October 14, 2011

Bears wilt in national spotlight



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SAN FRANCISCO -- Robert Woods was stifled. Marc Tyler was silenced. Matt Barkley was under constant pressure. On Thursday night, the California defense did just about everything it had to do to win. The offense didn't.

Despite holding USC to just 6-of-15 on third down, less than 200 yards through the air and just 118 yards on the ground, the Bears saw their fans leave in disgust with just over five minutes left in the game, before the final whistle blew on a 30-9 Homecoming loss -- their third straight defeat moving them to 0-3 in conference play for the first time in 10 years.

"To be honest, all of these losses are exactly the same," said junior defensive lineman Trevor Guyton, who recorded eight tackles on the night. "It's a loss. It hurts to lose a game that you know you should have [won]. You know, as far as talent-wise, we're up there with everybody in the Pac-12. That's what makes it hard. We know we can compete."

Cal (3-3, 0-3 in the Pac-12) is now winless since head coach Jeff Tedford became the program's all-time wins leader four weeks ago against FCS opponent Presbyterian, on the same AT&T Park turf. For the second straight week, the Bears offense failed to show up for a half of football, being shut out 20-0 at halftime, while the Cal defense, on the other hand, held serve.

USC (5-1, 3-1) could not regularly get the ball to its biggest playmakers, as senior tailback Tyler was held to 30 yards on 11 carries, junior tailback Curtis McNeal was held to 86 yards on 17 carries, star wide receiver Woods was held to 36 yards on five catches and Barkley was held to 19-of-35 passing for 195 yards. In fact, the Trojans recorded just two plays of over 20 yards -- both receptions by true freshman Marqise Lee, who finished with four catches for 81 yards.

The Bears, though, found every opportunity to, as senior wide receiver Marvin Jones said, shoot themselves in the foot. Cal had more fumbles in the first half -- four -- than trips across midfield (two).

< "We beat ourselves," Jones said. "Athletically, we've felt like we're the better team. We've felt that we could execute whenever we wanted to. Obviously, we didn't do that. We can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot. The only people that are stopping us, is us. We've got to get it together and go back to the basics. When we put four quarters together, we're going to be a great team."

Out of six possible turnovers -- again, in the first half alone -- the Bears lost four, finishing the game with five.

"Mistakes, turnovers, you can't beat a good football team like SC when you turn the football over five times, especially down deep," Tedford said.

Junior Cal quarterback Zach Maynard continued to struggle, throwing two picks in the first half, having a third pass batted out of the air before the break and getting sacked once for 19 yards, leading to a fumble.

Though Maynard went 25-of-43 for 294 yards on the evening, he accounted for three interceptions, two fumbles and four of the Bears' five turnovers -- and very nearly threw two more picks, including one in the fourth quarter, trying to find his brother Keenan Allen over the middle in USC territory.

"I thought the rush was pretty fierce in the first half, and as the learning happens with him and feeling it, I thought he played much better in the second half, made a lot of plays there," Tedford said of Maynard. "We're missing guys that he didn't see. He got fooled on a couple coverages on the interceptions, and they're a pretty multiple defense, and you're trying to make things happen, step up in the pocket, things are happening, he got blindsided once and fumbled the ball. We got beat on one side, but the good thing about it is everyone continued to compete very hard in the second half."

The game started off on a sour note, when a fumble by Allen after a screen pass deep in Cal territory allowed the Trojans to recover and move the ball down to the Bears' eight. A trick play gone wrong thanks to a botched diagonal snap was the only thing that kept USC from getting out to a quick 6-0 lead.

On third-and-long thanks to an illegal snap penalty, Maynard took the ball from under center, dropped back, rushed right, saw open space, but that space closed up and Maynard did not follow tailback Isi Sofele right and came up just short of the sticks, forcing Cal to end their second drive of the game with a punt.

The Bears' next possession ended with a big blindside hit on Maynard, as Nick Perry abused right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin to come up with a sack. The hit jarred the ball loose for Chris Galippo, who recovered at the Cal 30, leading to the Trojans' first score on a 39-yard field goal.

"A couple of the turnovers were down deep, so there's no question that there's some good things, but there are some things that absolutely need to be improved: fumbled snaps, ball handling, things like that, are things that have to improve," Tedford said.

After the defense held USC to just three points and 73 total yards of offense in the first quarter, things just kept going wrong for the Cal offense.

The next time the Bears got the ball, Maynard fumbled again, but recovered for a loss of six at his own three-yard line. The Bears got as far as the 27 before needing to turn to punter Bryan Anger for a 61-yard boot.

A perfectly-placed 39-yard touchdown pass from Barkley to Lee's back shoulder put the Trojans up 10-0, and less than two minutes later, Maynard threw his first of three picks on the day, finding Galippo instead of Allen at the Cal 23, leading to a second Andre Heidari field goal.

Trying to capture some momentum before being shut out for the second straight half, Cal decided to run a punt-option play after Maynard threw incomplete to Jones and tight end Anthony Miller to bring up fourth-and-seven, but Anger was only able to gain five yards rushing right.

"Actually, it was an option to punt it or run it," Tedford said. "If he had the edge clean, then you go for it and you run, if it's there. Well, it wasn't clean and he made a determination to run and so he should have punted, obviously, because it wasn't cleared out enough. With a team as fast as USC is, they can close the gap really quickly, and I think he made a nice move to get outside and it looked like he had some yards and they closed the cushion really fast."

At the half, USC had 187 yards of total offense. Cal had 132. The Trojans were 2-of-3 inside the red zone, the Bears were 0-for-1. USC had coughed up one fumble on that trick play, but Cal had put the ball on the ground four times, and lost two. On the final drive of the half, with first-and-goal at the Trojans' nine-yard line, Maynard tried to hit Michael Calvin in the back of the end zone, but instead found USC linebacker Dion Bailey.

While the Bears defense continued to shine - holding the Trojans to 10 points on 126 total yards - the Cal offense just kept sputtering.

After holding USC to a field goal on the first drive of the second half, Cal saw a would-be 70-yard touchdown pass from Maynard to Allen negated because Allen stepped out of bounds after 27 yards.

"I wasn't really looking at the sideline," said Allen, who finished with a career-high 13 receptions for 160 yards. "I was looking at the inside, seeing who was coming back."

After Jones had to dive back in to catch a nine-yard toss, Maynard looked to be gaining some kind of rhythm. Galippo once again came back to haunt the Bears, stoning Sofele for a loss of two. Maynard then threw right, behind Sofele, for no gain, and on the next play, ran about 50 yards side-to-side to avoid pressure and find No. 2 tailback C.J. Anderson for a gain of 18. Maynard was 4-for-4 for 56 yards to start the half, but then Cal shot itself in the foot, yet again.

On first-and-10 at the 15 -- finally deep in USC territory for the first time all game -- Maynard rolled left to look for Jones, who, instead of catching the ball, batted it out of the air and into the ground.

Anderson rushed inside the 10, but Maynard's third-and-five pass intended for Spencer Hagan was deflected at the line of scrimmage, bringing out the boo birds as the Bears settled for a field goal.

Cal would score just one more time in the game on a five-yard rushing touchdown by Maynard, but would see the point-after attempt blocked, the first time that has happened to kicker Giorgio Tavecchio since his first point-after try against Colorado in week two. All nine points the Bears put on the board came in the third quarter.

"They played lights-out tonight," Barkley said of his defense. "That really helped us on the offensive side of the ball. I think that it was great because they were playing an offense that was very similar to ours with the pro-style plays, so they were kind of used to what Cal was doing. Nonetheless, they came away with a bunch of turnovers. In that margin of games, that definitely helps. I think that we struggled on offense, but we protected the ball and they didn't. I think that ultimately that helped us go out on top."

Despite the offensive ineptitude, the Bears defense -- particularly McClure -- looked as good as they have all season. 10 of USC's 30 points came as a direct result of Maynard's interceptions, and 13 came as a result of Cal turnovers, but that meant little to Guyton.

"Doing what we do, we're defense. They're offense. They don't do their job, we still, it has nothing to do with us," Guyton said. "We've got to go out there, and if we get the ball on the six-yard line, we can't let them in there. That's us. They might get a field goal or something, but it's still on us if they get into the end zone."

Notebok
-- Tonight's game was the fifth weeknight game in Tedford's tenure, with the previous four all being on the road. The Bears are now 1-4 in such match-ups, and are 0-2 this season.

-- Cal is now 0-2 this year in primetime ESPN games, falling last week to Oregon.

-- The Bears out-gained USC 329-313.

-- Entering tonight's contest, the Bears had recorded 34 plays of 20 yards or more, with 25 passes and nine rushes. Against the Trojans, they posted three such plays: 24- and 22-yard catches by Jones and a 27-yard haul by Allen.

-- Cal's five turnovers were a season-high. The Bears began the night with four total turnovers on the season. The last time Cal surrendered four turnovers in a game was against the Ducks on Nov. 1, 2008.

-- While the Bears were held to three points in the last two second halves coming into Thursday night's game, the loss to USC marked the first time that Cal had been shut out in the first half since last year's Big Game against Stanford.

-- Maynard has thrown for at least 200 yards and completed at least 15 passes and a touchdown either rushing or passing in each of his six starts. All five of his completions in the first quarter were to Allen for 43 yards.

-- Tavecchio is now 9-for-10 on field goals this season. He made his first eight straight of the season before being blocked by Oregon last week.

-- D.J. Campbell notched a career-high eight tackles, and one for a loss. Kendricks led all players with 10 stops and had one TFL. Senior safety Sean Cattouse recorded eight tackles. Cornerback Steve Williams tied his career high with three pass breakups.




 

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