Coaches Looked Past Masoli

For weeks, I've attempted to tell you how the Cal football team is different in 2009. But it took just 60 minutes to show that the most important element of a Pac-10 championship run is still very much lacking on a Bears squad that is licking its wounds following a 39-point debacle at Oregon…

Make no doubt about it, California is as talented as the Ducks team that routed them at Autzen on Saturday, and the Bears have the ability to take down every one of the remaining eight teams on their schedule.

But some of the Bears aren't as humble as I once argued, and the culprits may be as surprising as the 12:30 p.m. beat down in Eugene.

On a smaller scale, Verran Tucker's flag for taunting—when Cal trailed by just eight points—was a sign that the perceived level of maturity I felt surrounded this team in the fall was a bit too high.

Sure, Tyson Alualu, Syd'Quan Thompson and Jahvid Best (the Bears' we-don't-say-much-but-when-we-do-it's-meaningful leaders) are still there, but leaders are useless if others don't follow in form.

And, unfortunately for Cal, Tucker's brash negating of a pass interference call prevented the Bears from approaching the red zone for what would have been the only time on the day.

Even then, Tucker can't be tabbed with Saturday's award for immaturity.

Where Cal's real arrogance was most profound was on its sideline…in its coaching staff.

Much commotion has been made about the alleged "predictability" of Andy Ludwig's offense. From my standpoint, the largest flaw on that side of the ball is the Bears' struggles on second down.

Cal had 23 second-down plays Saturday and gained a total of 71 yards. When you average just over three yards per second down, you're likely to get hit with some difficult third-and-long situations (see: the Bears' 3-for-15 on third-down conversions).

But the offense, three points and all, wasn't the center of Cal's collapse at Autzen.

The cocky culprit reared its ugly head on the defense, days before September 26.

Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli
shredded the Cal defense
in last Saturday's 42-3 beating.
Photo by Chris F. Wilson
At last Tuesday's press conference, someone asked Jeff Tedford whether the Bears would focus more on stopping Oregon's run game, considering that Jeremiah Masoli and the Ducks' aerial assault ranked near the bottom of the country statistically.

"You can't ever eliminate a phase of the game," Tedford said.

Right answer, too bad it wasn't true.

Junior linebacker Mike Mohamed said following Saturday's shellacking that the Bears' defense wasn't ready for Oregon's passing attack.

"They just came out throwing, and it kind of caught us off guard," Mohamed said.

Here's the truth: the Bears' coaching staff DID effectively eliminate a phase of the game and, as a result, Cal couldn't hold its own against the Duck's quick-hit passing game (see: Jeremiah Masoli's 21-for-25 for 253 yards and 3 touchdown day).

Coaches always preach that their players stay focused on the task at hand and refuse that they look past any opponent. Ironically, Cal coaches looked past (way past) Masoli.

The Bears' coaches didn't think Oregon's throwing ability was worth the time in practice, and it showed on gameday.

If Cal is to return to the form that it was once imagined being, its staff can't send messages like this again.

With each remaining team on the Bears' schedule lies question marks, and if Cal continues to be willing to glance past them as non-factors, then last Saturday may prove to be more of a forecast than a fluke.

Cal Sports Digest is the new home of lead writer Jon Doss' award winning Daily Cal column "Who's the Doss". Jon will weigh in on hot topics pertaining to Cal and the Pac-10 conference throughout the season.

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