Notebook: Star receivers unable to break free

Keenan Allen again moves up the Cal record book, but can't deliver the big play.

LOS ANGELES – California and the nation was electrified by the two long touchdown runs sophomore Brendan Bigelow had at Ohio State last week, eagerly anticipating what he could do for an encore.

And while Bigelow provided an "amazing spark," as wide receiver Keen Allen described it, in the second half, he was still a complimentary piece in the Cal running game during the 27-9 loss at USC.

Bigelow carried the ball four times for 31 yards, breaking off gains of 11 and eight yards on the first possession of the third quarter. Then, he added runs of eight and four yards on the next drive, both of which ended in Vincenzo D'Amato field goals as the Bears cut the deficit to 17-9.

"Whenever my number was called, I answered the bell," Bigelow said.

Cal head coach Jeff Tedford cautioned all week that Bigelow's role would depend on the flow of the game and personnel decisions as determined by running backs coach Ron Gould. Still, Allen liked what he saw from Bigelow in practice all week.

"We definitely had him in the rotation a lot more this week in practice," Allen said. "He came out fired up and going hard."

Bigelow was the only consistently effectively component in the trio of tailbacks, as Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson managed just 48 yards on 13 carries.

Woods, Lee Largely Held In Check
Keenly aware of the explosive playmaking abilities of USC's tandem of wide receivers, the Cal secondary was mostly successful in limiting sophomore Marqise Lee and junior Robert Woods.

The two combined for 124 yards on 16 receptions, but didn't have a catch longer than 22 yards. Lee scored twice, from 11 and three yards out.

"The secondary played pretty well," Tedford said. "They hit a couple crossers on bootlegs and things like that. They played hard. Those guys didn't beat us on huge plays like they have the potential to do."

Cal's star receiver, Keenan Allen, didn't fare much better. The junior caught a team-high nine passes for 93 yards, but didn't have a gain longer than 17 yards as quarterback Zach Maynard was under constant pressure from the USC pass rush.

"In the third quarter there, I thought we had a couple shots at the end zone that we missed him on," Tedford said. "The main thing is to just give him a chance to catch the ball because he was open. When you are under duress like that, sometimes you have to throw it earlier than you want."

Allen has now caught a pass in all 28 games of his collegiate career, tied for the longest mark in the Pac-12 and eighth nationally.

His 173 career catches now ranks fourth all-time among Cal players, while his 2,143 receiving yards are ninth best in school history.

M.A.S.H. Unit
Despite going through pre-game warm-ups, right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin (knee) did not play for the third consecutive game.

Left tackle Tyler Rigsbee was shaken up and replaced by freshman Freddie Tagaloa for a series, but was able to return.

Tight end Jacob Wark hurt his foot and was replaced by Richard Rodgers, who has been dealing with a foot injury of his own, on the final series.

Running back Daniel Lasco (head injury) did not return after being crushed by USC tight end Junior Pomee while covering a punt.

"Lasco is fine," Tedford said. "He really wanted to come back and play, but we are always very cautious with anything like that."

Tight end Spencer Hagan will miss the rest of this season with a knee injury he suffered at Ohio State, Tedford confirmed.

Los Angeles is Burning
Cal has now lost its last nine games against USC, and dropped to 1-10 in games played at the Coliseum and Rose Bowl under Tedford.

Asked if he had an explanation for those woes, said cornerback Steve Williams: "I have no clue. I don't know why we struggle because we can play anybody on the road. We showed it last week. I'm sure the crowd last week was a little bit stronger than this crowd. But I don't have a clue why we can't overcome. We always let the other team overcome instead of us."

Grass Passé
Saturday marked the only game Cal will play on a natural grass field this year. Last season, the Bears played all but two games on grass, including their home games at AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium was being renovated.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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