Now, that's more like it.

I'll get to the details in a moment. But first, a few big-picture comments on the 35-28 loss in Ohio Stadium.

1) Cal's performance against Ohio State was the antithesis of its showing in the Southern Utah game -- a well-played, close loss on the road to a good team, as opposed to a poorly-played, lopsided home win against a bad team.

A wrenching but encouraging defeat vs. an empty, discouraging victory.

2) In a general sense, that's how I expected the game to unfold ... back in August.

The Bears seemingly had the speed and playmakers to give a less-than-elite Ohio State team trouble. Then Cal showed poorly against Nevada and SUU and you wondered if it had the mettle to handle adversity in Columbus ... or whether Cal would crumble early and return home with its season in chaos.

3) If coach Jeff Tedford's job is in jeopardy come early December -- and it's way too early to predict -- it's unlikely anyone in the Cal administration will say, "Let's give him another year because they came so darn close at Ohio State."

But the fact that the Bears played like that -- that they are capable of playing like that -- would seem to indicate they're capable of winning enough games the rest of the way to make Tedford's future a nonissue.

  • Result: Lost at Ohio State 35-28

  • Grade: B+

  • Comment: Impressed as I was with the preparation, focus, resolve, in-game adjustments and execution -- well, most of the execution -- the Bears don't deserve better than a B+, not with the missed field goals or last-minute mistakes.


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  • Zach Maynard, who has been criticized in this space the previous two weeks, was locked in from the outset.

    He recognized the moment and rose to the occasion with what was arguably the best game of his Cal career: 26 of 37 for 280 yards, all while dealing with low snaps from center.

    Maynard kept his poise and didn't force passes despite constant pressure from Ohio State.

    His lone interception, on the desperate final drive, was a poor pass. But it hardly overshadowed what he did the previous 59 minutes.

  • The coaching staff was well prepared and made smart halftime adjustments to contain Ohio State's option game and force quarterback Braxton Miller to be a pocket passer.

    The offensive play-calling was sound, as well, especially in providing Maynard with options for getting rid of the ball quickly (before the pass rush arrived).

  • Tedford said attempting the 42-yard field goal on fourth-and-one (tie game, four minutes left) was an easy decision, despite Vincenzo D'Amato's previous misses from 40 and 42 yards.

    I'd have gone for the first down -- bold decisions win games like that, and Maynard's mobility allows for a run/pass option outside the pocket -- but I'd stop short of calling it an egregious decision.

    In the larger sense, though, I wonder if the season, and perhaps Tedford's future, depend on D'Amato's leg. Another loss or two because of missed field goals (or PATs) could be the difference between a bowl berth and a postseason shutout.

  • So that's the Brendan Bigelow we've all heard so much about. Here's a tip for the coaching staff, free of charge: Get him more involved!

    Bigelow's 81-yard run, in which he somehow managed to keep his balance while zooming around left end, was one of two sensational plays: Braxton Miller's 55-yard scamper was pretty good, too.

  • Cal's defense was solid in the first half and superb in the second, with one ill-timed, 72-yard exception: the blown coverage by safety Alex Logan, allowing the Buckeyes to score the game winner.

    On the other hand, the offensive line allowed six sacks and is Cal's weakest link at this point.

    Given the absence of two projected starters (Dominic Galas, who was hurt over the summer, and Matt Summers-Gavin), the breakdowns aren't a huge surprise.

    But Cal's upside is limited unless it gets the problems corrected. Summers-Gavin's return from a knee injury -- he's listed as week-to-week -- will help, but it won't solve all the problems.

    Opposing defenses will no doubt watch the Ohio State film and view left tackle (Tyler Rigsbee) as a place they can attack the Bears.

  • Next up: at USC

  • The matchup: Cal hasn't beaten the Trojans since 2003, and I have a hard time envisioning a breakthrough this week.

    USC's weaknesses -- in particular, the lack of experience and depth on the defensive line -- were exposed by Stanford. But I'm not sure Cal has the personnel up front to take full advantage.

    Certainly, Cal's prospects are a tad brighter if the Trojans are again without center Khaled Holmes and kicker Andre Heidari.

    But if the past few years have taught us anything, it's that Stanford's style of play poses problems for the Trojans and USC's style of play poses problems for the Bears.

    (I'd also argue that Stanford's in USC's head the same way USC's in Cal's head.)

    Add the long trip to/from Columbus ... and another week on the road ... and USC's post-Stanford urgency ... and USC's array of playmakers ... and the Bears face a far more difficult task this week.