LOS ANGELES -- After USC beat Cal 30-9 last year in San Francisco, former Trojans linebacker Chris Galippo memorably said that Bears quarterback Zach Maynard "just telegraphed the heck out of his passes" while throwing three interceptions and playing generally poor football.
Well, he's not telegraphing them anymore.
Maynard, a left-handed senior, has demonstrated significant improvement through three games this season, completing 67 percent of his passes as compared to 57 percent last year and improving his quarterback rating roughly 20 percent. He has thrown only two picks in 90 attempts after throwing those three in just 43 attempts against the Trojans last year.
USC linebacker Dion Bailey, who had two of those picks in 2011 in a breakout game, said this week that Maynard is no longer the easy-to-read signal-caller he once was.
"He's a completely different quarterback," Bailey said Wednesday after reviewing tape from Cal's nonconference games. "He's more composed, seems like he's got a year more mature, a year better in his accuracy and decision-making."
Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who recruited Maynard out of Buffalo after he started there in 2009, has been similarly impressed. Maynard did nearly lead the Bears to a road victory over Ohio State last weekend and completed 70 percent of his passes in the process, with only one interception in 37 attempts.
"He's really grown," Tedford said on a conference call Tuesday. "Last year, early in the year, we struggled a little bit with just management of the game and turning the football over and speed of the game."
Tedford said Maynard started to improve in the latter half of last season -- his final two regular-season games were his top two of the year. And he has carried that over into 2012.
He'll need to carry it over to the Coliseum on Saturday for Cal to upset USC, who are once again heavy favorites despite losing to Stanford last week.
"He just continues to grow each week and I think he's more comfortable with the offense, comfortable with the speed of the game and protecting the football," Tedford said of Maynard. "He needs to continue to do that against a very athletic, tough USC defense."