A football season provides many great challenges and adversities. At various points during the season, a team's pride may be tested, in the face of pressure and defeat.
For the California Golden Bears (3-3, 1-2), this is one of those points.
Following their disappointing 48-14 loss to USC (5-2, 2-2) – the Bears' seventh straight to their rivals from down South – all California can do is wonder where it all went wrong.
The offense was stymied throughout the first half, unable to do anything against USC's 100th nationally ranked defense. Senior quarterback Kevin Riley could not do anything against USC's 116th ranked passing defense in the first half, going a pedestrian 3-for-12 for 51 yards and two interceptions – though his receivers dropped three passes. Junior running back Shane Vereen received no support through the first two quarters as well, as he rushed for 24 yards.
California's highly acclaimed defense – coming into this game ranked eighth nationally – did not fare much better in the first half. USC sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley finished the first 30 minutes with five touchdown passes.
The result was mind numbing, a 42-0 deficit at the half.
California head coach Jeff Tedford could not explain it.
“In both phases of the game – offense and defense – they beat us soundly in the first half,” Tedford said.
And with that, Tedford tried to look for positives.
“I was really proud of our kids in the second half,” said Tedford. “It would be very easy at that point to tumble over. But we came back and won the second half as far as points on the board. We just have to keep fighting.”
Tedford is correct. The Bears did outscore USC 14-6 in the second half. At halftime, instead of folding, the Bears tried to muster up a rally to build off of.
Riley looked a lot better in the second half, going 12-for-17 for 142 yards and two scores, including a 31-yard score on a screen pass to Vereen, who finished with 102 total yards, and a busted eight-yard touchdown pass to freshman Keenan Allen on 4th-and-goal.
“Have some heart and pride,” said Riley regarding to how the team went into halftime to come out in the second half.
“You have to go out there and play. You can't just put your tail between your legs. We got to show you got something a part of you... We came out there and we played with some heart and we competed. That's all you can look at is the positives: we competed in the second half.”
While some fans will be distraught over how Tedford and Riley can even look for positives in a 48-14 loss, they should realize that all the Bears could do at that point was play for pride. The game was already decided, but the season is not. The “L” was already marked, but there are still six games – six opportunities – remaining in the 2010 season.
After all, come Tuesday, this game will be way behind them. The film will showcase Arizona State footage. The scouting report will feature a picture of Sparky on the cover. The scoreboard will read 0-0.
Freshman Keenan Allen, who finished with four catches for 61 yards and one touchdown, summed it up best.
“We just got to come out and fight; win the next game, and keep on winning.”
That is the only way you are going to survive the great challenges and adversities that a football season will provide.
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