The longest continually active Cal Bear blog

Archive for the ‘Looking Back’ category

OK, I give up…

I’m just not going to be able to catchup on the old game watching, particularly not with real Cal football starting in a couple weeks. But for *some* amount of completeness, here’s the full list for the full season I was planning on (minus strong arguments from others for the possible alternatives):

  • Week 8: Substitution pick of week 5 2007 Oregon game
  • Week 9: 2018 UW. The game where the Weaver pick-6 is deciding score in a 12-10 win.
  • Week 10: 2008 Oregon – The rain bowl when the field was flooded. A game that showed the ‘Pain Train’ at his best.
  • Week 11: 2018 USC – The losing streak is broken… first win over USC since 2003 and first win in the LA coliseum since the big bang (or something like that).
  • Week 12: 2009 Big Game – Mohammed’s interception caps an upset victory.
  • Week 13: 2002 Big Game – Another streak breaker, this time 7-in-a-row to Stanford. (note: Although the Big Game is always (with one exception) the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is not always the same week of the season. It can be either the 12th or 13th depending on how early Labor Day is in September and how late Thanksgiving is in November.)
  • Week 14/15: 2008 Washington. Washington at their worst. Jahvid Best at his… uhhh… best.
  • Bowl game: 2006 Holiday Bowl against Texas A&M

So there you go. It’s impressive to me that despite being a couple of decades that didn’t have that many good years, just about every week of the season had one stand out game that will always put a smile on Bears fans faces.

Week 8 candidate games

(OK, I know I’m *ridiculously* behind on watching these… 3 weeks now. But the end of my week and weekend are free for the first time since mid-September, so I should be able to catch up by the end of the weekend.)

This might just be the weakest week of the season:

  • 2004 Arizona – Shutout of Arizona on the road
  • 2005 WSU – During one of WSU’s good streaks, a tough fought victory at home
  • 2016 Oregon – Probably the best choice. A win over Oregon in recent years is something notable. This is the last good win of the Dykes era.
  • 2018 OSU – Wonderful rebound game after the UCLA disaster the prior week.

So really nothing that jumps out. 2016 Oregon isn’t even a game with Goff. Is this the week we substitute in 2007 Oregon?

Week 7 choice – 2017 WSU

I had forgotten this was the smoke bowl. How can we not go with the smoke bowl?

Week 7 candidate games

(Yes, I know, I’m two weeks behind again on watching games… I hope to catch up later this week.)

Here are the games to consider for our 2020 virtual season:

  • 2009 UCLA – The game that finally broke the losing streak in the coliseum. Also the first game of a 5 out of 6 winning streak that salvaged the 2009 season (the Bears were 2-2 going into this one having lost two *horrific* games to Oregon and USC)
  • 2017 WSU – In Wilcox’s first season we get a first glimpse of the defense to come when they beat 8th ranked WSU, holding them to 3 points, and putting up a fair number of points to book. And not to give away too much, this was the Bowers head-over-heals flip.

And really, that’s about it. Or is this the week we use the substitution pick of 2007 Oregon? Looking ahead, if we’re going to do it, it’s this week or next week. After that, there’s too many good games to pick from each week.

Week 6 choice – 2006 Oregon

This was an easy week. 2006 was one of the most remarkable games of the last 20 years. Sorry for the delayed posting of the choice (had a busy end of week prepping for a crazy weekend driving trip).

Week 6 candidate games

(yeah, yeah, yeah… I know… I suck at being timely this year. I still haven’t done the week 5 game review and am late on the candidate games. I could pretend things are going to get better in the next week, but it doesn’t look likely.)

This week there are only 3 games that really stand out:

  • 2006 Oregon – For those who don’t remember, the previous few years had been hard fought, tough games between two up and coming teams in the conference. 2003 was the infamous ‘turn out the lights’ game where Cal was leading and then the lights “went out” at the Oregon stadium, and lost momentum and the game. In 2004 Cal won a nail-biter to stay on track for a 1-loss season. 2005 was a rain-heavy game where Cal couldn’t convert the end of game field goal that would have won it and then lost in overtime. What would happen in 2006?
  • 2012 UCLA – If you’re looking for a game from the late Tedford era (2010 – 2012), this is one of the few candidates. Cal was 1-5. UCLA was ranked. But Cal came in and dominated. A rare bright spot in an otherwise horrific season that got Tedford fired.
  • 2014 WSU – If you like points, this is your game. Let’s just put it this way… I’m glad I never have to say “remember that time we scored 60 points and lost?” And yet that nearly happened.

What are people’s preference?

Week 5 choice – 2003 USC

Well, as much as the choice is as obvious to me as it is to Katster, I don’t feel good about missing 2007. So here’s the plan… I’m going to put up 2007 Oregon as an audible in all future weeks. If we decide the offerings on the table are weak enough, we can substitute in this ‘out of order’ pick.

Nevertheless, 2003 USC might just be the greatest Cal win in my lifetime, so it gets the pick:

2020 Virtual game 4

Cal was 3-0, including a win over a ranked Washington earlier in the season. Could Cal continue to demonstrate that they were a team on the rise and live up to their #23 ranking? Or would the long distance non-conference game be their undoing like so many previous years? That was the backdrop for this 4th game of the 2019 season against Ole Miss.

  • On their first drive Ole Miss has some success, using some late pass-run choices to get down the field into field-goal range, but ultimately misses the kick.
  • Cal has a pretty surgical drive down the field led by Garbers throwing the ball, including a couple of critical 3rd down conversions. The result is a 6 yard TD pass for an early Cal lead: 7-0
  • Ole Miss has similar success on their next drive, again mostly through the air, but this time execute better in the redzone. The key play is a one-yard run on 3rd and 1 from the 2, that sets up 1st and goal from the 1 where they easily punch it in and even the score: 7-7
  • On a 2nd and 6, there’s a significant blocking breakdown for Cal, setting up a 3rd and 15 where the Bears can’t convert and the Bears have to punt back to Ole Miss.
  • A developing trend for Ole Miss is success on the QB keeper on read-option plays. It got them into the redzone on the previous drive. It scored the TD. And it converted a 3rd and 1 on their next drive.
  • On the next play Ole Miss completes a 30+ yard pass down the seam, get again get the ball well on the Cal side of the field, just outside the redzone. But from there the Cal defense stiffens and forces the field-goal attempt, which they make. Cal in a 3 point hole: 7-10
  • Garbers is very much on his game today. On 3rd and a long 12 from just outside field goal range, he perfectly lobs in a ball on a crossing route to convert and get into the redzone.
  • And on yet another 3rd down a swing pass to Chris Brown gets all the way into the endzone. Key execution on 3rd downs, even from longer distances out, give Cal back the lead: 14-10
  • So far, this is not the defensive struggle one would expect. 5 drives, 4 scores (and the 5th had a field goal attemp). Both teams are having good success throwing the ball and not so much success running, particularly inside.
  • A backwards pass that is dropped (but fell on) and false start sets up 3rd and 18 for Ole Miss. The Cal defense plays it smart, gives up the underneath pass that is well short and Ole Miss must punt.
  • Cal has been aided by a couple of pass interference calls on Ole Miss’s young corner. Garbers makes use of another such opportunity on another 3rd down, this time deep in their own territory. The key for Cal thus far has been 3rd down execution by Garbers.
  • Garbers mis-reads the defense and tries to squeeze in a pass down the seam, which is intercepted around mid-field and runs it back to the Cal 35. Definitely one the great Keith Jackson would have called an “ill advised decision”.
  • Ole Miss had a great touchdown opportunity on a 3rd and 8, but the QB puts it over his outside shoulder making for a much more difficult catch which is dropped. Ole Miss settles for the field-goal off of the turnover and the Cal lead is cut to one: 14-13
  • Ole Miss has gone to a tighter coverage strategy and its paying off. Cal has to punt again after only getting one first down. Ole Miss will have just over 2 minutes to get a score in before halftime.
  • Ole Miss hurting themselves with penalties and negative plays. They are generally being offensively successful, but these occasional problems setup another long 3rd down and the Bears will get the ball back with 50 seconds left.
  • But a great punt gives Cal the ball at the 5 yard line and Cal decides to take a knee to end the half and take the one point lead into the locker room. A wise decision considering they have a lead and get the ball to start the 2nd half.
  • On a 3rd and 10, Garbers hold in the pocket for a LOOOONG time and then airs it out to Nico Remigio for a big gain down the Ole Miss 23.
  • And then another big 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 14 keeps the Cal drive alive and into the redzone. Man… imagine this game without the 3rd down heroics!
  • Garbers throws a back-shoulder TD pass and Cal extends the lead:21-13
  • The Cal defense asserts itself on 3rd and 1 and stuffs the inside run. Ole Miss has to punt, giving Cal the ball back after a 3 and out.
  • Wow! A quick seam pass to Tonges and a couple of missed dive tackles turns into an unexpected rumbling 60+ yard TD catch and run. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Cal have any ‘quick strike’ ability. A great way for Cal to extend the lead to 15: 28-13
  • Cal’s defense is starting to assert itself. They give up one 1st down and then Ole Miss has to punt. The “I’ll pretend I haven’t seen this game before” part of me thinks this could be the moment Cal puts the dagger in and opens an insurmountable lead.
  • After yet again well mixing pass and run to start the drive, Ole Miss brings great pressure two plays in a row and gets back-to-back sacks to set up 3rd and 21. To add injury to insult, Garbers is injured on the 2nd sack and Modster has to come in for the long play. A wise wide receiver screen pass (both safe and something that can pick up big yardage) gets Cal to 4th and 5 at the Ole Miss 37. After thinking about going for it, Cal decides to punt. Sadly, it only nets 12 yards (that’s why teams so frequently go for it at this point of the field).
  • On their first play of the next drive Ole Miss breaks their first big pass play down to the Cal 35. But a sack and 2 dropped passes sets up 4th and 12. Ole Miss decides they’ll go for it from the 37 (perhaps after having seen what happened to Cal punting from the 37). But then a false start penalty causes them to change their mind. Their punt team does a much better job of it and Cal is forced to start from the 11 yard line.
  • Garbers returns to the field, but can’t convert on 3rd and one on a delayed QB run inside (which may not have been a designed play) and Cal has to punt on the 1st play of the 4th quarter.
  • Ole Miss goes run heavy on their next drive, particularly using the QB off of the read-option. All of a sudden the Cal defense looks tired and the Ole Miss offensive line is getting a good push. But a broken play on 2nd and short sets up a 3rd and 6. Cal almost gets a sack but the QB Corral escapes and gets just enough for the 1st down.
  • Ole Miss goes for it on 4th and 6 from the Cal 22 (I would have kicked the field-goal to make it so no 2-point conversion would be needed on future TDs) and converts. Now they have 1st and goal inside the 5 yard line. After they are stuffed on 1st down, a bad snap forces the QB to fall on the ball at the 12 yard line. After a bat down on the 3rd down pass attempt, Ole Miss settles for the field goal attempt… but then they shank it! OUCH for Ole Miss! Cal still has a 15 point lead with under 10 minutes left.
  • Cal goes a bit too conservative and two small runs up the middle plus a delay of game when they try to milk the clock too much. But then on 3rd and 8 Duncan has a GREAT catch, high pointing a fade pass from Garbers, getting his toe down inbounds and extending the drive.
  • But Cal can’t convert on the next set of downs and punts with 6 and a half minutes left.
  • Ole Miss goes for it on 4th and 10 from deep in their own territory. An underneath pass looks like it will be well short, but somehow the receiver splits the defenders and is just slippery enough to convert and extend the drive.
  • Ole Miss’s QB gets injured and a true freshman comes in. Somehow he busts a long run (that QB has some wheels) and runs the ball down into the redzone. The stunned Bears are caught off guard and then Ole Miss goes hurry up and a read option to the RB goes into the endzone to close the lead to one score with 4 and a half minutes left: 28-20.
  • Cal changes up the offensive strategy, going away from the safe run-first, grind out the clock strategy. Instead they pass on first down for a 12 yard gain. Then a designed QB run for 8 yards. Dancy comes up inches short on the 2nd down run and Ole Miss calls timeout (one left) with 3 minutes left. A first down would make it so Cal could bleed most of the remaining clock.
  • But of course they don’t get it and Ole Miss uses their last timeout before the Cal punt to keep most of 3 minutes for a potential game-tying (with a 2-point conversion) score. The Cal punt is a good one, forcing Ole Miss to need to go 90 yards.
  • Ole Miss is still using the true freshman and the Cal defense looks very uneasy with this unknown quantity. So they play a little soft and force Ole Miss to work the clock. It works for a while, they’re only at mid-field with 1:15 left. But a long pass over the top has Ole Miss inside the Cal 10 with a minute left.
  • And then all hell breaks loose! Ole Miss for whatever reason manages to run 4 plays, all in bounds, and the clock runs continuously. First down is an inside run stopped after a 2 yard gain. Then the QB runs out to the right for what looks like a pass play, but decides to run it down to the 4 or so… but in bounds. Then comes the controversial 3rd down pass where the receiver dives and catches it falling on the goal line… but the ball was on his front side and in the field of play. With only 10 seconds left and the clock running, they don’t have time to review it (although later reviews showed the play would not have been overturned on review… it would have stood) and finally they try a QB sneak on 4th down, which failed. Phew!

That game went from a bit sleepy to over the top rushed in just one play. Boy is my heart racing… and I even knew what was coming!

What a game!

2020 Virtual Game 3

The choice (as announced previous) is the 2015 Texas game. This was the height of the Sonny Dykes era, with Jared Goff in what turned out to be his final season (he went to the draft a year early). The Bears had won the previous season’s match-up in Berkeley and now had the much more difficult task of going to Austin, TX to try and sweep the home and away series.

  • Man can the Texas place kicker boom the ball. The ball landed 4 yards out of the back of the endzone.
  • The Bears get a 3rd and 1 through to fairly predictable but productive plays on their first drive, but then have to punt after Texas stuffs the 3rd and 1 run.
  • Texas has one big pass play, but then goes for it on the next series’ 4th and 1 when in that ‘dead zone’ between the opponents 40 and 35. (too long to kick a field goal and hard to net that many yards with a punt). Hardy Nickerson comes up with a big stop and the Bears get the ball back with relatively good field position.
  • Goff breaks a surprisingly long run on a broken play and all of a sudden the Bears are just outside of field goal range (I say this like I’m forgetting how quickly the Sonny Dykes Bears would score.
  • It’s only 5 minutes into the game and I’m already sick of ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’ (In Texas they call it “The Eyes of Texas”).
  • Goff efficiently passed his way into the endzone over a few plays (with a few unproductive run plays in between). Bears up early 7-0.
  • Texas muffs the kickoff reception and the Bears recover the ball… it would have been awesome had one of the inside guys not been offside. So instead the Bears have to kickoff again. (It’s funny how one forgets important bits like that.)
  • After forcing a 3rd and 20, the Bears give up a HUGE play. How do you fail on 3rd and 20? This was what was so frustrating about the Bear defense during this era. Even when they’d mostly play well, they’d give up big plays to undermine the good stretches.
  • A couple plays later Texas is in the endzone. All tied up at 7-7 10 minutes into the game.
  • Their QB Jerrod Heard showed off his running skills on the TD run. The Bears defense did a pretty good job of defending the zone-read play, but Heard had just enough in his legs to power into the endzone.
  • The Bears drive the entire field (mostly on the back of a bevy of screen passes), but then Mohammed gets hit really hard at the 4 yard line and coughts up the fumble giving it back to Texas. That cost the Bears at least 3 points.
  • Cal gives up another 50 yard pass p\ay. They seem to have a really big problem when they play cover-2. The safety either is occupied by some other receiver or doesn’t know they need to cover the outside receiver.
  • The Bear run defense is doing pretty well. Almost all of the notable plays are pass plays and they’ve even forced a few for loss when UT runs the ball.
  • Cal holds in the redzone and give up only a field-goal. Bears trail for the first time (now early in the 2nd quarter): 7-10.
  • Cal relies on the pass to get down the field to inside the 25. But then on 3rd and 5 goes for a run play??? Surprising. Then they go for it on 4th down and a classic Goff to Lawler fade into the endzone both converts the 4th down and scores at TD. Bears back on top: 14-10.
  • Wow, weak kickoff return (both deciding to take it out of the endzone and going mostly sideways) results in Texas having to start at their own 5 yard line.
  • And then one of the standout moments of the game happens. The QB runs, appears to cross the line of scrimmage, then comes back, then passes the ball, which is then runs for a big gain. Luckily, the review booth takes a look at it and it’s brought back. It doesn’t cost them much already inside their own 5.
  • On the next play QB Heard has his first big run play, fooling the defense on the read-option, then sweeping around the outside for a 30+ yard gain.
  • After ANOTHER big pass play where the Cal DBs are yet again outclassed, Texas punches it in on arun play. Texas re-takes the lead: 14-17.
  • Cal’s offense has a lot more balance than Texas. Enwere busts a big run as part of it. It feels like the Bears are alternating series: Heavy on pass one, heavy on the run the next.
  • Cal faced with another 4th and short and look to go for it, but then a substitution penalty forces them to kick the field goal. Sadly, the 40ish yard field goal is missed.
  • Cal forces and punt and get the ball back with just under two minutes left. However, a sack on Goff forces a fumble and one play later Texas rumbles into the endzone for a 10 point lead: 14-24
  • The good news is Cal gets the ball back with 1:32 left, which we all know is plenty of time for the Cal offense (at least in this era). And then Cal “left foots it” and runs the ball. Mohammed breaks it for 50 yards and right away the Bears are in striking distance.
  • Another Lawler pass (which doesn’t quite get in) and a goal line run gets the Bears back within a field goal with 52 seconds left in the half (that was quick): 21-24
  • The Bears intercept the ball! After the runback the Bears have the ball at the Texas 30 with 24 seconds left. What a huge gift by the Longhorns. I know we gave them the fumble in the redzone, so I guess it’s good manners to give a return gift.
  • But the time is too short for a touchdown and the Bears settle for a field goal. It’s all tied at halftime: 24-24
  • Apparently Texas is still in a giving mood after halftime. Now it’s their turn to have a QB fumble. So effectively the Bears get the ball to start both halves. (and this time they’re on the Texas side of the field.)
  • After surgically marching down to 1st and goal from the 3, the Bears run it 3 times (the final time being so close it requires a review to have it stand) and don’t get in. They go for it on 4th down and yet again run the ball (talk about trust), but this time Enwere leaps over for a TD. Bears back in front: 31-24.
  • The Bears defensive line asserts itself on the next series and when combined with a personal foul for blocking after the whistle to force 4th and 24. The Bears get the ball back after the punt.
  • Bears do a lot of running on their next drive and yet again efficiently drive it down the field. This time on 1st and goal they keep Texas guessing (again) and do the pass to Lawler thing. Bears up by two scores with 20 minutes left: 38-24.
  • After Texas punts again (more Cal defensive line domination) Mohommed breaks a big run up a surprisingly small hole in the middle for a 74 yard Cal touchdown. Cal is up big now with just over a quarter left: 45-24
  • Wow, Looney does one of the worst facemasks I’ve ever seen. Luckily Heard (Texas QB) is fine. But it seems to fire up the Texas offense, particularly the linemen.
  • If you’re looking for pivitol moments in this game, the next Texas TD is one of the biggest. Despite the Cal defense forcing 3rd and goal from the 13, and the pass defense holding up well, Heard somehow scrambles himself into the endzone. (A sign of things to come.) Bears lead cut to 2 scores: 45-31
  • Cal goes the too obvious route of over-emphasizing the run up the middle and has to punt relatively quickly.
  • The Cal defense has a more uneven performance on the next series, but two sacks, including one on 4th and 17, give Cal the ball back around mid-field.
  • Cal goes 3 and out and only takes about a minute and a half off the clock. With seven minutes left, Cal is punting back to Texas with a 2-score lead.
  • Cal defense plays it right for a full 3 minutes. They keep things in front of them and UT has only reached mid-field. And they still keep the clock running and the Texas players inbound and down to 3 minutes with the ball at the 27… but then they give up an all too easy 27 yard touchdown run on a read-option where the RB takes it. 3 minutes left and the lead is down to 7: 45-38
  • Texas tries the onside kick and fails.
  • Texas is wise with their timeouts. They don’t call it on 2nd down, so the Bears run again. But before 3rd down (a predictable 3rd and 7 when doing the obvious run late in the game), they call the timeout leaving 2 minutes and forcing the Bears to decide whether they want to pass the ball.
  • Cal decides to pass it and Anderson drops the pass! Ugh, what a bad memory. From my seats I saw this SOOOO clearly. I jumped up anticipating the catch and then buried my head in my hands. How could he drop that?!?… Ugh!
  • I must admit, the Cal defense has seemed a lot better to me than I remember at this point when I was watching it live. My “I’ll pretend I don’t know what happens” brain thinks the defense has a good shot at stopping this last minute drive.
  • But this time the dink and dunking of Heard works much better. In 30 seconds they’re at the Cal 45.
  • And then comes the big play… the Heard QB scramble for a TD. Something I didn’t remember (or perhaps even notice) was that Heard called an audible when he saw the Cal defense setting up for a blitz. He audibled to a QB draw. That was a great call on his part.
  • Nevertheless, Texas scores the TD but4 as we all know, Texas missing the extra point. The Bears cling to a 1-point lead: 45-44.
  • The onside kick attempt fails (out of bounds) and the Bears take a couple of knees to win the game.

Wow, what a game. Definitely worth the (delayed) re-watch.

(The week 4 game will wait until tomorrow.)

Week 5 candidate games

(OK, I know I’m now two weeks behind. The goal is to watch both finish week 3’s game and watch week 4’s game tomorrow…)

It’s on to week 5… what game should we watch?

This week we’ve got two games that are among the biggest, most consequential games of the last 20 years:

  • 2003 USC – Triple overtime thriller of 3rd ranked USC that I’m sure everyone remembers
  • 2007 Oregon – This game was remarkable when it happened, although it lost some of its luster after the season took a nasty turn due to Longshore’s injury. Nevertheless, this was a great game.

And then add to that two games that in a normal week would be contenders:

  • 2014 Colorado: 59-56 victory at home. The first of two back to back games shootout games of the highest variety
  • 2016 Utah: 28-23 victory at home. The one time a Dykes coached team won with defense.

What do people prefer to watch? (If it helps, next week’s game is likely an Oregon game.)

Week 4 choice – 2019 Ole Miss

I don’t like the fact that half of the games thus far are from last year, but I promise that trend won’t hold. It’s just that two of last year’s biggest wins were early in the season.

Nevertheless, last year’s Ole Miss game was a great one:

(And yes, I know, I still haven’t posted the week 3 re-watch thoughts… still working on it…)

Week 4 candidate games

(As an FYI, I’m still working on watching the week 3 game. I didn’t manage to finish squeezing it in over the weekend (I’m currently mid 2nd quarter) and I’m in the middle of a critical project with a deadline tonight at work. I should have time tomorrow or Friday to finish it off.)

OK, we’re already in week 4. Not that we’re going to pick one of these, but week four has some awful games. Between 2009 and 2014 the Bears never won their week 4 game including the very demoralizing losses to Oregon in 2009 and USC in 2012. It also includes 2002 loss to Air Force. This might be Cal’s most inauspicious week of the season.

So the number of good games is not large… but luckily includes at least one gem. Here are the candidates:

  • Blowout of ASU in 2006
  • 2015 UW: First win in Husky stadium in a decade and sign that a Sonny Dykes team may have what it takes to be bowl eligible.
  • 2019 win at Ole Miss

That’s really about it (there’s only 3 other wins at all and they’re nothing remarkable) and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it an easy choice: Ole Miss.

Anyone disagree?

Week 3 choice – 2015 Texas

Well, it was as I thought, the two popular ones were 2002 Michigan State and 2015 Texas. And frankly I probably would have picked MSU since I feel like the final list will be a little too recently biased… but I ran into one problem: No full game footage of the MSU game. I personally have just about every game from 2006 onward in my collection, but online I was only about to find the 1st to 3rd quarters of the MSU game.

So Texas it is:

Check back for commentary by the end of the weekend.

Week 3 candidate games

As much as I enjoyed last week’s game, I have to admit it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Without video of the delay, it was void of the unique emotion that delay caused. Still, hard to argue with an upset over a top-15 team.

Here are the best candidates for week 3:

  • 2002 @ Michigan State: The Bears opened the Tedford era with 2 dominant wins over weak teams. But week 3 required them to go on the road to Michigan State, who was ranked 15th at the time. Could the Bears really have improved so much in so short a time to go on the road to a ranked Big-10 team and win? Impossible!
  • 2009 @ Minnesota: A game full of Jahvid Best highlights.
  • 2015 @ Texas: What is it about week 3 and big non-conference road games?
  • 2016 Texas: The return game back in Berkeley. To me, this one is not nearly exciting as the previous year’s game. But again, that may be because I have an emotional attachment to the 2015 game as my wife and I went to it (usually I would take my boys on the road trip games).
  • 2017 Ole Miss: Any win over an SEC team is notable, but it is worth noting that this is the home game in 2017, not the more memorable road game in 2019 (that game was in week 4)

No shortage of good games to pick from, yes? What tickles your fancy? What one do you want to watch?

(Selection will be made Friday afternoon/evening.)

2020 Virtual Season Game 2

For week 2, we’ve chosen a recent one: last year’s (2019) UW game. For those who don’t remember, the Bears had upset the Huskies at home 12-10 in 2018. It was a very physical defensive struggle. Washington fans felt they should have won and some bad in-game decisions by the coach had cost them the game. But of course the Bears felt otherwise (and I think felt a little disrespected by that talk). Could the Bears go on the road to Seattle and prove Husky fans wrong by beating 14th ranked UW (they had been ranked 15th in 2018)?

To add to all of that, this was what our family jokingly calls “the lightning bowl”. You’ll see why in a bit…

Commentary when watching:

  • After a long kickoff return (to about mid-field), the Huskies go 3 and out. That was capped by a 3rd down QB run where a relatively new rule (one that would loom heavy throughout the season) cost the Huskies a potential first down. The new rule is that when the QB slides, the ball is marked where he “gives himself up” (which is usually a couple yards behind where the knee hits the ground). The result was a 4th and 1 where UW lined up to go for it, but when they saw the defense, they did the QB pooch punt thing.
  • I’ve said this before, but the justification for that rule change is ridiculous. They say it is to “protect the QB”. But what it really does is encourage QB’s to dive head first to get the yards they need for a first down.
  • The Bears get a couple of first downs and then have to punt. Yet again the Huskies get a good return and are already back at mid-field again.
  • And with that, the game is delayed by a couple hours. The video I have cut out the two and a half hours of delay, so the built up nerves and anxiousness isn’t really there. Also how late it was. The game was already a 7 PM (or was it 7:30 PM) start, so with the delay the game was REALLY late. They didn’t restart until 10:30 PM and it was still early in the 1st quarter
  • The Huskies get a first down and then go for it on 4th down and fail giving the Bears the ball back at their own 35.
  • The Cal offensive line is not holding up well. Garbers has already been sacked twice and even when he wasn’t sacked, he was frequently hurried. The Bears punt again.
  • The UW run game is working reasonably well. There are holes to run through most of the time. However, just frequently enough the Bears are getting a stop for no gain and forcing the passing game, which was not working so well for UW.
  • After a QB sneak on 4th down works, the Huskies have to sub in the backup QB because Easton’s helmet came off. The Bears get a big sack with a corner blitz that is too much for the inexperienced QB. A very wise defensive decision that puts UW well behind the sticks on a 2nd down. The result is they force 4th down and a field goal. Huskies score first and the Bears are down a field goal: 0-3
  • The Bears continue to struggle offensively and in the punting game. After a 3 and out and 19 yard put, the Huskies get the ball at mid-field for the 3rd time.
  • But this time Bynum jumps the receiver’s route and gets an interception. The Bears get the ball back quickly, although deep in their own territory.
  • While the Bear run game starts to show some progress, a holding call kills another set of downs and the Bears punt again.
  • UW gets themselves into yet another 4th and 1 on the Cal side of the field. This time, over pursuit by the Bears inside (perhaps since the last two successful conversions were up the middle they felt the need to over compensate), opens a bit hole outside and Ahmed (UW RB) scores an easy 20+ yard TD. Bears in a big hole midway through the 2nd quarter: 0-10
  • A swing-out pass (kinda like a screen pass to the RB) results in a big 20 yard gain with another 15 tacked on for an illegal block on UW. With that, the Bears only take one play to get to the UW 32 yard line.
  • The Bears run game continues to Bear fruit. Brown breaks a 10 yarder, then a read-option gets Garbers down to the 5 yard line.
  • But between a false start and a bad play-call on 2nd down and the Bears are forced to settle for a field-goal. Bears back within a TD: 3-10
  • After a first down by UW, Weaver sacks the UW QB and forces a fumble. The Bears get the ball back on the UW side of the field (33 yard line). That’s two turnovers and they’ve most definitely helped keep Cal in the game.
  • But Bears go 3 and out and give ball back to UW with two minutes left in the half, but UW is unable to drive the field. They punt from mid-field with just over 30 seconds left at their own 11 yard line. They just take a knee. Halftime score: 3-10.
  • Bears have a good drive, mixing power runs from Brown, safe passes from Garbers and a big run from Dancy gets them well into UW territory. Then Dancy finishes the drive off with a 20+ yard TD run. Bears tie it up on the first drive of the 2nd half: 10-10
  • UW drives the field, mostly through running (although they convert a frustrating 3rd and 18 pass), but then the Bears stiffen and stop them on 3 consecutive plays inside the 5 yard-line. Huskies convert the field-goal to re-take the lead and put the Bears in an FG sized hole: 10-13
  • One thing that was definitely notable was how much quieter the crowd was than a normal game in Husky stadium. The 2 1/2 hour delay definitely thinned the crowd, and then it thinned further in the 2nd half as public transit options forced people to leave before the last train/bus.
  • Dancy playing a larger role now that he’s proved himself on the previous drive. Something about his running style is better suited to the UW defense. But after the Bears need a tough yard, they bring back in Brown and he not only gets the first down, but a few plays later breaks a bigger one to get the Bears down near the redzone.
  • But it’s Dancy who gets the TD after Brown comes out for a breather. Bears on top for the 1st time near the end of the 3rd quarter: 17-13
  • UW has yet another 4th and 1 and yet again converts. Both the Bears and Huskies have a terrible 3rd down conversion rate, but the Huskies have 3 or 4 4th down conversions to supplement that. It really kept a lot of drives alive.
  • And it happens AGAIN at the 2 yard line. Another 4th and 1. And again the Huskies go for it, but just before the play there’s a false start. With that, the Huskies kick the field goal. The Bears lead is narrowed to 1: 17-16
  • Wow, they just did a wide view of the stadium. There can’t be 15K there at this point.
  • Bad throw by Garbers on third down means the Bears go 3 and out and the Huskies get the ball back pretty quickly and a bit less than 6 minutes left. We sure the Bears win this one? Why am I nervous?
  • The Huskies are pretty methodical driving down the field. Nothing big ever, but lots of 4 to 6 yard gains to offset the few times the Bears come up with a stop. UW gets to the Bears 32 with 2 minutes left. But then 2 incomplete passes brings up 4th and long. The Huskies at first plan for a 4th down play, but then change to the field goal. It appears to be smart as he sneaks the 50 yarder inside the upright and take the lead. Bears need a two-minute drill down 17-19.
  • Two back to back fade passes net a bunch of yards, one on a completion and one on a PI foul. The Bears are down to the UW 30 with 1:30 left.
  • Then a big gain on a WR screen to Crawford gets the ball to the 4 yard line. That was a brilliant call after the last two passes. It had the safeties playing wide and going to a cover-2. It opened up the middle of the field for a play like that. Now the Bears are in a commanding position with just over a minute and in easy field-goal range.
  • On 2nd down the Bears center the ball at the 3 yard line to setup the game winning field goal on 3rd down on what is as close to an extra point as conceivable.
  • But then the Bears do the unexpected and run an inside with Brown. He appears to get over the goal line and score, but the linesman calls it short. There’s no good replay angle and the play stands. But the downside of the play is now the FG attempt isn’t straight on. Yet they do make it and are up with 8 seconds left 20-19.
  • The Huskies of course don’t convert and the Bears upset the Huskies 2 years in a row. Woohoo!

Week 2 choice – 2019 UW

As much as I have an affinity for the 2008 WSU game, it wasn’t a very important win. WSU was in quite a drought at that point and the Bears were close to the top of the Tedord era. So yeah, it was fun… but I want more than fun. I want important too!

So this week’s choice is last year’s “lightning bowl”:

Tune in tomorrow for my notes from watching it.

Week 2 candidate games

Alright, week 1 is behind us. It was a great victory over Tennessee. If the team keeps playing like that, this could be an undefeated season! Could this finally be our year?

Here are the games from 2002 to 2019 I think are worth considering for week 2:

  • 2006: After the disaster at Tennessee in week 1, the Bears come home and stick it to Minnesota.
  • 2008: Bears travel to WSU and absolutely destroy them. This one has a fond place in my heart because I was there and it was part of a memorable road-trip that lasted all the way through the following week’s game at Maryland (which will *NOT* be an option for next week).
  • 2010: Blow out over Colorado at home
  • 2011: Nail biter overtime victory over Colorado on the road
  • 2018: Solid win over BYU on their turf
  • 2019: What I affectionately call “the lightning bowl”… the win over UW in Seattle, preventing UW from avenging the previous year’s upset Cal Bear win.

So there’s actually a pretty good slate of games to pick from. While I will reserve the right to make the final selection, I’m all ears for which game people would prefer and your rationale for that pick.

What game to people want to see?

2020 Virtual Season Game 1

Tonight we re-watch the 2007 Tennessee game. The Bears had gone to Tennessee to start the 2006 season and been humbled. They were ranked 9th and the Vols ranked 23rd. Nothing went their way and a number of early big plays made the game a laugher, despite the more respectable final score (35-18). The Bears went on to have a great season in 2006 despite the weak start and were yet again ranked above the Vols to start the 2007 season. (#12 vs. #15) But because of the previous season’s game, there wasn’t a lot of confidence the Bears were the better team. That set the stage for a great game:

  • One forgets how full Memorial stadium was at this point in the Tedford years. Full to the brim and the crowd was very loud right from the get-go.
  • The Bears send the now legendary Zack Follett (he was young then) and hits the Vol QB in the back just as he went to throw the ball. Worrell Williams (another Cal linebacker) scooped and scored for an early Cal lead: 7-0.
  • Based on today’s standards, that would have been a personal foul on Follett for spearing. How the rules have changed.
  • Looking at the scores scrolling at the bottom of the screen, there are SOOOO many big schools that schedule weak opponents for week 1. That’s one thing I love about the Bears. We’re rarely afraid of a big week 1 match-up.
  • Tennessee pretty methodically drives down the field and scores a matching TD. The final play was particularly troublesome as a number of missed tackles turns what should have been a 2-3 yard gain into a 13 yard TD catch and run. Score tied: 7-7
  • Wow does Tedford look young in 2007. Kinda like being president really ages a guy, so does being a head coach (or at least for a lot of them).
  • People remember DeSean Jackson for his speed, but this was one of those games where he showed his other talents. He held on to a catch when he got drilled just as he caught the ball. That was very good hands.
  • Forsett was now the starting back after Marshawn Lynch went early to the NFL. A lot of plays he was easily stuffed for little game, far more so than Lynch, but his shiftiness and speed gave him some pretty night runs. A great juke on the Bears first drive gets the ball into the redzone.
  • A Cal QB sneak on the goal-line results in a TD. Bears back up 14-7
  • But Tennesse has a big kickoff return and is in the Cal redzone right away.]
  • For those who don’t remember, 2007 was in the middle of the tree-sitter era. They had a couple of pretty funny special interest pieces about it. Kirk Herbstreet was so confused. He just couldn’t imagine it.
  • Tennessee finishes off the drive with a short run of their own. Tied again: 14-14
  • After trading punts, well, really on the 2nd punt, DeSean Jackson does what he does in one of his most iconic punt returns. “The wizard of returns!” Bears back in front: 21-14
  • After Tennessee goes 3 and out, Tennessee purposely punts it out of bounds. The crowd was not pleased…
  • Tennessee gets a 44 yard pass play on a busted coverage and back into the Cal redzone again. A couple plays later a well designed swing pass evens the score again: 21-21
  • Jahvid Best came into the game as a true freshman on the next drive and breaks a big run on his 3rd carry to get down to the Tennessee 5 yard line. The beginning of a great career at Cal.
  • A screen play (a bit odd in the red-zone, yes?) gets Cal back in the red-zone and back to a TD lead: 28-21
  • Both teams are having pretty good luck on their kickoff returns. The ball always seems to get out to at least the 30, if not the 40 or more.
  • After Tennessee fails to convert on a 4th down at the Cal 30, Cal runs a brilliantly schemed screen to Forsett with a minute left in the half that gets down to the Tennessee 20 yard line.
  • But Longshore has 3 bad throws near the goal-line and the Bears settle for the field goal just before halftime. Bears up by 10: 31-21
  • And that’s the halftime score.
  • DeSean is given the ball on a reverse and gains 20+ yards on the 1st drive of the 2nd half.
  • Something about that run play really loosened up the Vol defense and Longshore makes 2 quick passes to get into the endzone. Bears up big now: 38-21
  • Tennessee breaks a long run down to the Cal 3 yard-line, but then Cal has a great defensive stand to force 4th and goal. Tennessee goes for it on 4th down (I’d say it was a bit early to get that desperate, particularly when down by 17 and a field goal is helpful). The Bears break up the pass and get the ball back without giving up any points.
  • Bears get enough yards to flip the field before having to punt after 2 bad snaps in a row result in a bad sequence.
  • The Bears defense does a pretty good job of forcing Tennessee to chip away underneath so as to lengthen their drives and stop the quick scores. However, Tennessee takes what the Bears give them and drive the field for a TD. Back to a 10 point margin: 38-28
  • Bears go 3 and out and give the ball back to Tennessee awful quickly. I remember this was a moment I started to get nervous. Tedford appeared to be going to one of his worst habits: Getting conservative offensively too early to try and run out the clock. Although I must say, the 3 plays weren’t all that conservative: 2 passes out of 3 downs.
  • Bears defense again keeps things in front of them and this time it works more like planned. The Vols use a lot of time and only get a field goal out of it. Nevertheless, the score is down to a TD: 38-31
  • And I’m exhibiting a classic Cal fan syndrome. I’m feeling nervous even watching a game I know the outcome for.
  • After the Bears punt, DeCoud (safety) misses an easy interception when he doesn’t see the ball. Nevertheless, Tennessee goes 3 and out themselves and give the ball back to the Bears with 10 minutes left.
  • Bears actually stick to throwing the ball quite a bit on these drives. They finally get a good completion and convert a 1st down for the first time in a few “drives”.
  • Forsett has a nice run, weaving his way through the linebackers, for another Cal TD that seems to be the one that demoralizes the Vols hope for a comback. Back up 14 points: 45-31
  • After Tennessee has to punt again, the Bears commit themselves to the run game. Forsett has a number of good runs, and most definitly shows his toughness, grinding out some tough yards and breaking tackles.
  • Boy, I forgot about that Tennessee injury where the defender went head first into the back of another defender. I can say this now because I know he was eventually fine, but boy did he go down like a sack of potatos and then didn’t move *AT ALL*.
  • After driving the length of the field Longshore fumbles on a QB sneak at the 1 yard line. Not only do they not get the score, it’s called a touch-back (which was marginal at best) thus giving Tennessee the ball at the 20 yard line.
  • What a great defensive play! Vols try a screen play on 1st down and the Bears both put pressure on the QB and sniff it out, causing a 7 yard loss.
  • It kinda feels like between the team mate injury and the 14-point lead, Tennessee’s heart was not in it at this point with 2 minutes left.
  • The Bears force a 3 and out and are able to run out the clock after getting one first down.
  • Final score: 45-31
  • Redemption!

Best Game in week 1 – 2007 Tennessee

Week 1 is an easy one, at least as far as I’m concerned:

I hope to watch it this afternoon and post my thoughts before I go to Church to do live-streaming this evening.

Looking back on ’09: Washington

(We continue the looking back series for the 2009 season. We’re going to continue the trend of doing these in “matching order” instead of chronological order. Today we look at the 2009 Washington game. Go here for past looking back posts.)

Pre-Game notes and thoughts:
The Bears had re-inserted themselves in the conference conversations after two upset wins over Arizona at home and Stanford in Palo Alto. They were 5-3 in conference and 8-3 overall. If they won this game, as everyone expected, they’d be tied for 2nd in the conference with 3 other teams and could go anywhere from the Holiday bowl to the Nut or Vegas. If they lost, something no one was talking about, it was the lowly Poinsettia bowl. They’d had a bye after the upset in the Big Game, something it was unanimously assumed was good for the team after the bruising Big Game. But could the off-time, including Thanksgiving actually be to the detriment of the Bears? Was Washington better than their 4-7 record indicated? We were about to find out.

Scoring and momentum changing plays:

  • Riley makes a couple of nice throws on the first drive of the game, one to Jones on 3rd down and one to Ross, that help get the Bears deep into Washington territory.
  • UW makes a nice stand at the 25, first stopping Vereen for a loss on 1st down and then not giving anything up the following two plays, stalling the drive.
  • D’Amato hooks the 42 yard field goal attempt and the Bears come up empty on their first drive.
  • UW goes for a pass off a of a reverse, that goes for 38 yards despite reasonably good coverage from Nnabufee.
  • Nnabufee gets taken advantage of again, when Locker throws a beautiful pass into the endzone and despite reasonable coverage, it was just too perfectly thrown. Two big plays and UW is up 0-7
  • Shane Vereen makes a nice cutback move to get into the secondary for a 50 yard gain down to the UW 15.
  • The drive stalls there and D’Amato this time succeeds on the kick. Bears slim the lead, but two trips this deep into UW territory and only 3 points is trouble: 3-7
  • After completing a nice pass again, UW tries to pound the ball 3 times on their next series of downs, failing to convert on 3rd and 3 and the Bears are able to force the punt from midfield.
  • After a 3 and out, Anger has one of his all-to-frequent for how good he is, less than stellar punts, giving UW the ball back around midfield.
  • The Huskies go for it on 4th and 5 from the Cal 34 yard line. Locker throws a strike to a hole in the zone to his favorite receiver (at least in this game), Jermaine Kearse to convert the 4th down.
  • UW goes for it again on 4th down, this time 4th and 2 from Cal 14 deciding to forgo the field goal, and the Bears sack Locker to get the ball back.
  • After another Cal 3 and out, Anger’s punt is returned down to the Cal 34.
  • Locker runs it on a designed run play, easily out sprinting around the outside and into the endzone for a 19 yard touchdown pass. The Bears had been dancing with disaster with their 3 and outs and finally UW capitalized to go up big: 3-14
  • Locker caps a complete drive with a 2 yard keeper on 1st and goal from the 2. Just before halftime the deficit goes from a challenge to troublesome: 3-21
  • Locker runs for a 1st down on 3rd and 7 and a busted play where it’s just amazing how fast he got around the outside pursuit and up field.
  • On the next play Locker throws a back-shoulder pass into the corner of the endzone and UW extends out of the locker room: It’s officially a mountain to climb for the comeback to be a possibility: 3-28
  • Riley throws two strikes on the Bear’s first drive of the 2nd half, the first to tight end Skylar Curran, the second to Marvin Jones, to get the Bears down the UW 17.
  • Boateng catches one in the flat and cuts back to the inside and into the endzone. Bears finally get a look at the colored section: 10-28
  • Washington bounces right back with a short (long kickoff return to midfield) but potent drive, capped by a 13 yard strike by Locker on a slant into the endzone. The Bears touchdown is for not: 10-35
  • Sofele takes the kickoff return down the left sideline, showing off his speed in hitting the hole from the wedge, down to the UW 18 yard line.
  • Riley throws a horrible ball on 3rd and 4 for what should have been an easy TD. Then on 4th down, Riley gets a horrible spot on a run off a busted play and the Bears turn it over on downs in the redzone.
  • Riley gets sacked for the umpteenth time with less than 7 minutes left in the game and the Huskies recover at the Cal 42.
  • Polk caps the short field drive with a 10 yard touchdown run. That’s the final score with just over 3 minutes left: 10-42
  • Riley fumbles again on a scramble (the ball was forced out) and Huskies recover again for their second turnover.


  • Nnabufee really had a rough first quarter. Not only did he miss on the two long plays on the first drive, he also was out of position on a number of smaller plays as well.
  • There was an interesting stat shown with Riley’s completion percentage in wins (62%) and losses (44%). It clearly shows how teams have been forcing the Bears to beat them through the air. When Riley was successful, the Bears would win. When he wasn’t, they’d lose. I’d say the same trend played true in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see if opposing defenses play things similarly in 2011. I kinda hope they do, because I think the Bears will burn that sort of strategy, but the less potent run game in 2011 may allow defenses to play the Bears in a more balanced fashion.
  • One could definitely tell the impact of Matt Summers-Gavin not being able to play. Riley did not have a lot of time to throw and the running holes were inconsistent.
  • Cal ran a lot of the wildcat in the 1st half this game and it just didn’t work. At least two drives were stalled because of losses on wildcat plays.
  • The pressure on Riley started to take it’s toll in the 2nd quarter. He fumbled once (Bears recovered) and was sacked to effectively end another drive. He seemed to be much more skidish after those two plays.
  • The final score before halftime was really demoralizing for the Bears. Not only was it a complete drive with successful runs, passes and a few 3rd down conversions, it also was clock sapping, not letting the Bears have a good opportunity to score before halftime. Down by 11 and down by 18 at half is a very different thing.
  • Riley did not have a good half. He was 2 of 8 at one point and missed a number of open receivers (including a wide-open Verran Tucker in the endzone) as well as a having too many mis-throws. The pressure on him didn’t make his life easy, but that doesn’t deserve all the blame. It was just another off game for Riley.
  • It’s really too bad the Bears couldn’t stop UW on their first 2nd half drive. 10-21 would have been a very doable situation and the momentum would be all on the Cal sideline. Instead the Bears were already in desperate catchup mode.
  • Riley actually didn’t have a bad 3rd quarter. Minus a couple of key bad throws, overall he made most of his throws despite the heat that UW was bringing.
  • You definitely got the sense that Riley was affected by the cold. Out of the locker-room in both halves, he didn’t do half bad, but later in both halves as he got cold both his accuracy and his decision making went downhill.
  • The Bears were desperate and tired in the 4th quarter. Nothing went right after Cal’s lone touchdown in the 3rd quarter.

Implications for the future:
This being Cal’s last trip to Seattle, it’s instructive to the home-field advantage that the Huskies have. With Oregon’s rise to prominence and USC’s extended stay on top, UW’s storied home field advantage has gotten a lot less press. That doesn’t make it any less real. Let’s just be thankful this year we’ve got an early season day game instead of the late season games of the last few years and the night games have been killer as well. In most ways however, these are two very different teams than in 2009 (the soon to be published 2010 recap will not have that shortcoming). If there’s one thing that’s consistent it’s that UW is one team that can play the power game with Cal quite effectively. The Bears won’t just be able to power-up and win this one.

In some ways this game was every bit as terrifying as we all remember it. In other ways, it was much closer than the final score indicated. I will say this, this game was UW’s best performance of the season. They were clicking on all cylinders. You could argue they haven’t played a game this well since either, particularly on the offensive side of the ball (their victory in the Holiday bowl over Nebraska last year was an incredibly strong defensive performance). There’s not much about UW that scares me at this point, although saturday’s should be a fairly evenly matched affair. I wouldn’t expect them to as great as they were on this night. Not even that team could have repeated this performance.