How good was Cal?
October, 14, 2011
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- It's a common practice for head coaches to hype up their opponents immediately before and after each game -- regardless of the validity of the comments.
At the time of the game, every team USC plays is a good one, according to Lane Kiffin. Only weeks later is it revealed what he actually thinks about each team.
So what, then, will be the eventual assessment of this California team that the Trojans beat handily at AT&T Park on Thursday night? This game was supposed to be a valuable measuring stick for USC heading into its toughest two-week stretch of the season at Notre Dame and against Stanford, but does it actually mean much?
Cal had two dominant players on the field Thursday: receivers Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. The Bears' defensive linemen had their moments and safety Sean Cattouse did as well, but there were few other true threats on the field for Jeff Tedford's team.
Read between the lines of what USC said after the game, and the Trojans were saying the same thing. Kiffin said Cal's front seven was good but said nothing of their secondary. Linebacker Chris Galippo, in attempting to explain how the Trojans suddenly produced five turnovers in one game when they had five in the first five games, gave an even better clue.
He was asked about Dion Bailey's two interceptions, both of which appeared to come on relatively easy plays for the redshirt freshman linebacker.
"I don't want to take anything away from him, but (Cal quarterback Zach) Maynard just telegraphed the heck out of his passes," Galippo said. "Dion played an awesome game, obviously, having two picks, but he was just in the right spot."
Maynard did not have an impressive game. Even much-maligned Notre Dame signal-caller Tommy Rees, for example, can't be counted on to make the type of mistakes Maynard did against the Trojans on Thursday.
And that's the key. Sure, the Trojans played well against Cal, better than they've played in most of their games this season. Receiver Marqise Lee was on his way to a breakout game before he got hurt. Running back Curtis McNeal was downright dominant in the second half. There were no huge breakdowns from the defense for the first time this season.
But for those looking at that game in attempt to find evidence that Kiffin's up-and-down USC squad is ready to beat Notre Dame in South Bend in nine days, keep looking.