Didn't know UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was on Cal QB Zach Maynard's Christmas list. Well, this year he is. And what would a coach hanging by a thread need more than anything else? A win, of course. So Maynard, with four interceptions and a botched handoff, thoughtfully gift-wrapped a 31-12 victory and presented it---a little early but so what--to the very happy coach.
This surprising loss wasn't all Maynard's fault. Also point a finger at Cal coach Jeff Tedford and his clueless coaching staff for lack of preparation. With the Bruins reeling and undermanned and their coach under fire, this should have been a gimme--one of the year's easiest Cal victories. The Bears should have been sky-high from the opening kickoff, smelling the blood of the wounded bruin, primed to seize control of the game in the first quarter. But the Bears started out flat and proceeded to get even flatter. Motivated by smart coaching, Cal's early 7-0 lead should have been two or three times that. The Bears should have been cruising by the second quarter, with dazed and confused Bruins in their rear view mirror.
The Bruins entered the game with their passing game in ruins, their receiving corps wiped out by suspensions.
So the Bears didn't even have a polished passing game to worry about. As it was UCLA only passed for 92 yards. With just the running game to focus on, Cal's defense should have feasted on Bruin runners. But shockingly, UCLA piled up rushing 294 yards, with QB Kevin Prince, of all people, gaining 163.
Once again the Bears were gunned down by a nimble, running QB powering the pistol offense. It happened last season with Colin Kaepernick running that offense for Nevada, which blew the Bears away. You'd think the Cal coaches would have learned by now how to handle the pistol, how to keep the QB from rushing for huge yardage. Yet, they never made appropriate adjustments and the ground carnage continued.
So now where does Neuheisel stand? Does this win placate the angry mob that was screaming for his head all week after that devastating Arizona loss? Clearly he's soothed his disgruntled players somewhat. Their effort in Arizona was half-hearted. Against Cal it was all heart. But next Saturday, a powerhouse--Arizona State--rumbles into town. That victory over Cal was partly due to Bears playing badly. There'll be no gift-wrapped victories from the Sun Devils. Neuheisel's hiatus from the hot seat will likely last only one week.
By the way, Neuheisel may have company on that hot seat--Cal coach Jeff Tedford.