The Bears got a head start on Utah today, going with a padded practice after taking Saturday off.
Since Cal played Thursday and Utah played yesterday (and getting a win at Pittsburgh), the Bears have a little extra time to prepare for Saturday’s game at AT&T Park. The question is whether inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks will play against the Utes.
Kendricks had his right arm in a sling and didn’t practice this afternoon. Coach Jeff Tedford, who has returned to saying very little about injuries, didn’t offer any details about Kendricks’ ailment.
An absent Kendricks would obviously be a huge blow to the defense, and the Bears can’t afford to be at any disadvantages these days. True, their defense played well against USC, but Cal needs to be at its absolute best during these next four weeks which will define its seaon.
The Bears finish the season with games at Stanford and Arizona State, games in which they figure to be underdogs. The next four games — vs. Utah, at UCLA, vs. Washington State and vs. Oregon State — will be crucial in determining if the Bears become bowl-eligible.
One thing is for sure, Cal must be much sharper than it was against the Trojans. The Bears didn’t seem to be outclasses athletically against USC but the slew of mistakes made it impossible for them to compete.
“A lot of it is guys being eager to do,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.
Tedford said the mental health of the team is good and his players are eager to play again.
“They understand that there are a lot of good things happening,” Tedford said. “We got to put it together in all three phases. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody learns. Trust one another and play hard. I feel like the team understands that and is eager to get back out and play another game.
“I think they’re eager to bounce back. It’s been a challenging few weeks here. I thought the other night, everyone was really good on the sideline. Even though adversity hit, the guys stayed together and competed hard in the second half.”
Tedford reiterated that he thought Zach Maynard’s interceptions Thursday night were the product of him trying to do too much.
“Really trying to make something happen instead of being patient,” Tedford said of Maynard. “Sometimes we may have to take a sack and punt the ball.”
While Tedford said Maynard’s interceptions were a product of trying too hard, he said Marvin Jones’ decision to fair catch inside his 5-yard line was inexcusable.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for Marv to field the ball inside the 5-yard line like that,” Tedford said. “He said he thought he was on the 16 and he was on the 11. He’s a senior. He understands that was a mistake that can’t happen. Hopefully we learn from that and don’t let that happen again.”
Back to Maynard: It’s becoming more and more clear that he is at his best out of the pocket. He seems to be more comfortable on the run than simply dropping straight back.
Tedford agreed but said the team has to be judicious in when to move the pocket with Maynard.
“I think you have to mix it up,” Tedford said. “You can’t do everything outside the pocket because it limits the field to half a field. Certain defenses allow you to do things like that and others don’t. There are certain things that they dictate. You’re not going to force something.
Other notes today:
- Backup safety C.J. Moncrease had surgery on his thumb, similar to the procedure cornerback Stefan McClure had during training camp. Moncrease will still be able to play with a cast.
- Tedford on Brendan Bigelow, who hasn’t taken a snap with the offense since the Presbyterian game: “I think he’s getting better all the time. The guys who are playing are the guys who are ready to play.”
- Tedford on McClure, who played well against USC: “There’s no question he’s shown he can play. It depends on how things shake down, but he’ll be in the rotation (Marc Anthony has not returned to practice yet).”