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November 23, 2011

Maynard finally settling in



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BERKELEY -- On Saturday, junior California quarterback Zach Maynard had the best game of his career, completing 20 of 29 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and -- most importantly -- no interceptions in the 114th Big Game.

Despite statistically out-performing Heisman candidate Andrew Luck, though, the learning never stops for Maynard, who spent approximately 15 minutes doing up-downs over the length of the practice field on Wednesday.

"I missed some throws and threw some interceptions," Maynard exhaled, after finally catching his breath enough to talk about last week. "I've always had confidence. [The Big Game] didn't really raise it or lower it, really. I think we just played well, overall, as a team, defensively and offensively. We had a lot of good stuff. It was a hard-fought game, but Stanford made one more play than we did. We could have won the game if we'd have had another possession under our belt, but I felt like we did well."

Over the past three weeks of the season, Maynard has looked more and more comfortable in the offense.

"Trying to adjust to the playbook, trying to consume it all at one time, it's huge," Maynard said. "There are a lot of checks for one play. I'm finally getting it down. I feel a lot more comfortable than I did at first. The little things, it's all about details, really."

Since a 14-for-30, four-interception performance in a loss to UCLA on Oct. 29, Maynard has gone 43-for-65 (66.2 percent) for 526 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception.

"I've learned a lot, just being more comfortable with the playbook and getting these plays down, that actually took halfway through the season," Maynard said. "It's very complex. Every play has a certain thing we have to do, and all the passing plays, you have to know where to go with the ball and what's out there, if you can run or check it down. It's a thing you have to progress to, something you have to get comfortable with. A lot of guys come in and they do well at first, because they have the same offense they ran in high school, or the previous school they were at, but with coach Tedford, everybody knows his offense is more complex than an NFL offense, so I'm glad I'm getting the gist of it now, and it's become more comfortable for me.

"I'm very comfortable with it. The team is coming together. We're more like a family now. We're really tight, really close, and it's working for us."

Of course, Thanksgiving for Maynard won't be too lonely; after all, he does have younger brother Keenan Allen and cousin Maurice Harris around.

"It's not my first time away; it's actually my third or fourth, so I'm used to it by now," Maynard said. "I don't really go home much, and I'm not really homesick. I've got Keenan and Maurice -- my cousin -- he's pretty homesick, ready to get home, but it's more comfortable, because we have each other. We're family, and we get together with teammates who live around the area and go to their house and celebrate Thanksgiving with them. Like I said, we're all a family. We all love each other."

As Maynard and the Bears prepare for a Thanksgiving weekend clash with Arizona State, Cal will finally getting some players back, instead of having even more go down with injury.

Freshman outside linebacker David Wilkerson -- who has not played for two weeks -- was in yellow and practicing on Wednesday. Senior wide receiver and kick returner Coleman Edmond is also back in the land of the living, even while another senior wide out -- Micheal Calvin -- likely won't be available until Cal's bowl game, as he has yet to practice with the team this week, despite moving around well without any brace on his knee.

Should Calvin not be able to go, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jackson Bouza would step into the rotation as Edmond slides up to No. 3.

"He's really good," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "Coleman Edmond is back, so we've got that, too.

"[Bouza] practices really well. He had an excellent camp for us, and then, he broke his finger, and that set him back, but he was having a really good camp. He's been practicing really well, so he's earned the time to be in there. It's not surprising. He practices well and he's a good player."

A graduate of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, Bouza recorded two catches in the Big Game last weekend for 28 yards -- the first two receptions of his career.

"Jackson's come on huge," Maynard said. "Mike Calvin went down, and it was hard for the team; a lot of people were down about it, but we believe in all our guys. The guys that came in did a hell of a job. He got open, got separation from DBs, got open at midfield. I had to scramble around a couple times, and he just came across the field, wide open and he made a huge catch for us in the middle of the field for a huge gain. I got the ball back to him a couple plays after that, and he made a huge catch on a curl route and got us in great position and we ended up scoring."

Tedford said that both Wilkerson and Edmond will be available to play this Friday, but outside linebacker Chris McCain has yet to practice since suffering a concussion against Washington State on Nov. 5.

"He's good. He's fine," Tedford said of Wilkerson. "We'll have a walk-through tomorrow, a little bit more than a walk-through. That'll be here. It'll be in the morning."

The team will depart for Tempe, Ariz., in the afternoon, after holding the first team function in the newly-opened Student Athlete High Performance Center for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"After practice, we'll have a little brunch and then, we'll get together tomorrow afternoon for a Thanksgiving meal before we get on the busses," Tedford said. "It's actually in the High Performance Center. It'll be our first thing as a team in the High Performance Center.

"It's going to be catered. I don't think the kitchens are ready, so our normal people who do training table for us will be catering it."



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