It's been quite a ride in the Jeff Tedford era. Under his stead, the California Golden Bears have averaged eight wins a season. They've gone to bowl games in eight of nine seasons. They finished in the top ten once, the top 15 twice, and the top 25 three times. They won a Pac-10 championship and should have gone to a Rose Bowl if not for BCS shenanigans.
But it looks like it's over.
It's not officially over. Cal will suit up for four more games, and Tedford will be patrolling the sidelines for each one of them. But barring a miraculous turnaround (or financial difficulties, although they are generally overstated), it's hard to see him returning as Cal's head coach.
Cal didn't just lose the Big Game to Stanford. They were beaten physically and broken mentally. The game was over at halftime, only we had to pretend we had a chance to come back. It's bad enough not to be relevant, but getting bashed in by your rivals for the second time in three years at home is pretty unforgivable (and we lost the third year too).
The Cal offensive line was undressed by the Stanford front seven. Cal rushed for three yards. TOTAL. Their longest gain was four yards. Take out the sacks and they still averaged just over a yard per carry (24 carries, 27 yards). Stanford's defense is no joke, so it's no surprise we had trouble. But the fact that Cal kept on running the football late into the fourth quarter was especially frustrating, considering the Bears had almost no chance of breaking off even modest gains on the ground.
Nothing was more frustrating than the 4th and 1 failure in the 4th quarter, where the Bears lined up in shotgun and ran a draw (or a "zone-read"). So you have a low percentage run with less blockers up front forcing the RB to make something happen without any lead blocking.
After two decent gameplans that kept the offense functional, the Bears went back to same ol', same ol'. The Cal offensive adjustments were gone.
- No Zach Maynard zone-reads (at least none I remember where he ended up keeping the football).
- No real usage of the tight ends (Richard Rodgers touched the ball once, which is less than "not enough").
- Criminal under-usage of Brendan Bigelow, who would have at least forced Stanford to spread the field out and account for his presence.
- Criminal over-usage of Isi Sofele, who can't break tackles and run well inside the trash. Anytime Sofele saw the field as the lone back, the Cardinal broke out the champagne and were happy to bring him down after a yard or two. Sofele isn't a runner that scares anyone on the inside, and making him go inside instead of being an outside sweep option is a little strange.
- No counters to try and force the Stanford defense off-balance. No moving pockets, no testing the outside, no hitting the middle of the field, no inside screens (have we seen an inside screen once this year?), etc. Just drop back and die, run forward and die.
It was a pedestrian gameplan for a Big Game upset. Only Bear Territory were the ones upset today.
As a result, the mistakes piled up yet again. Maynard missed so many passes it was almost comical. and threw a red zone interception that had no chance of being caught by anyone but Stanford. His incompletions were way off target, and his completions weren't much better (kudos to his receivers for hauling in a few big throws). But it was bad Maynard, and there is nothing more frustrating than watching bad Maynard.
But the whole team stumbled and bumbled. Bigelow and Maynard botched a handoff exchange at midfield. Allen made the most crucial error of the game by fumbling the football on the sideline, leading to a quick Stanford score that put the Cardinal up comfortably for the rest of the game. Bryce Treggs caught a few nice 3rd down passes, but seemed to lose track of the marker and missed the first down each time.
The Cal defense played fairly well, giving up only one blown coverage that set up a Stanford touchdown; the Cal special teams less so, giving up a good punt return that set up a short field and another Stanford touchdown. But it was the Cal offense, filled with playmakers at every position, that remained astoundingly inept for the entire game.
- The Bears had 103 yards of offense through three quarters.
- Cal's halftime adjustments resulted in two three-and-outs and -11 yards to start the second half.
- The Bears went 1 for 13 on 3rd down. To be fair, there was plenty of 3rd and longs, which usually resulted in draw plays or sacks.
- Down 18 points, the Bears ran a drive with all the urgency of a turtle trying to catch the subway, nearly letting the clock expire on several plays and getting half the time to expire off the clock. That was about as non-serious attempt at a comeback as I've ever seen in person (although I guess last year's Big Game wasn't much better).
Tedford's calling card has been offense, and there has been precious little of it for the Bears recently. The quarterback malaise has spread to the whole unit, and there's no real reason to believe a turnaround is forthcoming.
The case piles up against Tedford because of the staggering offensive incompetence. Maynard vacillates from hot to cold on any given day. The Bears seem to run too much when they should pass more and pass too much when they should run more There is no rhyme or reason to the offense, and they are performing well below their expectation level.
The offensive coaching braintrust appears to be too slow to react when adversity hits. You have a run game coordinator as the running backs coach, a pass game coordinator as the wide receivers coach, the offensive line coach as the offensive coordinator on the field, and the quarterbacks coach calling plays in the booth. And they are combining all their talents with Tedford to produce a team that can't produce 100 yards of offense in the first three quarters of the biggest home game of the year. That isn't nearly good enough.
Cal is having a rough enough season and has had to overcome numerous obstacles, but laying eggs in Big Games (at home nonetheless) cannot be forgiven, and definitely not when the season is hanging in the balance. Cal having below-average offensive line and quarterback play cannot be forgiven, particularly when this is a pattern four years running.
Cal is now 3-5, and the Bears still have yet to face probably the two best teams in the Pac-12. There is almost no belief that the Bears will get to .500, and probably even less interest in seeing whether they can. There is certainly nothing to indicate that a turnaround is coming. Tedford has now dropped six of his last eight at home, has not beaten USC in nine years, and has lost the Axe three years running. Tedford has lost 20 of his last 32 games against FBS opponents since the last time Cal won the Axe, and a dozen of those losses are in the double digit range.
There is no future here for Tedford, whether he's here a year from now or not. There is talent, but there is no belief that he can lead them anywhere but the pits. Even if he is still the coach due to financial issues or whatever might forestall matters behind the scenes in the Athletic Department, the Bears appear to be done as a serious Pac-12 threat until the necessary changes are made.
It's been a good run for Tedford at Cal. But you know what they say about good things. They end.