Sunday, October 21, 2007

SF Chronicle: Bears now playing for pride rather than championships

Cal middle linebacker Worrell Williams still had tears in eyes and the pain of Saturday's 30-21 loss to UCLA in his gut, when he neatly wrapped up the rest of the Bears' season.

"We just have to keep fighting and never quit," he said. "We don't have anything else to play for but pride. Obviously, the national championship is out of the picture. The Rose Bowl is out of the picture. But we still have to suit up and play."  Had then-No. 2 Cal beaten Oregon State the previous Saturday, it probably would have replaced then-No. 1 LSU, which lost in triple overtime to Kentucky. When the new rankings come out today, the Bears will become a then-No. 10 team that is doing quite a bit of soul-searching. "We're trying to figure out where to take it from here," cornerback Brandon Hampton said. "People are just wondering where we stand." After losing in consecutive weeks - this time by being outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter in front of 83,494 at the Rose Bowl - the Bears (5-2, 2-2) are tied for fifth place with Oregon State in the Pac-10 standings. A Cal season that started with five straight wins, including national-arrival victories over Tennessee and Oregon, has turned into a year of questions without answers.

The Bears' once-dominant rushing attack was limited to 67 yards by UCLA (5-2, 4-0), and the Bruins continued a season-long trend of Cal opponents taking either DeSean Jackson or Lavelle Hawkins out of the passing game. Tailback Justin Forsett had his seven-game rushing-touchdown streak snapped and totaled only 76 yards on 25 carries. Jackson, who was held to 5 yards against Oregon State after posting career highs against Oregon, emerged with nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but Hawkins had only three catches for 25 yards and fumbled two kick returns on his worst day since a two-catch, 27-yard performance against Oregon. "We have to change some things up," Jackson said. "I have a lot of confidence in coach (Jeff) Tedford, and we have a lot of playmakers on this team. "We can't wait until the last minute to start rushing around and trying to make plays. We've got to start knocking people out right away."

Cal has let teams hang around this season, and Saturday was no different. The Bears led 7-0, 14-10 and 21-20, but they couldn't put away UCLA.  Cal called for runs on seven of eight plays in its first two fourth-quarter possessions, and each drive ended with a punt. The Bruins took a 23-21 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Kai Forbath, and the Bears finally had to go to the air. Playing for the first time since spraining his ankle Sept. 29, quarterback Nate Longshore ruined an otherwise great return with interceptions on back-to-back drives. The first one was the killer. Trying to get into position for a potential game-winning field in the final two minutes, Longshore tried to squeeze one to Jackson on a 3rd-and-5 play from the 30-yard line. Alterraun Verner, who told reporters he knew what play was coming, jumped the route and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown and a 30-21 lead.

"It was a great play by him, and I've got nothing else for you," said Longshore, who was 22-for-34 for 232 yards and three touchdowns. "I should've just probably thrown it away."  Cal's defensive players tried to take the blame, too. They forced two turnovers, but they also gave up 142 rushing yards to Marin Catholic grad Khalil Bell, recorded only one sack against efficient quarterback Patrick Cowan and allowed UCLA to convert 7 of 15 third-down chances.

"As a defense, we didn't play our best game," said outside linebacker Zack Follett, who had 10 tackles, including three for a loss, and a sack. "I think we need to have a gut-check time and pick it up. If we hadn't gotten lucky with those turnovers, we would have gotten beat by a bigger margin." As the story has been all season, Cal's offense and defense did not click at the same time. The Bears didn't score off either fumble they recovered, missing a field-goal try and throwing an interception. When the offense was gaining momentum, the defense let UCLA go on long, scoring drives. "It's frustrating, but we have to keep pushing," Forsett said. "We have to hold up our end and let the defense take care of their things."



Anonymous said...

Can you spell "Holiday Bowl"? Or even "Emerald Bowl?" How about "no bowl at all unless Cal wins 1 more game....."

Prediction: Cal loses to ASU and USC. Beats Washington and Washington State. Big Game is a toss-up (like always).....Cal finishes at 7-5 or maybe even 8-4. Goes to Holiday Bowl and loses. Tedford bolts for the NFL after the season ends.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

cal wins out, goes 11-2 and still makes the rose bowl, with the other teams winning and losing to make that happen. As far as your prediction goes i think it would be considered a successful year before tedford got there. I suppose that i am in the minority, however i think they are just 2 plays from being undefeated. Im not concerned at all about this season, and from what i have seen from the young talent that has hit the field the future is very bright. I live in alabama, and i get tired of teams with unrealistic expections, and feelings that 2 or 3 loses ruins seasons. This 5 year run (6 now) that the bears are on has been special. Win out, revenge over the Vols and the Trojans will be a great year for me. Trojans beat oregon, ucla, asu, and some more help and it could still happen.
Bears for life, no matter what.

Anonymous said...


I've been a solid bear backer throughout. Scared at times, wanting "more definitive" wins, while thinking this could be a special season. Now, of course, I'd be happy for just more wins.

I've jumped on the doomsters who predicted a string of losses after the Oregon State game.

I will now bow to them, at least a little. Our defense, listed as question mark at the beginning of the season, is a big problem.

I wish our superstar, Jackson, would spend a little less time running away from contact and more time punishing defenders and just getting upfield. Not to take away his spectacular run against Tenessee. But sometimes a solid few yards is better than running backwards and getting tacked for a loss or no gain.

Longshore's been erratic.

We looked greast against Tenessee, but since then haven't really impressed. Last year, it was the opposite.

I'm not throwing in the towel just yet. Next week will be dangerous, but it will speak volumes about the team, and the coaching staff, if we can pull it out. We also have to paste SC, not because it means something this year, but because it doesn't.

There is a lot at stake for the rest of the season. If we can win out, that would be impressive, and something to buld on. The Rose Bowl, frankly, would be a long shot, and I'm not sure we'd deserve it. Id rather see Oregon win out, and have us win out, and be second in a strong PAc 10.

I don't know what to think anymore.

I hope Tedford doesn't leave. I also hope he helps us play better.



Anonymous said...

wow, you seem frustrated, and i wonder over what? To say the SC game means nothing is puzzling. There are many recruits that pay attention to that game, so indeed it matters alot. Plus it matters to Cal to be able to knock off usc. as far as it being a long shot for the rose bowl, well cal with 2 loses wins out, would hold the tie breaker over usc, oregon, asu, just not over ucla. Then usc wins all except cal, ucla loses to usc, oregon, and asu, which could happen. anyway you have a host of teams at 7-2 with cal holding tie breakers over all of them. I mean come on, there is still a chance. I cant wait to see that usc oregon game though. Right now oregon looks like they will smack the hell out of em. The whole defining win thing is crap to me. Wasnt oregon, asu, ucla, or texas a&m wins of last year defining? Or beating usc a few years ago, or beating virginia tech in the bowl game in 03? No, because we won, but if we had lost then we missed out on an opportunity for a defining win. The tennessee win this year, wasnt that defining. That win gave the bears the opportunity at being number one in the nation. Come on now doom and gloom, the glass is 9/10 full!

Anonymous said...

Bob Gregory needs to be replace prior to next season.

The defense is on the field most of the game because they can not stop anyone.

Three and outs would solve this.

Anonymous said...

funny how now coaches on cals staff need to be fired. they had a hell of a defense in 04 and 05, dont those count for anything?

Anonymous said...

The 04 maybe but the 05 unit got shelled by Texas Tech.

The 04 defensive unit were Tom Homoe's recruits.

Are you going to tell me that CA's housing industry is not so bad either?

Anonymous said...

Defense sucks, plain and simple.


Yes, more worse than even Stanford's!

Anonymous said...

sorry but you got it wrong, 04 got shelled by texas tech, 05 beat byu in a bowl game. If you look at 04, it was a pretty solid unit. 05 was pretty good too, could have been a great team if they could have been able to pass the ball.