Commentary: Bears were set up for failure

California head coach Jeff Tedford mishandled quarterback Zach Maynard's first-quarter suspension against Nevada every step of the way.

BERKELEY, Calif. – It was all so perfect, so full of potential. California was back in Memorial Stadium, about to be christened as one of the best venues on the West Coast. Hope was in the air that the Golden Bears could reclaim their place alongside the Pac-12's elite. The marching band was wrapping up their pre-game show, the sun finally starting to break through.

Then it all fell apart, with one sheet of paper, two sentences, handed out right as the first notes of the National Anthem began.

"Senior quarterback Zach Maynard will not start today's game against Nevada due to a missed tutoring appointment in early summer. Maynard is expected to play in the contest," it read.

Redshirt junior Allan Bridgford started the game, completing 1-of-8 passes for eight yards during three possessions. Cal gained 10 yards on 13 plays with Bridgford under center, thanks only to a 10-yard defensive holding penalty against Nevada.

Maynard entered the game with 1:34 left to play in the first quarter, facing a 7-0 deficit. He would be up and down throughout the game, completing 17-of-30 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns in what his head coach Jeff Tedford described as "an average day."

Only when the game was over did the extent of the dysfunction truly become clear.

"Back in early June we knew that Zach wasn't going to start the game," Tedford said of Maynard's initial absence.

But the rest of the offense found out on Friday. Maynard's half-brother, junior wide receiver Keenan Allen, knew only one day earlier than his teammates.

Think it might have made a difference if the receivers knew all summer long that it would be Bridgford, not Maynard, throwing those first passes to them? Think it might have made a difference if Bridgford was the first man up during fall camp or game week?

"I think it definitely would have helped us if Bridg probably would have took the first reps in practice all week, but something that we had to go with," Allen said. "Coach's call."

Think it might have made a difference if Bridgford received extra reps in practice? Think it might have made a difference if he had the opportunity at least use those two months to mentally and physically prepare for the stress of leading of the huddle?

Think it might have made a difference if Bridgford had hit Allen for that 67-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, capitalizing on those chances to prepare for the script and work on timing and chemistry?

As Maynard said afterwards, "The way you start the first play is probably the way you end up playing the game." That missed opportunity set the stage for the way the rest of the game would unfold.

Tedford should have known better, something he is being paid millions of dollars to know. The way he handled everything about the quarterback situation was an absolute disaster. He can't even claim it was a resolute decision as the one-quarter suspension – "Coach told me it was the entire first quarter," Maynard said. – didn't last one quarter.

Think it might make a difference to your team going forward, sending the message to every player he must abide by the rules, unless Cal is in danger of being run out of its own stadium so bring Maynard in early? Think it might make a difference to your team going forward, questioning your honestly when Tedford couldn't or wouldn't give them the opportunity to prepare for what was to come?

Tedford's bizarre decision-making makes the 31-24 loss to Nevada that much worse. Based on the barrage of tweets, message board and blog posts, he has lost much of his support among a fan base that was already growing restless. He must work fast not to lose his support in the locker room, with road games at Ohio State and USC now looking even more certain to end in humiliating losses.

There would not be a renovated Memorial Stadium without Tedford's success, the way he was so effectively able to manage a team and program, to lift them from bottom-feeder to reliable winner. Saturday should have been the defining moment of his tenure at Cal.

It was all so perfect. And then it wasn't.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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