Cal not ready to take next step
Only one team showed for Saturday's key Pac-10 game between USC and Cal
Southern Cal made an early statement after scoring a TD off a Cal turnover
Cal proved it wasn't ready to compete at the level of the conference elite
BERKELEY, Calif. -- The Hayward earthquake fault line runs directly under Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. But there was no seismic shift there on Saturday evening.
The tectonic plates of West Coast football were not rearranged. The landscape of the Pac-10 did not tilt toward Berkeley.
The USC Trojans dominated the Bears, 30-3. Crushed them. Humiliated them. It was as anti-climatic as an early October game between two conference rivals can possibly be.
When asked if his team was too one-dimensional, Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said:
"We were zero dimensional. We couldn't run the ball and we couldn't throw it."
And, as an added bonus, the Bears couldn't stop the Trojans from doing both.
In their own stadium, before a loud energetic home crowd of 72,000, the Bears failed to show up.
Saturday was the tail end of the most embarrassing eight days of Tedford's eight-year Cal career, with the domination of USC following a 42-3 beatdown in Eugene, Ore. The Bears scored just six points in 120 minutes of football. They haven't scored a touchdown since they traveled to Minnesota on Sept. 19. And they haven't scored a touchdown against a Pac-10 since playing Washington last December.
If there is to be a new challenger to USC -- which has won seven straight Pac-10 titles -- it won't be coming from Berkeley. Oregon gets to take its shot at the Trojans on Halloween, in Eugene. Stanford -- a surprising 3-0 in the Pac-10, 4-1 overall -- will visit Los Angeles in mid-November.
The Trojans are ranked No. 7 in the country and making their move.
"I think we're the best team in the Pac-10," said freshman quarterback Matt Barkley.
USC coach Pete Carroll declined to make such a declaration.
"They have their issues and we have our issues," he said. "We got done what we needed to get done tonight."
Whatever issues USC had seem to be resolved. Their biggest concern, and the point that made teams like Cal believe they could be vulnerable this season, was that Carroll was starting a freshman quarterback. But Barkley is 4-0 as a starter, and looked poised and in control on Saturday, completing 20 of 25 passes for 283 yards.
"This was a game where we could tell whether or not Matt was comfortable," Carroll said.
The verdict? Very comfortable, indeed.
The Trojans wasted no time taking control of the game. Safety Taylor Mays intercepted a pass in the end zone of Cal's first drive and then the USC offense drove the ball 80 yards for a touchdown. In the span of two-and-a-half minutes, the game was -- in effect -- over.
"It was a great statement," Carroll said. "That we were not just going to let it happen. And to go 80 yards downfield was a big statement."
Cal seemed incapable of the big statement. Jahvid Best, the Bears' one-time Heisman hopeful, had desperately wanted to redeem himself for his poor game against USC last year, when he gained just 30 yards. But USC totally bottled him up. Best finished with just 49 yards.
"We never let him get into a rhythm," Carroll said.
Tedford's teams have not proven to be particularly resilient. So when things went so badly in Autzen Stadium in Oregon last weekend, it wasn't difficult to imagine that things would not go well on Saturday.
Cal, which has now lost six consecutive games to USC, has gone through tough stretches before. In 2007, the Bears won their first five games and then lost six of their last seven. Tedford said last week that he made a mistake by simply focusing on the Xs and Os, by trying to game plan his way out of the slump.
"I learned a lot as a coach that year, that there's a lot more to it than just Xs and Os," he said. "To keep your team motivated, to keep their confidence up and keep them together is a big thing."
Tedford is cerebral and low-key. He said that he gets e-mails from fans telling him to scream and yell at his players.
"I'm not screaming and yelling," he said. "We're going to motivate them. And we're going to work hard and create a positive environment to get their confidence going."
It's going to take some doing to get the Bears' confidence up. Cal -- ranked No. 6 just two weeks ago - has a bye and then travels to play UCLA. Tedford's teams have never won at the Rose Bowl in the regular season. And their goal of getting to that stadium in January seems further away than ever.
The university picked a poor time to send out its glossy, expensive brochure. Last week, season ticket holders received the heavy stock production, pitching them on the delights of dropping several thousand dollars per seat on an Endowment Seating Program at the new, remodeled Memorial Stadium.
The new stadium will be earthquake retrofitted. But the Bears are still waiting for a seismic shift in the Pac-10 landscape.
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