Sunday’s 23-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans had the feeling of more than the usual sick and demoralizing gut punch for the Raiders. By any objective measure, this game was their last best chance to remain a playoff “contender” in 2013.
And they blew that chance. The Titans scored the winning touchdown with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“We still have some learning to do as a team on how to finish games,” linebacker Nick Roach said. “That’s what we need to focus on.”
Well, among other things.
Bottom line: If you own a fourth-quarter lead on your home field over a struggling team with a losing record such as the Titans, there is no excuse for letting victory slip away. The Raiders weren’t making one.
“We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” coach Dennis Allen said.
In truth, it was the Raiders’ good fortune to even be facing Sunday’s kickoff as part of the so-called “postseason picture.” At kickoff time against Tennessee, the Raiders and their 4-6 mark were legitimately in the hunt for the lone remaining AFC wild card playoff spot .
The Titans took the field with an identical 4-6 record. And as the scores of early NFL games trickled in, it became apparent that Sunday’s winner at O.co Coliseum would hold the tiebreaking advantage over all other 5-6 teams for that sixth and final postseason position.
–Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News
The Big Game was only a few minutes old Saturday when everything changed. Not on the field, where Stanford had just begun its predictable dismantling of Cal, but in the Cardinal’s postseason dreams. The Oregon Ducks were losing 21-3 in the first half to Arizona, on their way to an incomprehensible defeat, and Stanford had jumped right back into the Rose Bowl picture.
In a season tarnished by two stunning losses, that is a soul-reviving development on the Farm.
When the day began, Stanford appeared relegated to the Alamo Bowl, a Dec. 30 affair against one of the Big-12’s also-rans. Writers were getting Alamo Bowl flyers in the press box, complete with local San Antonio flavor (“300 days of sunshine annually”) and a list of the game’s hospitality contacts.
With apologies to Davy Crockett and “Remember the Alamo,” San Antonio is not what Stanford had in mind. A Rose Bowl matchup against Ohio State would be an infinitely more satisfying way to end the season, and Oregon’s 42-16 loss made it official: Stanford has won the Northern Division and will play Arizona State, a team it routed 42-28 two months ago, in the Pac-12 title game Dec. 7.
In a conference largely defined by startling developments, there’s certainly no guarantee Stanford will win the rematch. Arizona State is 7-1 in conference play after its victory over UCLA on Saturday, with a ton of offensive weapons and a much-improved defense. But it speaks for truth and justice that Stanford, and not Oregon, will fill the other slot.
–Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle
In the wake of a 1-11 season, it’s natural for Cal alumni to romanticize about the good old days when the football team stank but you could be proud knowing it was among the best and brightest squads in the country.
The Bears didn’t win a single Pac-12 Conference football game this year and now they’re also ranked last among 72 major-conference teams in the most recent Graduation Success Rate data (44 percent) released by the NCAA.
Last year, Jeff Tedford took the fall for the team’s dismal performance on and off the field. Who’s next? the story?1 Points Mentioned
Ultimately, the buck stops with athletic director Sandy Barbour.
The current numbers are based on a four-year cohort ending in 2006, and while changes may already be occurring, it’s clear that a priority shift took place in revenue sports under her watch and the athletic department could use a fresh set of eyes.
Barbour took the helm in 2004, the same year the football team put together just its second 10-win season since 1949. With a taste of success, the school set its sights on building a BCS powerhouse, competing with USC and Oregon for the best recruits in the nation.
Instead of attracting athletes with the school’s academic reputation, Cal invested $474 million in facility upgrades while selling the promise of being a path to the NFL.
As a result, the football team gave scholarships to students who weren’t qualified to be at Cal or lacked the desire to keep up with the school’s rigorous workload.
Is this Barbour’s fault? Not entirely.
–Paul Gackle, San Francisco Examiner