Can we learn anything about the Cal football team Saturday against Southern Utah?
Coach Jeff Tedford said the Bears will look inward in evaluating their performance against the Thunderbirds, a Football Championship Subdivision foe.
“It’s about us, it’s about our execution, not making mental mistakes,” said Tedford, whose team fell 31-24 to Nevada in its opener last Saturday, the debut of renovated Memorial Stadium. “It’s not so much about who’s in the other uniform.”
The Southern Utah game triggers a stretch of three Saturdays where many fans may see little drama regarding the outcome of Cal’s games. The Bears are overwhelming favorites against the Thunderbirds, but will be significant underdogs at Ohio State and USC.
Is a 1-3 start inevitable? Are the Bears a sure bet this weekend, but absolutely doomed the next two?
Of course, they aren’t looking at it that way.
“After the loss last week, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. I don’t think it matters who we’re going to play,” center Brian Schwenke said. “It really comes down to how we play as a team. I think we have the tools to beat any opponent.”
The next three weeks will tell.
Here is my game preview and facts and figures on Saturday’s matchup.
SOUTHERH UTAH AT CAL
RECORDS: Cal 0-1, Southern Utah 0-1.
KICKOFF: Noon Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Berkeley.
TV: Pac-12 Network Bay Area
SERIES HISTORY: First meeting.
STORYLINES: Coming off a 31-24 loss to Nevada in the opening of renovated Memorial Stadium, the Bears will try to regroup against the Thunderbirds, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent playing a Pac-12 team for the first time . . . The Bears expect to make strides in all areas, but specifically their running game and third-down defense . . . The game is a homecoming for four Bay Area players on the Southern Utah roster, including starting linebackers Rickey Clark Jr., of Hayward and Namari Flentroy of Richmond, each of whom had 13 tackles last week in a 34-3 loss to Utah State.
INJURY UPDATE: Cal — DE Mustafa Jalil (knee) is questionable; OT Matt Summers-Gavin (knee), ILB David Wilkerson (ankle), ILB Khairi Fortt (knee), OG Dominic Galas (shoulder), CB Stefan McClure (knee) are out. Southern Utah — FS Tommy Collett (knee) is questionable.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s secondary vs. Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen. The Bears’ veteran secondary did not come close to intercepting a pass last week against Nevada’s Cody Fajardo. The DBs will get plenty of opportunities against Sorensen, who is regarded as a pro prospect and threw 54 passes in one game last season. The Bears hope to apply pressure up front, which could force some early or errant throws.
STATS THAT MATTER: Cal has played five FCS teams during coach Jeff Tedford’s tenure, winning by a combined margin of 257-41 . . . Southern Utah had lost 18 straight games when Ed Lamb was hired as coach for the 2008 season. The Thunderbirds are 21-23 on his watch . . . Cal’s 11 tackles for loss (totaling 25 yards) vs. Nevada lead the nation after one week.