1. Cal's still capable of being a
very good football team.
Following sloppy efforts against Nevada
and Southern Utah, Cal wasn't given too much of a chance against Ohio
State; but on Saturday the Bears gave the Buckeyes all they could
handle for four quarters. Although it was far from a flawless
performance, the Bears went toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes, and a
breakout performance by tailback Brendan Bigelow, plus a solid
performance by Zach Maynard herald good things for the Bears if they
can play more consistently.
The Bears were able to cut down their
penalties, the defense played a solid game but were unfortunately
torched by a handful of big plays, and despite not being able to use
any of their two tight ends sets very much, they outgained Ohio State
While the Bears will have their hands
full against USC next week, one has to feel a lot better about their
chances against the Trojans based on their effort against Ohio State;
and one has to be hopeful that the team everyone saw on Saturday is
much more reflective about this year's team, than the one that showed
up in the first two games.
If that turns out to be the case, the
Bears still could end up as one of the more pleasant surprises in
2. The Bears didn't get any favors
from the officials.
While the losing team generally always
has some reason to have beef with the officials, the Bears have a
bigger reason than any. The onesidedness of the officiating was such
that even ESPN's announcing crew took issue with it. There was the
dubious holding call on Cal tight end Jacob Wark that nullified a
47-yard touchdown pass from Maynard to C.J. Anderson that would have
cut the deficit down to six, at 20-14. That possession ended up in a
missed 40-yard field goal attempt by Vincenzo D'Amato.
Earlier on a 3rd-and-10 from the Cal
45, Braxton Miller threw a 35-yard pass to Devin Smith that Smith
appeared to still be bringing in when he was tackled and the ball hit
the ground before he was able to secure possession. The play was
reviewed and was surprisingly ruled a catch. Had it been ruled an
incomplete pass, Ohio State would have had to punt. Instead, Ohio
State scored a touchdown two plays later to go up by two scores.
At the end of a 30-yard pass from
Maynard to Anderson, Anderson was brought down by a clear horse
collar tackle. A 15-yard penalty would have given the Bears the ball
on the Ohio State 33 and put them on the outside end of field goal
range. Instead the Bears were forced to punt four plays later..
There were several other calls that were either made or not made, including a late hit on Maynard that should have warranted a personal foul penalty on Ohio State.
Neither the coaches nor players can comment on the officiating without running the risk of some sort of censure from the conference or various officials whose job it is to make sure that nobody comments on the officials, but we'll say it for them.
The officiating on Saturday was atrocious.
3. Brendan Bigelow brought back
memories of Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson
If you're a fan of impressive box
scores, print out the Cal-Ohio State game and highlight Brendan
Bigelow's line of four carries, 160 yards, and two touchdowns.
With touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards, Bigelow gives the Bears now have an offensive weapon that puts
them in scoring position from any place on the field. His first run,
where he spun out of a defender's grasp, kept his balance and then
outran the entire Buckeye defense will be a staple of Saturday night
While Bear fans were spoiled with fast
running backs when Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen were in Berkeley,
Bigelow gives the team something similar, a back with enough speed
that the defenders only get one chance to make a tackle on him, and one mistake can be the difference between a four-yard gain and the marching band playing the fight song.
As talented as Anderson and Isi Sofele
are, Bigelow's speed is something that can completely catch an
defense off-guard. And if an offense is struggling, all it takes is
one play to break things wide open.
Down 13 early in the second quarter,
the Bears went through five consecutive scoreless possessions until
Bigelow broke off his long touchdown run. The next five possessions
resulted in a punt, two touchdowns and two missed field goal
Those who remember Bigelow's high
school highlight film will recall a player who seemed to be playing
at an entirely different speed than anyone else. Upon first view, one might
have thought that the video was sped up to make Bigelow look like he
was running faster, but closer examination showed that he was the
only person on the tape who appeared to a lot faster than everyone
else on the field.
For anybody who remembers the old
Nintendo game Tecmo Bowl, there was always a debate on who was able
to play with the Raiders – the Raiders having a running back
wearing number 34 (who wasn't officially Bo Jackson, but everybody
knew) who was impossible to catch anytime he was in the open field.
4. The offensive line still has a
way to go
Although it might seem like quibbling
to take issue with an offensive line that played a role in an offense
putting up 500 yards and putting a considerable scare into the
Buckeyes, Saturday's game showed that there's still considerable room
Center Brian Schwenke had so many low
snaps to Maynard in the shotgun that it was unusual when one arrived
where it was supposed to be. This undoubtedly affected the timing on
some of the shorter passing play. Both tackles on the left and right
side had issues against Ohio State's pass rush. Maynard was sacked
six times and was under pressure on several other occasions.
Cal committed only four penalties that
were accepted on Saturday, three were from the offensive line. One
holding penalty by Jordan Rigsbee, one false start by Tyler Rigsbee,
and one unneccesary roughness penalty on Chris Adcock.
4. Zach Maynard showed major cojones
Before any game there's always the
question about which Maynard will show up, the good Maynard who can
zip passes into receivers who are tightly covered or the bad Maynard
who can be all over the place. He was very good during the second
half of 2011, but had a rough Holiday Bowl game against Texas, and
with the Bears going into a hostile environment in Columbus against a
nationally-ranked team it was hard for anyone to be overly optimistic
about his chances of having a strong game on Saturday.
But he bounced back from a hard (and late) hit
that caused him to leave the game for a play, kept fighting through
the numerous low snaps from the center, endured hits throughout the
afternoon, and had the Bears in scoring position on three different
possessions that on another day could have resulted in a win for the
When it was evident that the pass
blocking wasn't going to hold up well enough for the Bears to attempt many medium and deep routes, the Bears went to a quicker passing
game relying on short routes that Maynard was able to complete.
For the day, he was 26-of-37 for 280
yards , and while it may not have been the greatest game of his Cal
career, it was certainly his most courageous.
5. Vince D'Amato has to put
Saturday behind him
Kicker Vincenzo D'Amato has given the
Bears a big boost in the kickoff game. Where the Bears had short
kickoffs under Giorgio Tavecchio, D'Amato's shown that he can reach
the end zone regularly, which is important for a team that's kickoff
return unit has had its struggles over the years.
D'Amato's story of how he ended up
getting to this stage of his Cal career is inspiring and will be
addressed in detail in a feature later this season.
But while he has plenty of leg,
harnessing it can be another issue. The three makable missed field
goals of 42, 42, and 40 can easily be forgotten. But when those
three field goals add up to nine points and the Bears lose by seven
in a game that could've marked a big turnaround for Cal football,
it's hard for players, coaches and fans to not get caught up in “what
With nine, and possibly 10 games left
in the season, there will be a lot of opportunities for D'Amato to
atone for it and leave a better impression than he did on Saturday.
Games like Saturday are ones that can stay with a player for awhile,
but he'll need to be able to put it behind him.
Yet in the end, a good week of practice
isn't going to matter. The measure of how much this ends up
affecting him will be reflected by how he kicks the next time he has to try a field goal in a game.
6. The secondary has to get it figured out
Did the defense play well or not? On
one hand, 412 yards and 35 points would seem to suggest not, but the
Bears did an effective job of limiting Ohio State's offense, only
allowing one extended drive and forced the Buckeyes into seven
three-and-outs – by comparison Ohio State's defense only forced Cal
The defense's big failing were the
number of long plays they surrendered, the game-winning 72-yard
touchdown pass from Miller to Smith, a 55-yard touchdown run by
Miller, a 40-yard pass from Miller to Jake Stoneburner, a 35-yard
pass from Miller to Smith, and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Miller
to Smith. That's five plays for 227 yards.
That means on the other 58 plays, the
Bears allowed 185 yards.
On the long plays, it was often a case
of a player in the secondary missing a tackle, getting an assignment
wrong, or not making a play.
Steve Williams was in good coverage on
two long pass plays, it was just a matter of the quarterback making a
good throw and the reciever making big plays.
Still, allowing five big plays out of
63 isn't going to be good enough to beat good teams.