The California Golden Bears played well enough to defeat the No. 14 ranked Arizona Wildcats in Tucson tonight. Yet, there were a variety of problems that the Bears could not make up for and it cost the Bears the game.
First, it starts with the special teams. Jeremy Ross had a brain cramp and called for a fair catch inside the five-yard line. That meant the Bears had to start their drive from the four, and went three-and-out. There will be more about that drive later.
Since the Bears went three-and-out on the series, it meant Bryan Anger, a normally solid punter for the Bears, would have to punt from his own end zone. Unfortunately for him, he shanked the punt and gave the Wildcats excellent field goal position.
The defense did not allow a touchdown by the Wildcats, but managed a field goal for the first three points of the game for the Wildcats.
Besides that, Giorgio Tavecchio missed two field goals from inside 40 yards. A lack of a consistent field goal kicker has plagued California for years and this game further proves that point. The question will be is when will Jeff Tedford bring in a kicker that can make field goals?
So, that meant six points were off the board for the Bears and in the end that hurt the Bears the most because the only scoring in the game were three field goals by Tavecchio one of 25 yards, one of 40 yards, and one that was 23 yards.
Offensively, the Bears left a lot to be desired and the problem starts with the lack of passing in the game. There were 35 carries to 26 passes, now that dynamic doesn't seem that bad, but most of the pass plays came in the first half.
Thirteen pass plays were called in the second half compared to 22 runs. A big concern, though, is that the receivers that the Bears have were not involved. Marvin Jones had only four catches, yet came into the game averaging seven per game.
Keenan Allen, their dynamic wide receiver, only had two touches, one was on a reverse that went for six yards and he had one catch after the Bears trailed for the first time and that went for 10 yards.
Anthony Miller, a big tight end who should be the safety valve for Kevin Riley, had one pass go his way and he dropped it, although there was tight coverage around him.
Michael Calvin had a decent game, he had three catches. Alex Lagemann had one pass thrown his way, but was out of bounds, if he could have been led a little bit more inside it would have been a touchdown for the Bears instead of the Bears settling for the first field goal of the game.
Jeremey Ross, the most experienced receiver on the team, had only two catches. Shane Vereen had three catches, but none substantial, although he had a ball he should have caught that would have given the Bears some momentum.
The only other player that got a pass thrown their way was back-up tight end Spencer Ladner who caught a pass for five yards.
It says something when the two best receivers on the team for the Bears caught five passes for 51 yards. If the Bears want to compete in the Pac-10, Jones and Allen need to be involved in the offense.
Vereen did his best in the second half to tire out the Wildcats defense. He ended the game with 26 carries for 97 yards, which is a 3.7 yards per carry average. He did get tired and Isi Sofele came in and got some good yardage for the Bears as well.
Yet, the issue with running the football was that there was way too much time left in the game to start milking clock and settling for field goals. The biggest decision of the game was to bring Tavecchio out for a 23-yard field goal.
It was fourth and less than one near the goal line. If the Bears got the first it would have meant an opportunity for a touchdown instead of three points. Tedford went the conservative route and took the points.
Though there were definitely options for the Bears if Tedford had decided to go for it. Using fullback Eric Stevens was one, Vereen, Sofele, Riley on a quarterback sneak or roll-out, or actually going for a touchdown utilizing the height of Jones, Allen, or Miller were other options.
Yet, the biggest concern was with Riley, as mentioned before there was special teams plays that led to the field goal by Arizona. One was the brain cramp by Ross, the other was on the shanked punt by Anger.
Though Anger may not have had to punt, Riley rolled out to his right feeling pressure, if he had run the football, he would have easily picked up the first down. Instead, he tried finding Allen, but since he was running he didn't have much accuracy on the throw and Allen couldn't get his hands underneath the ball to make the catch. That third down play led to the punt by Anger.
On defense, there really isn't much concern for the Bears. Clancy Pendergast has the defense playing great before the final drive of the game. Foles was well under 200 yards passing after averaging over 330 per game in the first three.
The defense got pressure on Foles and forced a fumble, had a great interception, even forced an intentional grounding penalty, and also had two sacks.
For the Bears, the only play that could be looked at or done over again was on the game-winning touchdown drive by the Wildcats. Criner made an excellent catch on a 51-yard bomb by Foles, the Wildcats took advantage of a height mismatch, and Criner made a great play.
If the Bears are going to beat the UCLA Bruins, their defense needs to keep playing with the same kind of intensity as the defense did against Arizona, but the offense needs to get it going especially finding the playmaking receivers.