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Cal may have turned its season around

The Sports Xchange
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Can one game turn a season around?

Cal won't know for sure for another week or two -- after the Oct. 13 road game against Washington State and the Oct. 20 home game against traditional rival Stanford.

But things certainly look a lot more promising for Cal after its 43-17 upset of No. 25 UCLA on Oct. 6, a game in which everything went the Golden Bears' way.

That was a stark contrast to the Bears' first five games, when Cal seemed to be plunging toward an embarrassing 2012 season that was putting coach Jeff Tedford's job in jeopardy.

Tedford and the Bears are not out of danger yet. They are still just 2-4 with three ranked teams remaining on the schedule, and the Bruins certainly helped Cal end its three-game losing streak by turning the ball over six times.

But there were a number of positive signs for Cal:

--The pass rush was back. The success defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had had in mounting a pass rush the past two seasons had been absent this year until UCLA came to Berkeley with a team that ranked fourth in the nation in total offense. Cal sacked UCLA's productive and elusive quarterback Brett Hundley five times, and it was really six except that a Hundley fumble recovered by UCLA officially negated a Nick Forbes sack that nonetheless resulted in a 20-yard loss.

Hundley was harried on several other occasions, which is why he was intercepted four times.

--Zach Maynard regained his form. After a nightmare 9-for-28 game against Arizona State when he was sacked seven times, the Cal quarterback shook off an early interception and completed 25 of 30 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns. Obviously, completing 83.3 percent of your passes is a little better than completing 32.1 percent. He was sacked three times, but by utilizing more quick passing plays, Maynard had the most efficient passing game of his career.

--Cal got big performances from three new weapons. Tedford had said countless times during the offseason that he thought sophomore tight end Richard Rodgers was a future pro. But he had only three catches this season until he exploded against UCLA for 129 receiving yards, the most by a Cal receiver this season.

Cornerback Kameron Jackson played because Marc Anthony was injured early in the game, and Jackson picked off three passes and broke up another pass that led to a fourth interception.

Finally, fans had been wondering why speedy Brendan Bigelow was not being used after his big game against Ohio State. He did not get a single touch in the Sept. 29 loss to Arizona State, and Cal coaches made a concerted effort to get him more involved against UCLA. He responded with a big play -- a 32-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter that gave Cal a 23-7 lead.

NOTES, QUOTES

WHAT'S AHEAD: Cal plays Washington State on the road on Oct. 13 before hosting Stanford in the Big Game on Oct. 20. The Cougars' 19-6 loss to Oregon State on Oct. 6 was their third straight defeat, and that losing streak includes a home loss to Colorado. WSU's only two wins have been against Eastern Washington, an FCS school, and UNLV, which is 1-5. The game against Washington State is one Cal should win, even on the road.

--Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast used a starting lineup that included just two defensive linemen, along with four linebackers and five defensive backs. He brought pressure from a variety of angles, and it provided constant pressure on UCLA QB Brett Hundley, who did not react well to the pressure.

--WR Keenan Allen had eight catches against UCLA and now has 185 career receptions. He passed Bobby Shaw to move into third place on Cal's career receptions list. He is 10 receptions away from Dameane Douglas for second and 17 behind Geoff McArthur, who owns the Cal record with 202.

--Jeff Tedford has never lost to UCLA in Berkeley. Cal has not lost at home to the Bruins since 1998.

--Cal's win over No. 25 UCLA was the Bears' first victory over a ranked opponent since they beat Stanford in 2009.

--For the third time this season, Cal amasses 100 yards or more in penalties. The Bears were signaled for 10 penalties for 100 yards against the Bruins, although UCLA countered that by getting penalized 12 times for 99 yards.

--The game against UCLA was Cal's annual Joe Roth Game, honoring the former standout Cal quarterback who died of cancer in 1977, shortly after his final season in 1976. Tedford showed the team a compilation of video clips of Roth's career, providing inspiration.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Cal's passing game came alive after a poor showing the previous week against Arizona State. Zach Maynard completed 25 of 30 passes with four touchdowns and one interception, but it's too soon to declare that he has arrived. He was just 9-for-28 in the Bears' previous game, so he needs to be efficient for a few more games before he establishes he can be the consistent quarterback needed to make the Bears a winner.

LOOKING GOOD: The production of Cal tailback C.J. Anderson was somewhat overshadowed by the breakout game of TE Richard Rodgers and the big-play potential displayed by Brendan Bigelow. But Anderson produced a career-high 151 rushing yards. It was the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and he also caught two passes. Anderson may be supplanting Isi Sofele as the team's No. 1 tailback. Sofele had just five carries for 21 yards, and Anderson is now the team's leading rusher for the season with 390 yards and a 6.8 yards-per-carry average.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Zach Maynard cannot afford to make the little mistakes he made against UCLA, when poor handoffs twice led to fumbles in the fourth quarter. Those are the kind of errors that had prevented the Bears from finishing off games earlier in the season. This time, the Bears were far enough ahead that it didn't matter. Two extra points were blocked, and that also could have become an issue if UCLA had made it close. Little errors like that continue to plague the Bears.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They were relentless. They were maniacal. They did blitz a lot. They did bring a lot of pressure." -- UCLA coach Jim Mora, on the Cal pass rush, which produced five sacks and helped hurry Brett Hundley into four interceptions.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--WR Keenan Allen had eight catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns, doubling his touchdown total for the season. He has caught at least one pass in all 30 games he has played at Cal.

--Sophomore CB Kameron Jackson had the game of his life. He did not have any career interceptions before the Oct. 6 game against UCLA, but he had three against the Bruins and also knocked away a pass attempt that teammate Michael Lowe intercepted on the rebound and returned 57 yards. It remains to be seen how he will be used when Marc Anthony returns from his injury.

--TB C.J. Anderson had a career-high 151 rushing yards and also had his first touchdown reception of the year.

--TB Brendan Bigelow made the first official start of his college career, as he was the Bears' tailback on their first offensive play.

--Zach Maynard threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game, but then went 25-for-29 the rest of the way for four touchdowns and no more picks.

--NT Kendrick Payne had his first two sacks of the season.

--OLB Chris McCain had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for losses, giving him 5.0 tackles for losses for the season.

--TE Richard Rodgers, who had just three catches for 28 yards in Cal's first five games, had seven catches for 129 yards against UCLA. He had sat out all of one game and much of two others with a foot injury, so he had played only two full games previously.

ROSTER REPORT

--DL Aaron Tipoti missed the UCLA game with a knee injury. He's questionable for the game against Washington State.

--CB Marc Anthony missed most of the game against UCLA with an undisclosed injury sustained in the first quarter. It's uncertain whether he'll be able to play against Washington State.

--LB Khairi Fortt, a transfer from Penn State, has not practiced since having knee surgery last spring. He's unlikely to play this season.

--OG Dominic Galas missed the UCLA game because of a torn pectoral muscle and is unlikely to play against Washington State. But he may play sometime this season.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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