BERKELEY -- Cal fans are looking for more offense from their football team, but coach Jeff Tedford went on the defensive a bit at his weekly news conference Tuesday.
Asked about the Bears' inability to run the ball in the 21-3 Big Game loss to Stanford, Tedford said, "Spoke about this already. If we could move on to Utah, that would be great. It puts a knot in my stomach to talk about last week."
Not surprising. The Bears (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12), who hit the road to face the Utes (2-5, 0-4) on Saturday night, had rushed for a combined 503 yards in two games before facing Stanford. Then they managed just 3 rushing yards against the Cardinal.
"We didn't execute very well, we didn't block, we didn't run hard," said Tedford, while also crediting Stanford's defense.
Clearly, a variety of factors are involved in the Bears' troubles.
Two moments against Stanford prompted questions about play calling and the Bears' inability or unwillingness to be more creative. Midway through the first half, trailing 7-0, Cal had a first-and-goal at the 2, but three straight running plays netted minus-1 yard and prompted a field goal.
"We go in with six to eight plays down there, but you only get three. You don't get eight," Tedford said.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cal tried to convert on fourth-and-1 from its own 44, giving the ball to running back Isi Sofele. He got stuffed by three defenders, losing 2 yards. As Tedford said after the game, the play had no chance.
Asked generally about trying something outside the box, Tedford said opposing defenses dictate what might work in a given circumstance.
"You can't just throw caution to the wind and say we're going to do these crazy things and not be sound in your run blocking, not be sound in your pass protection," he said.
Red-zone offense also has been a particular thorn for the Bears. They are tied for 112th nationally converting touchdowns after moving inside the opponent's 20-yard line, making just 44.4 percent. The past two seasons, they were ranked in the nation's top 12 in the category.
"We've kicked a lot of field goals, which is not optimal, of course," Tedford said. "It comes down to execution and making plays. Seems like different weeks it's different things."
The Bears' shortcomings are highlighted in their five defeats, where they have scored touchdowns on just four of 14 red-zone opportunities. Subtract the Ohio State game, where they were efficient, and the Bears have totaled 19 yards on 27 red-zone snaps in the four other losses.
To their credit, they did try a halfback pass in the red zone at USC, but it fell incomplete.
It doesn't help, of course, that Cal continues to rank last nationally with 67 plays that have resulted in minus yardage. That's one of every eight snaps all season or equivalent to the number of plays the offense runs in a typical full game.
Linebacker Nick Forbes said that's a back-burner concern.
"The season right now is Utah," he said. "Coach Tedford mentioned the possibility of a bowl game, which is still attainable. But we're not going to beat Oregon State or Oregon this week. The only team we can beat this week is Utah."
Cal (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12) at Utah (2-5, 0-4), 6:45 p.m. Pac-12 Networks