Cal 3, USC 30

The Bears are who I was afraid they were. Well, at least Riley is, anyway. We are not an elite program — and haven’t been under Tedford, save for maybe one season — because we do not have an elite QB. Yes, that oversimplifies it a bit, but given our performance on Saturday, that’s the most glaring reason. We have lots of very, very good pieces, but the key piece is missing. As Coach Tedford so eloquently put it on Saturday, if you’re one-dimensional, then you’re really “zero-dimensional”. Good Lord, that was an awful performance by Riley. As we were leaving the stadium, we were actually trying to decide which of his passes was the worst. More on that later. The team needs to do some serious soul-searching, re-evaluation, and preparation on the matter over the next couple weeks, despite Tedford’s announcement that Riley’s the guy.

This week’s assessment…

  • I think it’s safe to say that Jahvid will not bring home the Heisman this year. As amazing and multi-talented as he is, he isn’t doing jack squat lined up against eight defenders in the box every time. Our one dimension has been more-or-less silenced.
  • I told people before the season started that Riley is the difference between a top 10 finish and an unranked finish…boy, was I right. I was dearly hoping he was the real deal, now that he didn’t have Longshore looming over his shoulder. And for the first 3 games (and I’ll even give him a small pass for last week’s game), he looked quite good against lesser talent. But big-time pressure has exposed him as decidedly not big-time. He made a very poor decision by throwing into a sea of Trojans in the end zone that ended our first drive (and only real TD threat) with an INT. And his accuracy was horrible, even on the easy ones: an overthrown short pass to Jahvid that would’ve converted a 4th-and-2 and an awful lob to an uncovered Vereen far downfield that pushed him out-of-bounds are the two most egregious examples. Take your pick as to which of those three passes was his worst (I’m voting for the end zone interception, since that was actually a poor decision and ended a great first drive, setting the tone for the rest of the game). Brock & Beau: warm up those arms!
  • In addition to Riley’s accuracy woes, the receivers dropped a few gimmes (or shouldas), as well. An all-around abysmal day for the passing game: 15-for-40 for just 199 yards and 1 INT. At least we didn’t just keep tossing bombs like we did last week in Eugene. We had two decent drives of controlled passing: the first drive (which ended with an INT) and the no-huddle drive to end the first half (which ended with a missed FG). Perhaps we should’ve continued the no-huddle in the second half…that was the only drive in which Riley completed more than two passes.
  • The defense actually didn’t do all that poorly (despite giving up 457 yards of offense). We did a fairly good job of stopping the run and between USC’s TDs on their first and last full drives of the game, we kept them out of the end zone on eight straight full drives (I’m excluding USC’s one-play drive to run out the first half clock). On those eight drives, our defense bent a lot but stiffened at the end, giving up three FGs, forcing two punts, stopping them on two 4th downs, and intercepting a pass. (As with many of the losses to USC during the Tedford era, I think the defense played well enough for us to win.) Once again, though, we didn’t pressure the opposing QB nearly enough, giving Barkley all day to find receivers. We finished with just one sack and he completed 20 of his 35 attempts (which included some unforced errors on his part).
  • The highlight of the evening (which I didn’t actually witness, since I was buying a hot link) was Jav shutting up a heckler a few rows back. The guy was going on and on about all the things going wrong, so Jav told him that nobody wants to hear it anymore, much to the approval of others in the area. Go Jav!
  • In case you were wondering, we dropped out of the rankings. On the walk out of the stadium, we were hard-pressed to think of three more certain wins this season (required for bowl eligibility), given our performance the last two weeks. I’m certain we’ll beat Wazzu at home and pretty sure we’ll beat Arizona at home…but that’s about it. Ugh. I know we’re prone to over-reacting, but two measly FGs in two conference games doesn’t offer much of a bright side.
  • I’m starting to lose confidence in Tedford. The play-calling has been really suspect (I know he’s not the OC, but it’s ultimately his responsibility), we can’t win a decent number of big-time games, and he has recruited only one top-tier QB. We’ve given him a pretty long leash due to the disastrous prior administration, the 2003 victory over USC, the 6-1 record in Big Games, and the regular bowl appearances. But I’d like more…I think it’s completely possible to field an elite team at Cal relatively soon (granted, that belief is due primarily to what Tedford’s accomplished). And I’m not sure Tedford is the guy that can get us over the hump. He’ll continue to be popular for a while (particularly given the fact that he’s garnered us a stadium/facility renovation), but if we start losing a fair number of Big Games, I think the leash will shorten fast.

Bye week coming up. Two weeks to prepare for UCLA, whom Tedford has never beaten in LA. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but my expectations are quite low at this point. Such is the life of a Cal football fan.

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