Fans streamed into Cal’s redone Memorial Stadium flush with excitement Saturday morning. Everyone was gawking and taking photos of the immaculate $321 million facility.
Then the Golden Bears started playing football. All that excitement and potential momentum? Gone, especially by the end of Cal’s 31-24 loss to the Nevada Wolfpack in their 2012 season opener.
Starting quarterback Zach Maynard was benched for the first three offensive drives of the game for missing a tutoring session during the summer. Back-up Allan Bridgford didn’t give the hungry fans any confidence, completing just one of eight passes for eight yards.
Maynard was announced with the starters, but according to Bay Area News Group’s Jeff Faraudo, Maynard knew all summer that he’d be on the bench to start the season opener:
“It’s very difficult to watch the game and know you can’t be out there with your boys.”
Maynard’s teammates were told on Friday, but his absence set the tone for the game. Cal just couldn’t build any momentum. They punted on their first five possessions and trailed 14-0 to the visiting Wolfpack after the first quarter.
A hearty pack of Nevada fans threw confetti into the air following touchdowns. Cal’s fans couldn’t match their level of excitement — and the Golden Bears gave them little to be happy about.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford acknowledged his team’s lackluster performance:
“It’s great to be home, but you want to come out and play better and win the football game and we didn’t get that done.”
Not that it makes up for the loss, but Tedford apologized to the 60,000 or so Cal fans that showed up:
“I’m sorry we didn’t play better and [we] let the fans down.”
For the most part, Tedford’s play calling was unimpressive. One of the few productive plays was a reverse run by the always-exciting Keenan Allen on Cal’s second drive of the second half. The trick play resulted in a 39-yard touchdown run that cut Nevada’s lead to 21-14.
The Golden Bears never led during the game. They tied the game at 24 halfway through the fourth quarter but couldn’t put together a decent drive when they got the ball back at their own 3-yard line with 5:44 left in the game.
Cal fans hoping for a joyous Saturday afternoon dejectedly headed for the exits when Nevada scored the go-ahead touchdown with 36 seconds left.
Tedford had better lay into his players this week during practice. Coming out flat — at home, in the season opener, in your brand-new stadium — is absolutely unacceptable.
The schedule doesn’t get easier either. After next week’s matchup with Division I-AA Southern Utah, the Bears travel to Columbus, Ohio to face Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes.