Bears Back To Square One After Loss to 'SC

Photo: Sophomore tight end Anthony Miller was Kevin Riley's go-to target against the Trojans. Miller had four receptions for 70 yards, which led the Bears in receiving.
Lara Brucker/File
Sophomore tight end Anthony Miller was Kevin Riley's go-to target against the Trojans. Miller had four receptions for 70 yards, which led the Bears in receiving.

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Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory stood in the wake of the Bears' 30-3 loss to No. 7 USC and said, "Byes usually come at a good time." This week would seem like one of the best.

Following back-to-back losses to the Trojans and Oregon by a combined 66 points, the Cal football team can now take a step back and figure out what changed after Sept. 19, when it defeated Minnesota to improve to 3-0.

The problem is that the Bears may be feeling unsure about what they should concentrate on fixing. The consensus post-USC about the upcoming week was that the team needs to come out to practice and "work hard." Players said that their problems seem to exist simply with executing during games.

"We know what we can do, we have the personnel as well as the game plan to do it, we just need to put the two together," safety Brett Johnson said. "We haven't been able to do that."

Particularly on offense, the Bears haven't looked like the same team that they were for the first three weeks. After piling up 20 touchdowns in those games, Cal hasn't found the end zone since. Asked about the dry spell Saturday night, quarterback Kevin Riley reaffirmed that finishing drives is "just something you've got to do."

"You can work on it, get better," Riley said. "You've got to work on your fundamentals to get better. But it's just something you've got to do."

Ranked No. 6 in the nation two weeks ago, Cal did not receive a vote in the latest AP poll. Since averaging over 48 points per game during their 3-0 start, the Bears have managed just two field goals in their two losses. Their offense averaged 488.7 yards in their first three games, then 246 yards in the ensuing two.

Nobody other than Jahvid Best has scored a touchdown since Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson ran for one with 20 seconds left against Eastern Washington on Sept. 12.

Meanwhile, USC and the Ducks both ran over the Bears' defense for an average of 490.5 yards.

In short, the turnaround has been extreme.

"I think what we're going to have to do is tear everything down and kind of start from scratch, go back to the basics," linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "What we've been doing, it hasn't worked. I think we're going to go back to the basics and get back to the Cal we know."

But how to regain that old identity-the explosive offense and fast, experienced defense that were supposed to make this team a contender for the Pac-10 title-isn't readily apparent.

"I really don't know," Mohamed said. "It's frustrating, it's disappointing. We've got to get our swagger back. Keep fighting for it."

The Bears have now faced arguably their two toughest Pac-10 tests, but the schedule doesn't exactly get easier from here. Cal plays UCLA on Oct. 17 in Los Angeles, where it has never won under coach Jeff Tedford.

"Two straight losses is kind of tough, but I think we have the right group of guys to go about the rest of the season, not with the two losses in mind, but with the possibility of the rest of the season," Johnson said. "It's a long season, we've still got plenty of Pac-10 games to play, and there's still a lot to get out of this season."

Miller Emerging as Passing Target

One bright spot for the offense on Saturday night was tight end Anthony Miller, who led the team with four receptions for 70 yards-both of which were career highs.

Miller, probably best known for hauling in the game-winning touchdown in last year's Emerald Bowl, now has 10 catches for 153 yards on the season, becoming one of the Bears' most consistent passing targets.

"I'm just trying to do my job out there the best that I can," Miller said. "Catching, blocking, whatever I have to do."


Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]

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