California was just 10 points away.
The Golden Bears (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) were down 10 points going into halftime. They were still down 10 at the end of the third quarter. After a touchdown throw by ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly, they ended the game down 10 points.
The Cal offense made some pushes to close the gap, but every time they did, ASU (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) responded. The Golden Bears were not able to make it close and lost their third consecutive game 27-17.
“You got to give them credit,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “They beat us today. They beat us pretty much in every phase of the game. We took one on the chin, guys competed hard.”
Tedford also said that the team lost the battle up front. Especially early in the game, the Golden Bears did not have answers for the ASU pass rush.
Cal senior quarterback Zach Maynard was sacked six times and was under constant duress the entire game.
“We physically got beat up front,” Tedford said. “We didn’t have much time to throw the football. We got a little bit going in the run game, but in the pass game, we got beat by a more physical team today.”
The run game was successful. The Cal running backs were able to bust open some big runs, which led to some points.
Senior running back Isi Sofele led the way for the Golden Bears with more than 100 yards and one rushing touchdown. The touchdown was a 24-yard run where he broke free in the middle.
But like Tedford said, the run game was there but the Bears did not have a balanced attack. Maynard only completed the ball nine times for 126 yards passing.
Maynard’s top target, junior wide receiver Keenan Allen, was also absent. Allen only registered four catches. Credit goes to the ASU secondary, but Allen was also ill on the sidelines. He was not on the field for pretty much the second and third quarter.
Maynard said the pressure put the team in difficult situations.
“It’s very hard to stay efficient,” Maynard said. “We put ourselves in third down situations where we can’t convert just because of typical pressures, not even blitz pressures just four man rushes and guys getting around guys.”
On top of the pressure, Cal also put some extra pressure on itself. The Golden Bears kept shooting themselves in the foot with penalties to give ASU the advantage.
Cal committed 12 penalties for 119 yards. ASU only had two the entire game.
Sofele said that the team must eliminate that problem.
“We just got to fix all the little things,” Sofele said. “We’re killing ourselves with all those penalties. We just got to play smart football and make big plays.”
With the loss to ASU, the Golden Bears are now looking at a 1-4 record, which is not where they expected to be with the talent they have on the roster.
After losing their second game in the conference, Tedford said the team has seven more games left that they can make something out the rest of their season.
And in no way is the team calling it a season.
“We’re not going to quit,” Tedford said. “We’re going to come back and have confidence in this team and the chemistry and the way we are going to work and come back to improve.”
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