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Archive for November, 2007

Excuse Me For My Absence

Well, I picked the right time to flee the country, didn’t I? Missed a lackluster win, a rainy loss to USC (which I tuned in via the magic of satellite-based Internet while floating somewhere near Costa Rica), and then was at 30,000 feet during the UW debacle.

So, Big Game week! Love it. At least there’s something on the line for Cal.

Unlike Ken, I’m in the upper deck, row L or something, for the Big Game. So I’ll have a nice view from far away and at an angle. The new Stanford Stadium, for those Cal fans who are going for the first time, is gorgeous. I went there for a match of the other kind of football and it’s shocking how much better it is than the old stadium was. Until Memorial gets rebuilt, we can’t claim slightly-less-crappy-stadium bragging rights over the ‘Furd.

Saw an interesting item on the Golden Bear Football News site, with a 2008 schedule. It appears to be the same one as is posted at If it’s true, the Big Game next year returns to the pre-Thanksgiving slot, which is good. That’s when the game should be played, in my opinion. This December Big Game stuff? I don’t approve. You want to play football in December, you’ve got two choices: play in a bowl game or schedule a game at Hawaii. Your choice.

Interesting schedule, though. Home game versus Michigan State at the end of August, then an early trip to the Polouse (best weather Cal’s ever had there, I’m guessing), and a road trip all the way to Maryland, followed by a bye week. Three consecutive home games in late September/early October, including the late out-of-conference Colorado State visit. Then one road game, two more home games in late October/early November, two November road games, and the final home game with Stanford.

November 8, 2007 at USC, then November 15, 2007 at Oregon State. Maybe I should firm up my international travel plans now.

Big Game Tickets have arrived

Well, my Big Game Tickets came in the mail over the Holiday weekend. Everything looks good minus one thing: I’m in Row “C”. Now I can understand the whole lettered rows thing because lets face it, there’s a lot of rows and we don’t know how confident that a Stanford student can count that high. “‘C’ is for cookie”, that they’ll understand.

But assuming that A-B-C means I’m in what is normally called row 3, that’s stinking low to the ground. I’m also on the lower deck, something I thought was good until I realized I was in row “C”. Unless they’re counting in Hex, and wouldn’t that be awesome, I’m way too low.

Anyone know the details on the rows?

Update on Bears in Bowl

Well the Thanksgiving weekend didn’t do any favors to Cal fans hoping for a good bowl. Although only two of the four criteria that would prevent the Bears from going to a bowl were even “in play” neither of them went the way of the Bears. Oregon’s loss to UCLA both hurt the likelihood that two teams make it to the BCS by effectively eliminating Oregon from consideration and ensured that UCLA would be bowl eligible since they now have 6 wins. It also means that UCLA still has a shot at 7 wins, which means they could still go to a higher bowl than the Bears, even if the Bears beat Stanford.

In fact, the only thing that went the Bears way was USC beating ASU as that ensured that both ASU and USC are still candidates for BCS bowls. The likely scenario at this point, assuming they both win their last game, is USC in the Rose and ASU in the Fiesta, particularly if Missouri beats Oklahoma in the Big-12 championship game giving the Fiesta bowl two at-large spots since Missouri will go to the BCS championship game.

What this all means is that if the Bears collapse continues in the Big Game, the Bears bowl fate rests in the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils. If they can beat Arizona, they’ll ensure Cal goes to a bowl by keeping Arizona from bowl eligibility. They’ll also bump the Bears up to either the Las Vegas Bowl or the Emerald “San Francisco Nut” Bowl by winning convincingly enough to ensure a Fiesta Bowl birth for themselves (otherwise it is the Armed Services Bowl in Forth Worth-“less”, TX for the Bears).

But lets not forget that all the Bears need to do is beat Stanford to go to a bowl. If the Bears win, the outcome of the Arizona-Arizona State game is only about positioning within the bowl line-up. Additionally, again assuming the Bears win, the outcome of the USC-UCLA game matters as well for positioning as a UCLA loss would mean the Bears go to a higher bowl than UCLA.

So those are your rooting orders for next Saturday:

  1. Root for Cal over Stanford (duh)
  2. Root for ASU over Arizona
  3. Root for USC over UCLA (I know it’s hard, but try anyway)

Washington Podcast

The Washington game podcast is now posted. You can listen to it over on the podcast page.

Will the Bears be bowl-less?

Ragnarok over at California Golden Blogs has been doing a great series on the probabilities of which bowl Cal ends up in. One of the possibilities is “no bowl”. The point of this post is to re-phrase the good work he has done in scenarios instead of percentages.

UPDATE at 7:30 AM on 11/20/07: I’ve been unsure about a rule that I heard about 7-5 vs. 6-6 teams and so I didn’t include it. Ragnarok found it and it can be located here on page 9 (although for 2006, one has to believe it applies to 2007). As such, it adds another criteria to avoid missin a bowl:

For Cal to end up not going to a bowl game, ALL of the following must happen:

  1. Arizona must be bowl eligible
  2. Cal must lose the Big Game (added on update)
  3. UCLA must be bowl eligible
  4. The Pac-10 must send only one team to a BCS bowl game

Breaking those down, Arizona has one game left against Arizona State that they must win to be bowl-eligible. They’ll of course be the underdog. Computers and others who don’t know the subtle details might think that Arizona, although an underdog, has a good shot at beating ASU, particularly after Oregon lost to Arizona having previously beat ASU. What that fails to consider is that Oregon lost their star QB during the Arizona game and their team completely fell apart. Also, ASU was in Oregon and Arizona was in Tuscon. Finally, the game is at ASU’s home stadium, so I don’t give Arizona much of a chance. In any case, whatever the odds, if ASU wins that game, the Bears are in a bowl no matter what.

Similar to Arizona being bowl eligible is Cal losing the Big Game. If Cal wins the Big Game, they’ll go to a bowl over any 6-6 team because of the above noted rule. Since the best Arizona could do is 6-6, if Cal wins the Big Game, they have to be selected before Arizona and therefore will go to a bowl game. This logic also applies to UCLA if they are 6-6. (Paragraph added on update)

UCLA has two games left and is 5-5 making them less clear cut than Arizona. With two games left they only have to win one to be bowl eligible at 6-6. However those games are against what have been the toughest teams in the Pac-10, Oregon and USC. I give UCLA almost zero chance against USC in the Coliseum, but the big catch here is that Oregon, who I’d normally say would blow away UCLA, has lost Dixon, their star QB. This is the big variable that is nearly impossible to predict. It’s definitely the “risky” of the two games. In any case, if UCLA loses both of these, which is definitely within the realm of possibility, Cal goes to a bowl.

As for the BCS bowls, this is the biggest unknown of the three criteria. Of course the Pac-10 gets one for sure, the Rose Bowl. Assuming ASU can’t win out and leapfrog enough teams to get into the championship game, what we’re talking about is the winner of the Pac-10 going to the Rose Bowl and likely the Fiesta Bowl liking a second Pac-10 team for their at-large berth(s). There are too many different scenarios to play out here and be comprehensive but the way I see it, if there are two 2-loss Pac-10 teams, the Pac-10 will get two BCS berths. The three candidates for that are Oregon, who has games left against UCLA and OSU, USC, who has games against ASU and UCLA and ASU, who has games against USC and Arizona. If you want to root for the scenario with the most opportunities for two 2-loss teams, root for USC to beat ASU who is currently a 1-loss team to date and then for those three teams to win the rest of their games. In that scenario Oregon ends up in the Rose Bowl because they win the Pac-10 tie-breakers and ASU is a VERY tempting opportunity for the Fiesta and USC is always a favorite for every BCS game. I could see them getting an offer from any of the four. (Please note that the BCS can only take two teams from each conferences, so all 3 can’t go.)

You’ll notice that both Arizona and UCLA factor into how many 2-loss or better teams there are. Because of this it’s tempting to view the first two criteria as mutually exclusive to the third. While there is definitely a lot of overlap, it is possible for the Pac-10 to have two 2-loss teams with both UCLA and Arizona being bowl eligible. The scenario is a USC meltdown: USC loses to both ASU and UCLA. That way ASU still has a game to lose be a 2-loss team (Arizona’s needed win) and Oregon can wins out (thus beating UCLA) without preventing UCLA from being bowl eligible. While it’s a bit odd, it’s not out of the realm of possibility and is a wonderful scenario for USC haters.

Whatever the scenario, if the Pac-10 gets two BCS bowls, even if both Arizona and UCLA are bowl eligible, Cal will get a bowl.

As for the scenarios where Cal doesn’t end up in the Armed Services Bowl in Fort Worth, TX, basically if two or three of the above criteria work out the way of Cal it’ll bump Cal up to either the Vegas or the Emerald “San Francisco Nut” Bowl depending on how the chips fall. Since the scenarios where only one of the three criteria come true seem to be small because of the BCS bid overlap, it seems likely that Cal will be in either the Las Vegas or Nut Bowl or sitting at home by my counting.

Fire Tedford. Are you NVTS!?!

There’s a great line from movie “History of the World, Part I” from the Roman Empire period:

Oh you are nuts. N-V-T-S – NUTS!

That’s the way I feel about anyone who thinks it is time to dismiss Tedford. Apparently these people don’t know about the alternative and just how hit and miss a new coach can be, and that’s not even taking into account the GUARANTEED short-term downsides in recruiting and other problems the loss of continuity causes. So for those of you who think stupid thoughts, here is a quick list of things to remember:

  • Number of Coaches a winning record in every one of their seasons (3 seeason min.): 1 – Jeff Tedford
  • Tedford’s winning percentage rank (3 season min.): 4th behind Andy Smith, James Schaeffer and Pappy Waldorf
  • Number of 10 win seasons outside of Tedford’s 2: 5 and only one since 1949
  • Number of coaches who have had any success in getting new facilities since the 20s: 1 – Jeff Tedford

That last one is the kicker for me. For a moment lets pretend that Tedford is a horrible coach who somehow managed to use Holmoe’s recruits (snicker, snicker) to do well and will now fall on his face. Even if that was true, he’s in the middle of building something (quite literally) that’ll have a larger impact on the longterm success of the program that any coaching staff could ever have: renovating the facilities.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the most important game of the 2007 season in my opinion was not played on Saturday. It was played in the court room during the week. We don’t have the official answer yet but it seems that the worst case scenario is a delay of game penalty and not a loss. Hopefully we’ll hear soon that it won’t even cost the University a delay but assuming there is a delay, we need to keep this good thing rolling long enough to cut down the trees and break ground on the SAHPC.

Tedford is a great coach. Yeah, 2007 wasn’t his shining hour, in fact nothing has matched his most shining season of 2004 yet, but I have full confidence in his ability to learn from this season’s mistakes and improve in the future. He’s got a great eye for talent and continues to put together good recruiting classes despite the sub-standard facilities (unlike Oregon and UCLA) and and lack of a long term tradition of winning (unlike USC). Down years are part of the experience of college football. Sometimes it’s a key injury. Sometimes it’s the lack of talent at a position or two. Sometimes it’s losing the moral of the team. What sets good coaches apart from bad ones is their ability to retool and rebound in future years.

I have full faith in Tedford to be able to do so.

Washington (former) Live-Blogging

OK, here we go Bears fans… it’s raining, it’s cold and the Bears need a win badly:

  • For starters I’m surprised that this game is on ABC. It definitely reflects how few Pac-10 games there are this week.
  • As expected, Locker isn’t playing, Carl Bonnel will start… isn’t that the same guy who gave us trouble last year?
  • TV commentary says “Longshore finally heathy”… I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Got to love those bogus stats: “Willmingham has beat Cal 7 of the 9 times he has played them”… um… yeah, back when he was the head coach of Stanford. Against different coaching staffs. What does that have to do with anything?
  • Kay kicked off!?! Isn’t that usually Larson’s job?
  • Ugh…. that kind of run defense is going to make for a long game. Definite over-pursuit by the linebackers. That’s the same thing that killed them against UCLA. Huskys in Cal territory on one play.
  • 1st and goal from the 9. Thankfully it’s the 9, but lets be honest, this is a REALLY bad start for the Bears defense.
  • GAH! That was WAY too easy. Cal is going to have to entirely rework their inside run defense if they’re going to hold the Huskys: 0-7
  • Make them re-kick!… YES!!!
  • Well we only got an extra 6 yards but it’s clear there is opportunity for more.
  • This offensive line has been a HUGE run blocking disappointment. I’ve never known of a team with such good pocket protection and such horrible run blocking.
  • GAH! We can’t have penalties like that. (Delay of game) That was a first down given away.
  • And now we’re punting on a 3 and out… that doesn’t give the defense much time to scheme and fix their run problems. Thankfully it’s a comercial break to give them a little more time.
  • This is making it look like USC’s ability to run the ball last week had less to do with USC and more to do with Cal’s defensive line.
  • Cal really loading the box now… sets up a big play-action opportunity. Of course as long Moye is missing tackles like that on the reverse, they may never have to throw.
  • Really slippery ball today. That’s 3 bobbles/fumbles in two plays.
  • This is just ridiculously horrible. This run defense S.T.I.N.K.S. so far. They’ve only thrown the ball once on this drive and they’re still destroying the Bears and dragging people into the endzone: 0-14
  • So to recap, we’ve got two entirely on the ground drives by UW that bookmarks a pretty pathetic 3 and out by the Bears. If this doesn’t change soon this is going to be the worst loss of the Tedford era. There’s your AF-LACK trivia question for you: What’s the Bears worst loss of the Tedford era?
  • I’ve been really disappointed by Cal’s kickoff runbacks in the 2nd half of the season, particularly by Hawkins. There’s been far too much delaying and stutter stepping and not enough RUNNING!
  • Good to see that the Cal running game is starting to get some traction… but it won’t matter unless the defense can improve.
  • Now THAT’S the type of play action Cal needs! Way to go both Longshore throwing on the move and DeSean both getting open and making the most of the opportunity.
  • OK, into the redzone. Let’s count the runs and passes. Come on Tedford! Now is the time to pass-first!
  • YESSSSS!!!!!!!!! See what I’m talking about? These defenses are biting SO hard on the run game in the redzone that the passing game has all kinds of room to navigate.
  • Ugh… that missed extra point may come back to bite us later. Gonna need a 2-point conversion at some point (maybe anyway).
  • Hey, was that some heat coming through the line for the Cal defense? Miracle of miracles. Maybe Cal has got some heart back.
  • Great defensive series for the Bears. Good pass pressure, good run stopping, good coverage down-field. Here’s hoping for a turn around.
  • End of first quarter recap: Washington owned the ground on their first two possessions driving for two easy TDs. Cal seems to have dug deep and drove for a TD themselves and then held the Huskys to a 3 and out. Good old Mo’ is in Cal’s corner right now.
  • Two good 3rd and short runs by Forsett to keep this 3rd Cal drive alive.
  • Here’s a key 4th down from the UW 45… review… nope, that was not a 1st down, they’re wasting our time with this review.
  • Just so it’s out there, I’m OK with a QB sneak… well, that run by Forsett worked well too.
  • YES!!! Yet again going to the air in the redzone and a 2nd TD: 13-14… the only thing separating the Bears and Huskys now is a bad extra-point snap/hold.
  • Hicks my man, how can you miss that interception!?! Boy would that have been sweet.
  • Yet another great series by the Cal defense. Cal now gets the ball back with an opportunity to take the lead after a DeSean punt return that made a little something out of nothing on a booming punt.
  • Ugh… Longshore’s obligatory “ill-advised decision” happens in a bad spot. Come on Defense! Bail us out.
  • Let’s not be too harsh on Longshore for that one. Every QB gets one mistake a game.
  • I get the feeling the Cal defense is not very well conditioned because it seems like the Cal offense giving them time to rest makes an unusually huge difference in their defensive strength. Yeah, they were given a rough situation in this instance, just a few seconds off, but there’s been a trend of this all season: 13-21 (on the short-field TD for UW)
  • I used to pride myself in the WR blocking for Cal, but this year these WRs have lost what they used to have. That out to DeSean should have been a 5-10 yarder if Jordan could have blocked his guy. Instead it’s a 10 yard illegal block penalty on a block that didn’t even spring the play loose.
  • Forsett, don’t run sideways/backwards!
  • Some comercial time analysis: The Bears are back in this game and seem to be playing with heart. Yes the Longshore mistake hurt the Bears but they’re still only down 8 in the middle of the 2nd quarter with a great deal to be hopeful about. Let’s see if the defense can continue to step up because that will be the key to giving a start-and-go offense the opportunities they need to catch up.
  • That holding penalty was key. Washington had the running game going again when they were put back to 1st and 20. Three incompletes later (with good pressure on the QB I might add) UW was punting.
  • What a great run by Forsett… ah Fouts… a Forrest Gump reference, really?
  • Let’s see, three redzone apperances and we’ve got 3 TD’s on 3 passes (and zero runs). I bet you next time Cal is in the redzone there might be some run plays and there will be a lot more running room than in past games: 20-21
  • OK, I probably agree that Hampton touched the ball, but the TV commentators have WAY too much confidence in the “no question it hit his hands”. It was pretty marginal. I could see it going either way… OK defense. Do it again.
  • That sack was huge because it used their last timeout. That means it’s all pass plays from here on out. Just ask Riley on the sideline, he’ll tell you why.
  • Ugh… that hurts. I really though the Bears would hold to the field goal. That was wise of UW to pick on Conte. He’s a young kid and doesn’t know how to defend the fade route yet to be able to stop that: 20-28
  • IDIOT TV COMMENTATORS. The Bears will get the ball to start the 2nd half.
  • Halftime analysis: Two turnovers deep in Cal territory has led to 14 UW points. Seeing as how Washington has been completely ineffective otherwise after their first two drives where the Cal defense couldn’t stop the run game, I think there is a lot to be hopeful about. The Bears are dominating on both sides of the ball ever since the mid-1st quarter. As long as they can keep the mistakes to a minimum in the 2nd half and I think the Bears win this one running away with it late in the game. The 8-point deficit is the least of the Bears concerns at this point. All they have to do is play the way they did in the 2nd quarter minus the mistakes.
  • I guess I should change that above statement: IDIOT TEAM CAPTAIN! That stinks.
  • Um… we can’t afford for the beginning of the 2nd half to go like the beginning of the 1st half… what’s going on guys?
  • So the way I see it, between kicking twice and that big run, Cal just spotted UW another 3 points, now down by 11: 20-31.
  • FINALLY a down-field pass! Now let’s see if the Bears can finally punch it in. Please, please, please pass the ball.
  • See, now the Bears are up a creek. If they pass early, they’re keeping the defense who is expecting a run on their heals. But now that it’s 3rd and goal from the 4 and it’s clearly a passing play making it much more difficult. The result, they’ve got to kick the FG: 23-31
  • At least the defense is back on track and forces a 3 and out. The open receivers are a little troublesome but it’s a 3 and out nevertheless.
  • I think the big question: When do the Bears go for 2?… perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, but to some extent the game is settling down and there may not be as may future scoring opportunities as the 1st half would indicate. Of course as soon as I say that the Bears go 3 and out.
  • This is trouble. This defense looks tired. Another series where the 3 and out exposes their conditioning issues.
  • How horrible is that? That “intentional grounding” went wrong on so many levels. Not only would the Bears have picked it up, The replay should have looked at that and pushed them back another 8-10 yards to where the ball was when it was called dead. And then how can they give up a 1st down on 3rd and 24!?! Conte has potential but boy is he young. Hampton really has blown it to lose his starting job to a guy as young as Conte.
  • OK, now it’s time to start worrying. 11 points with the vast majority of the 3rd quarter behind us and the offense not dominating like they were before… it’s starting to look a little bleak after that field-goal: 23-34.
  • These refs are horrible and I’ve seen this over and over this year. They seem to presume it is a fumble and let the replay booth overturn it. But because there must be conclusive evidence, anything marginal is considered a fumble. That ball was knocked out by the ground. It was obvious to me at full speed and it’s doubly obvious in slow-motion.
  • Further proof in the final result: the ridiculous play stands.
  • That 4th down stop was HUGE. Breathed some life into a growingly desperate situation.
  • What did I say at halftime: Need to keep the mistakes to a minimum. These penalties and miscues are killing the Bears.
  • How can we be running the ball on 3rd and 34? Why not do what UW did and just air it out and hope to get lucky like they did.
  • THESE STINKING REFS ARE BLIND TODAY! Not only are the Bears stinking it up but we’re getting screwed by the refs too. They’d better overturn this one.
  • And so is the replay booth. This is just ridiculous.
  • OK, this is what it comes down to: 3 drives at the most, no extra points to give. They MUST get two touchdowns.
  • Hawkins has GOT to catch that ball!!! That kills.
  • There’s never been a more critical time for a 3 and out for the Bears… and it’s not happening. They’re only 10 yards from FG range to put this game away.
  • Under 4 minutes now… we’re nearly at on-side kick time if the Bears can close this one up on the next drive.
  • That’s pretty much the game right there. First down with 2:35 to go inside FG range… call the fat lady.
  • Oh, while we’re fuming, here’s some fuel to throw on the fire: Washington’s only Pac-10 win before this was over lowly Stanford… they’re the bottom of the Pac-10.

Final analysis: My pre-game analysis was correct. The Bears would decide who won this game. If they could play anywhere even close to their potential they’d win. If they didn’t, they’d lose. During those periods that Cal played reasonably, they dominated. But they came out of the tunnel flat and gave up 14 quick points, then another 14 off of stupid turnovers, and that was all UW needed to win (as the Bears only scored 23). Beyond that, this game is on the defense’s back. They let the UW running game run all over them even when it was blatently obvious that they were going to the running game (like on the last drive).

I’ve been pretty forgiving of the defense in past games saying that they have been holding the opposition to the low 20’s. Well guess what, 37 ain’t the low 20’s. And it was against the bottom of the Pac-10.

This is seriously the most frustrating season for me in my memory. Even 1-11 wasn’t as frustrating to me. I was only expecting 3 or 4 wins out of that team. It’s twice as ridiculous that this team is guaranteed to have a losing Pac-10 record and has to pull out a win against Stanford to keep above .500 overall. This team is way too talented for that.

Frustrating, ridiculous, frustrating.

Pre-Game Washington thoughts

I didn’t do a preview article for Rivals this week, just too much going on, so I’m not as up to speed on the Huskys as I’d like to be. Nevertheless here are a few things that should be known about them:

  • Young QB Locker has been the key to the success they had early in the season. As teams adjusted to this new wrinkle in their offense, the lost the ability to win games. It doesn’t help that he’s now injured and won’t play (at least that’s what I last heard).
  • Their defense is horrible. They actually had a shot to beat Oregon about a month ago but their defense couldn’t get a stop to save their lives.
  • The weather in Seattle is supposed to be rainy today with a game-time temperature just under 50 degrees. Sounds a lot like last week for the Bears.

All of that said, I think this game comes down to the Bears ability to execute and rebound emotionally from the USC loss. On paper, I think the Bears are a better team at 3/4ths of the positions on the field. But this game has very little to do with what’s on paper, particularly considering the rainy conditions. This game is about who wants it more. Do the Bears want to salvage some respect and win out? Do the Huskys want to finish off the season strong to give them momentum going into next year?

Whoever wants this game more is likely going to win.

USC game analysis

As those who have read my below post (with the update) things didn’t go well for me watching the game intently and to make matters worse, I don’t have it on my TiVo so I can’t do my usual re-watch to break it down. (BTW, anyone have a torrent link I could use? None of the normal guys seem to be posting the Torrents now that the Bears are losing.)

Nevertheless I have a few last minute things to say before moving on to USC. But first the caveat to my podcast:

I was wrong about Longshore not ever having brought the team back. Actually, after I said it on my podcast, I knew that’s what my Rivals article would be about and I was surprised what I found during my researching Longshore’s comeback opportunities because of how short term our collective fan memory is. Did we all forget that Longshore brought back the Bears against Oregon? Or, and this one is at least last year, what about last year’s Washington game? The Bears scored on two drives where Longshore passed for 60+ yards on each. Heck, or even last year’s Arizona game… he got the team down to the Arizona 30 when the ball was freakishly tipped at the line allowing for the interception. That wasn’t his fault and he seemed to be in control for the comeback win up until then.

After researching it, I think Longshore has what it takes when he is 100% but as we all know, he hasn’t been 100% since the Oregon game. His throwing motion is still all messed up and although I think the ankle doesn’t hurt as much as it used to, he’s still throwing like he’s injured. It’s frustrating because this season hinged not on the Oregon game, but on a late hit late in that game. Otherwise, I think there is real reason to believe the Bears could still be undefeated. I mean, is there a single game yet that the Bears wouldn’t have won if the Bears played the way they did at Oregon? Not from my vantage point.

So really, when I put it all together, the only thing that is really frustrating me about these Bears at this point is redzone play-calling. Tedford is being SOOOOOOOO stubborn. I think he’s slowly pulling out of that stubborn-ness but it’s taking 3 games too many.

Perhaps the Washington game is when that stubborn-ness ends.

What’s my problem!?!

I’ll tell you what my problem is! I’m WAY too busy.

I’m sure you’ve all be noticing that I haven’t been posting much lately and for that I apologize. For me, I’m pretty good a juggling lots of tasks but I reach a point where I get so busy that I just can’t keep all the balls in the air and everything comes crumbling down. Saturday’s experience going to the USC game is a perfect example because I had been so busy that everything was rush, rush, rush:

How much I had been rushing became clear to me when I reached the I-80 & I-680 interchange at about 3 PM on Saturday and a huge sinking feeling hit me as I realized I’d left my tickets for the game back at home. Usually, one could do the loop home from there in about 2 hours putting me in Oakland about 30 minutes after the game started. But considering that I had left the house at 1:15 and was just now, 1:45 later, at a spot that only takes me an hour to get to, I knew that I’d barely make half time if I turned around. I was faced with two choices, neither too hopeful, either turn around and watch the game from home or try to figure out how to get replacement tickets at the game (either scalpers or through the ticket-office if they’d give me replacement tickets).

I called my brother who was already on his way to the game to scout out for me if there were any replacement opportunities and continued towards Berkeley. After about 15 minutes he called back to let me know that there is a ticket replacement strategy where I could re-pay for the tickets at the south endzone special services ticket booth and then send in the original tickets for a refund. (There’s a helpful hint for everyone to remember when they’re caught in the same pinch I was.) So we continued on.

At this point I should probably get on to the weather…

In Roseville it had been beautiful all week including Saturday morning. It started to get a little overcast around 11 AM so I looked up the weather forecast and it told me that there was a 30% chance of light showers/drizzle. I figured that it would probably be inconsequential but I packed my emergency ponchos which are nothing more than garbage bags cut differently so that they’re in the shape of ponchos (Target sells them). They’re great because the fold up to be the size of a deck of cards, maybe less, but work well in a pinch for an adult… adult being the key phrase for the rest of this post. Other than that I just brought my boys coats (not rain proof) instead of their sweatshirts.

Just as I was leaving Roseville, the drizzle started. As I was heading down the freeway, the drizzle turned to a consistent shower and messed up the traffic something nasty. (That’s why it took 1:45 to do what usually takes 1:00.) But as we got on I-680 the rain cleared up and I figured things were looking good. Things continued to look good through when we got on the bus at the Rockridge BART station with no rain, although it was overcast and threatening. I figured it was going to clear as we had already passed the storm in the valley and the storms tend to move from southwest to northeast in this area.

But as soon as we get into Berkeley the rain starts and as those of you at the game know, it never stopped. That last part was the killer for me, apparently the ever optimistic one. I assumed the rain would let up so I didn’t pull out the emergency ponchos for either myself or my boys. I was particularly hesitant with the boys because they’re humongous on the boys and really don’t work very well if you’re not holding them in your lap. So here we are, midway through the 1st quarter, soaked to the bone when my youngest says “Daddyyyyyy, I want to go hooooommme.”

Now, I may be a dedicated Bears fan who manages the unthinkable of bringing two toddlers to the game, every game, but there comes a point in every die-hard father’s mind when a line has been crossed. On Saturday I crossed that line.

Instantly I went into disaster recovery mode. I couldn’t just bail right then. The Bears were winning. But I also knew there was no way, even if the rain stopped that very instant, that’d we’d last the whole game. All I could do was hold out for half time and then do everything in my power to get the boys to my mom’s house to change and watch the game on TV. All I had to do was get everything ready to go and figure out how to passify the boys until then. The emergency ponchos came out of their bags for the boys (not for me as I was fine) and they got all the knee bouncing and encouragement we could muster.

When USC punted to the Bears with just over a minute left in the half, we took off boldly attempting to do what no man had done before: Get home before the 2nd half started.

The first key to that was finding a bus. See, the shuttles don’t run except before and after the game. I was hopeful that with the number of fans bailing that they’d run a bus or two at halftime but I knew that it was a longshot. That left two alternatives. #1: Put the boys on shoulders and make the 1.7 mile trek to the Rockridge BART station, something difficult to do in 20 minutes and very labor intensive for a couple of soaked guys. #2: Walk the shorter and more downhill distance to the Berkeley BART station and take BART to Rockridge. Considering there was a transfer involved and everything, there was no way that was going to happen in the alloted time. On the other hand we’d be out of the rain sooner.

So we started the walk to Rockridge.

Just then the clouds parted… no not in real life. They parted because the canon went off at the stadium. THE BEARS SCORED! And then the clouds parted again!!! A 51 bus showed up right as we were walking down college. IT’S A MIRACLE. After all 50 Bear fans piled on board, we made the trek to Rockridge. After the quarter mile walk to our van (arriving at 3:30 there was no hope of getting a spot in the lot), we jumped in and turned on the radio. The 2nd half had just started. While it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty good. We were at my mom’s house shortly after the Bears got the ball back. Not to shabby if I do say myself.

But the score was still 10-14… anyone know what the story with the canon was?

UPDATE at 8:45 AM on 11/16/07: Oh yeah, one more goof I made… I recorded the game on the wrong channel. It’s a nice TiVo with DirecTV feature that when searching for programs to record by title (as opposed to on the guide), it’ll show you programs that aren’t in your subscription package. So I recorded the game on the ESPN GamePlan channel as opposed to ABC by accident. (It’s even more misleading because when I went to record it there was only one instance of the USC at Cal game (the GamePlan one) and this was likely because the guide doesn’t seem to update to show which game is going to be on ABC until the very last minute, which is ridiculous since it was announced on Monday what station (ABC vs. ESPN vs. ESPN2) and which local regions would carry each game.

USC Podcast

My USC Podcast which was recorded on the way home from the rain soaked game is finally posted.

You’ll notice that the background noise is much, much, much better than previous games that I recorded in the car on the way home. This is due to two improvements. #1: I bought a noise canceling headset/microphone to record the podcasts. #2: I’m using noise filtering software to further reduce the background noise. While the noise canceling headset/microphone was probably sufficient and made a HUGE difference on its own, it also reduced the background noise level to a degree that software filtering would actually work without introducing a bunch of noise artifacts. The combination of the two nearly entirely eliminated the background noise and I’m very happy with the result. I intend at some point to make a post about the research that went into the solution with audio samples of each stage.

In any case, the podcast is now available to be listened to on the podcast page.

Analysis of Longshore posted at Rivals

I did a post-USC recap of Longshore’s 4th quarter comeback attempts over his 2-year career that has been posted at All Eyes On Longshore.

This one is a subscription article.

What really matters

Before I launch into my post-game posts… let’s remember that player health is the #1 thing all college football fans should be rooting for. Along those lines, it looks like Washington QB Jake Locker could use our prayers/cheers.

Let’s hope he can come back onto the field in full health next week against our Bears.

USC preview article posted

My weekly statistical preview article is posted at Rivals: Crunching the Numbers: USC vs Cal.

As has been the trend, the article is subscription free.

Can Cal beat USC?

Many may ask why this site has been so quiet the last few days. Could it be that Ken is following Jason’s example of “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” Or perhaps my perpetually upbeat nature can’t find any angle on which to predict a win?

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Nope. The only thing keeping me from posting is that I’ve been CRAZY busy this week. I’ve had a huge project due at work today and at home I’ve been on kid duty while my wife has been finishing up her Master’s Thesis. I’ve been dying to find time to post, but it just hasn’t been there.

See, there’s lots to feel good about. This Cal team is VERY capable of beating USC. I don’t think this team could beat the 2004-2006 USC teams, in fact I think this team is weaker than either the 2004 and 2006 Bears which both lost to USC (although I do think the 2004 Bears would have been the 2006 Trojans, but I digress). But the 2007 Bears don’t have to play those Trojan teams. They have to play the 2007 Trojans.

The 2007 Trojans are not a team to be scared of. They’ve lost to Stanford… AT HOME! They’ve struggled against Arizona and Washington. They lost to Oregon on the same field that Cal beat the Ducks… and that game was not as close as the score or the final opportunity to tie.

So there is no question that the Bears are capable of beating USC, the question is can they put together the same type of game they put together to beat Oregon. I mean, they haven’t played a game at the level of the Oregon game since Longshore got injured in the 4th quarter of that game.

But to me, that’s the key. I think the Bears struggles start and end at the quarterback position. The Bears are such a balanced team that when they lose that balance they give the opposition an opportunity to hide their defensive weaknesses. When they have balance, there is no way the defense can keep from being exposed. And the Bears haven’t had offensive balance since Longshore got injured.

Don’t get me wrong, I think they had potential to have offensive balance. By putting more trust in Riley in his start or being willing to let Longshore sling the ball around when he first came back I think the Bears could have had the balance they are capable of. But whatever the reason, the Bears haven’t had that balance. So the question remains, can Cal get that balance back?

I think the answer is an unqualified yes. I think between Longshore getting health and Tedford growing more comfortable with his team’s strengths and weaknesses with Longshore less than 100%, I think the Bears will get their mojo back.

Bears win 24-17.

WSU analysis

Here’s my thoughts on the game:

  • One thing that I didn’t see mentioned in any of the various analysis out there was how much better the kickoff coverage was. Larson was getting the ball down deep with good hang time and the coverage team was both getting down field quickly and closing down the holes. I don’t think WSU got past the 30 on a single kickoff, which is a huge improvement over past weeks where it seemed every runback was getting up to the 30 and about 1 out of every 3 was getting far too close to midfield.
  • The first 3rd down for WSU really worried me because it reminded me so much of the OSU and UCLA games. After stuffing the offense on both 1st and 2nd down, on 3rd down the Bear defense falls back into coverage and gives up a surprisingly easy 10-15 yard completion. Luckily that trended didn’t hold in big part because of the pressure the defense was able to get on the QB.
  • While watching the TV coverage I heard for the first time that their punter does that roll-out option punt all the time… and I thought it was just something to keep the ball away from DeSean. After watching him for most of the game I began to wonder why more teams don’t roll the ball down the field more often. There’s no hope of a runback and it’s not hard to get 40+ yards on it.
  • Contining in the trend of things I saw early that was troubling was Forsett getting tackled in the backfield on the first play for the Bears.
  • The wide receiver screens didn’t work very well for the Bears against WSU. The good news is that they always got positive yardage, unlike some of the previous games. I mean, let’s be honest, a 3-4 yard quick-out is more reliable than an inside run these days.
  • The first drive for the Bears is indicative of the change in play-calling in the redzone. Outside the redzone: 8 completion on 9 attempts for 56 yards. 4 Rushes for 11 yards. Inside the redzone: 4 rushes and no passes for 13 yards. The most frustrating to me was the QB sneak on 2nd down. That’s the most predictable play in the play-book, 2nd and 1 from the 1 yard line… you can count on a QB sneak 4 out of 5 times. I even called this one to my peers sitting with me ahead of time. Nevertheless, in this instance the Bears were able to score on 3rd and goal with a sweep run play: 7-0
  • Another thing that was improved in this game was the defensive back timing on hitting the recievers. DeCoud and Hicks were particularly good at it with DeCoud breaking up a deep pass in the 1st quarter and Hicks creating that interception late in the 2nd quarter.
  • That interception by Longshore is another one that is just terrifying. Is it really his ankle? He seemed healthy for the vast majority of the game. The only thing is that he didn’t seem to step into that throw. Was that just poor form or not wanting to put weight on a sore ankle? Tough to call but it’s critical that Cal find a way to get the ball down-field to keep defenses honest and that’ll mean that Longshore is going to have to get some touch on the deep ball no what the cause of the failure.
  • The defense though stepped up again and forced a 3-and-out. A very strong effort and at a very important time, right after the interception. Turned what could have been a momentum turning drive into a meaningless turnover.
  • What did Tedford call after the interception? 4 run plays in a row. Unlike at other points in the game, Forsett was able to get big chunks of yards for 2 first downs.
  • Interestingly though, although Cal went back to the air after the quarter break, when Cal did run later in the drive, Forsett wasn’t able to get the yards of his first 4. Was that the defense adjusting to a renewed run emphasis by Cal? Whatever the cause, Tedford made the necessary adjustments to go back to the air and continue the drive.
  • An intersting note is that both of the big errant throws were to Hawkins and on the 2nd throw Hawkins did an awesome job of making the transition to being the defender and preventing the interception.
  • But now comes the baffling part… the redzone. After great balance for the first part of the drive (7 passes, 7 rushes), Cal then runs 5 consecutive run plays in the redzone, finishing with the option. With Longshore!?! That’s 9 plays in the redzone on two drives and ALL of them were rushing plays. Just baffling. At least the field-goal was good: 10-0.
  • I was surprised just how many errant throws Brink had. I’ve seen him a number of times now and every time but this time he was very good and was what kept WSU in games where they were completely out-manned. This time he had a number of opportunities to get WSU back in the game and his throws were off the mark.
  • Despite the fact that Cal’s last two possession of the 1st half were both 3 and out, I felt like there was balance there and generally good opportunities to move the ball. Of course the last possession was really hindered by that stupid 15 yard personal foul penalty. That was the only “stupid” penalty for the Bears all day thankfully, but it was stupid enough that it stalled the drive. Without the penalty it would have been 2nd and 1 after a great run by Best. After the dead-ball penalty, it was 2nd and 16.
  • Not to be forgotten, got to repeat how great the hit Hicks made to knock that ball out for the interception. That interception was key. That was WSU’s only significant drive of the 1st half and if the ball was caught it would have been 1st and goal if not a TD outright. A 10-0 lead is a big difference than 10-7.
  • In the 2nd half, I was pretty happy that the Bears got the 1st possession. What a great opportunity to put the game away, right? Well it would have been if Longshore hadn’t treated the snapped football like a greased watermelon. I hate to continue to pile on, but what a way to throw away the opportunity to really distance themselves.
  • Of course WSU was able to score their first points, a field-goal that came on the short 34 yard drive that required a 4th down conversion to complete: 10-3
  • On Cal’s next drive, they continued to mix it up… but what happens when they get in the redzone? HA! Fooled you!!! This time it was 1 rush and 1 pass, so we can’t harp on the play-calling. But we can harp on Hawkins dropping an easy completion that would have kept the drive alive. While it’s not the same failure mode, it’s still another redzone appearance that ended in less than a TD. The Bears were 1 for 4 in touchdowns in the redzone (the fumble on the 1 yard line yet to come) and 75% for points. That’s got to be 50% plus touchdowns and 90% points to be successful. To be fair, this is the one that it’s understandable that they didn’t get the TD, but the overall point remains: 13-3
  • While the previous penalty against Cal was a stupid one, the next one was a bogus one. That was a horrible pass interference call against Syd’Quan. If anything it should have been offensive pass interference for pushing off.
  • But you got to give the defense credit. Even though they’d been back on the field a fair amount in the late 3rd quarter with the 3 and out bracketting two WSU drives, they managed to step it up in WSU’s first redzone appearance and hold them to a field-goal: 13-6
  • The next Cal drive they managed to get back to the balance to get the ball down close to the redzone. I found it interesting that on both 2nd and 3rd and 3 from 21 yard line Cal took two shots towards the endzone. The 2nd was complete although DeSean didn’t manage to get the ball into the endzone. But what do the Bears do once in the redzone? Two consecutive rushes up the middle from the 1 yard line. To make matters worse, Forsett fumbled the ball on the 2nd attempt. Nevertheless we’ve got a total of 13 plays in the redzone and 12 of them were rushing plays.
  • I don’t know what to make of that long pass play WSU converted mid-4th quarter. On the one hand, Hicks did have a beat on the interception if he had just stepped forward and bit. On the other hand, that’s the risk of not going for the hit/tackle instead: a long pass completion. Thanfully DeCoud was able to catch up to the reciever and prevent the touchdown allowing the defense to re-group and hold WSU to a field-goal: 13-9.
  • Going back to the field-goal, I was really surprised WSU went for the field-goal. After they’d shown no ability to consistently put up yards until that long pass play, don’t you have to go for it and accept the risk of the big momentum swing that comes based on how the 4th down play would turn out?
  • Longshore was stepping into his passes better late in the game. Tedford never called a play that had Longshore passing deep to test that throwing motion, but qualitatively it seemed like Longshore got more comfortable as the game wore on. Hopefully that trend will continue.
  • FINALLY Forsett broke a run open. Of course the key to the running game is not the ability to break out the long runs (really it’s to get 4-5 yards each attempt and grind things out) but it is nice when the running game can add to the quick strike ability of the team: 20-9
  • While the first big WSU pass play is somewhat excusable, the 2nd is pretty bad. You can’t let up on your coverage because it looks like Cal might get a sack/safety. Let the linemen do their job and you do yours. Speaking of which, I had thought it was Syd who missed the coverage and I said so in my podcast. It was instead Hicks.
  • And it was Hicks who blew the coverage on the eventual TD. Let’s not forget that the long pass play didn’t even get WSU down into the redzone, only to the Cal 33. After that Cal was mostly able to hold WSU where they were minus a 4th down conversion that setup the 18 yard TD pass that never should have happened: 20-15
  • After thoroughly reviewing the 2-point conversion I think that it was a marginal call and one that the booth shouldn’t have overturned. The reciever was darned lucky he landed on top of the defender for the rollover. But even that said, I think his butt was down before the ball crossed the plane. The key was the angle from the endzone. The view down the line didn’t give a good view of whether his knee or butt hit down first and when that was. Also complicating matters was that the goal line goes out of view right as his butt touches the ground by synthesizing the two views. Nevertheless my extrapolation of those moments suggest that his butt was down mid his attempt to reach over the goal line and before the ball actually crossed the plane:20-17
  • Thankfully Cal recovered the onside kick with a perfectly executed reception using a few of the recievers as blockers for Hawkins who caught the ball.

Overall, I think that this Cal team is just some play-calling in the redzone tweaks and an ankle healing (or said differently, the current/former ankle injury no longer affecting Longshore’s throwing motion and touch) from getting back to the team that beat Oregon. Whether those things will happen before the USC game is anyone’s guess, but I very much believe the team is capable of beating USC with a strong performance.

WSU Podcast

The podcast is finally posted. I was unable to post it over the weekend because I left the docking cable for my audio recorder in the office. Then yesterday was one of those days at work where I had so little time it was all I could do just to do make sure I brought the cable home… which I forgot. That made today the first day where I could upload it. Sorry about the delay.

Click on the link on the titlebar to go listen to it.

In other administrative news, the plan is to re-watch the game and do my full post-game analysis tonight.

WSU analysis article published

My weekly analysis article has been published over at Controlling the clock key in Cal win.

As has been the trend lately and looks like it will generally continue, this article is free to all to read.

Back in the top 25

Today’s rankings have Cal back in the top 25 after a single week just outside the limit. The Bears are 24 in the AP and 25 in the Harris. The remained at 27 in the always lagging coaches poll. The combination of 25, 27 and unranked in the computers puts them at 27 in the meaningless at this point BCS rankings.

Don’t under-estimate the importance of being in the AP top-25 however. From an exposure perspective it’s a big deal. For starters, a lot of websites and news services cover the games of the top-25. Many may have noticed nary a mention of the Cal vs. WSU game on ESPN in the last week, in big part because they key on the top-25 and neither Cal nor WSU were in it. Add in all of the pick-em leagues that pick winners of the top-25 games and one can see that being in the top-25 is huge from an exposure perspective.

Let’s hope that Cal shows up in Berkeley next Saturday and makes good on the exposure that comes with a still in the hunt for a BCS game and 14th ranked (AP poll) USC game comes to town.

WSU preview article posted at Rivals

I know it’s after the fact, put I wanted to make sure I linked to it from here in any case:

Crunching the Numbers: Cal vs. WSU