Time for our weekly segment taking a look at UW’s opponent. Kind enough this week to answer five questions on Cal is Jonathan Okanes, who covers the Bears for the Bay Area News Group, and whose coverage is also available through the BearsTalk blog.
Q: Can you give us an overview of Cal’s offense and how it’s different now with Brock Mansion at quarterback?
A: Cal’s passing offense was uninspiring even with Kevin Riley at quarterback. With the inexperienced Brock Mansion now taking snaps, it is even more suspect. Cal opponents can’t be scared off by what the Bears are doing through the air these days, and it’s not just because of the quarterback change. Cal also isn’t getting effective play from its receivers. There have been a handful of dropped passes in recent weeks and the receivers simply aren’t that explosive. Running back Shane Vereen (pictured in last year’s loss to UW in a John Lok photo) was by far the most dangerous weapon on offense with Riley at quarterback, and he still is.
Q: Can you asses why the Cal defense has looked so good at times and, well, not-so-good at others?
A: In general, I still think Cal’s defense is pretty good. The Stanford game was a snowball effect in which the Bears made some mistakes early and then couldn’t recover. And, of course, the offense isn’t exactly helping with field position. But Cal has has as many as five, and maybe more, players on defense that should be in NFL camps next fall.
Q: What’s the deal with Cal’s special teams and the kicker who always seems to be missing game-winners?
A: Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio really hasn’t been that consistent since he got to Cal. Who knows why he is struggling? He and Jeff Tedford insist he’s nails in practice. But more than any position on the field, success in practice is probably meaningless for a kicker. Kicking is all about performing under pressure, something Tavecchio hasn’t done well this season. As far as other special teams, the one significant note is that punt returner Jeremy Ross is out with a broken finger. He was having a pretty good year. Freshman Keenan Allen is now the punt returner.
Q: Is the motivation of a 6-6 record and a bowl game enough for Cal this week after two straight tough, emotional losses to Oregon and Stanford?
A: I think so. I think there is a stigma that would be attached to them because Cal has been to a bowl game seven years in a row. Also, Jeff Tedford has never had a losing season and the players would have that stigma as well. Plus, it’s the last home game for the seniors. I get the sense that the motivation is still strong.
Q: Finally, seems from afar that Cal has hit a little of a lull the last few years under Tedford. Are the faithful down there still keeping the faith? And any reason why the team has had some struggles the last few years?
A: There is absolutely a faction of fans that are losing faith in Tedford. There really aren’t one or two specific issues responsible for the past few seasons of mediocrity. Each season has had its own story and its own share of problems, which makes it even more maddening for Tedford and the fans. I think one of the problems is Tedford had so much success so early, he didn’t learn how to deal with the down times. He basically had Cal in a BCS game (the Rose Bowl controversy with Texas ) three years after taking over a 1-10 team. Two years later, they were on the cusp of a BCS game again. Then came some mediocre seasons. Usually, it works in reverse. A coach takes over a program that needs rebuilding and works his way up to breakthrough seasons. Tedford has been kind of going the other way.
November 24, 2010 at 10:46 PM
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