For the first time in over a month, the Bears came to a day-after-game practice feeling good about themselves this evening. Their three-game losing streak is a thing of the past and things are looking up with reeling UCLA up next on the schedule.
UCLA is in shambles after Thursday night’s embarrassing 48-12 loss at Arizona, a game that was on national television. Not only did the Bruins get completely outplayed by a team that had yet to register a Pac-12 victory and had just fired its head coach, they were involved in an extensive bench-clearing brawl just before halftime that had the look of two teams out of control.
The implications of that brawl will reach Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl. The Pac-12 suspended six players for their roles in the altercation, including two starters. That means UCLA will be a depleted team when it hosts the Bears.
Launching a pre-emptive strike, Cal coach Jeff Tedford addressed the issue with is players Sunday night.
“I told the team that has nothing to do with us,” Tedford said. “We’re not going to get caught up in that. I know there’s going to be a lot made of it throughout the week, but I want us to stay away from that.”
The suspensions hit the Bruins especially hard at wide receiver. Starter Shaq Evans and backups Tyler Embree and Randall Carroll are out. Starting defensive tackle Cassius Marsh also is out.
While conventional wisdom might suggest the suspensions gives Cal an advantage, Tedford warned that the Bruins could use it as a rallying cry to play better.
“I know how teams typically respond to something like that,” Tedford said. “You use it as a rallying cry with the guys you do have. Anytime you see something like this happen, teams come out stronger than anything because of solidarity and the rallying cry it can bring out.”
Tedford acknowledged he’s not looking forward to asking questions about the issue all week, but did say he can use it as a teachable moment for his team.
“The incident teaches you how severe a penalty can be if you lose your composure,” he said. “‘The conference is looking at everything. It’s important, not only to not get a 15-yard penalty, but it could cost your team more than just 15 yards.”
Tedford said he was pretty happy after watching the tape of Saturday’s win, but is still concerned about penalties. When asked if it was Zach Maynard’s best game of the season, he said: “I think he’s played some pretty good ones. I thought he was really efficient, the decisions he made. It was probably the most efficient game he’s played from beginning to end.”
Tedford said he expects cornerback Marc Anthony to resume practicing this week, meaning he could be available for Saturday’s game. Anthony has missed the past two games with a dislocated shoulder.
In his place, true freshman Stefan McClure has played well. If Anthony can go against the Bruins, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will have a tough decision to make whether to leave McClure in the starting lineup or go back to Anthony.
“We’ll have to talk about it,” Tedford said.
The performance USC wide receiver Robert Woods had yesterday against Notre Dame — 12 catches, 119 yards, 2 TDs — magnifies the job McClure did against him last week (5 catches, 36 yards). Tedford said McClure has the potential to be a lockdown corner.
“He has great cover skills,” Tedford said. “I think the more experience he gets and learns the tricks of the trade, I think he’ll really continue to improve. But I think he has the ability to be that type of guy.”
Tedford said McClure was “right in the hip pocket” of Utah’s receivers yesterday.
Meanwhile, I had to ask Keenan Allen where his left-handed catch yesterday ranked on his all-time list of catches.
“It’s definitely up there in the top five,” he said. “It was definitely a reach, but if I got my hand on it I was going to catch it.”
But Allen said he was more proud of his 12-yard touchdown catch, in which he dragged Utah defensive back Eric Rowe for the final five yards into the end zone.
“If I’m going to get close (to the end zone), I’m going to try to get in.”