LOS ANGELES -- A would-be touchdown grab by California freshman wide receiver Demetris Robertson on the Bears' first drive had a major impact. If Robertson makes that catch -- on the fourth play from scrimmage by the Bears, a first-and-10 at the Bears' 36 -- that puts Cal up, 7-0, in the early goings. Robertson would have beaten two of USC's best defensive backs -- by at least three steps -- and scored on the first shot down field.
While the Bears' defense couldn't pretend to stop the USC ground game -- to the tune of 398 yards -- going up by a score early, and hitting on such a big play, with Chad Hansen on the shelf, could have done a lot to brush away the flat, low-energy attitude Cal brought into the game, after having only six days between games, and replaced it with optimism and energy -- artificial, yes, but certainly more than the Bears brought into the game on their own. A long grab by Robertson could very well have acted at the very least like a shot of espresso, but instead, the drop was more warm milk, lulling Cal to sleep, and was chalked up as one of several early offensive miscues.
Cal attempted 10 of its 13 passeing attempts of over 10 yards after it was already down 21-7, and if the three before that, one was incomplete to Robertson, and another was intercepted. An early deep ball could have kept the Trojans on their heels, especially because the run game was --while not a world-beater -- fairly adequate, posting 4.7 yards per carry. Instead, the Bears, averaging 89 plays per game, ran only 75 against a team that was facing depth issues in the front seven.
"We weren't ready," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We looked tired. I could see [that] from the get-go. We got down early, didn't execute really well, offensively ... We had to move some receivers around, with Chad not playing and some other guys going down with injuries. We looked like a team out of sync. We just didn't execute well."