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Cal and Southern Utah hoping to rebound from opening losses

Published: Friday, Sept. 7 2012 2:25 p.m. MDT

Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen (4) looks for the pass while getting blocking help from teammates Brandon Beddes (50) and Russell Petersen (72) while playing against Northern Arizona University at the Walkup Skydom in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.

Josh Biggs , AP

BERKELEY, Calif. — After christening newly renovated Memorial Stadium with a season-opening loss to Nevada, California coach Jeff Tedford shouldn't have a difficult time keeping his players from overlooking Southern Utah this week.

Still, it could prove to be a tricky task for the Golden Bears.

The Thunderbirds are in their first season in the FCS Big Sky Conference and are coming off a 31-point loss at Utah State despite having what Tedford calls "a big-time pro prospect" in quarterback Brad Sorensen.

Cal also is limping into the game and will be without starting right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, who injured his left knee in the loss to the Wolfpack. The Bears are banged up along their defensive line as well.

Then there's the back-to-back road trips to No. 14 Ohio State and second-ranked Southern California looming after Saturday's game against Southern Utah.

Center Brian Schwenke doesn't think the Bears will have an issue keeping their focus on the Thunderbirds.

"After the loss I don't think that's going to be a problem," Schwenke said. "That may help, keeping that in our minds. It doesn't matter who we play. It really comes down to how we play as a team."

Cal didn't play very well against Nevada in its first home game since 2010.

The Golden Bears, who spent last season playing at AT&T Park in San Francisco while Memorial Stadium underwent a $321 million facelift, fell behind by 14 points then allowed the Wolfpack to drive 61 yards late in the fourth quarter for the winning score.

That left many fans and boosters disappointed and several placards that read "Welcome Home" were discarded in the gutters of neighborhoods surrounding the stadium after the game.

Tedford said he and his players were equally upset and hopes Cal uses the loss as motivation for the rest of the season.

"We can't forget about that but we need to take it and learn from it and improve from it," Tedford said. "That's the focus that we're taking."

Improving offensively won't be as easy without Summers-Gavin.

He is listed as week to week after an MRI exam revealed he damaged the medial collateral ligament.

Bill Tyndall, a junior, will start in place of Summers-Gavin.

Defensive end Mustafa Jalil, who did not play in the opener after being penciled in as a starter, also is nursing a sore knee and will likely be a game-time decision.

Injuries to the defensive line have been a problem for Cal extending far back into training camp. Tedford had hoped to have a healthy contingent to help slow down Sorensen.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior quarterback already holds the Southern Utah record for career completions and, barring injury, is almost certain to finish first in touchdowns and passing yards.

Tedford, who coached reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers when the Green Bay quarterback played at Cal from 2003-04, is impressed with Sorensen.

"He's a big-time pro prospect," Tedford said. "He can put the ball anywhere on the field. He's not overly mobile, but we definitely have to pressure him and cover. If guys are open he's going to hit them no matter where they are."

Cal's own quarterback situation should be a bit more settled this week.

Starter Zach Maynard was benched for much of the first quarter against Nevada after missing a summer tutoring session but came on to pass for 245 yards and two touchdowns, both to true freshmen receivers.

Redshirt junior Allan Bridgford, who started in place of Maynard, will go back to No. 2 on the depth chart.

"It doesn't make a difference," Schwenke said of the quarterback shuffle. "Our offense is set for any quarterback back there. It's just a matter of executing. You could literally put any quarterback there and we'll feel just as comfortable."

NOTES: Tedford needs one win to reach 80 for his career at Cal. ... The Bears are 5-0 against FCS teams. ... This is the first meeting between the two schools.

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