Sunday, November 13, 2005

Contra Costa Times: Ayoob's game misses the mark


BERKELEY - Jeff Tedford was as gentle as he could be, to the point of speaking in the colloquial collective. "We weren't clicking in the passing game," Cal's coach said Saturday, after his team had been throttled by No. 1 USC, 35-10. Later, he added: "We didn't throw the ball with any confidence." And later: "There were some plays to be made. We didn't make them." Now, the final numbers indicate that Tedford didn't throw any passes in Saturday's game. On the other hand, the man has built a handsome reputation as a quarterback maker. So in his mind, the functional meltdown of quarterback Joe Ayoob against USC's ill-intentioned defense was a systemic failure. And by failure, we mean 9-for-19, 98 yards, four interceptions, no touchdowns and aesthetic atrocities that mere numbers can't begin to describe. Cal was never in the game against USC, and Ayoob was not in the game when it ended. That honor fell to ever-eager Steve Levy, who guided the Bears to an end-of-the-game touchdown against an 'SC defense comprised largely of subs, walk-ons and marching band dropouts. By then the obvious questions had begun percolating. Perhaps the obvious answers had, too. Give Tedford credit two ways -- he doesn't like to call out his players in public, yet he seems to have a healthy distaste for telling an outright lie. Asked, then, if he was surprised that we -- hey, it's catching -- are still debating Ayoob's quarterbacking credentials now as we were after the season opener against Sacramento State, Tedford paused. For quite a long time. "Yeah," he said, gently. "I am. You'd hope ... It's been up and down. One week we're OK, the next week we're not."

Ayoob took over as the team's top quarterback in the opener, after freshman Nate Longshore broke his left ankle, and promptly went 0-for-10 before being excused. Between that game and Saturday's, Ayoob had been an erratic work in progress, generally playing well enough to give Cal a chance to win. Saturday, however, the regression became complete, to the most basic levels of the game. "You've got to set your feet to make a throw," Tedford said. Given that Ayoob could not be counted on to perform even that perfunctory task, Tedford found himself calling plays that might help his quarterback develop some confidence -- mainly short, quick, safe passes. "So, yeah, I guess you could call that (being) restricted," he said. It went beyond that. Tedford opened the game with an uncharacteristic flurry of conservatism. Cal ran the ball on 15 of its first 17 plays, and ran on first-and-10 the first eight chances it got. That was partly a function of the game plan.

"I felt like we were going to try to control the football by running the ball," Tedford said. "Then throw some control passes, then some screen game." It also seemed to be a matter of trust. To the lay eye, the play-calling also was an indication that Tedford wanted the game to have as little to do with his quarterback as possible -- even before Ayoob threw an interception on his first pass (bad route by the receiver), his eighth, his 13th (an end-of-the-first-half blind heave), and his last.

Asked what this meant for next Saturday's Big Game, Tedford once again could not tell a lie. "I don't know about that," he said. "We'll have to make that decision (during the) week." Ayoob himself? The kid was crushed, the unwitting beneficiary of a hard-knocks life lesson. He had seemed almost amused, in a what-size-shovel-just-hit-me-in-the-back-of-the-head? way after the Sac State debacle. Tedford was defiant after that one, dialing up a deep ball on the first play of the following game. P.S.: It was intercepted. There is no more defiance, no more pretending that Ayoob might suddenly get it and blossom into the next Aaron Rodgers. For one thing, there simply isn't time -- this is Ayoob's junior season. Next year at this time, he'll have one foot out the door, hopefully aligned in the proper orientation. Then again, it's not as simple as benching Ayoob. Longshore was in pads Saturday, and warmed up on the sideline. "He's not game ready," Tedford said. "He wishes he was game ready." Levy was so desperate to get on the field last season, that he switched to fullback. Bryan Van Meter is a walk-on redshirt freshman. And yet, Tedford was so dismayed by what happened in the first half that he contemplated changing out Ayoob after the first series of the second quarter, if necessary. Afterward, he gave his beleaguered quarterback a gentle vote of, no, not confidence. Comfort would be more like it. "We're not going to give up on him -- as a kid, or as a player," Tedford said. One more game like Saturday's, and Ayoob may not qualify as either.



Anonymous said...

What is the purpose of posting this OLD column which has NOTHING to do with this season?

CalBearFootball said...

Thanks for the feedback, you f'n moron. This was posted last year. Would you like me to change history? God damn, you are a stupid mother fucker.

Anonymous said...

don't be rude guys, it looks like his blog went kaput.