One of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford’s main points of emphasis has been positive reinforcement for his players. He put that into practice twice on Saturday when wide receivers LaShaun Ward and Geoff McArthur committed drops.
Ward dropped a wide-open third-down pass in the third quarter, and Tedford called the same play on fourth down, with Ward catching the second chance for a first down. For Ward, who has been knocked for having shaky hands in the past, the immediate show of faith was important.
“I believe in coach Tedford and his system, and he believes in us,” Ward said. “There was no doubt in my mind that I’d catch the next one.”
Tedford knows Ward is his best deep threat and any loss of confidence could be devastating to a player who only became a receiver midway through last season after playing cornerback.
“I had no problem going right back to LaShaun,” Tedford said. “We know he’ll make the play, and the coverage just happened to have us throwing the ball to him again.”
McArthur dropped a long post pattern in the middle of the field in the second quarter. On the next play McArthur hit New Mexico State defensive end Tommy Laborin so hard on a crackback block that the 318-pound lineman had to be helped from the field.
“That was probably the best thing (the coaches) could have done, call a play that was designed to let me get a crackback,” McArthur said. “I’m not comfortable with dropping the ball, I was more aggressive from that point on.”
McArthur said the fact that Tedford continues to give players chances to make plays after mistakes forces them to keep their focus on the game, not on their errors.
“It just shows that coach Tedford has a real good grip on what he’s doing,” he said. “He knows how to deal with players. He treats us like men, not like kids. Every team has something go wrong during a game. It’s about what you do after that.”
– Jared Green