The California Golden Bears stayed with No. 13 USC for much of their 27-9 loss to the Trojans on Sept. 22 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before USC pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Zach Maynard, the Golden Bears' junior quarterback, struggled against USC, completing just 18-for-33 passing for 173 yards and throwing two interceptions while absorbing seven sacks.
Coach Jeff Tedford has won more games than any other coach in Cal history, with a career record of 80-49, since taking over the job in 2002. But the Bears are just 13-16 since 2010 and haven't posted a 10-win season since 2006.
Tedford has something of a reputation as a quarterback guru, having nurtured NFL quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and David Carr while serving as quarterbacks coach and later as offensive coordinator at Fresno State in the 1990s; Akili Smith and Joey Harrington while working as Oregon's offensive coordinator from 1998-2001; and Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers since coming to Cal.
But Maynard, in his third year as a starter, doesn't seem to be progressing the way other Cal quarterbacks have. His stat line isn't appreciably different in 2012 as it was last season, his first in the program after transferring from Buffalo after the 2009 season.
In fact, Maynard's stats aren't that different now than they were when he was a freshman starter for the Bulls of the Mid-American Conference. He threw for 224.5 yards a game that season, with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, in 12 games and rushed for 300 yards and a touchdown on 87 carries.
After sitting out the 2010 season as a transfer, Maynard returned to the field as the Golden Bears' starter in 2011. He threw for 230 yards a game with 17 touchdowns and 12 picks, he and rushed for four touchdowns and 108 yards on 84 carries while leading California to a 7-5 regular season and a 21-10 loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 28 in San Diego.
This season, the Golden Bears are just 1-3, with road losses at a pair of ranked opponents in Ohio State and USC, a stunning home loss to Nevada, and a surprisingly competitive win over FCS Southern Utah.
Maynard's completion percentage is up this season, to 63.4 percent from last year's 57.0 mark. But his yardage-per-game is only up slightly to 231.8 yards per game, and he has four touchdowns against four interceptions while losing 18 yards rushing on 40 attempts.
The bottom line is that Maynard isn't improving and, because of this, California is stuck in neutral. The Golden Bears face a tough schedule ahead in the Pac-12, with Oregon State, Stanford and Oregon -- all ranked opponents -- still ahead as well as games with Arizona State, Washington State, Utah, Washington, and UCLA.
It's difficult to find the six wins necessary to become bowl-eligible, and it's even tougher when considering how inconsistent Zach Maynard continues to be at quarterback.
Phil Watson is a longtime sportswriter and fan who became a supporter of the Golden Bears after watching the infamous "Stanford Band Play" as a high-schooler in 1982.
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