Kevin Riley already understands what's at stake as the Bears go into their fourth game of the season, the final non-conference game of the regular season. The returning Cal Bears haven't forgotten last season yet. That's why the Bears need to avoid a second loss in a row when they face another inferior opponent in the Colorado State Rams (2-1).
The Bears will look to the Sophomore's leadership when they come home to face the Rams who have gotten wins over Sacramento State and Houston while losing to Colorado in their season opener. Can this match up look any more similar to the Maryland game?
Prior to Cal going to Maryland and losing, the Terps schedule and results looked very similar to what the Rams will be bringing into Memorial stadium on Saturday. The major difference in this game and the game with Maryland is that the Bears will be back on their home turf, playing at a more appropriate time (for a West Coast team), and not playing in the humid weather of College Park.
Cal still hasn't gotten over the loss, but not in a 'hangover' way. Instead, they've become more determined and practiced harder. Friday, Jeff Tedford wrote in his blog, "We have had a good bye week; the players have been working hard and have been very focused on getting better every day. The bye week is always a great opportunity to get the younger guys some more reps and see what they can do, and it gives some of our bumps and bruises a little time to heal. That being said, we have been more physical, have gone live more this week than any other bye week."
"[The loss] rubs off on the coaches, the way they coach us. We’re still feeling the effects. The little things are magnified more. It’s not a bad thing. They’re just one us more. It’s a little harder getting through practice."
- Zack Follett on how practice has gone since the loss to Maryland
Both the players and Coach Tedford have attributed the humid weather as one reason for their poor play in Maryland. If that is the only reason, they shouldn't find that a problem for the rest of the year. Tedford has made sure to be clear that the Bears need to execute their assignments if they expect to be a contender for a Pac-10 title.
While there has been a lot of talk about the time difference, I'm not sure that had as much of an effect on us as the humidity did.
- Jeff Tedford on the effect the humidity had on Cal's performance
I know a lot of guys weren't expecting this weather. That's the most I've sweated in my life. My shoes are gushy.
- Kevin Riley after the loss against Maryland
Regardless of the reasons, Cal will need to control the trenches for now on. They were beaten on both sides of the ball which was surprising given the fact that they had played adequate to outstanding in their previous two games. Mike Tepper, the original starter at left tackle is expected to miss time until at least November. For most teams, losing an all-conference left tackle could be a death-blow, but for Cal it's just a minor adjustment. By the time Tepper is ready to play, there might not be anywhere for him to go with the young talent starting on the line.
On the defensive side of the ball, they'll be without Freshman defensive lineman, Kendrick Payne. Payne is a very talented big man that the Bears will miss while he recovers from a minor knee scope. He'll likely be out for the next two games.
While Cal's victories have come with little need for big plays from their wideouts, they will still be without third wide receiver Marvin Jones while he recuperates from a knee sprain suffered in practice. That means that Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen will need to find the magic that they had in the first two games in order to give the Bears a real shot over the next couple of weeks as the passing game improves.
Nobody has really separated himself. They’re all contributing and they’re all playing hard.
- Tedford on how the receivers are performing in practice
However it pans out, if the Bears can make a statement over the next two weeks, they'll undoubtedly get another opportunity to prove they can handle the limelight. If and when that time comes, they are going to have to deliver. If they continue to improve and stay focused like Tedford preaches, they should do alright.