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UCLA mid-game thoughts

End of 1st Quarter:

Jeez, what a bunch of wasted opportunities.  The Bears are getting worse and worse and worse as the season progresses at finishing drives.  It’s unacceptable to have the ball inside the 30 twice and only get 3 points.  It should be at *LEAST* 10 points so far against this *VERY* uninspired UCLA team.  (The Bears aren’t looking particularly inspired either (on offense anyway))

Update early in 2nd quarter:  Yet another trip to the redzone, and only 3 more points to show for it.  *COMPLETELY* unacceptable.

Half time:

I’m so ticked off with Cal’s effort right now.  It’s unbelievable that Cal has been inside the 30 4 times but only has 9 points.  I’m starting to lose confidence in Bowers.  He’s had plenty of time back there.  Don’t tell me there’s no one open.

The defense is doing better, but still seem to have inconsistent effort,  On some downs their dominating, but then they’re giving up too many long pass plays even after getting UCLA substantially behind the sticks.  One of the touchdowns came when the Bears had the punt, but then had a running into the kicker (for no good reason) give UCLA a 2nd chance on the field.  The score should be 20-10 Bears.

(Side note, I’m also sick of these UCLA biased announcers who don’t know an obvious targeting foul (against Cal) when one happens, among other idiotic commentary.)

Beginning of 4th quarter:

Wanted to wait to see how the end of quarter drive ended up.  Cal has now had SIX trips inside the 30 and only scored 17 and it required going for it on 4th down to get the touchdown.  Unbelievably bad short field offensive performance.  Bowers looks confused and overwhelmed.

Mid 4th quarter:

We’re up to SEVEN!?! short possessions and only 20 points.  The play calling from first and goal from the 5 was ridiculous.  UCLA was loading the box, and obviously so.  You don’t just stuff it into the middle twice and then have one shot at the pass.  If you’re going to run, you have to do some sort of mis-direction.  I’m getting more and more and more disappointed with the way this is going.  The Bears should be KILLING and I mean DESTROYING UCLA right now, particularly with Rosen out in the 2nd half.  Instead their down seven and are just now starting to show some urgency.

Urgency that should have been there from the opening snap.

End of game:

I’m so stinking ticked off.  There’s no excuse for losing this game.  UCLA played uninspired crummy football and Cal handed the game to them with horrible play of their own, starting with the coaching staff’s hyper conservative play calling and complete lack of urgency until mid-way through the 4th quarter.  It’s like they didn’t realize they were behind.  And guess what, tying it with 2 minutes left is a great way to lose the game (as what happened).

And don’t get me started on the over-aggressive play calling by the defense that left them open to big plays on the final drive.  There’s no reason to continue the strong blitzing game when the result can be 10 and 15 yard gains.  No, you let your 4 rusher try to get pressure and you keep the plays short and in front of you.

GAH!?!   What a ridiculous end to a season, that in many ways mimics it.  There was promise, but between bad execution at poorly timed moments and poor leadership from the coaching staff at critical moments, the team just couldn’t win enough of the close ones.  There’s no reason this team couldn’t have been 8-4 with just a little bit better play, game planning and coaching.

And someone, for the love of Pete, please tell Wilcox that ON THE ROAD YOU MUST, and I repeat *MUST* START THE GAME WITH A SENSE OF URGENCY!?!  STOP PLAYING SO TENTATIVE ON THE STINKING ROAD!?!

(and yet somehow, amidst my teeth grinding frustration, I’m optimistic about the future.)

Oregon State Sunday evening watch

Here’s my thoughts on watching the game Sunday evening:

  • OSU sideline looks pretty pumped up to start the game.  They know this is one of their few shots at a win this season.
  • Bears sure looked fooled on OSU’s first play.  I haven’t done a detailed look, but it sure feels like for at least the last few games, Cal has not been well defensively prepared for the 1st few plays/possession.
  • It sure seems like the linebackers have been playing further back the last few games.  They’re playing a good 7-8 yards behind the line on this 1st possession.  Generally that’s good for underneath pass coverage but not so good for run defense nor for their “come from anywhere” blitzing scheme.
  • Wow, the Bears were sure fooled by the 2-pass touchdown play.  Not a very good defensive possession.  The Bears are going to need to start stronger defensively in their last two games if they want to win.  Bears down early: 0-7 with 11 minutes left in 1st quarter.
  • Bears offense in good rhythm early.  I liked Bowers reading of the pass coverage on 3rd and 7.  That looked like his 3rd read and the right decision to Wharton.
  • The Bears have been using the inside WR screen a lot in the redzone, generally with good results.  (Although in this case it was negated by a personal foul.)
  • Lots of penalties on this 1st Cal offensive drive.
  • Boy, Oregon State is sure leading with their helmet a lot on their tackles.  Have they not learned about the targeting rules?
  • Nice run by Laird for a TD with pretty good zone blocking by the O-Line.  Score tied 7-7 with 8 minutes left in the 1st quarter.
  • The Bears have sure been “lucky” with kick off returns against them being called back by penalties.
  • Overall good pressure by Cal D-Line on OSU pass plays.  If Cal can slow the running game and force OSU to pass, they’ll be in good shape.
  • Cal O-Line is opening nice holes and getting a good push against OSU.  So far very different than last year when OSU dominated the trenches on both sides.
  • Laird has good patience, which does him well most of the time, but he needs to learn in the redzone that holes close quicker and negative plays are more troublesome.  Down there, you need to pound it and do it quicker.
  • We haven’t seen as much of Enwere lately.  Even on some ‘pound it’ downs.  (although here he comes in now on 2nd and goal)
  • Holy smokes did 2nd and goal go bad!  12 yard loss.  But then Bowers throws a brilliant fade (his touch is getting better) to Wharton on 3rd and goal from the 14.  Great recovery after a disaster of a play.  Bears up 14-7 near the end of the 1st quarter.
  • Lots of drops by OSU receivers today.  They’re kinda shooting themselves in the foot the last couple drives.  This game could easily be a shootout if OSU could execute.
  • Another couple big Laird runs.  The way this is going, there is no reason to ever throw the ball.
  • Matt Anderson has been back to his old form after a tough few games to start the season.  Bears up 17-7 with 12 minutes left in 2nd quarter.
  • Bad decision by OSU to go for it on 4th down, even though they got lucky and got a good spot.  But they’re only down 10 in the early 2nd quarter and it’s on their side of the field.  I wonder why Wilcox didn’t challenge?  It seemed the evidence was pretty good to overturn it.  Probably just didn’t think it was important enough.  If the game got tighter later, you’d hate not to have that in your pocket anymore.
  • OSU doing a good job with their option running game on this next drive.  Cal’s doing a good job of assignment football, making sure all the options are covered, but it means there’s not as many guys to cover the main run threat.  Bears lead down to 17-10 with 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.
  • Wharton has been getting a lot more attention from Bowers now that Noa is being double covered a lot by defenses.  That’s maturity by a QB to hit other WRs when his favorite isn’t open.  Bowers is still young, but is maturing nicely this year.  I’m hopeful that he could be really good in the future.
  • Cal is mostly dominating this game, but OSU is within 4 with 1 minute left in the half.  As a general statement, I feel like Cal hasn’t been very efficient the last few games.  Also, yet another game where the defense gives up end of 1st half points.  Bears only up 17-13 wit one minute left in the half.
  • Wow, great catch by Wharton.  That was an interesting scenario.  Did Bowers mis-throw it, or did he throw it to the hole in the zone coverage and force Wharton to come back to that hole?
  • And Cal steals back 3 points with another good Anderson kick.  Bears lead 20-13 at the half.
  • Bears again going back to the run game with success to start the 2nd half.  But again, the Bears are only up 7 despite statistically and visually dominating the 1st half.  Ever since the Arizona game I feel Cal has been “inefficient” on both sides of the ball.  Somehow the points just aren’t coming for the offense and somehow the defense is giving up more points than they feel like they are (the big play was a big part of that for Arizona and Colorado).
  • OSU really was putting their helmet down on defense.  It’s like they didn’t know about the targeting rules.  2 players out of the game, but there could have been a couple more.
  • Bears fumble in the redzone and give up the ball.  More signs of that inefficiency.
  • Bears force a 3 and out on the next possession, with a good job of corralling the underneath stuff to not go for many yards (although gets lucky with a missed catch on 3rd down).
  • Bowers has been doing a good job hitting the quick slants when the defense has been giving them with a soft safety coverage.
  • The offensive line is doing a good job picking up blitzes today.
  • But then Bowers makes the absolute wrong decision on a read-option for a “sack” (statistically).
  • And again, Cal not being efficient.  They get the ball well on the OSU side of the 50 yet just get a handful of yards and kick the field goal.  For how much the ball has been on the OSU side of the field, the score should at least be 30, if not more.  Instead the Cal lead is only 23-13 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
  • The OSU QB did a pretty good job finding the deep hole in the Cal zone and dropping a pass in exactly the right spot on their next possession.  That’s the first big play the Bears have given up all game, which is a nice change from the last couple weeks.
  • OSU uses the run game to get in the endzone.  I suspect Cal’s defensive redzone numbers aren’t that good either.  Cal lead down to THREE!  Considering the nature of the game, there’s no excuse for the score to be this close: 23-20 with a few minutes left in the 3rd.
  • The Bears have been running the ball surprisingly little in the 2nd half.  It sure doesn’t seem like OSU is loading the box and forcing Cal to throw.  Seems like the Bears have abandoned it a bit considering how well it has been working.
  • Bowers hits another deep fade to the endzone and Cal is back up by 10: 30-20 at the end of the 3rd.
  • I know it’s hard to be an announcer, a lot harder than it seems, but some times… how can the color guy be saying “that’s tough” for an obvious PI call.
  • The Cal offense is showing good balance right now.  They’re leading with the run and Laird, and then going to the pass when OSU starts to bite on it.
  • Cal finishes off a drive built on the run (with just enough passing to keep the OSU defense honest) with Enwere pounding it into the endzone.  Bears up 37-20 with 10 minutes left in the game.
  • It feels like the Bears have been able to extend so quickly because they’ve won the conditioning battle.  OSU can no longer give 120%, particularly on defense, and Cal is having their way with them.
  • Ahhhhh… it sure feels good to hear Nall only had 35 yards at this point in the game (and that’s all he got).  If you needed a reason to still feel good about getting rid of Dykes… (last year he had 221 against Cal)
  • OSU has been quietly building up a number of big plays, particularly as the game wears on.  A few of them have been because the Cal defense is playing soft to contain OSU, but still, it’s worrisome to see the big-play trend continuing into a 3rd game.
  • OSU kicks a field goal to close it to 37-23 with 6 minutes left in the game.
  • I’d have Laird out of the game at this point.  He’s carried the ball 30 times.  Give him some rest and save him from injury.  It’s not like we don’t have a senior in his final home game nor a couple of young guys who could use some more experience.
  • Cal never punted in the entire game.  One failed 4th down conversion at the Cal 40 and one fumble in the redzone were the only two drives that didn’t end in points.  Yet at the same time, 3 field goals and a missed redzone opportunity.  Games with no punts generally shouldn’t only have 37 points.
  • Overall, it feels like the score should have been 45 to 13 based on how the teams played and the stats.  Cal is going to have to be more efficient in their last two games to get that crucial 6th win.


That was BY FAR the worst half of football under Wilcox thus far.  How do you give up a 3rd and 17 in the redzone!?!  How do you give up *ANOTHER* 3rd and 17 when you have them pinned on their goalline!?!  How do you give up two over the top plays for long yardage when on both 3rd and 17’s the reason you gave them up is you were playing too soft!?!

And the offense, how do you *NOT* know that it is VERY hard to throw over the top at altitude!?!

It’s a miracle the Bears are only down 13.

What was Wilcox thinking!?!

I am sorry, going for 2 was a huge mistake, particularly at home.  Yes, the Arizona offense was rolling, but the Bear defense had some success in the 2nd half and the Cal offense wasn’t exactly struggling.  You kick the extra point and keep plugging away instead of the low percentage 2 point conversion.

HUGE mistake!

WSU game re-watch

Here are my thoughts on the game during a re-watch at home:

  • The Bears got really lucky on that opening kickoff return penalty.  It didn’t seem very bad and could easily have been ignored.  How different would the game be if it started that way?
  • Bynum’s interception was a thing of beauty.  Live at the stadium, I was amazed he broke on the ball as it looked like he was in man coverage.  Frankly, I think that’s what Falk thought too.  But it was a very well disguised zone and Bynum was in great position to intercept it.
  • Still not impressed with the Cal offensive line and wide receivers blocking on sweeps and other stretch/outside runs.  They’re getting beaten to their spots.
  • Other than the one pass to Noa, that first sequence was pretty pathetic.  The run plays didn’t work.  False start penalty.  Just ugly.
  • Until the 3rd and goal when the Bears got screwed on a missed pass interference call.  They don’t show it much on TV, but let me tell you, in person, it was obvious and it was blatant.  Noa was physically held and stopped.
  • Cal scores an easy field goal on a missed opportunity of a turnover and short field: 3-0.
  • Kickoffs in this game were very good for Cal.  Nice hang time and into the endzone.
  • The running game of WSU on the 2nd possession was trouble.  Frankly, I don’t know why WSU didn’t use it more as the game wore on.  But that’s what got WSU down into Cal territory.
  • WSU was really shooting itself in the foot early.  There’s a HUGE difference between 3rd and 1 and 3rd and 6 on the opponent 30.  That false start penalty really hurt WSU and ultimately resulted in a good drive stalling and the missed field goal prevented it from netting any points for WSU.
  • After that missed field goal, I was sure WSU wouldn’t go for a field goal over about 45 and would do a lot more 4th down plays in that range.  (Boy was I wrong)
  • Bowers didn’t look good on that next possession.  Two misthrows out of 3 incompletions (the 3rd was a drop by Veasy).
  • And then Hawkins punches the ball out for the 2nd turnover of the game.  It sure felt like the WSU offense was finding its rhythm at that point (the play was a mid-distance pass completion before the punch-out).  I think without those early turnovers, this game could have gone very differently.
  • Another drop by a Cal WR… this is what I meant in my podcast about the fits and starts of the offense early in the game.  Bad passes, dropped balls, poor running outside the tackles.  The team had two turnovers and a number of WSU mistakes and was only up 3-0 and was giving WSU the ball back again.
  • Falk is sacked.  That was definitely a coverage sack, but Beckett just didn’t give up and kept driving.  But at some level, it was a little unfair to just call that a “coverage” sack.  Yes, Falk didn’t know where he could go with the ball, but a big part of that was his confusion in not knowing how to read Cal’s zone coverages and have confidence on who would break on his throws.  Even though there wasn’t a sack on 2nd down, it was the same story of Falk not being sure where he could throw the ball.
  • Wharton returned the punt to the WSU 23.  Hasn’t just about every punt return been a fair catch up until then?
  • Bowers has a good pass to the TE to get down to the 6 on a roll out.  Boy were the roll outs working.  They kept Bowers uniform clean and gave him time to read the defense.
  • Then Enwere bowls his way into the endzone.  That was the type of run we’ve been expecting from him this season that the last few games have been missing.
  • Bears up 10-0.
  • Cal had some tackling issue in this game.  Luckily, the first defender slowed the runner enough to allow the 2nd guy to get there before too long (on average), and the swarming nature of the defense prevented any of them from being disastrous.  But there could have been even *MORE* negative plays had the Bears gotten more guys down right away, particularly in the flat.
  • Cal got another penalty break on that PI call that overturned a 2nd WSU touchdown.  So all of a sudden, between a tackle for loss on a sweep, a 15 yard PI call and a sack, a 2nd and goal from the 3 turned into a 52 yard field goal… which REALLY surprised me.  That kick would have been good from 60+.  Shows his first failed attempt was a mis-kick and not indicative of his potential.
  • Cal lead cut to 10-3.
  • The Bear offense was doing a pretty good job of “taking what it was given”.  Quick outs for 5-10 yards when the corner was playing off, etc..
  • And then Veasy drops a ball when there was pretty blatant pass interference against him on a deep fade.  Disappointing both that he didn’t come up with the catch on a very good pass from Bowers and that Cal didn’t get the very deserved PI call.  (That’s twice!)
  • I think the blocker downfield rules are too tight.  3 yards!?!  It should be 5 and there should be a caveat for “away from the play” issues.
  • In the 1st half, Cal got a number of hits on Falk that were for short gains and I think they had an impact on Falks performance as the game wore on.
  • I have no idea what Falk was thinking on his next interception.  There was coverage both over the top and in front of that receiver.  It’s just more of a sign he was really struggling to read the Cal defensive pass coverages.
  • The TV coverage of the targeting call that was overturned was excellent.  I was really critical of the refs at the game, but in retrospect, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  It was a hard hit and although I think they let the fact it was the QB push them to call a foul they wouldn’t have called for a running back, I can see why at full speed it looked like targeting.  And that’s why it is good that they’re all reviewed.
  • The pass to Enwere in the redzone was risky.  He almost cut inside and he wouldn’t have made it to the end zone.  But luckily he got to the sideline and stopped the clock.
  • Great playcall on the end of half TD.  Bowers never goes under center and it’s a strong indicator it was going to be a run play.  It’s not a surprise WSU bit on the play-action.  And since it was a tight end, who can of course block, the defense is likely to let him by thinking they’re shedding a blocker.
  • That said, I’m not sure I agree with the call to go for the TD.  If it didn’t work, you give WSU a big momentum piece to build on going into halftime.  Even the 3 points strongly keeps the momentum in Cal’s camp and would have the Bears up by enough to worry WSU.
  • Nevertheless, Bears up 17-3 at the half.
  • I have to admit, I was really bothered when the Cal possession to start the 2nd half resulted in a punt.  I was still really worried that the WSU offense would come to life and a lead of 14 wasn’t going to be nearly enough.
  • And sure enough, before I can eat a few chips, WSU is down in the Cal redzone.
  • But luckily, Cal has its luckiest play of the game, another interception on a botched shovel pass where Cal is lucky enough to have a guy in the area to scoop it up before it hits the ground.  That’s two redzone interceptions that save the Cal defense from an otherwise good WSU drive.
  • It ended up not mattering because of a chop-block foul on Cal, but I sure would have liked to see a replay on that Veasy diving catch in the endzone that was called incomplete.  It’s not clear in full-speed if he got his hand underneath the ball, but he sure may have.
  • WSU’s WR’s did a lot of juking, cutting back inside, that fooled the Cal secondary and resulted in a fair amount of yards after catch.
  • *ANOTHER* Cal interception, this one a great break on a ball behind the receiver.  This was about the point I really started to believe that Cal was going to win this game.
  • And then the refs try to get WSU back into the game with the bogus catch and fumble call on what was obviously a through his hands incompletion.  Thankfully the replay booth got it right.
  • Speaking of which, I’ve felt very good about the centralized replay booth in San Francisco.  We’re getting much better review consistency by a group that doesn’t have the emotional attachment to the referee crew on the field (and thus more likely to overturn a bad call).
  • Matt Anderson kicks a 48 yard field goal.  I sure hope the Anderson we saw on Friday is the Anderson we see for the rest of the season.  He looked solid and didn’t miss a kick, even the 48 yard one.
  • Cal up 20-3
  • Cal was getting more and more pressure on Falk as the game wore on and was doing it with 4 rushers most of the time.  That says the Cal defense was the better conditioned group.
  • I was really happy with the game plan to reduce sacks.  Quick throws.  Rolling Bowers out.  More schemes that kept extra blockers in (but not excessively or consistently to allow WSU to key on it).  It was all well thought out and made Bowers life a lot easier while keeping his uniform a lot cleaner.
  • Although Enwere had one rushing touchdown, the reality is he had more negative plays when trying to run near the goal line.  It wasn’t really his fault, the offensive line wasn’t able to hold the rushing pressure and Enwere was stopped before he could ever get started.
  • And the Bowers somersaults into the endzone. Amazing, but in the name of Jahvid Best, please don’t do that again Bowers.
  • Bears up 27-3
  • Nothing went right for WSU in this one.  Even when Wharton fumbles a punt, WSU can’t seem to come up with it.
  • It was really, really, *REALLY* great to see the Bears able to run the ball effectively in the 4th quarter to help run down the clock.
  • Anderson completes his hat-trick without a miss: Bears up 30-3
  • What was WSU thinking going for it on 4th and 4 in their own territory?  They weren’t going to win the game and they gave Cal a play where they could bring the house.  Result, Sack -> Fumble -> Scoop and score.
  • Bears up 37-3
  • One of the things you can’t tell as well from the stands is when players go out for the rest of the game.  I didn’t realize Downs missed so much time due to injury.  To see how well the defense played without him gives me a lot of hope.  It shows depth and it shows the strength of the scheme.
  • Another interception!  Yet another one Falk should have never thrown, but also the 2nd one Cal was pretty lucky to come down with.  No fewer than 4 Bears touched the ball on that pass.
  • Glad to hear the announcers pick on the over-rated chant.  It does diminish the win.
  • Go Bears!

Washington game thoughts

Going into the season I thought the offense was going to be a horrible mess with an offensive line that couldn’t open running lanes and couldn’t protect the passer, plus a QB who was not mature enough for that sort of rush pressure.  But for the first few games, I was *very* pleasantly surprised.  But how true does my original assumption sound now?  It sounds all too accurate after the last two weeks.

This is my biggest concern after the UW game.  The offensive performance was *HORRIBLE*.  Even though the defense gave up 38, and didn’t look particularly good doing it, I’m not that worried about them.  They got absolutely no support from the offense and found themselves back on the field after 3 and outs over and over and over, yet still managed to look respectable.  They got pretty tired in the 2nd half, and it showed, but somehow they still managed to not get embarrassed.

But the offensive line… oy-vey!  And sure enough, Bowers doesn’t have the maturity as a young QB to deal with the rush pressure he’s getting.  He’s making all the wrong decisions as when to try and escape, which way to try and escape, when to run for it, when to throw it away, when to try and squeeze in a tight window (seems like the USC game made him too shy in this regard), etc..  He’s just too inexperienced to be put in that sort of situation.  (Quick aside, I saw nothing from Chase Forrest that impresses me other than a really strong arm.  It’s clear why he lost the starting QB battle.)

The Bears are going to need to figure out the offensive line problems ASAP, otherwise, a bowl game isn’t likely.

But if for some reason they can improve significantly in this regard, I still see a strong possibility.  Arizona and Oregon State are both at home and very winnable.  And with that, Cal only has to pick off one of WSU (feeling less likely now, but still 40%), Colorado (50+%), Stanford (45%) and UCLA (45%).  If Cal can actually win the two games it is supposed to (UA and OSU), one has to believe they’ll get at least one of those other four.

As long as they fix the problems on the offensive line…

Speed kills – Oregon game thoughts

Well…. THAT didn’t go as expected!?!

I find myself flipping back and forth between being disgusted with both the teams performance and the coaching staff’s plan and then a dispassionate understanding of what went wrong strategy wise.

Strategy failures:

The game plan the Bears put together clearly assumed the Bears would win in the trenches.  I think they looked at the Oregon game film and saw a dangerously fast but not particularly big team and assumed they’d out muscle them in the trenches on both sides of the ball.  What they didn’t seem to anticipate was that Oregon would be so fast, they’d win in the trenches with speed.  Never in my life have I seen an offensive line abused so thoroughly with speed on the inside.  The Ducks were able to beat Cal to blocking positions and get underneath the blockers using speed.  Once they had a positional advantage, they were able to leverage their way to success even when they had a size disadvantage.  Trying to be a dispassionate fan, it was pretty impressive.

But as a highly biased Cal fan it was disgusting.  The team to me seemed flat and uninterested for the entire 1st half, on both sides of the ball.  They looked demoralized by the USC loss and intimidated by Autzen stadium.  By the time they decided they actually were interested in winning the game, they had put themselves in a nearly impossible situation.  Even though they clawed back within 7, they had to work so hard to do it, they just couldn’t summon the energy needed to finish the comeback and played like the exhausted team they were for the final quarter.  Watching Oregon run their way to *THREE* fourth quarter touchdowns using backup running backs and a 3rd string QB (so the Bear *KNEW* it was going to be a run-heavy offense) was so massively discouraging, I wanted to burn my Cal gear.  Oregon could run at will and there was nothing the Bears could do about it.

The defensive execution was horrific.  They were out of position.  They didn’t know how to play the read option (did they practice defending it?!?).  They couldn’t get pressure on the QB.  They blitzing schemes didn’t confuse and as the Bears got more desperate trying to confuse, they got horrifically out of position and exposed.  They were indecisive when they needed to be flying to the ball, yet they were also jumping to the wrong places when they needed to just hold their position.  (One of the late/long running TD’s, there was a linebacker perfectly positioned in the running lane, but he jumped to the wrong side of the line for some inexplicable reason and opened a golden highway for the Oregon RB to the endzone.)

And on offense, it all fell apart on the offensive line.  The rest of the team was helpless because the offensive line was getting abused in the trenches.  The RB’s couldn’t run.  Bowers couldn’t find time to pass.  And ideas like rolling out were only making it worse.

It was just ugly, ugly, ugly, *UGLY*.

The only good news is that I don’t think Cal will see another team like Oregon for the rest of the season.  The key for the coaching staff will be preventing discouragement, particularly after a likely Washington loss next week.  But the rest of the way, the teams are pretty beatable if the team can get their confidence back and completely forget about this disaster in every way except as a reminder of how important it is to bring a strong effort every week.

USC game thoughts

Well, I finally had a prediction that wasn’t too horribly wrong.  I got the margin of loss correct, but was off by one TD for both teams.  However, what I didn’t predict was that the Cal offense would out perform the USC offense minus turnovers.  Cal definitely could have won this game.  It was very much in reach right up until the ball slipped out of Bowers hands for the easy interception/fumble (it was called a fumble) at the Cal 3 yard line.  At that point, Bower’s youth caught up with him and he made a few too many mistakes.  It’s worth running down each of the interceptions after that point:

  • 13 minutes left in 4th quarter:  Bowers tries to split the safeties on a deep pass and completely misjudges their ability to close the gap.  This was the very definition of a youthful desperate throw.  If he had time to think it through and wasn’t giving in to desperation, there’s no way he would have made this throw.  In other words, it was all a mental error on Bowers part.
  • 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter: Bowers throws a weak lob downfield to nobody and into USC’s hands.  The key to understanding this one is seeing the receiver on the sideline and the rusher in Bower’s face that prevented him from setting his feet.  I believe Bowers was trying to loft one between the corner and the safety (who appear to be in a cover-2) to the sideline to Wharton.  His goal was to put it where only Wharton could catch it.  However, he couldn’t step into the throw and perhaps at the last second realized that even what he was intending to do was a bad idea.  The result was that he didn’t throw it anywhere near where he intended and it just looked stupid.  So, this one was less of a mental error (call it 40%) and more of a throwing error (60%).
  • 5 1/2 minutes left in the 4th quarter:  It’s worth noting that it was 4th and 5 at the opponent 30 yard line.  The QB is allowed to make a low percentage throw if that’s all that’s left to him.  An interception is no different than an incompletion.  However, it looks like the intended pass was a fade to the corner of the endzone but Bowers arm was hit as he threw the ball.  (This is unclear because they never showed a close-up/replay of the throw.)

When one adds that the 1st quarter interception was a deflection at the line, all of a sudden the hard stats of 4 interceptions doesn’t seem so bad as it was really just one huge mental error and one really bad throw combined with two justifiable ones.

Which brings me to my next point: Cal didn’t get any favors from the bounce of the ball.  One could have easily seen this game “bouncing” in favor of the Bears with just a few different outcomes one “luck” plays.  Great teams find ways to overcome that sort of thing, but the Bears are still young and learning, and were playing a reasonably good USC team.  Between the bounces and the mistakes, it was just too much against a team of USC’s caliber.

One thing that is not luck, but isn’t helping the Bears, is Matt Anderson.  What has happened to this guy?!?  I was a little hesitant to be too harsh on him because most of his misses this season have been from outside 40 yards and if Anderson had a flaw last year it was that his kicks aren’t very long and he loses accuracy on the long ones.  But Saturday he missed a sub 30 yard kick.  That’s close to inexcusable.  And he misses them all the same direction: To the left.

And think about the difference in how the game would have felt down 7 as opposed to 10 after the interception/fumble and touchdown by USC?  The game might have played out very differently and Bowers wouldn’t have been so likely to throw up that ill-advised decision only down one score.

But here’s the point I want to finish with: The Bears proved Saturday that they can beat any team in the conference.  They can run and pass against big/tough defenses.  They can defend against just about every kind of offense.  There’s not a game left on the schedule we should count the Bears out of.  This team is for real and they proved it by hanging with USC until youth got the best of Bowers.  But he’s going to learn a lot from that game and the rest of the conference better watch out.  Anyone who circled Cal as an easy game on the schedule better re-think that.

Call me disappointed but optimistic about the future.

Re-watch of Ole Miss game

Had a ton of fun at the Ole Miss game last Saturday night.  But these late games kill me.  I was up for 7:30 AM Mass on Sunday and felt like I didn’t get my feet back underneath me until this morning.  In any case, here are my notes based on re-watching the game this evening:

  • As much as the coverage wasn’t all that good on the 1st long pass for Ole Miss, that was an exceptionally well thrown ball.
  • One of the things I don’t like about watching games on TV is you don’t get a good sense of what is happening downfield, so you can’t see this on TV, but that long pass the Bears only had one safety on that 1st long pass play and left the corner on an island.  Not a good schematic choice.
  • The 2nd down run on the goal line stand was very indicative of how the Bear defense has changed.  There must have been 8 defenders around the runner when they finally brought him down.  While that particular play wasn’t the best tackling, the swarming defense prevented any meaningful damage being done.
  • Bears got a little lucky on that diving missed catch on 3rd down.  A good receiver would have caught that ball.  But, who can argue with forcing a field goal after the long pass play.
  • (Ole Miss FG: 0-3, early 1st quarter)
  • I wasn’t particularly pleased with the play calling and execution on the Bears 1st drive that resulted in a 3 and out, particularly Bowers pass on 3rd down.  He picked the wrong receiver.
  • Why was it Ole Miss was struggling with false starts so much?  It’s not like it was loud at the game.  (Frankly, attendance was pathetic.)
  • The early interception was much needed after the 3 and out.  It really helped the Bears to have those turnovers in the 1st half while they were still figuring out the right pass protections.
  • Our new TE Reinwald had a great game.  He has great hands and runs great routes.  His difficult catch on 2nd and 10 that setup 3rd and 2 for the touchdown run was a critical catch.
  • As for the touchdown, what a good play call (the option) and great execution.  Bowers played it perfectly.  He forced the LB to cover him before tossing it.  And then Laird turned on the jets and bowled himself into the endzone.
  • (Cal TD: 7-3, 8 mins left 1st quarter)
  • And if false starts aren’t bad enough, delay of game penalties too for Ole Miss.  That was the sort of stuff that scares me into fearing Ole Miss isn’t very good and we’re over rating this win.
  • The coverage on the long TD catch for Ole Miss was H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!!!  And yet again, only one safety back and he took a *very* bad route to the WR.
  • (Ole Miss TD: 7-10, 8 mins left 1st quarter)
  • Ole Miss had a pretty good kicker for kickoffs.  The ball hung up there for a long time and generally was pretty deep.  That was why the Bears returns were so short.
  • The Bears clearly thought the swingout passes to Laird would work in their game planning.  They were clearly wrong.  But the good news is they only ran it a few times and abandoned it as part of mid-game adjustments.  How long has it been since we’ve said that for the coaching staff?
  • Noa had the best hands of the WR’s in this game.  3rd and 20 and he hauls in a tough one fit in a tight window for a 1st down.
  • I didn’t see it live nor did they really show it on TV, but what did Wilcox do to get a personal foul after that no-call on the pass interference?  Doesn’t really seem his style.  Perhaps it was something inadvertent like touching the ref.
  • After the punt with 4:30 remaining in the 1st quarter is when the Bears changed to a 2 safety scheme.  It was also when Ole Miss started running the ball more.
  • And the Bears get another interception.  In fairness, Ole Miss would have had to punt had it just been an incomplete.  But again, the Bears really needed every chance to get off the field as the defense was finding their legs.  That one was just a great coverage by the corner and a heads up play by the safety.
  • Another key catch by Reinwald!  I’m telling you, this guy is going to be good.  Also, good play calling there.  Even though it was 3rd and 2, the Bears knew running up the middle was dicey the way Ole Miss had been playing on the line.  So fake the run and to a quick out to the TE.  That’s good play calling.
  • The Ole Miss defense was pretty disciplined.  The few times Cal ran a play counting on them over pursuing, they didn’t go well.
  • I still have no idea what has happened to Matt Anderson.  That guy was money last year.  And even before Saturday you could tell he wasn’t himself.  But how many did he miss Saturday, three?
  • OK, so the last Ole Miss TD, Cal had 2-deep safeties, I think the scheme was right, but the execution was horrible.  The safety bit on the run fake and that meant disaster.
  • (Ole Miss TD (missed extra point): 7-16 with 13 minutes left in 2nd quarter)
  • Also, it is worth saying that the Cal defense didn’t just hold Ole Miss scoreless in the 2nd half, it basically did it for the 2nd quarter as well.  43 minutes to be accurate.
  • I have to admit, after Cal had a 3 and out at this point, I thought it was going to be a very long night.  The offense was dying and the defense couldn’t stop the big play to save their lives.
  • Both of the next two Ole Miss offensive sequences the Bears played really good defense, particularly in coverage.  There was no meaningful pressure, but Patterson just had no where to go with the ball.
  • I think the TV commentators were too hung up on not having Demetris Robertson.  He hasn’t exactly had a banner season thus far.  Yes, he’s fast and yes, he helps Cal stretch the field.  But he’s not indispensable to this offense.
  • Wharton and Bowers were in good rhythm in the 1st two games, but on Saturday, they just weren’t in sync, particularly in the 1st half.  Wharton let one go through his hands.  Bowers over threw him.  They just weren’t clicking.
  • It obviously was the right decision to take the field goal off the board and take the 1st down, but I remember thinking at the time (particularly with how poorly the offense had been executing) that an interception would suck when they had taken 3 points off the board.
  • Bowers mistake on the interception was that he didn’t put any air under it.  You have to loft that up so no one at the front of the endzone can make a play on it.  Bowers had his struggles in this game with slinging it in there a few times when some touch would have been wiser.
  • Both teams had stupid penalties, but the stupidest of the game may have been Downs shove of the QB after he was out of bounds.  Why in the world did he do that?  It wasn’t even remotely close or justifiable.  Good thing it didn’t burn the Bears.
  • I wasn’t too pleased with the clock management on the last drive before halftime.  But, seeing as how the offense was struggling all half, perhaps playing it a little conservative and going into the locker room without a terrible mistake was the right choice.
  • And not that it generally matters much, but the execution on that Hail Mary pass was pretty pathetic.  No Cal receiver was in the area.
  • In contrast to the good play calling on the previous 3rd and short, on the 1st drive of the 2nd half, the Bears tried to run up the middle into the expected blitz and failed miserably.  Luckily the Bears converted on 4th down to prevent the drive from stalling
  • Gotta give Bowers credit for knowing his offense and the play when Ole Miss does an all-out blitz on 3rd and 7 just outside the red zone.  That said, it showed that Ole Miss didn’t have much respect for Bowers.  One should expect a good QB to read that one right and take the easy TD pass on the slant.
  • (Bears score TD: 14-16 with 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter)
  • Downs again on the late hit on the QB.  I didn’t catch that it was the same guy both times.  This one wasn’t nearly as stupid/bad, but still, with the way the game is played today, he should have known to back off.
  • Another drive killing false start for Ole Miss and they almost had another drive killing delay of game had the coach not called a timeout.
  • The mid-3rd quarter drive the Bears had was the point when I thought the Bears had the advantage.  The balance of the offense between run and pass was good and one had to think they’d keep going.  I was a bit frustrated that the play calling from 1st and 10 from the 11 was so boring (3 inside runs) and resulted in a stalled drive/field goal.
  • (Bears score FG: 17-16 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd)
  • By this point in the game, it was clear just how much the Cal defense confused the Ole Miss QB Patterson.  He was very hesitant.  One wonders if he was coached to play it conservative under the thought that the Cal offense was stagnant and they had to believe they’d get a couple more long passes at some point.  Both were of course mis-calculations (had they even thought that).
  • One of the things that is harder to sense at the stadium is less-prominent player changes, like the kicker.  I though the Ole Miss kicker who shanked the extra point was the same guy who shanked the 4th quarter field goal attempt.  Turns out it was an entirely different guy and the 1st one was due to an injury mid-play.
  • Gotta love the heart of Bowers to leap to try and get the 1st down.  I’m not sure it was advisable, we need him after all, but great heart and the sort of thing a young team needs from its leader.  It speaks to the coaches motivation of the players as well.
  • Ole Miss gave Cal another free 1st down with 12 men on the field for a punt.  I think the Bears would have won anyway, but Ole Miss could have made it a lot tighter if they had played a cleaner game, penalty wise.
  • Have the Bears failed to convert on a 4th down try yet?  The Bears have gone for a number (and all of them in appropriate times) and it has been working for them.  But it was now 2 4th downs on this drive (the penalty and the run) and they’re still going.
  • But then of course Matt Anderson pushes it again for another miss.
  • The refs blew it on an intentional grounding for Ole Miss.  The penalty is 5 yards from the spot of the throw plus loss of down.  The ball was thrown from the 12 and they spotted it at the 12.  It should have been at the 7.
  • The composure of the offense in the 4th quarter is impressive.  Their execution isn’t great, but they’re battling and they have confidence they can get the job done.  They didn’t make any meaningful mistakes.
  • And this time Anderson rewards the offense’s persistence.
  • (Bears score FG: 20-16 with 3 minutes left)
  • OK, I told my son at the beginning of the Ole Miss drive that on their 4th pass attempt of the drive, they’d throw an interception.  I just had a feeling that now that they were down by more than a field goal, the QB would start pressing and he couldn’t play it conservative anymore.  I didn’t call it quite right, it was the 3rd play and only the 2nd pass, but I had the dynamics right.  That was a QB who could no longer afford to be careful, but he was still confused by the coverage schemes Cal was showing him.  Result: Pick-6!
  • (Bears score TD: 27-16 with 3 minutes left)
  • Bynum (#24) played an incredible last drive at cornerback.  He was challenged twice on a long pass play and both times he knocked the ball away.
  • These announcers were *waaay* too obsessed with the idea of kicking a field goal first and then doing the onside kick.  They were down by 11.  If you kick the field goal, you need both an onside kick and a two-point conversion.  Both are low percentage plays.  And it just gets a tie to go to overtime.  No, you go for the win with 2 touchdowns.  Ole Miss played it right (minus the execution to get it done).
  • Although the announcers might have been right on 4th and 8.  That’s a pretty low percentage play in the redzone.  But they still don’t seem to be recognizing the two-point conversion issue.
  • It was very appropriate that Cal gets a sack with a middle linebacker blitz on 4th and 8 to effectively end the game.  The defensive blitzing scheme the Bears used in this game was top notch and considering it also came with a pass coverage scheme that confused Patterson as well, it was a very impressive game plan once they solved the deep pass problem.
  • Final score 27-16.  Go Bears!

Initial Weber State thoughts

Phew!  That was too close for comfort.  It was significantly tighter than my pre-season (pre-North Carolina) prediction of 38-13.  Some initial thoughts:

  • Anyone who wants to say that North Carolina had a great defensive line can take a long walk of a short pier as far as I’m concerned.  The Bears struggled with the Weber State defensive line far too often, more so than North Carolina.  There’s no way Weber State has one of the best defensive lines in college football.
  • Laird impressed me last week and now I’m officially a huge fan of the guy.  He’s got great vision, great instincts, good timing, and deceptively impressive speed.  He’s looked better than Watson in every regard and is frankly giving Enwere a run for his money power-wise.  I think the depth chart officially got turned upside down for RB.
  • The wide receivers are struggling a little bit with route running, in particular after the catch.  They need to get up field faster and are cutting short too often.
  • Bowers has a great completion percentage, but his yard totals are pretty mediocre.  In part that is due to the previous item, but I think it’s also because he’s picking the wrong guy too often.  The dump offs have not been working.
  • Cal’s defense got abused in 3 ways that are very troubling: 1. Linebackers running circles around our LBs in coverage.  2. Deep pass patterns.  3. The O-line getting too much of a push on Cal.  These are all things we should be watching with a close eye as the teams get more talented.  One caveat: Saffle was missing.  With him back things will be better.
  • The offensive line looked much more mediocre today, more the way I was expecting.

More to come later…

North Carolina game thoughts

(Sorry for the slow posting… I was backpacking for the holiday weekend and didn’t get to watch the game until Tuesday night and then scrambling to catch up on all my various commitments)

Well THAT was a lot better outcome than most of us were expecting, yes?  I’ll get down into the details in a second, but first, I’m very tempted to be getting on both the Wilcox and the Bowers bandwagons after watching that performance.  I was expecting North Carolina’s defense to be very disruptive to our offensive line and Bowers to make a lot of mistakes as a result.  As such, I only expected the Bears to put up 10 points.  Frankly, 35 was amazing to see!

I think I had the defense about right.  They were noticeably improved.  I said 24 points and had it not been for the last minute TD, I would have nailed it.

However, I think we should be a bit cautious.  I think we are going to look back on North Carolina later in the season and realize they weren’t as good as we thought they were.  That was not a particularly good team.  They didn’t play with a lot of heart.  They had nothing particularly innovative or impressive on either side of the ball.  That was a team that looked to be in rebuilding mode on both sides of the ball.  Even still, they’d have won that game had they gotten all the interceptions they should have and if they’d hit a few wide open receivers for easy TDs.

As such, my prediction for the season win total only moves by a couple games after this one.  The Bears should be 2-1 after non-conference (although 3-0 seems not out of reach) and I’d still expect them to lose their first 4 non-conference games (USC, Oregon, UW, WSU).  But particularly as this young team matures, the Bears should have at least a shot at each of the remaining games, 3-2 is a good expectation, 4-1 is not out of reach.  So we’re looking at a 5 to 6 win season.  That last game at UCLA after Thanksgiving may be for bowl eligibility!

Let’s break it down unit by unit:

QB: The difficult thing to be Bowers is us Cal fans are *very* spoiled.  So while what I saw didn’t bowl me over, I see a lot of upside in this kid.  His accuracy was what worried me most.  Every handful of throws he had a pretty inaccurate one.  When coupled with a handful of bad decisions, he had far more interceptable balls than I’d feel comfortable with against a ball-hawking defense.  The good news is I think the mistakes lessen as he matures and I expect a sharp learning curve from him as the season progresses.

RBs: This was the area with the least question marks coming into the game.  That said, while both Enwere and Watson performed reasonably, I was hoping to see a little bit more out of them.  Enwere got the tough yards, which was good, particularly on 4th down.  I’d hope to see them break more runs open in the future and I have hopes that they will.  Laird was a pleasant surprise who I hope to see more of.

WRs: Even though Cal lost WRs in the off season, we knew because of the shear volume of recruits the previous administration brought in, it would be near impossible for there not to be reasonable replacements here.  That was definitely the case.  They seemed to be in pretty good rhythm with Bowers as a group and it was very good to see Bowers being able to spread it around to such a large group.  A few of them could have better hands (not that they were horrible).

TE: Not much stood out to me here.

O-Line: I was most pleasantly surprised here.  When the whole right side is freshman, one has to think it’s going to be a disaster.  But they were getting a pretty good push on run plays and Bowers wasn’t pressured all that much.  The group as a whole did very well.  If I had more confidence in North Carolina, I would have said awesome.

D-Line: Another pleasant surprise.  I very much liked the return to the 3-4 and the hybrid edge rushing strategy with Saffle worked well.  Their push and penetration on the line was good.  Overall, this is a group that I think will continue to improve as the season goes on.  I liked the balance of blitzes and good protection.

LBs: A solid performance here as well, although nothing overwhelming.  They seemed well coached and in position.

DBs: This is the defensive group I was most happy with the improvement I saw.  How many times in the past did we cringe at poor corner play?  How exciting was it to see DB’s make plays on the ball in the air?  This group will be tested much more in the weeks to come, but so far they’re doing a great job and are *HUGELY* improved.

So yeah, good stuff.  But it is important to remember the quality of the opponent and that we tend to grade on a curve of how poorly we were expecting the team to do.  But what we saw was most definitely a step in the right direction.

Big Game thoughts

The Bears actually were competitive in the Big Game longer than I expected.  They apparently agreed with my advice to focus on stopping McCaffrey and force Chryst to beat them with his arm.  And that worked reasonably well for a half.  But the moment McCaffrey ran right by three over-pursuing defenders en route to a 90+ yard TD run, the game was over.  If you can no longer stop the one thing you’re dedicated to stopping, your chances of winning are not good.

Additional thoughts:

  • I don’t know if it would have mattered if the Bears could have kept McCaffrey in check for the remainder of the game.  Eventually Chryst found some rhythm and the openings in the Cal secondary and extended the lead.  My guess is the Bears would have lost anyway even without McCaffrey’s 2nd half flurry.
  • An interesting question is why the Bears seem to be able to stop what they intend for a quarter or two, but then fail to do it for the rest of the game.  One possible answer is conditioning.  These Bears just don’t have the strength to do what they need on defense for 4 quarters.  I’m pretty sympathetic to that answer, but it’s not the only one.  Another one is game-planning.  Perhaps the Bears are doing a reasonably good job of confusing their opponents with unique game plans well tailored to each opponent and it is taking the opponent a quarter or two to adjust.  Then there’s the inverse argument: The opponent is better at in-game/half-time adjustments.
  • Just as frustrating to me as the defensive failings is the inconsistency of the offense, particularly in the 3rd quarter.  For those who listened to my OTRH podcasts (which since I’ve been sick and haven’t made it to the last two home games have been lacking) all season, know that I’ve been complaining about the offense getting too cute and putzing around, particularly in the 3rd quarter.  I felt the same way on Saturday.
  • Similarly, I also feel like the team tries to go to the same well too many times.  While the wide-receiver screens haven’t worked all season, I was very happy to see the O-line screens working so well against Stanford’s aggressive linebacker core.  But by the 2nd half, they stopped working.  Why?  Because they ran too many of them.  And I feel that way about a number of plays.  They’re good plays, but we use them too often.  The most blatent example of this was the WR screens early in the 3rd quarter.  They must have run 6 of those in a row.
  • I have a similar concern about the run game.  The team is very streaky in when they use it.  The run game needs to be mixed in every drive, not used for a drive or two (and we tend to use it heavily during that drive) until it stops working and then abandon it until later in the game.  That is not how to keep the defense honest.
  • But probably the most baffling thing about the 2nd half of the season has been the COMPLETE inability of the WR’s to stretch the field.  And I refuse to blame all of that on Hansen’s injury.  I’m more inclined to think that Webb’s hand still isn’t right.  Or perhaps the defenses have schematically figured out how to stop it.
  • Speaking of Webb, I think too many people are going too easy on him.  While he’s not a bad QB, he’s had a lot of inconsistency.  Inconsistent decision making.  Inconsistent throwing.  Inconsistent footwork.  I don’t want to harp on him too much, as there are plenty of people playing worse football on the field than him.  But he deserves a share of the blame.
  • Which brings me to my long-term Dykes-led team fear: Is his system too dependent on a QB who executes near perfectly?  A lot of plays require the QB make a run-pass decision pre-snap.  If the QB is unable to make the right decisions, things can go quite poorly.  I wonder if the reason the run game is used in such a streaky fashion is because Webb is making these decisions pre-snap and doesn’t have the big-picture of how to mix it in.  I really wonder if we’ve now had two head coaches in a row that put too much emphasis on the QB.

Post-Oregon monday morning thoughts

Various thoughts after Saturday night’s thrilling LOOOOONG victory over Oregon:

  • There will be an OTRH podcast this week.  I’ve been sick and had a busy weekend, so I didn’t get to posting it yet.  Hopefully tonight or tomorrow morning.
  • I’m seeing way to much of “the offense scored 52 points” argument this morning.  If you want to take a holistic view based on points scored, you need to limit yourself to regulation.  The Bears only scored 42 in regulation.  Admittedly, that’s not nothing, but it’s also not so much that one can’t be frustrated with the offense.
  • That’s particularly true when you pull out this nugget: The Bears only scored 11 points in the 2nd half.  Don’t tell me the offense didn’t struggle at times.
  • I’m probably less concerned with the defensive effort than most.  Yeah, there were some portions of the game they were frustrating.  But they held Oregon to 14 in the 1st half and were given absolutely no support in the 2nd half by the offense.  They were pretty dang tired by the end.
  • Speaking of the defense, I thought they did pretty well against the read-option game, something they have failed miserably against in recent years.
  • One thing that is concerning is the offense’s lack of ability to stretch the field.  This team lived by the long-ball for the 1st portion of the season and now they can’t seem to throw the ball downfield to save their life.
  • Call me under-impressed with the clock management on the final drive of regulation.  The Bears got the ball with 3:15 left.  And while I know they wanted to make sure they didn’t leave any time for Oregon to score, there’s no excuse to run out of time and have to kick a 41 yard field goal on 2nd and 4.  Push that ball another 10 yards down field and it’s a gimme of a field goal.
  • I’m practically getting vertigo watching the defense struggle yet then coming up with game-winning plays at the end of the game (at home anyway).

There will be NO 2nd watch post this week

If my silence since Saturday means anything, it means I’m disgusted.  There’s NO WAY I’m ever going to watch that game again except as an act of penance for some terrifyingly horrible sin.

What the heck!?!

I mean seriously… did Tedford take back over the program for a week?  Because this is exactly the sort of face plant against OSU that he was known for.  Unable to beat the press coverage and dominated at the line of scrimmage for the entire game… but the team gets their act together in the 4th quarter enough to make it a close affair before the team does something stupid to prevent the comeback, like Riley running with less than 30 seconds left with no timeouts in 2007.

Apparently Webb had an injured hand, and perhaps that mitigates why the passing game was so ineffective and over-rides my growing concern of his inability to complete game winning drives.  (What was with that horrid in the turf pass to Robertson on the last drive?)  Up until now, the offense was licking their chops whenever the opponent played press coverage.  But for some reason, perhaps an injured hand, the Bears were mystified by it.

But that is NO EXCUSE for the defensive line and linebackers who both were getting physically dominated AND couldn’t tackle worth a hill of beans.  They looked hesitant and refused to attack when tackling.  If I never see another player dragged for 5 yards before letting go again it will be too soon.

And what makes it worse is that Dykes’ teams have not had this problem.  Sure, they haven’t been at the top of the pecking order, but they’ve always beat the teams below them, particularly OSU.  In the past 3 seasons, the only games one could argue the Bears were the superior team based on their season performance and yet loss are the following:

  • 2014 BYU (marginal, team was 8-5 but against worse competition)

That’s it!  I went through every other game, and every one that Cal lost to finished ahead of them in the conference standings and for the non-conference teams had a record that suggested they were better.

Until Saturday night.

Perhaps we’ll look back on this game at the end of the season in a different light, seeing an OSU team that went on a tear starting with this game, but somehow I don’t think so.

There’s no other way to say it: This is the worst loss of the Dykes era.

Utah 2nd watch comments

Here are my thoughts as re-watching the game:

  • There sure hasn’t been a lot of info on Mohammad’s injury (at least not that I’ve seen).  I sure hope we get him back soon.
  • Although Tre Watson was looking sharp on that first possesssion
  • Chad Hansen really does have great body control and also has a very good sense of body placement.  On that first TD, he purposely played it inside and kept the DB inside so he had a lot of room between him and the sideline.  Then, he waits until the last second to step to the outside to give him some space to catch the ball and run into the endzone.  Great stuff.
  • Interesting that the 1st play Utah ran was a pass play.  And it was complete…
  • I think something that is hard for most defenses to get their mind around is a team that always goes for it on 4th and short.  Defenses have had it beat into them from pee-wee onward that on 3rd down you don’t have to stop them for no gain, just short of the 1st down line.  It makes it a bit too easy to give up the yards get to 4th and 1.
  • At first I couldn’t believe they didn’t give an intentional grounding penalty at the end of Utah’s 1st drive, but upon closer inspection, there was a receiver “in the area” of where the QB threw to.
  • Cal did indeed get a “very generous spot” on that 3rd and 9 completion in the 2nd drive.
  • Webb was a bit inconsistent on that 2nd drive, throwing a number balls to either the wrong guy or just a poorly thrown ball.  Not his best drive.
  • It sure would have been nice if that 2nd drive punt would have been downed.  Sometimes the guys try too hard to keep it too close.  The 1st guy should have batted it HARD back towards the middle of the field.  Instead he tried to just keep it on the 1 and the result was a touchback.
  • Something Cal did well early in this game was to mix up the inside and outside runs.  Lot’s of misdirection on the outside runs too.
  • That 2nd touchdown to Robertson was GENIUS!  Just genius.  Cal had ran the fly sweep a couple times.  They run Robertson across the middle before the snap like it’s another fly sweep, but they don’t give it to him.  That has the effect of getting the defense to forget about him “Oh, it’s not the sweep, let’s figure out what it is.”  Then, since they had Robertson singled on his side, when he came across, unless Utah did a shift, they were short a DB on that side.  By having the receivers cut inside, it left a WAAAAY over matched linebacker trying to keep up with Robertson… when he was already really late to pick up that it was his assignment.  Great, great, GREAT, playcall.
  • An under appreciated aspect of this game is the affect of an inexperienced QB.  His passing was pretty inconsistent.  Why were the Utes thought to be any good with both a new QB and having lost Booker at RB?
  • One of the things that shows that Cal isn’t good at run defense is the delayed draw play.  Utah got a 1st down on 3rd and long with that.  A good rush defense wouldn’t have let that happen, even if they were fooled by the delay.
  • OK, we’re on the “why once Cal was up 14-3 did they have such trouble scoring?” watch… holding penalty and then a delay of game did them in.  But overall the playcalling was OK on this one until they were dug in a 2nd and 25 hole.
  • I’m sorry, the refs made the wrong call on the overturned fumble.  The ball was in the process of coming out as his knee hit.  That should have been a “play stands” either way (if it had been ruled down or a fumble) as it was pretty dang close and the best view was obscured by other players.
  •  OK, that 1st killer personal foul penalty was a stupid one by the Bears.  The throat slash Saffle?  Seriously!?!  I sure hope he got a very public discipline that the whole team recognizes should never be done again.  That cost the Bears 4 points at a very critical time in the game.
  • 2nd drive in the stalled period from the 2nd and 3rd quarter: Delay of game and broken up WR screen results in long 3rd down and then Webb does the “virtual punt/prayer” throw down the sideline.  The coaches should have already known the WR screens weren’t working, but the delay of game, that’s on Webb.  Give that 50% credit to over-conservative play-calling.
  • 3rd drive of “the stall”: Went for it all (only 39 seconds, so not a bad idea), then a near sack, did them in.  Considering the time, let’s just forget this one.
  • 4th drive of “the stall”: Boring out followed by boring run up the middle followed by Webb locking in on boring underneath route (when Hansen was WIDE OPEN down the field) results in a 3 and out.  This is exactly the sort of lacking any dynamic qualities playcalling I don’t like.  No misdirection.  No pre-snap motion.  Nothing interesting.
  • Utah scores a TD on another long, time-sucking driving.  Probably the most interesting thing here is this drive is the first sign of the Cal defense stiffening in the redzone.  They had 3 goal-line plays and while Utah got in on the 3rd, he was only barely in.  Cal was starting to figure it out at this point.
  • Cal will score an easy TD on this next drive, so we can now summarize “the stall”… I must admit, there’s really only 1 drive of the 4 that really meets my criteria for dinking around and trying to eat clock.  Although I might still quibble that too much in those 4 drives had plays around the line of scrimmage and not enough downfield, the real story was that it was only 4 drives in nearly a half of football.  Utah really did do a good job of keep away.
  • Watson really came alive on that drive.  He was doing a great job of fighting through tackles and getting a lot of yards after contact.
  • What’s with the new 3-yard ineligible man down field?  Didn’t it used to be 5-yards?  I’m sorry, in neither of those cases was it logically illegal man down field, it was just a lineman who managed to get to a linebacker on his blocking assignments.  That’s just stupid and if I’m a defensive coordinator, I’m going to be coaching my linebackers to stay 4 to 5 yards off the line when they’re not supposed to be rushing the QB to draw more of these stupid penalties.
  • Another great throw from Webb to Hansen for the TD.    If only Webb were as on the same page with his other WRs… not that he’s bad with the others, but his touch isn’t as good for their speed.  I think he’s still figuring out just how fast Stovall and Robertson are.
  • Another case where the defense “stops” Utah on 3rd down, but because it is only 2 yards, Utah goes for it on 4th down and picks up the conversion.  I’d be remembering this factor for the next game as the defensive coordinator… to coach the defense to not view 3rd down as “we only have to prevent the 1st down”.
  • Utah really did make a mistake not kicking the field goal on that failed 4th down conversion.  Yeah, Utah had been executing that 4th and short play at will, but it hadn’t been in the redzone where the defense can focus more effort on the line of scrimmage not to mention the huge difference of only being down 1 vs. 4 points.
  • Love that quote by the sideline reporter.  Cal defense says “we will need to do that again… be ready” after the 4th down stop.  Practically prophetic!
  • Speaking of a little room for improvement on touch by Webb.  Robertson had to stall quite a bit on his TD catch to wait for the ball.  But he was SOOO fast, he had more than enough room to do it.
  • If Utah had kicked the field goal, they’d only be down by 8 right now, still just one score.
  • I had under appreciated how successful the Utah passing game had been.  Yes, it was nothing overwhelming (and sure as heck nothing like Cal’s) but similar to how Cal’s run game can at times be good enough to keep the defense honest, the Utah passing game was doing well enough to keep Cal’s defense more balanced and prevent them from putting all their focus on stopping the run.
  • The replay booth fixed it for the refs, but I wouldn’t feel too good about my weekly review if I was the line judge on that one.  He was staring right at the play and should have seen that his knee was CLEARLY down on the green portion and his body was leaned back, so it was clearly not a TD.  But he called it a TD.  (And yet again our TV commentators have granite for brains when it comes to looking at reviews… it was true all day.)
  • Stupid, stupid, stupid holding penalty on Hudson.  Completely didn’t need to do it and suggests he didn’t understand what his assignment was (or perhaps misunderstood where his runner was).  Completely killed that drive.
  • But the refs wanted in on the stupidity too… I just can’t believe they called off the blocking in the back.  It was obvious to everyone in the stadium and seeing it on video it was just as clear.  The guy clearly pushed him. And as for the personal foul, if you watch the “live” portion of the video, at the end of the play #88 (who was called for it, gently taps #7 with both hands, theoretically an illegal block in the back, and then walks around him and is just about off the field with no Utah players around him when the camera pans away.  I can’t imagine what it could have been, unless the guy made a massive U-Turn and did something after that.  I call BS on the whole thing.
  • Cal was definitely playing too soft on the WRs for most of the game.
  • Boy, for how awesome Looney was on the goal line, boy did he blow it on the run that got Utah to the 9.  He literally was face-to-face with and bumped into the runner, but in no way tried to tackle him… no arms up, nothing.  Could have been a tackle for a loss, and instead was a 12 yard run to the 9.
  • Man do Pac-12 commentators suck.  Let the clock go down to 3 seconds for 4th down?  Boy would that have killed Utah’s chances.  Of course immediately after the PI happens, they realize how stupid that would have been.
  • The PI on Cal on 4th down was definitely PI.  Yes, as it played out, the ball was uncatchable, but what we don’t know is how much the receiver could have come back to the ball if #18 hadn’t had him in a near bear-hug.  At the same time, I’m not sure #18 did the wrong thing.  He lost his leverage and was leaning the wrong way when the cutback happens.  He doesn’t know where the ball is or how badly it was thrown.  On the ‘one play for the game scenario’ when you’re beat, you foul.
  • Which is also why PI is so common in those scenarios and why it’s not “wizardry” (as someone said on another forum) to predict that possibility and game plan for it (i.e. let the clock run down so there’s not as much time.)
  • Those who think the pass on 2nd down would have been a TD had it been caught (or thrown better and caught), perhaps if he throws it PERFECTLY and hits him in stride he gets in, but that’s a really tough angle to drop it over the top like that.  If the throw was anything like it was where he has to turn his hips like he did, even if it is lower, that slows him up a lot and he would get tackled from behind by #11 and the game is over.  It was a good thing for Utah he couldn’t catch it.
  • On the last play I agree with the consensus that Utah’s play didn’t go the way it was intended.  But I’m not sure it was wrong the way most people think.  I think Moss decided his pulling guard was going to slow and he’d get tackled from behind.  He was right up on his back and then decided to cut back to the middle.  Also, it’s worth noting that pulling guard fell down.  Moss might have gotten in that way, but he would have had to either hurdle the downed guard or cut back to the line (and there was a bit of a whole there that it is unclear if Cal could have filled).  The short answer was that Cal got a good push and was disruptive.  It wasn’t just a “blown play”.
  • Anyone else lose some respect for Whittingham for his post-play actions?  He went up to a bunch of guys and clearly said (reading lips) “That’s on you guys!”  I know I wouldn’t be too happy if Dykes was doing that after a heart-breaking, game-losing play.

OK, that’s 2200+ words on the game.  I think that’s enough. 🙂

Extremely late ASU comments

Finally finished watching the game.  Boy is it hard to get motivated to watch a game that you know was a heart-breaker!

Here are my takeaways:

  • It’s a mistake to correlate “31 points yielded in the 4th quarter” with “our defense sucks!”  The defense was only responsible for 14 of those 31 and prevented the 1st interception from giving up any more than 3 points.
  • My biggest fear right now is that Webb is not a “gamer”.  We’ve had 2 games this season when he needed to drive us down the field at the end of the game when the team was trailing and both times he through ill-advised interceptions.  It’s an awful small sample size, but it’s all we have, and it is worrisome.
  • That said, I won’t hold the 1st interception against Webb too much.  That was a tougher one for him to see developing and not nearly as egregious as the 2nd interception which was mindbogglingly bad.
  • I also don’t hold the onside kick turned TD against the team.  That’s the nature of a high risk play like that.  It’s a desperate moment and bad things happen in desperate moments.
  • More concerning to me was the highly predictable play-calling in the 2nd half.  EVERY 1st down (ironically besides the 1st interception) was a run play.  It reminded me WAAAY to much of the Holmoe years: Run, Run, Pass.  The difference of course being the pass had a much higher success rate than Holmoe’s teams did.
  • I felt like the offense got somewhat lucky in the 1st half but that it somewhat evened out in the 2nd (this is before the interception fest).
  • I think we really should be feeling better about both the defensive play and the running game than we are.  They’re not the Achilles Heels we think they are.  They’re not great or anything, but they’re not horrible.  The defense is MUCH better than their stats would suggest and getting better.
  • I’m happy to see the shift to Mohammad getting more and more playing time.  I’d like to see it go a little further and see him be the #1 back (with still giving meaningful time to Enwere and OK, I guess, Watson can do some relief work too).

But big picture, as much as it was heart-breaking, I feel like the pieces are there and Cal has a real shot at beating Utah this weekend.

Texas 2nd watch thoughts

Here are my (yet again delayed) thoughts on watching the video of the game over the last few nights:

  • I really liked the play-calling on the 1st drive.  On 3rd and  the fly sweep was brilliant.  Overall they were varying the plays a lot and keeping Texas guessing and on their heels.  And that final play for a TD, tons of brilliance… the designed deep drop by Webb to give him extra time to throw and then a wonderful throw and a great catch.  Everything clicking on that one.
  • Both teams did a pretty good job of tipping balls at the line of scrimmage in this one.  It didn’t have a big impact on the game, but it’s a good sign for our defense.
  • Although as an overall factor, penalties against Cal didn’t hurt much, but that roughing the penalty against Cal on Texas’ first drive hurt.  Cost the Bears 4 points.
  • While I’ve got no problem with the confidence Dykes had in his offense on that 4th in inches, I don’t particularly like the play-call.  Perhaps it was a busted play, but any run play that has the runner going sideways between the tackles is a bad idea on run play.
  • The refs were pretty lax on pass interference.  I bet a Pac-12 crew would have called a number of them that were marginal.  You would have thought that would have hurt the Bears, but Texas wasn’t playing aggressive enough to take advantage of it.
  • Speaking of free points, since the defense stopped Texas 3 and out after the turnover on downs and they took the “free” field goal, we’re up to 7 points gifted to the Horns.
  • I didn’t really appreciate how many miscues there were in the 1st quarter for the Bears offense.  3 possessions, only one score.  It didn’t feel that way live.
  • For those of you who don’t go to games, the lack of injury updates has a notable impact on how one views the game.  We didn’t know why Texas was swapping in and out QB’s.  We assumed it was strategic.
  • Cal’s tackling early was not very good.  It got better as the game wore on, but I’d still recommend more tackling drills at practice.
  • Man, when that inside WR screen pass works for Cal, boy does it work!
  • The run game is definitely not good enough to carry the Bears, but as a change of pace or keep the defense honest perspective, it is doing reasonably well.  The runs in the 1st quarter were pretty effective.
  • That false-fumble that Texas ran back was ridiculous.  I’m sorry, it was immediately visible from the position of both the close refs that the ball came out after he hit the ground.
  • One thing that was not working for the Bears ALL NIGHT was run plays outside the tackles.  Any sweep play was just not going to happen.  Texas had linebackers who were fast enough and read the plays pretty well.
  • Wow, that early 2nd quarter pass to Hansen had about the worst camera work I’ve seen in a LOOONG time.
  • How critical was that early 2nd quarter touchdown?  Texas was looking on a roll and was already up 10.  The difference between down 3 and down 17 at that juncture couldn’t be understated.
  • Gotta give Buechele credit on his long 2nd quarter TD.  That pass was a thing of beauty.  It looked impressive both in the stands and on video.
  • One thing I think the Texas defense struggled with was the sheer number of Cal weapons.  When you lose our #2 receiver, the only reason can be that there are just too many threats to keep track of them all.
  • The Cal defensive line actually got a fair amount of pressure on the Texas QB when they were in traditional passing plays. A couple of sacks in the 1st half against an offensive line like Texas’ is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Although at the game (and thus in my podcast) it sure looked like the blocked punt was doomed from the start, the real answer was quite different.  The back-blockers didn’t pick up their 3 guys, the left most guy and the middle guy picked the same rusher.  Otherwise Cal would have been OK.
  • But how lucky was it the ball went through the endzone and it was only a safety.  I said at the game, “I highly doubt those two points are going to be the difference.”  And sure enough that was the case.
  • You know, I had thought the 2nd interception has been massive pass interference, but it was actually the Texas guy pushing off.  What a stupid move… he should have been coming back to the ball and taking the contact on the body to get the pass interference (or catching the ball).  Great job by Rubenzer getting all the way across the field to get that ball.
  • That end of the half field goal attempt by Texas was REALLY close.  From the stands I thought it was good until I saw the refs.
  • I was really happy with the Bears run defense on the 1st series of downs after halftime… until Cal let Texas bowl them over on 3rd and 8 for 20+ yards.  Ugh.
  • Cal did a lot better in the 2nd half with containing the outside WR screen game of Texas in the 2nd half, but without dedicating more players to it.  That had a meaningful impact on the game as it allowed the defense to focus on Texas’ strength: the inside running game.
  • There’s two ways to look at Cal’s play-calling in the 3rd quarter: They were dedicated to running the ball, or they were putz’ing around trying to run out the clock WAAAAY too early.
  • Cochran was abused a few times on the outside rush.  Pretty much all of the sacks came from that.
  • An under-appreciated part of the game was how strong Cal punted the ball.  Klumph had a LOT of great punts and made Texas drive the whole field a lot of times.  Particularly in the 2nd half, that meant that the Cal defense only needed to get it right (or get lucky with a holding penalty or something) once in about  series of downs.
  • All of Texas’ drives  in the 3rd quarter were ended by offensive line penalties (holding and 2 false starts).
  • I really liked what the announcers said about transferring seniors: What a great way to incentivize players to graduate in 4 years… that they can transfer where-ever they want without penalty.
  • Tre Watson showed some glimpses of potential last year, but thus far hasn’t shown much of anything this year.  I’m about a game away from saying he deserves to be dropped from the regular rotation.
  • There’s been a number of delay of game penalties on punting downs (by both teams) across all 3 games this season.  There’s something about the cadence of things this year and the 40 second clock that has shortened the “felt” time to get the punt team on the field.
  • Until the long touchdown run early in the 4th quarter, one thing you could say about the Cal run defense is they kept everything in front of them.  They never let Texas break a long run.  That means more than people think, particularly when the opposing team is a bit inconsistent or prone to penalties.
  • Here’s what I’m talking about with the putz’ing around in the 3rd quarter:  As soon as Texas takes the lead, all of a sudden the Cal offense comes alive.    On all three of their remaining drives, Cal scored a TD (well, minus dropping the ball on the 1-yard line on the last drive).  Coincidence?
  • I really like the Webb keepers on the goal-line.  Enwere is a capable enough goal-line runner that the defense has to commit a number of guys to stopping the inside run and it makes it pretty easy for Webb (who’s big enough to have a shot at getting in even if he’s contested) to run around the corner.
  • I also really like the 2-point conversion play-call.  Misdirection generally works well on 2-pont conversions, particularly when the team did well on their goal-line plays that preceded it.
  • Boy, I had forgotten how poorly the Bears tackled on the series after their go-ahead 43-40 touchdown.  More than half the yards on the drive were after 1st contact.  Luckily for the Bears, another holding penalty had Texas playing from behind the sticks, something that team was not built for, and Cal was able to hold them to a field-goal.
  • And it bears repeating after all the stalled drives due to penalty in the 3rd quarter, that Texas was stalled again due to a penalty (holding this time).
  • Texas took a lot of time off the clock on that field-goal drive: over 5 minutes.  That’s trouble when the drive only gets you a tie and your defense is having trouble stopping the opposition.
  • Do the Bears know how to score on a drive that takes more than 2 minutes?
  • What was with Buechele giving up on the pass so quickly on their last drive?  ‘The coverage downfield must have been pretty good or Buechele didn’t handle the pressure well and his internal clock ran off too quickly.  Ironically, it worked out the worst it could have for Texas because on both 2nd and 3rd down he went down in bounds and thus the clock kept running.
  • Dykes have been talking about how the offensive line and the running backs needed to get to the place where they could run the ball when everyone in the stadium knew they were going to run the ball.  Well, on that last drive, 3 run play for a 1st down won the game.  Texas knew it; Cal knew it; the crowd knew it; and guess what, they got a 1st down (and more).
  • I won’t say much about that last play and the dropped ball at the 1, other than to say I think the refs called it right.

Any thoughts from the rest of you?

Texas preview

The nice thing about a home-and-away game with a non-conference opponent that is in successive years is it is much easier to compare the teams going into year two.  You have the baseline of the previous year and all you have to do is apply a delta based on what’s changed in the last year.

Let’s go through those one by one, starting with the positives in Cal’s favor:

  • (minor positive) The game is in Berkeley
  • (under appreciated positive) Cal was dominating the game last year, particularly by the early 2nd half and it only got tight because the Bears got to complacent and prevent minded in the 4th quarter.
  • (moderate positive) What burned the Bears last year was the Texas running quarterback and Texas’s new QB is not nearly the same running threat
  • (moderate positive) Texas defense still looks to be susceptible to a good offense (gave up 37 to Notre Dame in regulation)

I point those out because it’s a more substantial list than one would think.  If Texas didn’t have any new positives or Cal didn’t have any new negatives, one could reasonably argue Cal could win on Saturday by a sizeable margin.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case:

  • (very worrisome negative) The Cal pass defense has regressed significantly
  • (moderate negative) The Cal run defense is suspect
  • (strong negative) The Texas passing game is vastly improved
  • (minor negative) Webb is not quite as good as Goff and the offense is not clicking as well as it was last year

Those are enough to overwhelm any of the positives and turn this from a tight to moderate Cal win into a game that looks like real trouble.  If the Bears made mistakes like they did against SDSU, particularly early, expect this game to get ugly (like 55-7 ugly).  If everything goes perfectly, Cal could be within striking distance all game if they could slow Texas down, but never really be in a position to make it happen.

Cal falls to 1-2: Cal 27, Texas 45

Re-watch SDSU thoughts

Here are my thoughts on re-watching the game:

  • Because how the game starts can heavily affect the flow and thus outcome of the game, one has to really shake one’s head at the inability of Cal to deliver on the long ball on their 1st two possessions.  Overthrow by Webb and a holding penalty cost the Bears a potential 14-0 lead.
  • I don’t have any data to back this up, but it sure feels to me like the Bears are more susceptible to the post-turnover big play than most teams.  It just feels like there’s a long history turnover followed by easy TD.  The Bears had the same thing happen after their fumble and immediate TD.
  • I don’t think I can watch that kickoff return for a TD again without throwing up.  How many missed tackles and bad angles can a team make in one play?  Apparently at least 10 or so.
  • To highlight some positives, it was nice to see Cal and Webb recognize how much they could abuse SDSU deep there late in the 1st quarter.  Really kept the Bears in the game.  But again, you put those two TD’s together with the two missed TD opportunities early, minus the horrible kickoff return and the free fumble TD, and this game could have been 28-0 in the 1st quarter and effectively over.
  • In other words, starting fast can make a HUGE difference.
  • Watching the Cal linebackers and safeties over-pursue Pumphrey and allowing him to cut back and abuse the defense was very disappointing.  There were not many plays where he went long by speeding around the outside.  Also note, Pumphrey only had 15 yards on his 1st 9 carries.  It wasn’t his consistency that got him 10 yards a rush (at least not in the 1st half), it was the big plays.
  • A bit of an aside, but the announcers for this game were pretty mediocre.  Most announcers give some notion of where on the field a penalty flag was thrown and some indication of what sort of foul it might be.  Not these bozos.
  • And then there’s the pathetic tackling.  If I was Dykes or Kaufman I’d ensure that the next 2 to 3 weeks of practice HEAVILY emphasized tackling drills and improved technique.
  • Then there’s the interception.  I went through a similar process as some other commentators of thinking it was really egregious and as I watched it more, it became more understandable.  SDSU really did a good job of sniffing out the play and making life hard on Webb.  Also, Webb was in the endzone when he threw the ball.  That’s bad play-calling.  A screen is a relatively high-risk play and one where it’s nice to be able to just take a sack and/or risk a grounding penalty when you have to abort when it gets sniffed out.  Well, that’s a lot harder when you’re in the endzone making the throw.  The offensive line deserves some of the blame too for not disguising it well.
  • I join the announcers in being exacerbated by Cal’s inability to execute the induced offside play.  I can’t think of anytime I’ve ever seen a team try to do that, GET the defense to bite, but someone can’t snap the ball to get the penalty.  WTH?
  • I’m also worried about conditioning a bit.  The team seemed to be weakest at the end of both halves.  Didn’t feel that way as much with the Hawaii game.
  • I’m pretty disappointed in Webb’s sense of urgency during the 2 minute drill.  You’ve got to be ready to snap the ball when the clock starts again.  Webb has been blowing 5 to 10 seconds scanning the defense after the clock starts.  At the end of the 1st half, the Bears get the ball with 0:34 remaining.  The 1st play is a completion in bounds for a 1st down.  The clock stopped with 28 seconds to set the chains.  It’s not snapped until there are 23 seconds remaining.  That’s just too long!  Particularly with that few seconds remaining.  Then Dykes calls a timeout at 16 seconds when it’s clear Webb is not going to be able to snap the ball right away.  From 34 to 16 with only two plays, both of which were 1st downs?  That’s just not going to cut it.
  • Then there’s the weak sack and the two poorly thrown balls that suggest Webb doesn’t have that competitive edge that a great QB has… that ability to deliver great throws when it matters most.
  • And then I really don’t get why they don’t throw the Hail Mary at the end of the half as opposed to the punt.  Seriously?  Dykes, you do realize you’re down 10.
  • One of the things I most noticed on the re-watch was how many times the SDSU DB’s tried to jump the out patterns.  They were only successful on the final play of the game, but it was not the 1st time they had tried.
  • 3 turn overs, 4 plays, 3 touchdowns… is it that the defense wasn’t prepared to go back on the field?  Is it that they’re demoralized?  I don’t know, but if they could instead of folding, have stiffened, the game would have turned out very differently.
  • I have to admit that my favorite RB in the rotation, Mohammad, did not have a very good game.  It was Enwere who looked best out there today.  But even he was hit and miss.  The run game only worked when SDSU was expecting pass.  Whenever we’d try to run it more than a couple times in a series, it would stop working.
  • Webb is a couple beats too slow when checking down in the pass game.  He also hasn’t been doing a good job of putting it in a place where the backfield receiver (usually the RB) is well positioned to get some yards after the catch.
  • Something that didn’t get enough attention was how the Bears were unable to get in the endzone late in the 3rd quarter and most of the 4th.  Field goal after driving the field then get an INT at midfield… another field goal.   Another turnover on the SDSU side of the field… goes 4 and out (including one of those dangerous out-throws that the SDSU bit on and nearly intercepted).  Scoring a TD on any one of those would have made a huge difference down the stretch.  And they SHOULD have, after having been gifted two short fields on turnovers.
  • As much as overall the breaks didn’t go the way of Cal, it wasn’t as unbalanced as I remembered.  The 13 penalties on SDSU hurt them a lot.  They had 2 turnovers to blunt part of Cal’s 4.
  • I mentioned this in my other post, but I definitely saw it again on the re-watch, Webb’s accuracy went down late in the 4th quarter.  Perhaps it is unfair to blame that on the game situation, but instead perhaps he was getting tired 70+ throws into the game.
  • Since it wasn’t relevant to the outcome (although one should be careful, would SDSU have had to play more aggressive if they had to keep Cal out of field goal range and thus allowing Cal more opportunities down the field?), I had forgotten the ridiculous 2-point conversion play call.  I can’t imagine a scenario that play works.
  • Cal got a great bounce on the onside kick.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a textbook onside kick bounce.

Let’s see if Cal can improve!

SDSU post-game 1st thoughts

Cal’s execution on offense is sporadic, troublingly so for a team that isn’t going to win games with its defense.  Webb, although a reasonably good QB, is too “flingy” and it affects the consistency of his accuracy.  There were WAAAY too many open receivers for game-winning catches in that game.

In the end, too many gifted points, too many turnovers (even though SDSU gave some back to help Cal crawl back in it) and a bit weak on the redzone (or near it) execution cost the Bears a win.  There’s no getting around it, the Bears should have won this one.  One could go the opposite way and say that if the Bears had a defense that could stop a run-only team, none of that would of mattered.  But I think we just have to accept the defense for what it is and for what it is, it did its part.  It was the offense that didn’t execute to the level we expect of it.

Is there even a remote possibility this team beats Texas?  I can’t imagine it.

(More to come tomorrow)