BERKELEY, Calif. – The message California head coach Jeff Tedford had for his team Sunday was that, even at 1-4 and without a win over an FBS team this season, now is not the time to turn on each other.
“Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” Tedford said. “We need to pull together to make sure our character shows.”
The timing was notable, as quarterback Zach Maynard blew up at right guard Chris Adcock after taking a sack in the third quarter of the Bears’ 27-17 loss to Arizona State, and left tackle Tyler Rigsbee had to shepherd Maynard away before it boiled over.
“We got to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Tedford said. “That comes out of frustration. Everybody wants to win and be successful, but the frustration can’t surface like that.”
Freshmen wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper believe the team is taking that mantra to heart, resisting the urge to snap on teammates even as the offense has bogged down in the last three games with Maynard taking 20 sacks.
“I feel like on every team when things go bad you want someone to blame. On our team, there’s not a lot of that. I’m really happy about that,” Harper said.
Said Treggs: “Everybody stays composed and we criticize each other constructively.”
Addressing the root cause of the protection breakdowns is the more urgent pursuit, and Tedford pointed to the absurd number of third and longs the offense is putting itself in. Cal faced 11 third downs of six yards or longer, eight of 10 yards or longer.
Arizona State produced three sacks in those situations, two others coming on other obvious passing downs including a second-and-17 after a holding penalty and fourth-and-10 on the last possession of the game.
Those distances force Tedford to call slower developing plays that cannot protect the struggling offensive line.
“If you’re in third-and-four, you can throw quick passes,” Tedford said. “But if you’re in third-and-12 and you throw a four or five yard pass, then it’s, ‘What are you doing throwing a five-yard pass on third-and-11?’”
Needless to say, it shouldn’t be a surprise Cal ranks 108th out of 120 teams in the FBS in third-down conversion, moving the chains just 30.43 percent (21-of-69) of the time.
If the offense can address the underlying issue, Tedford believes it could result in an immediate turnaround in the win-loss column.
“We’ve been in four of the games in the fourth quarter,” Tedford said. “We got to continue to improve so we can get over the hump in the fourth quarter.”
Summers-Gavin Up For Academic Heisman
Right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin has been named one of 147 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented annually to a senior or post-graduate player with a GPA of at least 3.2 who is a starter or significant contributor on the field and shows significant leadership and citizenship in the community.
Cal center Alex Mack won the award, known colloquially as the “Academic Heisman,” in 2008.
Summers-Gavin returned to the starting lineup against Arizona State after missing three games with a knee injury, and played okay after a sluggish start that included giving up a sack and being called for a holding penalty, Tedford said.
“He competed. He was a little rusty,” Tedford said.
Outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett broke his hand against Arizona State, but is expected to play this week against UCLA.
Big Praise For Allen
Harper had major praise for junior wide receiver Keenan Allen’s performance against Arizona State, likening it to Michael Jordan’s legendary “Flu Game” in the NBA Finals.
“The greatest people, like when Kobe (Bryant) and Michael Jordan were sick, they came back and continued to play hard and give their best effort,” said Harper, who called Allen “a great example.”
Allen missed parts of the second and third quarters because of illness, but still led Cal with 79 yards and a touchdown on four receptions.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.