Miscues too much to overcome
LOS ANGELES (Calif.)— Cal's lost to USC 17-3 in a game that was dominated by the defenses of both teams. What will be all the more frustrating to Bear fans in the number of mistakes that stalled Cal's offense preventing them from pulling the upset.
"But you can't beat yourself in those situations," Tedford bemoaned after the game. "You can't have penalties that put yourself in long yardage situations or illegal formation to have a touchdown called back. You can't come to the Coliseum and play a team like that, a defense like that, and expect for it to turn out right."
The Bears had eight penalties for 50 yards and almost all of them came at very inopportune times. From the illegal formation penalty that brought back a touchdown pass from Kevin Riley to Shane Vereen to a holding penalty that pushed Cal out of field goal range on two separate occasions, the Bears left many points on the field due to their own mistakes.
"Yeah, there were a lot of penalties out there today on both sides really," Tedford said reflecting on the game. "Some of them hurt us badly. It killed us in the red zone. The penalties kept pushing us back and took us out of field goal range one time."
When it wasn't the penalties the Bears had a number of other mistakes that plagued them. Riley was only 4-of-16 passing, a number of those incompletions coming when there was a receiver open and he misplaced the ball. A couple were thrown at the receivers feet and a number were thrown too high, allowing the USC defense to deliver a jarring hit and force the ball out.
"I thought we had some receivers open," Tedford indicated. "I thought we missed them. Sometimes our receivers made a couple of great catches but the USC defense covers a lot of ground very quickly. There's not a lot of guys open for a long time. You've got to get the ball and you have to be accurate with the football."
Earlier in the game, the Bears had to use all three of their timeouts in the first half on clock-management issues. Tedford put some of those issues on the coaching staff.
"Some of it had to do with getting the plays in late," he explained. "A couple times we had to get substitutions in. One guy was hurt. One guy's shoe came off and he was running off the field and we had to get another guy in. But it was very loud out there too. It was very hard to hear and some of the illegal procedure penalties have to do with that. It's a tough place to play. No question."
Finally there were the interceptions. Although two of them got called back for USC penalties, they were still mistakes that will be tallied with the others. The third interception in the end zone killed an otherwise promising drive.
"It looked like a good throw when it left his hand and all of a sudden a guy jumped up and tipped it," Tedford commented. "I guess it could have been a little higher. I thought that when it left his hand it looked like a good throw. I don't know if Kevin saw the guy."
In the end, while Tedford knew that the mistakes were the reason the team lost he was optimistic about the Bears in the coming weeks.
"Well I think when we go back there's going to be a lot of good to come out of this game," Tedford said. "I think we went toe to toe with a very good football team right then. Unfortunately it didn't go our way. I think there's going to be a lot of things on tape that say, hey, if we did this differently, things could happen differently."
He ended the press conference reminding everyone just how much heart and effort the team had played with.
"Effort is not the issue," Tedford surmised. "Our guys played hard. I'm very proud of the way they played. We didn't do enough things right to win the football game but it had nothing to do with effort. And I'm really proud of our guys and anxious to get back to work with them."
Ken Crawford is a staff writer for BearTerritory. A lifelong Cal football observer, Crawford covered the Bears during the 2007 season, which included the memorable 31-24 victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Crawford will continue to handle Cal football assignments during the 2008 season.