Midweek Notebook: Week 6

Photo: <b>Trojans wide receiver Damian Williams</b> troubled the Cal football team on Saturday, reeling in eight passes for 101 yards and returning a punt for a touchdown.
Lara Brucker/File
Trojans wide receiver Damian Williams troubled the Cal football team on Saturday, reeling in eight passes for 101 yards and returning a punt for a touchdown.

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In past seasons, a bye week has meant an opportunity for the Cal football team's younger players to take the majority of the snaps in practice. On Tuesday, coach JeffTedford said, "They got like four reps."

Why the change?

"Because we need work," Tedford said.

The evidence was all over the field in the Bears' first practice since their 30-3 loss to USC. Tedford said that the team went live in running drills, something that they typically don't do during game weeks in order to stay healthy. He pointed out safeties Jesse Brooks and MarcusEzeff -- late arrivals due to class -- running after practice to make up for missed time. After Tedford had left, linebacker Jarred Price was still outside, running 100s on his own.

Cal is 0-2 in the Pac-10, but its mental state, Tedford said, isn't crushed as some might think.

"You get discouraged when you say, 'We've got no chance of winning,'" he said. "Well, we do. We had chances (against the Trojans and Oregon) -- if you're in the red zone four times, you've got to score. I think that's where the guys are encouraged."

Work carried over to off the field, as well. Kevin Riley said that the quarterbacks and receivers met earlier Tuesday to go over areas of needed improvement, including passing routes that the Bears "have to own."

"I think everybody knows we can play better," Riley said. "We can play better. ... I think that's the thing is this team knows we're a better team than we've been playing, we've just got to do it."

One positive that Cal can take out of the last two games is that they're over, and with them into the past go two of the toughest tests for anyPac-10 team: traveling to Eugene, Ore., and playing USC . Part of the team discussion on Sunday dealt with the fact that the Bears are still 3-2, and that although no team has ever startedPac-10 play 0-2 and gone on to win the conference title, Cal isn't changing its list of preseason goals.

"We've just got to go out and win as many games as possible," Riley said. "Looking at the Pac-10 so far, everybody's getting beat up by everybody. So we'll go out every game, win our games and see what happens. You never know what'll happen."

Passing Game

After missing high on passes to several receivers Saturday, Riley said that he was rushing his throws and "aiming a little too much" trying to make them perfect against a talentedUSC defense.

"When you miss open guys more than a few times a game, that can't happen," Riley said. "Just got to be a little more patient, make it acatchable ball. (I was) trying to keep it away from the defender a little too much, just trying to make it perfect, and I've just got to get it to (the receiver) where he can make a play on it."

It's no secret that the passing game has taken a hit in production over the past two weeks. Riley hasn't thrown for a touchdown since the Bears' win over Eastern Washington on Sept. 12.Tedford made it clear Tuesday that while the offense does "need to be more consistent there," the improvement doesn't fall on any one player.

"Passing game means protection, it means routes being run, accurate throws, catching the ball," Tedford said. "Everybody says 'Passing game,' then goes right to the quarterback. Some of it lands on his shoulders, some of it lands on other people's shoulders."


During one offensive series against USC, the Bears snapped directly to either Jahvid Best or Shane Vereen on five of eight plays. The drive started at Cal's 30-yard line (moving back to the 25-yard line after a false start penalty) and progressed fairly well until it stalled on a 4th-and-2 at the USC 38-yard line. Best ran three times for 18 yards -- all direct snaps -- and Vereen twice for seven yards during the drive.

"I thought it was good," Tedford said. "We went right down the field."

Besides getting the ball directly into the hands of his tailbacks, Tedford said that the Wildcat formation also gives the Bears' offense more leverage in the box. If a defense is outnumbering Cal's offense by a player around the line of scrimmage, the Bears can split the quarterback out wide and bring another runner or blocker into the backfield.

"When the quarterback becomes a runner ... you can get a hat on a hat," Tedford said.

Injury Update

Receiver Nyan Boateng could be back practicing with the team as soon as next week, Tedford said. Boateng sustained a fracture in his foot in the Minnesota game, had surgery on it and was projected to be out four to six weeks. Tedford said that Boateng had the protective boot removed from his foot Tuesday and is progressing well.

Syd'Quan Thompson sat out of practice with a sprained toe, which Tedford characterized as "nothing serious." Vereen also wore red Tuesday, but was just "sore."


Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]

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