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Cal's struggles on 1st and 2nd downs make 3rd extra tough

The Golden Bears are struggling to convert third downs this seasons, but a big reason why is the are in long yardage situations after poor early down results.

Thearon W. Henderson - Getty Images

The California Golden Bears have struggled offensively this season and a big reason why has been their inability to convert third downs. While that remains a problem, it may have to do more with the Golden Bears' struggles on first and second down.

The California offense has converted just 30 percent of third downs this season which, as Jeff Faraudo of the Mercury News pointed out, ranks 108th out of 124 FBS teams. While a conversion rate that low won't lead to very much offensive success, a big reason why they've struggled is the Bears have put themselves into long yardage situations with poor plays on first and second down.

"If you're in third-and-4, you can throw quick passes," California coach Jeff Tedford said, according to the Mercury News. "But if you're in third-and-12 and you throw a 4- or 5-yard pass, then it's 'Coach, what are you doing throwing a 5-yard pass when it's third-and-12?' "

According to Faraudo, California gained two yards or less on 33 of the 59 first-down plays over the past two games. Tedford said he expects to gain at least 3-1/2 yards on first down. The Golden Bears have also struggled to protect quarterback Zach Maynard, allowing a FBS worst 25 sacks.