By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 at 10:21 pm in media luncheon.
Today was the first weekly press luncheon in a while that Cal didn’t have to revisit a disaster from the previous Saturday. The Bears weren’t beating their chests in triumph over Saturday’s win over UCLA, but there seemed to be a quiet confidence that indicated they felt they are back on track.
Cal’s players understand the position they are in, and it’s suddenly much better than it was a couple of days ago. The Bears are back to 4-2 overall and have three of their next four games at home. There are still some tough games left on the schedule, but the two toughest Pac-10 games are in the rear view mirror.
Cal enters the weekend in eighth place, but could be tied for fourth by the end of Saturday’s action. Of course, they would still be a logjam in the middle of the conference and the Bears could easily slip back down the ladder. But the reality is that if the Bears were to go on a run during the second half of the season, they could still have a pretty successful year.
Here’s one way to have a better chance at success: Make sure you have 11 players on the field at all times. Tuesday, coach Jeff Tedford answered some questions about a topic many of you have asked about. Why did the Bears only have 10 players on the field on two consecutive plays in the fourth quarter, the second of which turned into Mychal Kendricks interception return for a touchdown but could easily have also been a touchdown for UCLA?
Here’s what happened: On the previous play, linebacker Eddie Young came out of the game with cramps. As he came off the field, the Bears were also switching to one of their subgroup packages so there were several substitutions going on. All the right players for the subgroup came onto the field. Young was supposed to remain on the field. Apparently, the coaching staff wasn’t aware that Young had come out, leaving the team short a linebacker for two plays.
And yes, Tedford said the lack of the linebacker was the reason UCLA tight end Logan Paulsen was so wide open down the middle of the field. Fortunately for the Bears, Bruins quarterback underthrew the pass and it was picked off by Kendricks.
The Bears were extremely fortunate that play didn’t turn out worse. A better pass almost surely would have wound up as a touchdown, which would have cut the Bears’ lead to 38-33 with still over five minutes remaining.
“I don’t know if they would have scored a touchdown but they would ahve made a big gain, no doubt about it,” Tedford said. “You can’t allow that to happen. It’s about communication on the sideline between players and coaches and trainers, the whole bit. That thing happened pretty fast — somebody comes off for a play. Is he ready to go back on the next play in the subgroup, when you’re changing personnel groups? Is he or isn’t he? Those types of things happen. It’s another learning experience — we’ve got to know immediately because it could happen the very next play. Sometimes a guy will come off the field and be off just for a play and then go right back in. The people who get injured have to go to those coaches on that side of the ball. So we dodged a bullet.”
Linebacker Mike Mohamed was on the field at the time but said they didn’t realize they only had ten men on the field until they rehashed it after the game.
“We were pretty fortunate because at the time we were only up by (12),” Mohamed said. “The score would have been a lot closer. They would have had a lot more confidence. We did dodge a bullet. That was a substitution error that we’re going to fix.”
There weren’t really any earthshattering topics covered today. Most of the discourse focused on the Bears righting the ship and getting a victory in a must-win game. We also discussed the fact that Washington State appears to be substantially improved from last year (of course, they really could only go up).
I’ll have full transcriptions of all of the players interviewed tomorrow.
As far as injuries go, Tedford said cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson’s diagnosis has been changed to a back bruise rather than a hip pointer. Thompson didn’t practice Tuesday and probably won’t practice Wednesday either, but Tedford expects him to play in the game. Kicker Vince D’Amato’s status is still uncertain because of a sprained shoulder.
A couple of Tuesday night links:
–I forgot to post this earlier today: It’s my notebook from today, focusing on the development of true freshman guard Brian Schwenke.
–Here’s the transcription from Jeff Tedford and Kevin Riley’s comments today.
–ESPN.com’s Ted Miller with his midseason review of Cal.