Cal doesn’t hold its weekly press conference during bye weeks, but coach Jeff Tedford actually requested an informal media session this morning. Because of the late nature of Saturday’s game, and the way it turned right at the end, some writers (including yours truly) weren’t able to get down to the locker room in time for Tedford’s post-game availability. Tedford knew there would be a lot of follow-up questions about the game this week, and he said he wanted to get them all out of the way immediately so he could move on.
So a small group of us asked Tedford questions for about 20 minutes as uniformed players walked by for Picture Day. Tedford acknowledged that Saturday’s 10-9 loss to Arizona was one of the hardest of his career to take.
“The way it unfolded. It was a very emotional, hard-fought game,” he said. “It was right there for the taking and we let it slip away. Those are always very difficult.”
Tedford didn’t elaborate too much on what he told the team in the locker room after the game, but it’s clear it was an emotional scene. But Tedford wasn’t mad at his players. Quite the contrary, he said he did some yelling because he knew they were as upset about the loss as he was.
“I wasn’t yelling at them. I was yelling for them,” Tedford said. “I knew how they felt.”
Tedford answered a couple questions about playcalling down the stretch, which could have been interpreted as too conservative. When asked if he considered passing on 3rd-and-3 from the Arizona 8 with the Bears leading 6-3 early in the third quarter, Tedford said: “I felt we had a really good play that we could run. We just didn’t block two guys in the open field. We had a hat on a hat. If we make those blocks, Shane (Vereen) doesn’t just make the first down, he probably scores.”
Vereen ended up gaining just two yards to set up 4th-and-1 from the 6. Tedford was asked if considered going for it instead of settling for a field goal. “I thought about it. It was a three-point game at that time. The way our defense was playing, I felt like if we can make them score a touchdown, that was going to be key. They were moving the ball a little bit, getting in field goal range from time to time, but they weren’t converting.”
Tedford said he also was confident enough in kicker Giorgio Tavecchio not to throw on third-and-8 at the Arizona 25, leading 9-3 and under three minutes left. The ball was set up on the right hash, Tavecchio’s strongest area of the field. He nailed a 40-yarder earlier in the game from the right hash.
“He kicks the ball real well from the right hash mark, as he did on the first two,” Tedford said. “I felt really good about maybe popping one. It was third-and-8. You get a little bit closer, and maybe you pop one. If you pop one and make a first down, now you can kill the clock down to about 25 seconds.”
Tavecchio ended up missing the 40-yarder, allowing Arizona to come back and win.
Tavecchio made field goals of 23, 25 and 40 yards but missed from 33 and 40. Tedford said there’s no question that Tavecchio is still Cal’s kicker.
“By far, he’s our kicker,” Tedford said. “It’s not even close. His kickoffs have been excellent, his field goals have been excellent. He’s hitting the ball very solid. I went over and put my hand on his head and told him to hang in there. He hit the ball solid. He gave it his best stroke. He just pulled it. He hit it solid and it just didn’t go in.”
- Tedford said the Bears will use the bye week to game plan more than usual. That’s partly because the next opponent is UCLA, which runs the pistol offense that Cal struggled so much with against Nevada. “Obviously, we need some work on the pistol,” Tedford said. “As much work as we can get on the pistol, the better. We proved that we didn’t play it very well against Reno. We have our work cut out for us to make sure we improve with that.”
- Tedford said the interception at the end of the game simply went through Marvin Jones’ hands, and it wasn’t contested. “How many times have you seen Marv drop a ball that’s right in his hands?” Tedford said. “Not very often. It wasn’t even a contested ball. It was pretty clean. Marv has great hands. It goes through his hands, and to make matters worse, right into their hands.”
- Tedford acknowledged that wide receiver Keenan Allen still wasn’t 100 percent healthy last week at practice, and that’s why his reps were limited against Arizona. Allen should be completely healthy with the bye allowing him to fully heal up.
- Tedford also said linebacker Mike Mohamed wasn’t completely healed against Arizona, and that’s why he wasn’t on the field as much as usual, especially when the Bears were in the nickel. Like Allen, Mohamed should be fully healthy by the UCLA game.
- Tedford said he’d like to get Isi Sofele more involved with the offense, partly because Sofele did some good things against Arizona and also because Vereen needs to lighten his workload. Vereen had 27 carries for 102 yards against the Wildcats. Sofele had 30 yards on three carries. “Isi did a nice job,” Tedford said. “Shane had about seven carries too many. We need to get Isi more involved because he did some nice things in the game.”