The contest was three weeks ago, and was almost immediately a distant memory for California. When you play a game that is so tough physically and mentally, you have to put what's already happened into the back of your memory and focus on what is ahead.
But, for the Bears, to focus on what is ahead means diving right back into the past. With UCLA and their version of the pistol coming to Berkeley, the Bears have reevaluated what mistakes they made the first time around against the pistol. All in all, it's the Cal defense's second bout with the one offense that made them look bad. It's a chance for redemption, a chance to make things right, a chance to pull even in the conference race.
With the bye week and some extra practice behind them, the Bears' defense turns their full-fledged attention right onto the UCLA offense.
“We are still practicing [to defend the pistol],” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said at his Tuesday press conference. “The next couple of days of practice are still going to be very important because we're still learning every day with it. It's tough to stop, there's no question about it, especially when you have guys running it like they have.”
Granted, UCLA will not have Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua – both who have run Nevada's offense to perfection. Instead, they counter with the inconsistent and oft-injured Kevin Prince, tagged alongside running backs Jonathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman. They are UCLA-caliber athletes, but they are still learning. The scary thing is they are improving.
Despite a nonexistent passing game, UCLA has put up 107 points in their last three games – including a 34-12 stunner over then-ranked No. 7 Texas in Austin. Despite their shortcomings at quarterback, they are producing. Their architect of the pistol offense – Norm Chow – is notoriously known for developing NFL-talent quarterbacks, including the likes of Carson Palmer and Phillip Rivers. He has been given more football credit than the actual creator of the pistol offense, Nevada's Chris Ault. But at UCLA, Chow has thrown all that out the door in an attempt to somehow get UCLA's offense rolling again.
So far, they are moving in the right direction.
“I think it's a product of the pistol, actually,” said Tedford. “I think they've always had good running backs and it seems like they're really gaining momentum with it. It looks like they're getting much more comfortable with what's going on. The speed in which they do it is very efficient.”
“They have two great running backs [Franklin and Coleman] who hit it hard. And even if you get one-on-one with them and they break a tackle, it has potential to be a big play. Tackling is key, there's no question about it.”
Much like last year after their first two disappointing losses, the Bears used the bye week to get ready for and prepare against UCLA. This time, however, much focus and emphasis will be placed on how the Bears stop that offense.
“You need to be disciplined,” said Tedford, in talking about how to defend the pistol offense. “It's very important that we play disciplined and that we're aggressive – but not overly aggressive to the ball and get guys out of position.”
“It's tough to stop, there's no question about it.”
And with being in a conference that looks to be as deep as any in the nation, a 0-2 start can essentially kill any hope of ending a Rose Bowl drought, especially with a visit to USC on the horizon. On the Bears side is the notable fact that they have taken three of the last four against UCLA, and have not lost at home to the Bruins since 1998.
But, to do it again, the Bears will need to be focused, be ready, and be disciplined.
Or the hopes of the Rose Bowl will be a distant memory too.
You can now follow Cal Sports Digest via Twitter.
Discuss in Cal Sports Digest Forums.
If you have not by now, subscribe to CalSportsDigest.com. Click HERE to get access to the members-only content from CSD and the nation-wide Scout.com network.
©Copyright 2010, CalSportsDigest.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.