Admittedly, I have been slacking a bit when it comes to the blog. I apologize. Nevertheless, I guess I haven't missed much as our California Golden Bears have proved all the pundits correct thus far this season.
Opening up the season with back to back blowout home wins against UC Davis (52-3) and future Pac-12 member Colorado (52-7) felt good, but that's exactly what we expected to do. Kevin Riley looked comfortable, Keenan Allen looked like the next DeSean Jackson, and the Bears defense was #1 in the land. Maybe we were the darkhorse for once, maybe all the pre-season talk about Cal not being able to get over the hump was finally wrong. Granted, they were two home victories over one D-1AA opponent and a struggling Colorado program, but hey, they were blowouts and we looked good.
Then we got our first real test, on a Friday night in Reno, Nevada against the Pistol offense of the Nevada Wolfpack. All week the media was using the "#1 Defense vs. #1 Offense" line as something had to give between the stout Bears D and the high scoring Wolfpack. I was worried going into this game because Nevada is a good team, with an explosive offense led by QB Colin Kaepernick, and if the defense couldn't stop them, could Riley and Vereen outscore the Wolfpack? Oh yea, and it was on the road in a nationally televised game. At this point we all know that Bears + Pressure + Road Game = Trouble. But maybe this year would be different, maybe new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast could prepare the Bears D for the pistol. Maybe we could win on the road and prove the doubters wrong.
Then the game started just as we didn't want it to, with Nevada methodically shredding our defense for an opening drive TD. The Bears answered, but then you got the feeling that if our D couldn't stop them, would our offense be able to keep up. The game progressed, Nevada kept scoring, and the Bears started to noticeably struggle. Not only were the Bears tackling players without the ball, but Nevada WR's were wide open. Without Shane Vereen breaking two monster 50+ yard runs, the Bears would have been in dire straights. However, even as things started to slip, Riley had a chance to tie the game with a second half drive, but threw a horrible ball against the zone and the Nevada CB took it to the house for a pick 6, and giving Nevada a 14 point lead. After that, we were all pass and that never goes well. End result, Bears lose 52-31.
While it was a tough loss, it was not wholly unexpected and we did not play well enough to win the game. However, the next week provided a chance at redemption and an opportunity to start the Pac-10 off on the right foot. We were traveling to Tuscon to take on the #14 Arizona Wildcats, fresh off their victory over #9 Iowa. Everyone knew this would be a difficult road game, and with another explosive offense led by Nick Foles, the Bears defense really had to step up. One could just hope that we didn't fall flat on our face again, like we did last year against Oregon and USC in consecutive weeks. No, this Tedford team was different, and they would turn it around.
And for 3.5 quarters they did (at least the defense), as the Bears clung to a late 9-3 lead. While the Cal offense had been stuffed on their 3 red zone drives and had to settle for field goals, the Bears defense had kept the high octane Wildcats out of the end zone. Another drive deep into Wildcats territory stalled again with 2:37 remaining, and Tedford sent out the 3-4 Giorgio Tavecchhio (missed a 33 yard FG for a clinching 40 yard field goal. At this point I truly thought we were going to win this game. Hell, even if he missed it, Arizona would have to score a TD to beat us, something they had not done all day.
Well, Tavecchio missed. And Nick Foles woke up and found Criner for a 51 yard reception. After that, Arizona scored a TD and took a 10-9 lead. You all know what happened next. Riley led the Bears on a great come from behind victory...no wait, I was dreaming sorry. Riley took the field and threw a decent pass to Marvin Jones, which ricocheted off his hands and into the arms of an Arizona defender. Not a great pass by Riley, but a horrible drop from Jones.
At this point, the Bears are 2-2 (0-1 Pac-10) and searching for answers...again. We've got the bye week this Saturday, until all-of-a sudden good UCLA comes to Berkeley. Hopefully the week off and a return to the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium result in a better outcome. But hey, us Bear fans use the word "hopefully" way too much in reference to our Football team's success. I just hope it will be sunny on Saturday...