A Horrendous Effort All Around: Cal Escapes With 23-21 Win Over Arizona State

Steven ResnickSenior Writer IOctober 31, 2009

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Kevin Riley #13 of the California Bears looks for a receiver as he rolls out in the third quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 42-3. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

There's not a lot of positive things to say about the California Golden Bears' 23-21 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils. It's actually a wonder how the Bears managed to squeeze out the victory.

In the first quarter, the game looked different and it seemed like the Bears would take control of the game very early, especially after taking a 14-0 lead. That lead vanished in a hurry.

What's sad is the 14 points scored by the Sun Devils came on two plays. One was a three-yard play after Kevin Riley turned the ball over on the three-yard line. The other scoring drive by the Sun Devils went for 80 yards after the Bears missed a 34 yard field goal.

One of the things that bugged me throughout the game was on third down situations especially third-and-two, the Bears went to the air rather than trying to run for the first down.

Yes, I realize that the Sun Devils have the sixth ranked rushing defense in the country. The problem is if the team is expecting the Bears to pass they are going to come after Riley and that's what happened.

Verran Tucker dropped a key third down pass in the third quarter. If he had made the catch, the score would have been something much different than it was.

Marvin Jones almost cost the Bears the game after taking a 15-yard face mask call. Now, I think the officials got the call right, but they also have to understand that the player that initiated the contact was the Sun Devil cornerback.

Luckily for the Bears, Jones came back and ended up making a huge catch for a Bears first down.

Even then there was questionable playcalling in the redzone for the Bears. It almost ended in disaster for the Bears as Shane Vereen threw a ball up for grabs for tight end Anthony Miller. Luckily, it fell harmlessly out of the back of the end zone.

The problem with throwing the football in the situation was that the Sun Devils had just one timeout left, so if the Bears ran the football, they could have milked the clock down to a point where the Sun Devils wouldn't have gotten the ball back and it would have been a game-ending field goal.

With the clock being stopped, it allowed for the Sun Devils to not have to use a timeout. The Bears did get smart and called for a run on third down where the Sun Devils would get one last chance with 21 second left on the clock.

At least the defense did the job right and were able to get pressure on the Sun Devil quarterback,forcing not only a holding call but a intentional grounding penalty as well.

But, prior to that when the Sun Devils were throwing the football, the secondary was much too soft.

On the 80-yard touchdown reception by the Sun Devils, Marcus Ezeff was nowhere to be seen on the play, and he was the man responsible for the Sun Devils wide receiver.

On special teams, it was almost a disaster. It makes you wonder through because there were three field goals that where hit one was from 24 yards, another from 25 yards, and the best one of the game was from 51 yards, which was really a surprise that it went in.

Kickoff coverage again was a little lackadaisical, but it doesn't help that none of the Cal players kicking off can't even get it to the five yard line.

Even more annoying for me while watching the game was how many times either Javhid Best or Shane Vereen were out of the wildcat formation. Speaking of Vereen, I was also disappointed to see that the Bears barely used him.

The Bears tight ends and receivers didn't really wake up until the last drive of the game, which I will admit was probably the most positive aspect to the game. That drive signaled that Riley does have the ability to lead the Bears in a close game.

Other than that, I think the Bears could have utilized Jones and Tucker more. The Sun Devils secondary has been known to give up big plays. Jeremy Ross had a big catch in the first half of 56 yards.

I think the Bears need to start putting both Vereen and Best in the same backfield. Another thing that would have been good for the Bears is when they got to third-and-two against the Sun Devils was to use Brian Holly and have him carry the ball or throw short to Holly. He did make one huge catch in the game as well.

Andy Ludwig is walking a thin line as offensive coordinator for the Bears. Especially after watching today's game.

Also, the Bears didn't take advantage of the mental mistakes by the Sun Devils' 12 penalties for 123 yards.

The Sun Devils had multiple 15-yard penalties as well, but the Bears were unable to take advantage because they also were penalized 10 times for 108 yards.

Riley did fumble twice in the game, but luckily for the Bears, only one of the turnovers cost the Bears points.