SAN FRANCISCO -- After starting the Pac-12 season with back-to-back losses, California has a lot more to worry about than a blowout loss a year ago to Southern California.When that loss was as thorough and humiliating as that 48-14 game at the Los Angeles Coliseum was for the Golden Bears, it's hard to forget it completely."It's always a new season, a new game," safety Sean Cattouse said. "It's all about us this year, just doing things right this year. But it's definitely something that we're amped to get the taste out of our mouth from last year. It's a motivation. Probably not the biggest, but it's nothing that we've forgotten."It would be hard to forget that day when the Trojans rolled out to a 42-0 halftime lead and coasted to the victory. USC gained 373 yards in the opening half and held Cal scoreless until the closing minutes of the third quarter after it was already 45-0.Matt Barkley threw a school record-tying five touchdowns, Robert Woods had seven catches for 116 yards and two scores and the Trojans had their way with the Bears."Everybody has those games every year or two where even if you call a play that's not supposed to work, somebody makes a great play or they get a ball tipped," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It was just one of those games where everything went our way and nothing went their way. That's why it was 42-0 at half."Cal (3-2, 0-2) looks to put together a much stronger performance in this year's rematch against the Trojans (4-1, 2-1) at their temporary home of AT&T Park on Thursday night.Cal's offense looks much different this year than it did under stationary quarterback Kevin Riley in 2010. Zach Maynard provides a scrambling threat at quarterback"It's been different than what we've faced the past couple of weeks," Kiffin said. "We've had some extra time and have really focused on stopping him running. We don't want to let him beat us with his feet. We want to take away his run game and make him beat us throwing the ball."Maynard has struggled to do that so far this season, completing just 51.4 percent of his passes. He does have a knack for the big play, averaging 13.7 yards per completion.He struggled last week with his mechanics in a 43-15 loss at Oregon, completing just 20 of 41 passes and failing to lead Cal on a single scoring drive in the second half."His feet were a little live," coach Jeff Tedford said. "He was a little jittery and it caused him to miss a couple throws where we had some guys open. I think he rushed himself a little bit. Early there were a couple that the ball was really wet, you could see it come out of his hand funny, but he threw some great balls, too. There were a couple he missed because was rushing himself a little bit."Maynard will have to be much better this week because unfortunately for Cal, USC's offense looks quite similar to last year's model.Woods was just starting to break out as a freshman in his big game against Cal a year ago, but now he has become one of the nation's top receivers.He leads the nation with 149.4 yards receiving per game and is averaging 11 catches a contest."He's very fast, catches the ball exceptionally well, runs very good routes," Tedford said. "And after he catches the ball he's very hard to bring down. He's elusive, he can make you miss and he can make big plays. They can throw him a 5-yard hitch and it can turn into a very long play."Making the task of dealing with Woods even more difficult is the fact that freshman Marqise Lee is also a dangerous threat with 21 catches for 323 yards and three scores.The Bears have their own dynamic duo at receiver with Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones, who have combined for 68 catches for 1,109 yards and seven touchdowns."I'm not going to shoot them down," Lee said. "I do believe they've got a great receiver corps over there. It's going to be a competition with the best of the best receivers. I always feel we're one of the top receiver corps in the nation. I don't want to say we're the top, but I feel like we're up there with the other ones. We've got to keep competing, showing what we can do."Cal will likely have to deal with that duo without injured cornerback Marc Anthony, who is expected to be replaced in the lineup by freshman Stefan McClure."We're going to try to keep an eye on him and communicate with him," Cattouse said. "Just try to be there for him, make sure he's where he's supposed to be and just look out for him when I can. He's going to handle himself. He's in a good place right now."
ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.
Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.
“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”
Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.
That’s why Norton had to go.
Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.
“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”
That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.
To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.
“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”
The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.
A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.
Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.
“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”
Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.
Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.
“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”
Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive.
“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”
While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged.
“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”
Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game.
The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.