Football: The case for Brendan Bigelow

Sports Illustrated put Oregon star De’Anthony Thomas on its cover this fall, trumpeting him as “The Fastest Man in Football.”

Cal’s Brendan Bigelow wouldn’t mind challenging Thomas for that label.

“I would love to race him,” Bigelow said.

“I raced him my freshman year in high school. I won. It was close.”

That was track and field. This is football.

Thomas, obviously, plays for the superior team, the unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Ducks. He played youth football in a league organized by Snoop Dogg. And he plays more.

Here’s a statistical curiosity: Thomas has touched the ball as a runner, receiver or return man exactly 100 times this season. Bigelow has done so 50 times.

Thomas, who had a spectacular 73-yard punt return for a touchdown on Saturday against Colorado, is averaging 10.25 yards each time he touches the football.

Bigelow, who ran 57 yards for a touchdown at Utah, accounts for 16.52 yards each time he gets his hands on it.

In other words, Bigelow gains 6 yards more each time he gets the ball than Thomas does. Counting only plays from scrimmage, Bigelow averages 12.9 yards, Thomas 8.7.

It doesn’t mean Bigelow is better than Thomas, but it does raise a question Cal coach Jeff Tedford has been asked repeatedly this season: Why doesn’t Brendan Bigelow get more carries?

“He’s playing more and more each week,” Tedford said Sunday. “I think each week he’s getting more comfortable with things.”

Really? Bigelow carried the ball just twice at Utah — both times after Cal fell behind 42-6. He carried twice against Stanford. Not once against Arizona State. And just nine times in the first half of games all season.

The company line has been that Bigelow, a sophomore, is a work in progress, still learning the playbook, still picking up blocking schemes, still an unfinished product.

To which the masses essentially have been screaming during this 3-6 season: Let him get on-the-job training.

Tedford has the good fortune — or the curse — of having three capable running backs on his roster. Senior Isi Sofele gained 1,322 yards last season. Senior C.J. Anderson is the biggest of the three and leads the team this season with 513 rushing yards.

Bigelow has gained 343 yards on rushing plays.

“He’s a good back — there’s no doubt about it,” Tedford said. “Some of our backs do other things better than he does and he can do other things better than they do.”

Tedford is loyal to his seniors, as he should be because they have been productive.

But while Sofele has averaged 4.4 yards per attempt and Anderson a very sturdy 6.3 yards, Bigelow has ripped off 12.7 yards with each of his 27 carries.

“What I tell myself is either (get a) first down or touchdown,” he said.

On his 33 rushes and pass receptions, Bigelow has produced 15 first downs, including four touchdowns. Not once has he been dropped for a loss on a running play.

To his credit, Bigelow has not publicly complained about his role.

“I’m not for sure where I’m at, but I definitely can tell you I’m still working and I’m getting better,” he said. “I think it’s probably about everything — the playbook, blocking. I just need to get better at my position.”

Whatever his limitations might be, it’s Bigelow’s big-play potential that separates him.

There are 15 players in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision who have at least three runs from scrimmage of 50 yards or longer this season, Bigelow included. No one has more than four.

The other 14 — including the likes of Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Michigan’s Dennard Robinson — have averaged 114 carries this season.

It’s silly to suggest that if Bigelow had as many carries as Miller — who has six times as many with 166 — that he’d have proportionally that many more runs of 50 yards or longer.

But with three games left in a Cal season going nowhere, it also may be silly not to give him the chance to try.

— By the numbers —

Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas and Cal’s Brendan Bigelow are two of the fastest players in the Pac-12. Here’s how their numbers compare:

Rushing: 58 for 499 yards, 8.6-yard average
Receiving: 24 for 218 yards, 9.1 average
Punt returns: 12 for 220 yards, 18.3 average
Kickoff returns: 6 for 88 yards, 14.7 average
Total touches: 100 for 1,025 yards, 10.25 average

Rushing: 27 for 343 yards, 12.7-yard average
Receiving: 6 for 83 yards, 13.8 average
Kickoff returns: 17 for 400 yards, 23.3 average
Total touches: 50 for 826 yards, 16.52 average



Jeff Faraudo

  • Juancho

    This just makes everything about how the season has unfolded even more weird.

    I wonder if the team is divided and maybe Bigelow is on the wrong side of that divide. It’s just weird to watch the games and see Isi fight hard for his yards, but with not spectacular results. And then see Bigelow come in and immediately have game breaking plays.

  • SteveNTexas

    Maybe Tedford thinks he is injury prone and is saving him so we won’t ruin our bowl chances.

    Oh you want rational explaination? Ask Juan

  • DaveintheHills

    Let’s not be too negative. We did win the fourth quarter on Saturday. Upward trend! Thanks to Bigelow! Because he is soooo involved.

  • Dan

    I have said it before, I’ll say it gain. Chip Kelly gets true freshmen on the field, playing offense, in play making positions, on National Championship caliber teams. Tedford?

    Here we are in the nearing the end of Bigelow’s sophomore year, and he still does not see the field on a pathetic Cal team except as a novelty. Every time he is in the game, he’s a threat to take it to the house. This is true even with Cal’s terrible O Line. But he still not good enough in Tedford’s opinion to get the ball at all in some games.

    The ridiculousness of this boggles mind, even in Tedford’s parallel universe. I mean, what a joke. It’s like Tedford is trying to lose- but he’s not. This is so bad on so many levels, for so many reasons. Tedfords comment about BB getting the ball more in the 2nd half when he got 2 carries is asinine. The guy has gone so far past losing it … It just defies explanation.

    If Bigelow were at Oregon, he would be a national sensation, talked about every week on all the college FB tv shows, just like De’Anthony Thomas. He’d have a cool nickname like Thomas, and everyone would be wondering which of them was going to win the Heismann. It’s all just to mind boggling to comprehend how he is absolutely wasted at Cal and isn’t apparently good enough to get at least 10 touches a game.

    Bigelow might have learning challenges, but he doesn’t have any problem. Tedford, his thick playbook, unnecessarily complicated (yet easy to defend) offense, his insistence of doling out playing time by seniority rather than talent … Tedford has a gaggle of problems.

    Should we call the road to the end of the season and next season, should Tedfraud return, “Heading toward Holmoe-ville”?

  • Dan

    Jeff F – I am starting to see you, and others, in the media assigned to Cal football using stronger comments about Tedford and the football program. Do you see this as badly as most of us do, and so you think Tedford is back after a 3-9 season?

  • discdude

    Juancho, I really don’t want to criticize, trust me. But too many “hypotheses” or “theories,” not enough facts. Seriously, you are grasping at straws when you say “I wonder if the team is divided.” Who knows? And really, who cares?

    But facts don’t lie. Tedford doesn’t like to use freshman (that’s essentially what he is) in skill positions unless they either clearly win out the position or there is no depth. The only cases I can think where freshman were heavily used were DeSean and Allen. I think back to 2004 and Lynch had a decent amount of touches, he was clearly the #2 back, but he wasn’t beating out Arrington even if it seemed like he might score every time (who would argue against 2000 yards?). Likewise, Jahvid Best was amazingly not the starter in 2007, Forsett was, despite Best averaging 7+ yards per touch. So, I don’t think it’s weird or a surprise that he’s not using Bigelow, I don’t think there’s some conspiracy, it’s just the Tedford way, like much of everything going on out there.

    BTW, I don’t think it’s the right way, either, I think Bigelow should be out there a lot more, especially in space, he needs at least 10 more touches per game. But it’s not like we don’t have decent backs, Isi and CJ combined are going to break 1,000 yards. Isi is solid, it’s mostly the line that causes him problems, while CJ is bigger and can deal with the missed blocks (he’s also sneaky fast, I think you’ll be seeing him on Sundays).

  • Juancho

    Disc “i feel you” as the youth of america say.

    It is pure speculation. But here are my reasons. 1. It looked to me that the team quit saturday. Even ted miller said saturdays game would be a measuring stick for how much this team will fight for tedford. So if i think they quit on the staff i postulate that their must be dissention among the ranks. Pure speculation on my part. But with how disshinest and secretive tedford is thats all i can do.

    Freshmen who played more than bigelow as a sophomore

    M lynch
    J best
    D jackson
    R jordan
    Syd thompson
    Moose jalil
    C mccain
    Vei moala
    S williams
    Stef mcclure
    C leininger
    Marv jones
    W williams
    J forsett
    A felder
    Z follett
    L hawkins

  • Juancho

    Dan good point on the medias changing treatment of tedford.

  • ScottyBear

    WTF?? Bigelow should be the featured player on offense. Hands down. 15 touches per game minimum. Tedford, you have lost it. Please resign!

  • covinared

    I’m guessing that Bigelow has trouble reading the plays from the sideline, is a poor blocker and needs work on the option hand off. Still his talent is immense. He is strong, fast, and has good hands. I am puzzled why he does not play. I doubt its simple loyalty to seniors.

  • Eric

    The more Bigelow play, the bigger the fool Tedford has been for not playing him, and the more it becomes obvious the Tedford’s play-calling is grossly insufficient. But Tedford doesn’t play Bigelow and continues with his grossly insufficient play-calling, everyone screams bloody murder.


  • rob bear

    We can put Lynch, Bigelow, Best, Forsett and Chuck Muncie all in the backfield and at the end of the day, not one of them will gain 1,000 yards with that offensive line and QB to offset 7 and 8 man fronts. Too many inconsistencies and injuries up front Bear fans.

    Bigelow is one guy. We need 22+ playing as a team and we have not done that this year. Top to bottom, blame Tedford, his coordinators, his position coaches, the players, the ball boy, the AD; at the end of the day, we just do not get it done on Saturdays. Where I see Cal’s problems are with the front 7 on defense, the O-Line and last but not least, our homeboy behind the center, Zach Maynard. I hate to say it, but the individuals whose job it is to cover D-1 College Football had us pegged just about right this year; a mediocre team with a lot of questions marks that have so far been exposed for what they are.

    With that said, BEAT U of Washington with EXTREME PREJUDICE! Win or lose, I will be there to support my team, my school and all of the eateries on the way back to my parked car near Durant and Telegraph. Viva Los Osos Dorados (Golden Bears)!

  • Dan

    Rob Bear – you bring up a happier topic – eating your way back to the car post-game. Care to share your favorite spots and items?

  • bigdruid

    2 carries for Bigelow vs Utah is ludicrous. I understand that we want to give Isi touches for his homecoming, but Bigelow is a weapon and we aren’t using him.

    That said, it wouldn’t have given us the win, so I’m not particularly irate about it.

  • daredevilfan

    Its just another case where Tedford is completely close-minded about being true to his seniors at the expense of the entire team. Decent as a human being, but I want a Coach and I want a Rose Bowl. We need someone who has an obsession for winning.

    Top Dog and Blondies. Now I’m gonna be thinking about that all day. Thanks a lot Rob/Dan.

  • rob bear

    1. My kids have me hooked on Yogurt Park now. I used to walk by that place many moons ago on the way back to Unit III and now I cannot get enough of it. Delicious.

    2. Yogurtland is killer too!

    3. Blondies is still Blondies

    4. The Asian Food by the donut shop, across from Lavals on Durant.

    5. A new Mexican joint on Telegraph that is caddy corner to where Mario’s used to be before the fire. Walk toward the stadium, it will be about 2 – 3 buildings EAST of Telegraph. Nice patio with good ambers. MMMM


  • CalBearister

    Much like Coach Tedford, Blondies has changed and for the worse. It used to be so simple – cheese, pepperoni, or combo. Now they have all sorts of gourmet/vegan/whatever options. And it’s not nearly as greasy or good. Took my girlfriend there a few months ago after bragging on it (but hadn’t been there in years), and was horribly disappointed.

    Top Dog, on the other hand, has never and hopefully will never change.

  • Easy Ed

    I’m from LA, Top Dog hands down!

  • Eric

    @Rob Bear

    My Unit III buddies and I used to comment on the Yogurt Park Theory. All of the cuties working out at the RSF just had to stop at Yogurt Park beforehand; it was an endless parade of eye candy.

    Blondies? No. Fat Slice. Yes.

    And for the Philospher Kings in the cafes, I liked Wall Berlin on Durant (which no longer exists)and Milano down on Ashby and College.

  • covinared

    anyone remember giant hamburger? great hangover medicine.

  • Juancho

    Top Dog.

    Used to be Bears Lair before all the changes. I used to love their white castle sliders and their pizzas.


    Fat Slice. Was never a Blondies fan.


    Triple Rock.

    Haha these are some pretty good coments. Bearister yours is very fun. Yours is also very true Eric.

    In fact when I was at Cal, I used to employ a strategy of ensuring a healthy amount of texting with my girlfriend while she was at the RSF. I always knew your girl going to the RSF was step 1 to losing your carnal market share. The RSF experience is the closest Cal has ever gotten to having a night club on campus.

    That is until they accept my idea to open a strip club on campus to fund Baseball.

  • rotfogel

    Well, it doesn’t matter who is running the ball when the worst offensive line in the history of Cal is at hand.

  • wehofx

    Top Dog$$$

    Dan, great observation. Seems like jt has lost the writers. A huge step in greasing the way politically for sb to pull the trigger.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    After reading all of these posts on fast food joints, I can see now why the no 1 Public University offers a Food Appreciation class with 20% of the class enrollees being football players.


  • MoreNCsarecoming

    What a great week for Bay Area Sports teams

    The Giants sweep the Tigers in 4 and win the World Series
    The 9ers lead by the great Harbaugh put a beatdown on Arizona
    The Raiders led by Carson Palmer beat Kansas City
    Stanford sacks the QB ten times and wins
    San Jose State wins and continues its hunt for a bowl game

    And then there is UC East Bay…

  • daredevilfan

    Anyone enjoy Juan’s Mexican resteraunt way down in the city of Berkeley? I was eating there watching TV when Gibson hit his dinger. Quite a moment.

    My favorite food joint by UStinkingCheaters? Never made it one, was mugged every time I went walking to a place. Managed to kick the light post though, wow what a tradition! Now I’ve lived!

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Is Tedford gone yet? No? Ok, back to work…

  • wehofx
  • Easy Ed

    Hi Moron aka Cheeto Kid. Great week for the Trojans, glad to see you got out of the basement. Not sure if you know any of the places mentioned since you were never a student at Cal. Perhaps “Daddy” can mention some of his favorite bars. Since he is a world class drunk he probably doesn’t remember a lot.

  • Easy Ed

    Don’t know if it’s still there, haven’t been there in years but Flint’s Bar-B-Que was the BOMB back in the day.

  • Dan

    OK, here are my updated food choices, in no uncertain order-

    Top Dog – no brainer, though don’t go often of the 20+ games a season a attend (we Q those kind of sausages at home a lot, and I like to sit when I eat). I do take my teenage nephew there when he goes with me, he loves the characters that man the grill.

    Blondies- Also a no brainer, go occasionally, still is Blondies, stick to pepperoni

    IBC Cheesesteaks- REALLY good cheese steaks (Chicken, Spinach, Mushroom, provolone, extra cheese… yes)- add lots of hot sauce. Also, they have tater tots, well done, with season salt- oh man, this place is great. Just expanded their menu, added a lot of great new items, now have many tables out of the sidewalk, great people watching.

    Mediterranean place right next to IBCs, very good Gyros and Schwarma- great place when you want to grab something a little healthier

    Crepes a GO Go – Savory or sweet? Tough decision.

    Yogurtland – great call Rob Bear.

    To Try Soon-

    Pappy’s- replaces Blakes. BBQ place. Seems always crowded, long wait in register line to order. It’s new, very clean, nice big flat screens, but seems devoid of character and soul. If the food is great, which I doubt, it’ll suffice on occasion.

    The MElt- a small chain type place, serves melted cheese and meat sandwiches. Kind of sterile and clean, again, no character, but if the food is good, might become a quick stop pre- or post-game.

    Greatly missed (RIP)-

    Raleighs – the fire that took Raleigh’s away tore out a piece of the soul of pre- and post-game times in Berkeley. The backyard was priceless, gorgeous by day, amazing by night, sitting outside, having beers watching sports and coeds. A great loss.

    Laval’s South (Durant) – owners of building doubled the monthly rent – from 10K to $20K, she had to vacate- can you believe $20K a month for the ol, dumpy place- worst bathrooms ever- but loved their food, the prices, the crowds and all the games on, with one main game on the one huge screen with the crappy old projector.

    The Bear’s Lair- yeah, it’s technically still there, but no more table food service. You have to grab something from Wing Fiesta or the Food Court, just not the same. Place is a messy madhouse now, lots of TVs but good luck watching the most important game that’s on at that time. Frustrating experience.

    Looney’s- was never great, but was pretty good, and always a great place to head, especially after weekend hoop games, as they did the post-game show from there. It was awesome to watch and listen to Eddie and Foley interview that day’s hoops heroes live, and show the guys our appreciation for a Golden Bear win.

    Desi Dogs – the little cart at Bancroft and Telegraph at the entrance to Sproul Plaza. Really good alternative for a quick bite, awesome prices and condiments- just was gone from one season to the next.

    Slurp – was down by Raleighs, place was cheap and awesome asian food. Would always laugh my way through a great meal reading The Onion. My lips would be on fiore from eating sunflower seeds at the game, and then spicy asian food here. Oh mama. This place is still another asian restaurant, similar, but just not the same format. It’s pretty busy, haven’t been yet.

    Pretty sad that there are more places that have gone away than current places I can recommend highly. Like I hope for the arising of the football program (when Tedford leaves or is made to leave), I can hope there will be some exciting new options in town for gameday.

  • Dan

    Oh, and forgot the Smokehouse when heading out of town, down Telegraph a ways. Open late, good smoky burger and delicious shakes.

  • discdude

    When the discussion turns to food, the season is over.

  • Steve W

    The season was over when a minor talent named Cody Fajardo came in on game 1 and picked apart Cal’s defense while converting on just about every third down attempt. It was over when you saw the D linemen gasping and wheezing after every whistle, which means they came into fall camp of shape and exited fall camp out of shape. It was over when Dominic Galas pulled a pectoral muscle over the summer, which meant that not one, but two, under talented O linemen with the last name of Rigsbee were starting in the middle.

    But mostly it was over whe Tedfraud recruited Kennan Allen and felt obligated to bring his older brother into Cal And play him in a package deal.

  • Juancho

    Do you think Top Dog being available at the rennovated stadium might be the root of all the problems this year? Are we seeing the curse of the Top Dog?

    I think we started talking about food even before the year began when Top Dog was rumoured to be going into the stadium.

    The curse of the Top Dog is upon us…

  • Will

    No, wise one. No. Never. Ever. Blame Top Dog. For anything.

  • Eric

    @Easy Ed – Flint’s was amazing. Back in the early 1990s, in the grips of a recession, the area was sketchy, but Flint’s was like a DMZ.

    And a great date place – Blue Nile.

  • daredevilfan

    Juancho, why would you throw out an accusation or postulation like the above without any facts? Are you now pretending to know all there is about stadium curses? (tongue firmly in cheek).

    I have a confession to make. Whenever I come into town, I have to drive in via the back freeway and come down through the hills right next to the stadium. Its out of the way, but to me that is the only way to come into Berkeley. So beautiful.

  • Easy Ed

    Another thought about our linemen being out of shape and the team not being tough. For the first time this year, UCLA did not have camp in the cool air of Westwood. The team packed up and went out to San Bernardino, 60 miles inland and hot as Hell. UCLA seems like a tougher team (inspite of their performance at Berkeley). Perhaps it’s time that our young men left the cool air of Strawberry Canyon and moved within eyesight of Mt. Diablo and caught some real heat. Just a thought.

  • discdude

    What about the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s? They dominated the NFL and they used to practice in Huntington Beach every pre-season. Talk about cushy and soft versus the hot, dry fields of Texas.

    The answer is pretty simple: it’s the head coach.

  • Steve W

    My last year of football was In junior college at Solano College in Fairfield. Our conditioning was so lax that I routinely ran four miles before practice to stay in the kind of shape I wanted to be in. We sucked as a team and were poorly coached to the extreme. I loathed our head coach. Wondering if some of the Cal players are feeling the same way.

  • Dan

    Steve W – had the same experience at Ohlone College in Fremont, before they dropped football. hat too loathed, but more importantly had less than zero respect for my head coach. Contrast that to coming from a HS program that ran the west coast offense (learned it from Bill Walsh at their summer HS camp), and went to the NCS championship game 2 out of 3 years.

    We worked our butts off in HS, lifted tons of weights, ran, ran, ran, obstacle courses, timed circuit training, all measured, recorded- we competed at everything. We became well conditioned, well-oiled over-achieving winners. The last time my HS had success like that. Then i get to JC playing for a smug, lazy loser. And that’s what our team became.

    Fortunately, I got to continue my career after at my alma mater and have a reasonably more positive experience.

    I guarantee you the Cal players are smarter than we were and see Tedford for exactly what he is. Great point.

  • Steve W

    Dan…….LOL. The only team we beat in my last season was Ohlone JC. Not making that up.

  • Easy Ed

    Discdude, Tom Landry had the Cowboys of the 70’s at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, just outside the Valley in Los Angeles. Having gone to their camps a couple of times I can tell you that place was hot as Hell. My point is that I don’t think this team is getting the conditioning work it needs in Strawberry Canyon. We always have injuries and we die in the 4th quarter (of course that could be due to the defense being on the field for 37 to 40 minutes a game).

  • Steve W

    Easy Ed,

    I am not sure the weather in fall camp has much to do with strength and conditioning. It all starts with the off season. Being a D-1 football player is pretty much a full-time job. Having seen the results on the field, I believe the Cal coaching staff failed these players. They obviously did not inspire these young men in the weight room over the spring and summer, and it also seems clear the spirit of Vince Lombardi did not inhabit the fall camp. There simply is no excuse for being “gassed” in the first game, as Marc Anthony admitted to the press.

    I would love to hear an insider say that Tedford ran a tough fall camp, because I wouldn’t believe him.

  • Dan

    I wonder what the strength and conditioning story really is. It is obvious they aren’t strong or well conditioned. I know that Mike Blasquez is supposedly very good at his job, he welded DLS into a machine every year back in the day. It would be interesting to watch them train in the off season, and then go watch how Oregon trains. Bet there is a huge difference.

  • Steve W.

    I have watched and admired DLS for years. They are indeed a well oiled machine. But their typical O lineman was 6-2, 225 pounds when Blasquez was running things. I wonder if it is different getting a 325 pound lineman into game shape. I know that Moala lost 67 pounds during the off-season, but also seemed to lose his mojo. I can’t recall one play all season where that guy has made a difference. I guess we can all agree that something is wrong. Wish I knew what it was.