Mired in disappointment, Cal can only try to move forward
October, 4, 2009
By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
BERKELEY, Calif. -- The sullen California coaches and players filed out one-by-one into the interview area and provided typical answers in the typical monotone that typically follow a bad loss.
Yes, Cal did not play well in a 30-3 defeat to USC that felt over by halftime. No, the Bears, formerly ranked No. 6 in the land, had not lost their confidence after losing their past two games by a combined 72-6 count. No, the locker room won't split like it did in 2007.
|AP Photo/Ben Margot|
|Cal running back Jahvid Best’s Heisman hopes may be over, but the Bears still have hope for the season.|
The consensus? There's still a lot of football to be played. They just need to execute better.
"There is no way in the world we are folding our tent," coach Jeff Tedford said.
So what is Cal going to do after a season of high preseason expectations and initial excellence went spiraling into the muck ... again?
Well, it's going to go back to practice and work hard. And it's going to look for answers as to why a team that welcomed back 17 starters from 2008's nine-win squad that beat Oregon and lost by just 14 to a loaded USC team suddenly looks so dreadful after a 3-0 start.
"Just keep working -- that's all you can do," Tedford said. "You can't just talk about it."
The Bears drove to USC's 5-yard line on their opening possession. Then Kevin Riley threw an interception right at All-American free safety Taylor Mays, who gratefully grabbed his first pick since 2007.
After that, it was all USC. Cal's nine-game home winning streak ended with a decisive thud.
Before the Oregon game, Riley ranked among the nation's leaders in passing efficiency. In the past two games, he's completed 27 of 71 passes (38 percent). He's not throwing a bunch of interceptions -- Mays' grab was Riley's first of the season and first in 115 consecutive passes -- but he's not seeing open guys and he's missing them when he's seeing him.
Tedford said a quarterback change is not in the offing. "Kevin is our starter," he said.
With no threat to pass, Best's Heisman Trophy candidacy essentially ended just as it was beginning. He had 47 yards against the Trojans after managing just 55 vs. the Ducks. Two weeks ago, he was the toast of college football after scoring five touchdowns at Minnesota.
Tedford corrected the notion that Cal has become one-dimensional.
"We were zero-dimensional today because we couldn't run it and we couldn't throw it," he said.
USC outgained the Bears 457 yards to 285. Over the past two games, Cal has been outgained 981-492.
Riley said the Cal offense has "athletes all over the field" but things just weren't coming together.
"I don't know why," Best said. "It's just frustrating. We're taking turns making mistakes."
Cal looked like the Pac-10 frontrunner after the Trojans lost at Washington. Now they will face questions throughout their bye week about whether they are on the brink of another collapse -- see 2007, when the Bears went from nearly earning a No. 1 ranking to losing six of their final seven regular-season games.
One thing's not going to happen. Tedford has no interest in hammering his team with fire and brimstone speeches.
"I'm never going to get into screaming and yelling at the guys -- I'm never going to do that," he said. "They don't deserve that. They play hard and I'm not going to get into screaming and yelling at them. I get e-mails that say I should scream and yell at them. I'm not screaming and yelling at them. I'm going to motivate them and we're going to work hard to get better."
So no screaming and yelling, got it? Work hard and try to get better. That's not profound insight.
But what else can Cal coaches and players say?
What else can they do?