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September 2, 2012
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BERKELEY -- OK, Cal fans, let's rap. By now, it's Sunday morning. Most of you have probably at the very least turned from vodka to gin to Miller Lite at this point. For those of you who haven't, well, kudos on your endurance.
Just like any hangover, that nauseated feeling in the pit of your stomach this morning can be assuaged a bit by some greasy comfort food, and that's what we're going to provide today.
Between the miscommunication on offense, a lack of clarity between staff and players when it came to the starting quarterback, the continued inability to defend the pistol and other gaffes, there were at least some bright spots -- and they're young.
[ANALYSIS: Losing Containment ]
First: true freshman wide receiver Bryce Treggs. Down 14-0 in the second quarter, on first-and-10 at the Nevada 37, Zach Maynard faked the handoff to Isi Sofele, going right on the play action. With Keenan Allen seeing double coverage in the slot, Maynard found Treggs all alone in man on a post route. Treggs made one cut and had Khalid Wooten easily beat for the score.
Treggs also had a key crack back block on the Bears' second touchdown on a double-reverse to Allen late in the third quarter, with big tight end Jacob Wark chipping in a block of his own at the 10-yard line to clear the path for Allen's 40-yard touchdown scamper.
[RELATED: QB-WR Communication Issues ]
Two drives later, Treggs made an acrobatic catch in man-to-man on second-and-11 from the Bears' 24, spinning his defender around for a gain of 14 yards, plus the 15-yard facemask penalty.
The true freshman did miss a few blocks here and there, but overall showed some serious promise. The perfectionist son of former Cal star Brian Treggs did, however, make one glaring mistake soon after his TD catch. On the next Bears series, Maynard looked to Treggs on first-and-10 at the Cal 46, and threw a high -- but still very catchable -- ball to the left side. Treggs went up for the ball and held his pinkies - not his thumbs - together, and the ball glanced off his hands. It was an easily-correctable mistake.
In his first collegiate game, Treggs caught three balls for 63 yards, while fellow true freshman Chris Harper caught five balls for 58 yards and his first career touchdown.
"I thought they played decent for their first game," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "Treggs dropped a ball and we need to get Harper to secure the football."
Right after Treggs' drop, Harper provided Maynard with a release valve on second-and-10. Maynard -- flushed from the pocket -- desperately searched for a receiver in traffic. He side-armed a throw to Harper on the left side, Harper cut back across the field to the 25, broke two tackles and hit the ground. Though the ball popped out, it was not ruled a fumble, and instead was a 22-yard completion.
[ANALYSIS: Handing Out the Hardware ]
Harper then caught the game-tying touchdown with 7:24 left in the game. After a 32-yard completion over the middle to Allen and a pair of big runs from C.J. Anderson, Harper made a one-handed grab on a 13-yard pass from Maynard to find paydirt.
The big lowlight for Harper, though, came late in the game on first-and-10 from the Nevada 48, when the Bears needed a big play to tie the game up once again. Harper went up for what would have been an 18-yard grab, had the ball hit his chest, but at the same time, he was hit mid-air by Bryan Lane, Jr., causing the ball to pop out. This time, it was ruled a fumble, and the Wolf Pack took over at their own 43.
"He made a really nice run on that one play, but the ball came out at the end," Tedford said. "For young freshman receivers, they came in prepared. Treggs made a nice catch on the touchdown. Those guys have a bright future."
Despite the well-chronicled and consistent issues on defense, there were two bright spots on that side of the ball, as well.
With sophomore Mustafa Jalil dressed but not seeing action, Keni Kaufusi and Todd Barr got to strut their stuff. Barr was a plus speed rusher at defensive end, recording three tackles in his first college action, including half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. That half sack came on Nevada's first offensive series, as Barr came from behind on third-and-nine at the Wolf Pack 31 to take down quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Kaufusi equaled his career statistical output with a two-tackle, 1.0 TFL, one forced-fumble performance on Saturday. In eight games last season -- his only action in three seasons -- he recorded two tackles and one tackle for loss.
Redshirt freshman Kameron Jackson proved to be an apt replacement for the injured Stefan McClure as the third corner, playing mostly nickel against the Nevada pistol. Jackson got his game going early on Nevada's second offensive series, keeping his eyes disciplined on the zone read as Fajardo faked the handoff and then staying with the play to drop Fajardo for a loss.
[ANALYSIS: Defending the Pistol ]
Late in the third quarter, Jackson recovered a fumble on a kickoff which led to a 40-yard field goal by Cal's Vince D'Amato, bringing the game to 21-17. On the ensuing Wolf Pack possession, Jackson defended two passes with one break-up during a defensive stand which held Nevada to just a field goal, enabling the Bears to tie things up on Harper's touchdown on the next series.
-- Other Bears to see their first game action included redshirt freshman tailback Daniel Lasco (who had a 21-yard, physical, rumbling kickoff return), redshirt freshman receiver Maurice Harris, true freshman punter Cole Leininger (seven punts, 38.6-yard average, two inside the 20), redshirt freshman running back Darren Ervin, redshirt freshman defensive back Joel Willis, true freshman receiver Darius Powe, Barr, true freshman linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr. and redshirt freshman receiver Stephen Anderson.
-- Though the Wolf Pack made no secret of wanting to avoid kicking to Brendan Bigelow -- effectively taking out one of the Bears' most dynamic play-makers, the second-year tailback did show encouraging signs of being ready to let it rip.
After Cal took over at its own 23-yard line with 7:17 left in the first half, Bigelow took a pitch left on second-and-seven and crossed the line of scrimmage with a big head of steam. Safety Duke Williams came out of nowhere to nail Bigelow right in his twice-surgically-repaired right knee, flipping the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder end-over-end. Before the crowd had a chance to gasp, though, Bigelow popped right back up without so much as a limp or a wince. No, the play wasn't big -- it only went for three yards -- but insofar as Bigelow's mental and physical health goes, that play might as well have been a mile long.
-- There were two injuries of note during the game for Cal: tight end Richard Rodgers and right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin. Rodgers went down late in the third quarter blocking for Allen on an inside screen, but re-entered the game a few plays later.
Summers-Gavin was another story. With 5:44 left in the game, Summers-Gavin went down after Jordan Rigsbee and Tyler Rigsbee plowed the way on the left side for a nine-yard run by Anderson. Back-up tackle Bill Tyndall took Summers-Gavin's place, and gave up a sack on his second play. Summers-Gavin did not return.
"He was limping in the locker room," Tedford said. "I don't know if it was a knee or an ankle. The clock was a big deal at that time, and I was really trying to pay attention to what we were doing with the clock."