Football: From the press box

  • You could make the argument that was the most painful loss of the Jeff Tedford era. The defense dominated all night, only to give up the one big play to set up the winning score.
  • The Bears may have played it too conservatively on their final couple of drives, keeping the ball exclusively on the ground and going for field goals instead of attempting to get it in the end zone.
  • RB Shane Vereen finished with 102 yards rushing. He also caught a pass for the 30th straight game, every game of his career.
  • CB Bryant Nnabufie had one of his better games, including two tackles for loss.
  • WR Marvin Jones had four catches for 41 yards and went  over 1,000 yards for his career.
  • Tonight marked the first time since 1994 that Arizona won a game by scoring just 10 points.
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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.

  • pgbear

    You could make a case that JT is done and needs to be bought out. Seriously. It’s not funny anymore. I want Ron Rivera

  • Larry

    “The Bears may have played it too conservatively on their final couple of drives, keeping the ball exclusively on the ground and going for field goals instead of attempting to get it in the end zone.”

    The Tedford M-O. That’s why we’ll never get to the Rose Bowl with Tedford.

  • ToparchBear

    that is hardest to see and the most paintful lost.

  • bwsa69

    tedford playcalling was fine. we used up time and moved the ball. make a fieldgoal and game over. it was makable. hey, make the previous one and the game is over.

  • David

    I disagree with the criticism I’ve been hearing on Tedford. Our offense was shooting itself in the foot all day. The call that I might have changed was not going for it on 4th and 1 when we were in the red zone up 6-3, although I think kicking the FG is defensible (if not popular).

    What is not defensible is Tavecchio leaving 6 easy points out on the field when Cal only needed 1.

    As for most painful loss, you could make that argument but I think it’d be a losing one. I don’t even think this was our most painful loss involving Arizona in the Tedford era. Offhand, AZ 06, OSU 07, UCLA 07, and Big Game 07 were definitely worse. You could definitely make the argument for both USC 09 and Oregon 09.

    This game sucked, but

  • BK

    Tedford has to stop playing not to lose. I agree, Rose Bowl Teams don’t play that way. Maybe he finally learned his lesson if the fans/ press get on him.

  • Pug

    The coach is ultimately responsible for the team’s won-loss record Tedford will rightly get plenty of blame, but the bottom line is the defense played a great game and Tavecchio just didn’t execute on critical field goals.

    If Tedford had passed, fans would have said he should run. If he ran, which he did, they say he should have passed or gone for a fourth-and-one. Second guessing is easy after you know the result.

    Calling for field goal attempts on all three stalled drives in the fourth quarter were the correct calls. The objective is to get points on the board, especially in a close game. I guarantee you Bill Walsh or Tom Landry would have made the same decisions about field goals that Tedford made.

    Tavecchio just didn’t execute. That’s really about all there is to it. Not complicated. Really a tough one to lose.

  • rollonubears

    this game was just like the big game last year. the difference, we got lucky on the last play in the big game, and arizona got lucky on the last play in this game. in both games, we played not to lose. the receivers need to catch the ball. that was a huge issue. we need a real kicker. we haven’t had one since longwell. we have a freshman who’s supposed to be a stud. let him try. georgio is finally kicking it deep. fine, let him kick. but he has never been a good fg kicker. nobody has since longwell. let the new kid play. i thought this was a great game to watch. WAY better than osu in ’07, probably just because i was already mentally prepared for last night’s disaster after years of tedford conditioning. this team needs to get together, call a meeting, and tell tedhead “this is our team. we’re going balls out. end of story.” this team has so much potential, talent and character. i’m tired of seeing wussy tedford do so little with so much, every saturday. we had that game in the bag. disgusting, disgusting coaching effort, now 2 weeks in a row.

  • rollonubears

    going for field goals is the right call, only if you have a good field goal kicker, which we do not. on 4th and 1, i, like most fans, was yelling at the tv to go for it. that was the WRONG call, and a critical game-changer in terms of momentum. it gave arizona hope. it showed them that we would lay down and hope AZ didn’t score a td, instead of showing them that we were there to win, and going for the throat. this is football, not chess.

  • Bears

    Really enjoyed watching the defense play so well last night. They almost won the game single handedly. Appreciate their effort, loved it!
    Our kicker blew a chance to ice the game and missed another FG earlier, Zona’s only points the entire game were off a terrible series where Ross fielded a punt inside the five, our offense did jack and our punter shanked one.
    Our ST’s and passing offense lost that game. If those parts of the game are even decent we win that game 21-3. Even with the terrible offensive production if our kicker executes we win.
    Tough one to take. That bye week could not have come at a better time.
    Wonder how our team will respond vs UCLA? If we don’t start executing across the board it will be a painful year.

  • takeoffthatredshirt

    rollon –

    i agree it’s a lot like big game last year where we played not to lose. we even kneeled down on 3rd to set up a FG that gave us the 6 point lead. maybe Tedford is learning at least we ran a real play this year. anyway we nearly lost Big Game last year because of the same failed strategy.

    yes people – going for the field goals was not bad on 4th down, but the conservative nature of why we had 4th is the problem here. when a coaching staff consistently shows the team they have no confidence in players eventually they’ll believe it.

    if we don’t have a QB that can be trusted to throw in the red zone in a close game then bench him. TD to win. get some guts.

    also, if you are stupid enough to play an entire half trying to kick FGs – two things about that strategy:

    1- get a kicker who can actually make it. this conservative strategy depends on someone that can convert. we don’t have one, so there is reason one not to play for FGs.

    2- line him up in the middle of the field. we were clearly not trying to get first downs, so if going to kick anyway, at least run it to the middle of the field.

  • TrumanHugh

    Well said, Pug.

  • Daniel

    What is Davi Seawright doing these days?

    He’s not writing a blog.

  • Boaltblue

    More painful losses: SC ’04, OSU ’07, ASU ’06.

    As painful as this loss was, the defense gains much confidence that it might have lost after Nevada. The defense could have played with many very good teams last night.

    As much as some posters blame Riley for everything, I hope that Riley just maintains course. Riley played a good game. He placed the ball where his receivers could put two solid hands — not just fingertips — on the ball. There were at least a half dozen catchable balls dropped. Lagemann’s catch out of the end zone would have been a TD if Lagemann jumped forward and caught the ball with his hands near his face rather than jump backwards to catch the ball with his body near his chest. Lagemann heeds to know his location in the endzone. Riley’s interception was on Marvin Jones, who had two hands on the ball, but could not finish.

    Riley’s actual stats are very respectable. If you count the dropped catchable balls as receptions, he would be a GREAT quarterback. No QB puts the ball on the receiver’s numbers all of the time. If the QB places the ball where the receiver can get two solid hands on the ball, the QB has done his job.

    Applying the standards that some of you use to criticize Riley, Jake Locker and over 3/4 of the QBs on ranked teams would be benched. Get real.

    I suspect many of you doomsayers are trolls trying to play mindgames. Real Bears do not quit. We will have a good season.

  • Paul

    Very disappointing. Understand Tedford’s loyalty to Riley, but the playbook seems constrained to avoid mistakes on downfield passes. Should not come down to the kicker, but we need to recruit a good kicker. Could feel 10-9 coming after the Giants lost by the same score.

  • Nor-Cal Scott

    I agree with Pug’s analysis.

    Riley played well… for Riley. In the Pac10 you are not going to win a game when your QB goes 12/24 for about 125yds. He did not lose this game for the Bears unlike other games in the past. Wussy play calling in the stretch lost us this game. Strong & confident play calling would have made up for Ross’s catch of the punt on the 5yd line.

    Daniel asked about Seawright- good question. He’s on the team, practices, tweets about all stuff Cal football, but I’ve wondered this also. It makes me think his previous injury is worse then Cal will acknowledge.

  • Daniel

    I hope not for his sake, but remember him as accurate, but with limited range. That would have been great last night kicking from inside the 20.

    Bench Riley isn’t a solution. Using all the guys on the team to be better could win some games. Few mention that Reggie Robertson was the last Cal QB to beat $C.

    And would it kill us to run play action once in a while?

    I can see Cal pass plays from Down, Set. Let Riley audible out when we run the same obvious plays that we have done for 5 years. That’s what made Rodgers so great.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    9th place. It’s coming.

  • jake

    If you want to compare the AZ game last night to the Big Game last year, well…..JT made the wrong decision then and he made the wrong decision last night.

    Difference is in the Big Game last year, Harbaugh followed it up with a bad decision of his own. They give the ball to Gerhart and the Cardinal likely wins the Big Game.

    It’s funny to me how all the JT apologists are beginning to sound like him: “If only Tavecchio executed” , “If only Riley executed” , “If only the O Line did their job”

    Enough already. The responsibility lies with Tedford and him alone for CAL’s loss last night and their losses the last 4 years. What about making a 1st DOWN?!? That wins the game too, right? Should I point out Nick Saban’s decision and Alabama’s win?!?

    I understand not wanting to throw because an incomplete pass stops the clock, and maybe JT doesn’t want KR throwing. But how about some creative running plays? JT was not able to help the CAL offense orchestrate a 1st down all night. They were 2-12 on 3rd down!!! That’s 17%!! How are you going to win a game if you can’t get a 1st down?!? And how are you a QB/offensive guru if you can’t design plays to allow your players to succeed?

    Yes, yes, I know. JT doesn’t call the plays. Ludwig does. So he’s to blame. But can’t JT get in Ron Gould’s ear or the O-Line coach’s ear before the second to last series and say, “Look guys go out and get a 1st down and we got it!!” He can’t get on those fancy headphones and tell Ludwig what he wants?

    He’s the leader of the team he should take the blame. He’s the second highest paid coach in the Pac-10 and how have we fared the last few years? You know how the old saying goes, “The captain always goes down with his ship.” Unfortunately for us CAL fans, I think this is exactly where we’re headed.

  • a Perko

    I strongly disagree that the playing calling was too conservative. They played it perfectly –except for the field goal miss. It’s only with 20-20 hindsight can one say that we should have gone for a TD. Everything says, that Tavechio should have made at least one of those two field goals. However, sometimes field goal kickers miss.
    Right now, to me, this feels like the most painful loss ever. When I watch the 49er game or whatever other football, I am reliving the Cal game, thinking what if we made a field goal, what if they don’t catch taht 50 yarder etc… aaagghh.

  • rollonubears

    tavecchio DID make the chip shot field goal. the problem is, we had the lead, deep in AZ territory, and only needed one yard on 4th down, to have 4 more chances to put the game away. we left 4 points on the field right there, by being wussy, and that was the difference in the game. if we were down 1, 2 or 3 at that point, or tied or even up 1 or 2, I could see the sense in going for the field goal, but we were up 3. they already needed a TD to take the lead. getting an extra 3 did very little there, and if our D was playing that well, then why not try to put the game away? enough of the 20/20 stuff. a lot of alumni, and a lot of players, wanted to go for it there. we should have. and when the opportunity comes up again, and it will, we should go for it again. is that 20/20 foresight? that 4th and 1 was the turning point in the game, and if tedford can’t see that, then we’ve got the wrong guy leading this team.

  • Sean


    You nailed it. Going for FGs on 4th down wasn’t the problem in this game. It was running into 8 and 9 men fronts on several consecutive plays in a row setting you up with 3rd and longs. I don’t put this loss on Giorgio. Yes, he should have made some kicks, but Morton Anderson has missed some 40 yarders in his time too. FG kicking is like a jump shot or golf swing. Even the greatest miss a few (although I would call Giorgio great).

    Bottom line – JT doesn’t seem to have a good feel for the game in crunch time. For some reason he doesn’t seem to understand potential upside vs downside. There is a reason the call it “settling for a FG”.

  • Sean

    Let’s not put this game or the season on Riley. At best he can be a C+ or B- QB in this conference. He has the ability to make all the throws and he has some mobility. He’s just inconsistent with his accuracy. Even still, he typically doesn’t through many INTs like Longshore did in his decline. Riley is going to miss a few throws here and there, but the team can overcome that. With the talent he has around him JT has got to live or die with Riley if the backup QBs aren’t any better. You can’t continue to protect him with play calling. With the new aggressive defense Cal is playing they can win a lot of games with an average QB, Shane Vereen, Keenan Allen, and Marvin Jones et al. But you’ve GOT TO LET THE KIDS PLAY. The coach’s job is to give the team some sort of identity and an edge.

    This isn’t professional football where they have unlimited time to practice and watch film. You can’t expect college players to execute perfectly game in and out (which seems to be what JT’s coaching philosophy). This is why college teams run offenses like the pistol triple option, the no huddle spread read option, wildcat, etc. It gives them a tactical advantage. While you don’t have to run a “gimmick” offense to be successful when you have good athletes, occasionally you have to do something to break a tendency. Try play action pass on first down when there’s 8 in the box. Try no huddle at an unorthodox time to change the tempo. Run a different play out of a familiar alignment. Nevertheless, give Riley a chance to make plays. If he can’t do it after an honest effort give the next guy a shot. Lord knows this is what would happen at my office.