Those in Texas are familiar chant “Remember the Alamo!” For Bears fans, 2011 seemed like a great opportunity to “Remember 2004!” Even with the Super Bowl MVP and finishing second to probably one of the greatest teams ever (USC 2004), our Rose Bowl drought continued. What if JJ Arrington’s touchdown hadn’t been called back? What if Arizona State hadn’t lost to Arizona? What if Oregon State hadn’t missed 3 extra points against LSU? And of course what if Mack Brown hadn’t lobbied his way to the extra votes in the AP and Coach’s poll to bump Texas ahead of Cal? It seemed like a storybook closure to a dark chapter in Cal history. We had a chance to beat Texas in the Bowl game we were so unwilling to go to 7 years earlier. Unfortunately working against the Bears was the simple fact many of the current Bears were barely in 4th or 5th grade when the snubbing happened and the rally cry for 52 years of frustration wasn’t enough to carry Cal past a more obviously talented Texas squad. Yes, the Longhorns suffer from the same QB issues Cal does. But their creative play calling from Bryan Harsin and speed on defense was more than adequate to cover their deficiencies at QB. I’ll focus on a couple issues of why Cal lost the game.
1) Predictable play calling – I’m going to avoid the obvious 5 turnovers which doomed the bears. What was most irritating were they were not “hustle” or “fluke” turnovers from a player trying to stretch for extra yards or a batted ball. But a collection of terrible reads, missed exchanges, and inability to protect the ball while running. Of course it didn’t help that every other play was either a bubble screen play to KA21, Isi trying to get to the outside, or Maynard rolling to the left. It was pretty obvious Texas knew those were the “fallback” and “safe” plays were going to run and they did a great job to bottle them up. The Texas defense seemed to always be in the right place at the right time and I don’t think it was a coincidence. It was obvious by the 3rd quarter we weren’t going to beat the Horns to the edges and they knew how to defend the screens. I’m not sure why Tedford didn’t reach into his 110 plays he has saved up and call some pass plays/routes Maynard was most comfortable with throwing, because it was obvious ZM was rattled from the TOs.
2) Not capitalizing good field position – It seemed as a great opportunity to turn the game around after Texas’ unnecessary roughness followed by a sack pinned them to the 1. Marc Anthony also got lucky the receiver barely stepped out of bounds preventing a huge bomb on third down. Marvin Jones got a great return to the Texas 35. But somehow we moved backwards on 3 consecutive plays topped by an Anthony Miller unsportsmanlike conduct and the fumbled which was the turnover the Horns finally cashed in for 6. How we didn’t get at least points out of that possession is beyond me. Of course not having KA21 for a couple plays hurt, but there’s now reason why we should go from the Texas 35 to our 40 yard line in the course of 3 plays.
3) The “little things” – Bryan Angar will probably admit this wasn’t one of his better punting days. His shank to the 50 led to the first Texas touchdown when it appeared our defense was holding the clamps down. Marc Anthony gets beat deep by the fastest player on their team when there wasn’t any safety help over the top. The bobbled snaps by Maynard out of the shotgun. As a disclaimer, most of them appeared low, so I’m sure that will be a point of emphasis in the off-season. I’m sure the coaching staff will focus on these issues during the next 9 months and hopefully 2012 will open with a bang in the new Memorial Stadium in September.