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Monday, November 07, 2005
Oakland Tribune: With Trojans next, Cal can't dwell on past
Inexperience, problems with passing game keep hurting the Bears
By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER
EUGENE, Ore. — Maybe supporters of Cal football should have listened more closely to coach Jeff Tedford, when he kept referring this autumn to the youthfulness of his team. That's not an excuse for the Bears' three losses in their past four game, but it is reality. Cal just doesn't have enough experience to win close games, which was evident again Saturday against Oregon. Certainly Tedford has recruited blue-chip talent, but even that degree of talent needs time to develop.
Take Cal's last three plays before Tom Schneider's desperation 53-yard field goal at the end of regulation. The Bears were at the Oregon 33 with 1:01 left. Ideal field position for a last-minute victory. Marshawn Lynch then was dropped for a 7-yard loss, followed by Lynch's 4-yard loss after a shovel pass from Joe Ayoob. The more-experienced Ducks stood tall, while the less-tested Bears wilted. Now Cal was back at the Ducks 44, and it was all Ayoob could do to scramble 7 yards to the 37 before Schneider's frantic rush onto the field to get off a kick in the wind and rain before time expired. "There are lessons we can take from these games," Tedford said. "We're still a young team. It's about making plays against a Top 20 team in their home. We've got to make those types of plays." Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) triumphed in overtime 27-20 because Cal (6-3, 3-3) didn't make enough plays, predominantly in the passing game. Too many errant passes, too many dropped passes. Agreed, the weather was bad, but Cal soaked footballs during the week, so it didn't lack for preparation. Those plays must be made, and perhaps they'll be made next year. But 2006 is 2006. It's 2005, and USC (9-0, 6-0) rolls into Berkeley on Saturday. "Everyone's mad," Schneider said of the postgame mood Saturday. "Like any loss, it's pretty much done. One thing special about this team is getting up for a big game. We have two huge games ahead of us." USC and Stanford stand between Cal and a bowl game, which at the moment seems like the Las Vegas Bowl or San Francisco's Emerald Bowl. "USC, No. 1, this gives us a chance to see who we are," said freshman wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had four drops against Oregon. "I need to make some plays I wasn't able to make (Saturday)." "You get up for USC or they'll blow you out," said Ayoob, who completed only 10 of 26 passes for 88 yards, with three interceptions. How much can the Bears grow in one week before they meet the Trojans, who are gunning for a third straight national championship? Interestingly, Cal has played USC tough throughout the Tedford era. Cal lost 30-28 in 2002 on a phantom touchdown given to Troy. Cal is the last team to beat USC, 34-31 in triple overtime in 2003. Cal's bid expired at USC's 9-yard line last year in a 23-17 defeat. "I know we'll bounce back," said cornerback Tim Mixon. When, and by how much? And by Saturday, or next year?