In an epic battle that hinged on an ingenious game plan, Cal stunned USC
After California's 34-31 upset of No. 3 USC in triple overtime last Saturday, the Bears sang in their locker room with Cal alum and Berkeley native Adam Duritz, the dreadlocked songwriter and lead singer of the Counting Crows. Bears coach Jeff Tedford can't match Duritz's musical talents, but as the Trojans found out, Tedford is just as creative in his own way.
Already renowned as a quarterback guru, Tedford added to his reputation as one of college football's brightest offensive minds with a beautifully devised game plan that confounded USC's defense, especially in the first half. The Trojans, who trailed 21-7 at halftime, were kept off-balance from the start as Cal (3-3) stretched them out with reverses, pounded them between the tackles and kept them on their heels with a low-risk passing attack. The Bears rolled up 469 yards of offense, the most the Trojans have allowed all season, and senior running back Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for 147 yards, breaking a streak of 16 straight games in which USC had not allowed a runner to gain 100 yards. "The plan was just to be diverse," Tedford said. "They're so good defensively that you can't be predictable."
In his previous stints as an assistant at Fresno State and Oregon, Tedford has had a hand in the development of quarterbacks Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington and David Carr, and last year, in his first season at California, he helped transform Kyle Boiler from a three-year disappointment into a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Against USC, Tedford lost starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers to rib and ankle injuries after Rodgers had thrown for 217 yards and two touchdowns. But Tedford adroitly steered backup Reggie Robertson through the fourth quarter and three overtimes without missing a beat. Robertson completed 9 of 12 passes for 109 yards.
The victory gives Cal a chance to continue the resurgence it began last year. Tedford inherited a team that had gone 1-10 in 2001 and led it to a 7-5 record. Future Pac-10 opponents would be wise not to take them as lightly as the Trojans apparently did. "I'm probably going to take some heat next week for not having the team prepared," said USC coach Pete Carroll.
Carroll's critics shouldn't be too harsh, though. He's the coach who turned the Trojans around and rebuilt the program into a national title contender.
It may not be too long before Tedford fits the same description.
Michigan State's Jeff Smoker
A Second Chance Pays Off
As he ran off the field at Spartan Stadium following Michigan State's 20-10 upset of No. 13 Iowa last Saturday, senior quarterback Jeff Smoker, who had completed 28 of 44 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns, paused near midfield to throw a Frisbee to Zeke the Wonderdog, the aging Labrador who regularly performs at halftime of Michigan State home games. Smoker twice threw incompletes to Zeke before sprinting into the tunnel at the back of the north end zone. "Today might be one of the most fun times I've had here," he said afterward.
Such a scene seemed improbable last October, when Michigan State suspended Smoker indefinitely just before the three-year starter admitted he had a substance abuse problem. Meanwhile, the Spartans fell apart; third-year coach Bobby Williams was fired with three games remaining; and Michigan State finished 4-8.