understand how they got it done and what they did and see if we can find something to help us.

On whether Cal just had a bad day or there are bigger problems

I saw an Oregon team that was on fire. With their crowd, they kind of caught momentum early on and just didn’t let up in all phases. You put that all together and that’s a big day.

On whether he expects Cal to play better against the Trojans

I don’t think there’s any question. They’ve played some great football in their other games and we know how they’ll play at home. We expect them to be a championship team.



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.