Where It's Gone Wrong: Cal in 2012

Cal Sports Digest tries to pinpoint five moments from the 2012 season that have led California on the brink of disaster.

BERKELEY, Calif. – How did it come to this? California is sitting at 3-5, 2-3 in Pac-12 play, with nearly no hope of making a bowl game, and serious questions regarding head coach Jeff Tedford's future moving forward.

All this week Cal Sports Digest will look at the moments that changed this season, changed the program, and whether or not Tedford can save his job.

Today, the five on-field moments that have shaped the 2012 season to date:

-Maynard Suspended Against Nevada
The circumstances regarding quarterback Zach Maynard's suspension in the season-opener against Nevada still remain suspect, from the nature of the infraction to when the team found out to the timing of when the media was informed to the fact that a one-quarter benching ended with 1:34 left in the first quarter.

What is clear is the difference he made, as Cal averaged 6.42 yards per play and scored 24 points with Maynard in the game after netting 10 yards total and zero points with him on the bench.

Throwing away the first quarter certainly cost Cal a win it desperately needed on the path to postseason play and added to the negative vibes that have engulfed the program for most of the year. There was more frustration than elation after the closer-than-expected 50-31 win over Southern Utah the next week, and the 1-3 record after road games at Ohio State and USC was met with consternation from the fan base when a .500 mark would have been perfectly acceptable.

The dark cloud that has hovered over the program in 2012 might have been pushed away with a successful return to Memorial Stadium.

-Running Back Rotation Never Settled
After a strong performance in spring practice and fall camp, senior running back C.J. Anderson became the equal to redshirt senior Isi Sofele, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards last season. They were, as Tedford put it, 1 and 1A on the depth chart. Unfortunately, there has not been a rhyme or reason to how they have been used, operating instead in a "hot hand" situation where the carriers are not doled out until the game is underway.

Anderson has had the edge in three games, averaging 16.6 attempts, and only 5.5 in the four games when Sofele has emerged as the lead back, not counting the Big Game when Anderson was limited with knee and shoulder injuries. When the tables are turned, Sofele is averaging 15.75 carries as the lead back and 8 in a complimentary role.

How can anyone establish a game plan not knowing which running back will be featured, knowing the different running styles of Anderson and Sofele. And that's before even considering how the criminal misuse of sophomore Brendan Bigelow.

The uncertainty has hindered Cal's ability to establish its identity as a run-first, physical offense.

-Galas Injured Before Fall Camp
That redshirt senior offensive lineman Dominic Galas played some two-thirds of the snaps in his return from a torn pectoral muscle against the rugged Stanford defense is telling about how the coaching staff feels about his role, perhaps more importantly what it could have been.

Galas was hurt lifting weights just days before Cal was set to open preparations for the 2012 season, projected to start at right guard. But after he was sidelined, Geoffrey Gibson failed to seize the job, and coaches ultimately gave the job to redshirt sophomore Chris Adcock.

And while the entire line has had breakdowns during the season, surrendering the most sacks in the FBS, it is hard not to remember Arizona State and Stanford generating a ridiculous amount of pressure up the middle and blowing up runs before they had a chance. Described as a "bulldog" by offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik, Galas would have made a difference in helping Cal be more physical from the start.

-Tedford Calls For Field Goal Late At Ohio State
With 4:25 left in the fourth quarter, Cal was at the Ohio State 25-yard line facing a fourth down and one yard to go. Kicker Vincenzo D'Amato had already missed two field goals from 40 yards out, while the Bears had dominated the second half, scoring three touchdowns with three other drives ending in Buckeyes territory.

You know what happened next. After taking a timeout, D'Amato would miss the field goal, Devin Smith would catch a 72-yard game-winning touchdown, Maynard would throw a desperation interception, and the upset bid would be snuffed out.

Tedford went with the low percentage play, bypassing a chance to grind down the clock and give D'Amato a better chance at the kick, if not score a go-ahead touchdown. He had a chance to get back the non-conference win Cal threw away against Nevada, send a message with the biggest road victory in years, and show confidence in Maynard and the offensive line to get that yard.

The momentum from shocking what we now know to be the class of the Big Ten on its field again could have changed the dynamics of that September swoon.

-Sebastian Isn't Utilized Early
Safety Alex Logan wasn't ready when he was thrust into the starting lineup, giving up numerous big plays, notably the backbreaking score at Ohio State. When he was finally replaced by Avery Sebastian against Arizona State, the sophomore had the most tackles by any Cal defender since 2010.

His aggressive nature has helped turnaround the defense. How much better might the entire unit have been with Sebastian's presence in the lineup from the season opener? With so many close games in that early stretch, that one change could have altered Cal's chemistry and win-loss record.

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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