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Archive for May, 2008

Looking back on ’05: WSU

The UCLA game had been a letdown, but because UCLA was thought to be good, there was still hope for the program after the loss. The Oregon State loss was devastating. There was no excuse for the loss. Oregon State hadn’t even played a particularly good game. They had given the Bears plenty of opportunities to put away the game. The fallout was felt throughout the entire athletic program.

With Washington State coming to town, the general consensus was that the Bears should win by grinding out the run game. However, the confidence in that consensus was weak with plenty thinking that it was all too possible that the Bears could lose the game and if they did, there wasn’t a game left on the schedule that the Bears would win. Was it possible that a 5-0 team could go 5-6?

Tedford showed confidence in his team by deciding to take the opening kickoff. He also had Ayoob throw the ball on quick out patterns on two out of the first three plays, both of which were complete with WSU playing the run aggressively and hence playing the corners soft with very little protection behind them. However, after completing two 1st downs, Lynch was stuffed on 1st down and Ayoob sacked on 2nd down when his protection broke down early, the Bears were faced with a 3rd and 13 of which the screen play fell 3 yards short.

The Cougars took over at their own 16 yard-line after the punt and didn’t waste any time testing the secondary throwing a bomb to Jason Hill on 1st down. To prevent the big play McCluskey committed the pass interference penalty, limiting the damage to 15 yards. After Cal forced a 3rd and 6, WSU made another attempt at the long play. This time the receiver out ran Mixon to the ball for an easy 66 yard touchdown pass. Bear fans around the globe were in a panic less than five minutes into the game, down early, 0-7.

The Bears got 8 yards on their first play of their next possession, but Forsett was stuffed for no gain on 2nd down. Luckily in 2005 the Manderino fullback crash was still a guaranteed 1st down on 3rd and 2. However, faced with the same scenario 3 downs later, WSU was ready for Manderino on his 2nd attempt. Luckily in 2005, the 4th down quarterback sneak was still working on 4th and inches. Two plays later, the patience in the running game paid off when Lynch found a big hole on the right side and was able to sprint to the endzone to tie the game, 7-7.

The Bears forced a 3 and out on the Wougs* next possession, giving the Bears the ball back on the WSU side of the field after Mixon was able to get a fairly good return on the outside. On 2nd down Ayoob made a bad read and tried to force it to his receiver on the inside slant route. The back was able to tip the ball up where it was intercepted, giving the ball back to WSU just as Cal looked to be taking control.

WSU went for the kill on the next play throwing another bomb to Hill who was able to beat Damien Hughes down the sideline for another long pass play, this one being forced out of bounds at the Cal 5 yard-line. The Bears were able to hold WSU out of the endzone forcing the chip-shot field goal, the Bears in a hole again, 7-10.

Cal went straight back to the run game and just as Cal seemed powerless to stop the deep passing game of the Wougs, WSU was incapable of stopping the run game. After a 34 run by Forsett got the ball down to around the WSU 30, Ayoob was able to find a hole in the now run-focused defense getting a well thrown and timed pass to the rarely used David Gray in the endzone putting the Bears back on top with less than two minutes left in the 1st quarter, 14-10.

The Bears were able to hold WSU to a single 1st down before forcing the punt, which sailed into the endzone. After a few plays re-establishing the run, Tedford loosened the leash on Ayoob yet again. Two consecutive pass plays, the first on 3rd and 9, got the ball down to the WSU 17 yard-line. Unfortunately a personal foul penalty on the following 1st down put the Bears behind the chains and they were forced to attempt a long field-goal. To add to the struggles the attempt was pushed wide right resulting in zero points.

The Bears went back to the run game on their next possession. Minus a 3rd down completion mid-drive by Ayoob, Lynch was responsible for all of the Bears yards getting the ball down to the WSU 43. After WSU locked down the run game and a delay of game penalty set up a 3rd and 15 that Ayoob was unable to convert, nearly throwing a pick, but ultimately resulting in a punt downed inside the 20 yard-line.

WSU quarterback Alex Brink made his first mistake of the game on 3rd and 7 on the next drive’s first set of downs, throwing a pick to Greg VanHoesen who jumped the route and ran it in for an easy touchdown and increasing the Bear lead to 21-10.

Brink was unable to correct his ways on the next series. Trying desperately to get some points on the board before halftime, he threw another ill-advised pass that Mixon was able to jump. Unlike the previous interception, Mixon was only able to get the ball down to the 3 yard-line before being dragged down. Ayoob got away with an ill-advised pass of his own throwing to a well covered Manderino, nearly throwing it at his feet. Manderino was able to adjust down to the ball and grab the weakly thrown touchdown pass, putting the Bears up 28-10.

Summing the 1st half, the WSU offense had consisted entirely of two long pass plays. Otherwise the defense had shut the Wougs down as well as adding 14 points to the Cal point total. On the other side of the ball, the Cal offense had played mediocre, but it seemed to be good enough for the opponent being played. Ayoob had been inconsistent again, showing some signs of brilliance, but also plenty of moments of incompetence. Nevertheless, everything seemed to be going the Bears way as long as Cal could prevent WSU from getting the 3 or 4 big plays it would need to get back in the game.

The first of those big plays came on WSU’s first possession of the 2nd half. After getting a couple first downs with a nice mix of run and pass, Brink threw another bomb to Hill. This one was well contested by Hughes, but a nice last minute adjustment by Hill gave Hill a touchdown on the slightly under thrown ball. The Bears lead was cut to 28-17.

Ayoob didn’t come out of the locker room well, throwing the ball at the feet of Hawkins on 2nd and 7 on a quick out pattern. After a sack took Ayoob down when WSU brought an effective blitz on 3rd down, the Bears were forced to punt.

WSU continued on their comeback on the second play of their next drive throwing yet another bomb to Hill who had beat Hughes yet again. This time he was able to streak down the sideline for another easy touchdown. On two big plays, in relatively quick succession, WSU had undone the damage of the two interceptions in the 1st half. After WSU completed the 2-point conversion, the Bears lead was down to a field-goal, 28-25.

The Bears went back to the run game again. This time with Lynch on the bench taking a quick breather, Forsett busted two quick runs to get the ball down to the Woug 30 yard-line. The next set of downs was hampered by an over-throw by Ayoob on 1st down in the endzone. After a Lynch run setup 3rd and 5, Ayoob tried to run for a 1st down, coming up just short. Tedford uncharacteristically went for it on 4th and inches, again running a QB sneak for the 1st down. Lynch ran a both unremarkable and signature 8 yard run, spinning out of 4 or 5 tackles after being stopped in the back-field, making something out of nothing. Unfortunately, his determination was not rewarded when Manderino was stripped on 2nd down, turning the ball over to WSU when the offense had the ball in the redzone.

The defense saved face for the offense, forcing a 3 and out. Ayoob made sure to keep his collapse alive, throwing 3 consecutive incompletions. The first was a slight over-throw to Hawkins. The 2nd and 3rd were screen plays that were broken up from the get-go that Ayoob forced in there anyway, both nearly being intercepted. The Bears were forced to punt.

WSU caught a break on the punt after the returner dropped the ball. Cal was poised to jump on the ball with three or four guys in position to pounce on it. Unfortunately it bounced sharply off one of those Cal players out of bounds, giving the ball back to WSU. The Cougars then broke the game open on two consecutive plays. First their running back Harrison had his only good run of the game, getting the ball to the Cal side of the field. On the next play Brink went back to his favorite target Jason Hill. With Mixon now covering Hill after Hughes proved not up to the challenge, he tipped the ball. Unfortunately it went up into the air and Hill was able to adjust to the ball to get yet another touchdown. The Bears were trailing for the first time since the mid-1st quarter, down 28-32.

The Bears refused to let Ayoob continue his slide on their next drive and were rewarded by Forsett and Lynch combining for over 30 yards on 3 consecutive plays. After Lynch was stuffed on the following 1st down and Ayoob threw another ball at the feet of his receiver on 2nd down, it setup a fairly important 3rd and 10 at midfield. Ayoob proceeded to both throw behind and lack any touch on his pass on 3rd down and the Bears were forced to punt with the 3rd quarter nearly over.

With Ayoob one for seven in the 2nd half, the play calling continued to heavily emphasize the run. Again Lynch got the ball out to midfield and again Ayoob made another mistake, forcing the ball to a well covered DeSa. After it bounced off of DeSa’s knee, it was free for the WSU safety to intercept it. WSU was now in position to ice the game away with the ball just on their side of midfield.

The Cal defense made the adjustments to their defense to prevent the deep pass from burning them yet again. However, WSU was instead able to chip away getting just outside the Cal redzone. Brink was then able to throw a nice pass into the endzone while rolling out after avoiding pressure. While it wasn’t Hill who caught the ball, it was nevertheless another 2nd half passing touchdown for WSU. After the extra-point was botched, Cal was down more than one score in the 4th quarter for the first time all season, 28-38.

After the Bears went 3 and out on another pathetic series of downs, WSU was able to get a couple of 1st downs. The most troubling aspect is that the running game was working for WSU for the first time all game. The Bears finally forced 4th down around midfield on the back of a big sack on 1st down. WSU tried a fake punt out of the same playbook that UCLA used, doing a short snap. This time the Bears were waiting and the Bears got the ball back around their own 45.

Ayoob, fresh off stinking up the 3rd quarter, reminded all Cal fans just why he was so frustrating. He through a nice crossing route pass to Cunningham on 1st down that he was able to break past the safety for a WSU-like easy touchdown, the Bears back in it with 5:20 left in the game, down 35-38.

The Bear defense was re-invigorated by the improved situation and forced a 3 and out. After a short punt and 10 yard return, the Bears were in business with over four minutes remaining at the WSU 45 yard-line. Ayoob connected again with his new favorite receiver, Cunningham, on yet another slant down to the 20. Lynch then took it well into the redzone on 1st down, getting 7 yards. The Bears were now in position to at least tie the game and the clock down to just under two minutes after Lynch ran for another 1st down setting up 1st and goal at the 9 yard-line. Just when everyone thought Cal was going to ram it down WSU’s throat while running out the clock en-route to a touchdown, Tedford gave Ayoob a chance to win the hearts back of Cal fans. Ayoob delivered a strike to Hawkins on a quick slant for the go-ahead touchdown, the Bears up by 4 after the extra-point, 42-38.

The Wougs were unable to score the desperation comeback touchdown with the minute and a half they had to work with.

Summing the game, Ayoob’s performance only confirmed the worst fears of Bear fans who had witnessed his unraveling against Oregon State. While Ayoob was able to salvage some respect with his late comeback, everyone who understood the situation knew that it was not a positive game for him. More relevant to this game was the atrocious play of Damien Hughes. Hughes has gone on to win our hearts in later seasons, but in this game he nearly cost the Bears the game single handedly. I’ve never witnessed a game where an offense was so one-dimensional as the WSU offense was on this night in ’05. Take away 5 ridiculously easy long plays and WSU would have only had 7 points on the board. Add on that Cal had a 28-10 lead where playing the deep ball should be a top priority and it was inexcusable how poorly the secondary as a whole and Hughes in particular played.

Would the secondary be able to get their act together against Tedford’s old team? Would Ayoob finally put the pieces together against Oregon?

Find out on Saturday.

(* At the 2007 WSU game, there was a set of 5 shirtless guys in the WSU section with letters painted on their chests that was not easily visible from our seats on the other side of the stadium. Using my telephoto lens by brother tried to read the letters and said “something ‘O’ ‘U’ ‘G’ ‘S’ what’s that spell, WOUGS!?!”. Apparently he didn’t remember their nickname was the Cougs and had assumed the first letter was a ‘W’ for WSU. Nevertheless, neither of us has been able to call the Cougars anything but the Wougs ever since.)

Looking back on ’05: Oregon St.

After the heartbreaking loss to UCLA, the overall feeling about the Bears was still good. UCLA was ranked 16th at the time of the game after all. Minus the special teams mistake and some only minorly concerning redzone effectiveness issues, the Bears played pretty well, scoring 40 points. With a lowly regarded Oregon State coming to town, it was assumed the Bears would get back on track. All it would take is for the still suspect UCLA to lose a couple and the Bears were still on track to meet USC at home for the rematch that could send Cal to their first Rose Bowl.

The Bears got the ball to start the game. After a steady dose of running loosened the OSU defense enough to get the ball on the OSU side of the field, OSU keyed on the run on 1st down, stuffing Marshawn Lynch. After a sack on 2nd down setup a difficult 3rd and 13 that Ayoob was not able to complete, the Bears had to punt.

OSU only accomplished one 1st down before the Bears clamped down and forced a punt, getting the ball back deep in their own territory at the 12 yard-line. The Bears went straight back to the running game on 1st and 2nd down, setting up a 3rd and 5. Ayoob did his best to run for the 1st down after the pass-coverage broke down, falling one yard short.

Unfortunately on the punt, Bears fans were forced to re-live their all too fresh special teams mistakes, allowing OSU to run it back to the Cal 21 yard-line, instantly in position to score. After a 3rd down completion on a nice out-pattern gave the Beavers 1st and goal from the 9 yard line, the Bear defense clamped down and forced the field-goal attempt. The 24 yard field-goal was good, putting the Bears in an early yet small hole 0-3.

On the Bears next possession, although switching things up on 1st down resulted in an incompletion, the fruit of that choice was realized on 2nd down when Lynch was able to run for 24 yards to the outside, getting the ball out to the Cal 38. Cal used the same strategy on their 2nd set of down with much less success with the same 1st down incompletion but Forsett being stuffed on 2nd down and Ayoob sacked on 3rd down, forcing the punt.

The Beavers didn’t waste any time taking advantage of the Bear ineffectiveness, throwing a deep slant for 58 yards down to the Cal 9 yard-line. The Beavers again found the going more difficult deep inside the redzone, settling for another field-goal, this one from 25 yards, adding to the Bears deficit, now down 0-6.

On the Bears next drive, the Bears were saved from disaster twice. First, an instant replay kept things going on 2nd and 10, giving DeSean Jackson a catch setting up 3rd and 1. After the 1st down, a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Beavers was overturned by a 15 yard facemask penalty. Two additional personal foul penalties, one for an extended tackle after the whistle on a Manderino run play and another on a blatant pass-interference shoving DeSean out of bounds on a fade pattern to the endzone, got the ball just outside the OSU redzone. After a sack on Ayoob, the 3rd of the game, the Bears busted out some trickery. A run play to the right by Lynch was turned into a pass back across the field to Ayoob who streaked down the left sideline for a touchdown, putting the Bears in front for the first time, 7-6.

OSU was able to chip away at the Bears defense getting the ball out to midfield. The Bears had the drive stopped when a complete pass 3rd down came up 7 yards short when a very marginal personal foul penalty on Zack Follett when he threw the receiver to the ground just as he had stepped out of bounds. The Bears defense was able to cover their mistake on the next play when Pimentel stepped in front of a pass up the middle, intercepting it on the Cal 32 yard line.

Sam DeSa prevented OSU from returning the favor by breaking up an interception two plays into the Cal drive when Ayoob made a bad read. After Lynch was stuffed on the following run play and Ayoob missed Lynch on the screen play, the Bears had to punt.

The Beavers were able to get a couple more 1st downs, getting the ball back out near midfield again before they were forced to punt. Unfortunately for the Bears, they gave the Beavers a gift on their first play of the next drive. Lynch allowed the ball to be stripped after he had a 4 yard gain, giving the ball back to the Beavers with a 1st and goal from the 8.

After the Bears held again on 1st and 2nd down a desperate Matt Moore, wanting to see the Beavers finally get a touchdown in their 3rd redzone appearance, forced a ball on a slant that Pimentel was all over. To add insult to injury for the Beavers, Pimentel was able to run the ball all the way down to the OSU redzone. Adding to that, a block in the back penalty gave the Bears the ball at the OSU 8 yard line. Two plays later Ayoob found DeSean in the back of the endzone on a fade pattern to put the Bears up 14-6.

After the Bears forced a 3 and out with the Beavers inside their own redzone, it looked like the Bears were in a position to extend their lead before halftime. However, after a great punt gave the Bears the ball at their own 41, Lynch fumbled yet again, again stripped as he was stood up. To make matters worse, the ball was run down to the Cal 12 yard-line off of the fumble setting up the Beaver’s fourth redzone appearance. Again the Bears held and again the Beavers kicked a field-goal, this one as time expired in the 1st half, putting the halftime score at Cal 14, OSU 9.

Summing the 1st half, the Bears were lucky to have the lead. The offense had been inconsistent and the two fumbles by Lynch were very troublesome. Also troublesome was how frequently the Bears had let OSU into the rezone. Whether escaping with only 9 points on the opponent’s scoreboard was a result of good defense or good luck, it was not a position that left Bear fans feeling very comfortable with the slim 14-9 lead the Bears had. If the Bear offense couldn’t generate more yards, having only gained 122 in the 1st half, and points, there could be trouble in the 2nd half if OSU could resolve their offensive woes.

The halftime break proved to be very valuable for the OSU offense. After they converted on a 3rd and 5 with a nice pass under pressure that went for 17 yards, running back Yvenson Bernard took the team on his back. On his 3rd consecutive play getting the ball he busted the run to the outside, picked up a great block and ran it into the endzone on a 31 yard run play, proving that the best way for the Beavers to get into the endzone was from outside the redzone.

On the first possession of the half for the Bears, Justin Forsett came in as the running back, an indication that Lynch was being held out of the game for fumbling twice late in the 2nd half. However, with Lynch out, Cal mostly went to the air, moving the ball out to about midfield including a 27 yard post pattern to DeSean. After another pass to Robert Jordon got the ball down to the OSU 39, Ayoob decided to pull his best Lynch impression by scrambling to get some extra yards and then coughing the ball up, giving OSU back the ball.

OSU went right back to work. Between the power running of Bernard and a personal foul on Ma’afala the Beavers quickly had the ball inside the Cal redzone yet again. Bernard then ran the ball down to the Cal 7 yard-line setting up their 5th 1st and goal. This time it was not the Cal defense that kept OSU from converting the touchdown but a fumble into the endzone where it bounced out of bounds before it could be recovered by wide-receiver Mike Hass, that gave Cal the ball back at the 20 yard-line.

The Bears continued to shoot themselves in the foot on their next possession when a holding penalty called back a touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Luckily for the Bears, with Ayoob now seeing how to expose the weaknesses in the OSU secondary, the Bears were able to get back down into the redzone on the back of passes to Jackson and Marcus O’Keith. Ayoob was then able to run it into the endzone on a quarterback draw, giving the Bears the lead back. The Bears attempted the 2-point conversion to try to extend to a 7 point lead but the fade pattern was slightly overthrown, leaving the Bears up only by 4, 20-16.

The Cal defense stiffened on the next OSU possession. Unfortunately the Beavers punt rolled down to inside the Cal 1 yard line. Cal was unable to work out of their short field and the best they could do was to punt the ball to midfield. However, the Bears were able to significantly improve their situation on the next play when McCluskey intercepted a ball intended for Hass giving the Bears the ball at the Cal 45.

The Bears looked to be capitalizing on the good fortune after Ayoob completed a pass to David Gray getting the ball down to the OSU 34. Sadly, Ayoob threw an interception of the type he will always be remembered for. Under pressure without a good receiver to throw to, instead of throwing it away or taking the sack, he threw up a wounded duck that landed in the defenses hands, negating the momentum swing the Bears had gained.

After the defense forced a 3 and out, Ayoob showed just how shaken he was from the previous interception. Working again out of his own endzone after another great punt, he skipped a ball to an open Robert Jordon on 2nd down. After a mediocre completion on 3rd down gave the Bears another set of downs, Ayoob threw another interception, this time way too close to the Bear goal-line, giving the Beavers the ball at the Cal 32.

After OSU got into the redzone on a screen pass, OSU put the ball into Bernards hands again on 3 consecutive plays under the premise that he was the only one to be effective in the redzone. Sure enough, minus the fumble into the endzone, he was able to duplicate his previous redzone performance giving OSU back the lead, the Bears needing a field-goal with 6:41 remaining to get back into the game, down 20-23.

What transpired in the next four possessions was a exercise in futility for both offenses. 4 consecutive 3 and outs where Ayoob looked more shaky with every incompletion and OSU was unable to run the ball with the Cal offense keying on the run with the clock winding down.

Cal was able to get the ball back one final time with 1:02 left in the game and the ball on the Cal 11 yard line after another good punt, the 5th to land in the Cal redzone. Ayoob then threw a fairly good pass to DeSean Jackson who was unable to go up and get it with his shoulder injury from earlier in the game. On the next play pressure on Ayoob forced him to throw it away. On 3rd down Ayoob was given plenty of time but was unable to find an open receiver. Finally on 4th down Ayoob broke his 9 pass incompletion streak (if you’re willing to count an interception as an incompletion), hitting DeSean for a 1st down. Ayoob then threw another one of his signature under pressure wounded ducks that should have been intercepted had it not been dropped. Two more incompletions later, Cal turned the ball over on downs, effectively ending the game.

Summing the game, while there had been minor lingering doubts regarding Ayoob, the OSU game was the turning point in the criticism of Ayoob. His performance in the 2nd half clearly sunk the Bears. While there was plenty of blame to go around between fumbles and giving the Beavers too many redzone opportunities, it was impossible to deny that Cal had 3 end of game possessions to make up a 3 point deficit in which Ayoob was unable to shake his nearly back-to-back interceptions from just prior to those possessions.

The Bears had now lost two in a row, including a loss to a team thought to be in the bottom half of the conference. With another home game against a bottom of the Pac-10 WSU the next week, would the Bears be able to correct their mistakes in time to turn it around?

Tune in on Wednesday to find out.

RunningWolf outdoes himself

Sometimes to quell one’s disgust/anger, the only solution is to laugh. In that sense, the whole SAHPC/Tree-sitter fiasco is a ripe target for laughter. Check out this article from the Economist:

Mr Running Wolf offers another rationale. There are “thousands of bodies underneath us” of the Ohlone tribe, he says, and construction on this sacred burial ground amounts to “a hate crime; we call it Guantánamo Berkeley”. The secret truth, he explains, is that the Illuminati and Masons are behind the idea to build on the site, because the grove is at the intersection of compass lines connecting the Haas School of Business (money) with Alcatraz (state violence) and the Lawrence Berkeley lab that gave America nukes.

The Illuminati and the Masons!?! (snicker, snicker)

I think RunningWolf has been rolling his joints in torn out pages of the DaVinci Code again.

Looking Back on ’05: UCLA

After the relatively easy win over Arizona and the Bears were 5-0, confidence was high in Berkeley. UCLA on the other hand, was also undefeated. The general consensus in Berkeley was that UCLA was untested and the stout Cal defense and potent Cal offense would show just how wanting UCLA really was. Nobody thought to think that the same was true for the Bears.

UCLA got the ball to start the game. On the 2nd play of the game, Damien Hughes broke on an out-pattern to intercept the ball. Unfortunately it went through his hands and into the receivers hands who was able to streak down the sideline into Cal territory before being pushed out of bounds. The Bears defense didn’t make any additional mistakes and UCLA was forced to punt.

Cal quickly went to work with Forsett busting a 57 yard run up a seam down into the UCLA redzone. Two plays later, Cal ran a reverse to DeSean Jackson who dove for the endzone losing the ball just as he was touching the pylon setting up an important review of the play by the replay booth. Luckily for the Bears the evidence that DeSean fumbled into the endzone, was not enough to overturn the call of the ball being down at the 1 yard-line and Forsett was able to score a touchdown on the next play, Cal up 7-0 early.

On the kickoff, UCLA fumbled the ball and Cal recovered. On the next play Ayoob kept his composure waiting for a receiver to get open, waiting far longer than is normal. He found Craig Stevens slipping across the middle for an easy and undeserved touchdown. The Bears found themselves with a commanding lead only 3 minutes into the game, 14-0.

UCLA was able to get the ball down to the Cal 43 yard-line mostly on the scrambling legs of UCLA quarterback Ben Olsen. However UCLA was forced to punt again after the pass on 3rd down fell incomplete.

Cal was forced to punt on their next possession. Maurice Jones-Drew then showed off his impressive speed when Cal’s punt coverage over-pursued and allowed Drew to the outside. By the way a couple of Cal players came into the screen it appeared there was some blocking in the back that weren’t called on the play, but nevertheless the ball was on the Cal 5 yard-line after the return. UCLA was able to put the ball in on the next play, equaling Cal’s easy points at seven and the Bears lead was cut in half, 14-7.

The Bears next drive was another ineffective one with the UCLA defense changing up formations to confuse Ayoob as well as bring sufficient pressure to disrupt most of the other plays. This time Lonie was able to angle the ball out of bounds to keep the ball out of Jones-Drew’s hands while still getting the ball deep into UCLA territory.

UCLA was able to move the ball on their next possession well mixing running and passing. The Bear defense appeared to be on their heels for the first time of the season and the good mixture of running and passing seemed to be the culprit. The drive was capped by a 12 yard touchdown run by Jones-Drew to tie the game, 14-14.

A long pass to DeSean Jackson on a crossing route on 1st down got the ball to midfield. That pass seemed to loosen up the defense as Forsett and Lynch, making his first appearance of the game, were able to gain another 30 yards on two successive plays. Lynch was then able to get another 1st down into the redzone on 2nd down after tight end Eric Beegun was unable to pull down a well thrown ball for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. A dropped pass and a false start penalty setup a 3rd and 11 where UCLA brought the heat, forcing the field-goal, a 32 yard kick by Schneider, putting the Bears back in front, 17-14.

UCLA passed on three consecutive plays on their next drive, unable to convert any of them. They were forced to punt after the 3 and out.

The Bears played a much more balanced offense in their next possession, mixing powerful running with Lynch and spreading the ball around in the passing game including a nice out-pattern to Robert Jordan that kept his consecutive game streak alive. The Bears got into the endzone on a pass to DeSean that he was able to wrestle away from the corner, putting the Bears back up by 10, 24-14.

After UCLA went 3 and out again, the Bears went back to the run game leaning heavily on Lynch. Another fade pattern to the weak side where the receiver, this time Jordan, had to muscle the ball away from the corner, got the ball down inside the redzone to the UCLA 7 yard-line. A touchdown was called back on 3rd and goal from the 5 when Beegun started running forward before the snap, an easy to call illegal motion penalty. On their 2nd attempt on 3rd and goal, this time from the 10 yard-line, Ayoob couldn’t find the touch to hit Stevens in stride setting up another field-goal, the Bears stretching their lead to 27-14.

On the kickoff, Lonie had to save the Bears from another special-teams mistake when the returner made it through the wedge untouched. Lonie was able to keep the play respectable bringing down the runner at the UCLA 33 yard-line. After Jones-Drew busted a big run that was partially called back on a downfield hold that put the ball around midfield, UCLA continued to pound the run game. A marginal roughing the quarterback penalty got UCLA down to the Cal 10 yard-line. 3 run plays later UCLA had significantly tightened the score when Jones-Drew walked into the endzone, the score now 27-21.

Recapping the 1st half, the Bears play on offense had much to be happy about, minus their efficiency in the redzone. The last two scoring drives both turned up as field-goals that if only one of which had been a touchdown would have dramatically changed the nature of the game with a 31-14 lead. On defense, minus the occasional big play, the defense had played pretty stout. The general feeling was that Cal was in control if they could minimize the big play and continue to pound the football.

To start the 2nd half, Cal went straight to that run game and UCLA was waiting, forcing a 3rd and 8. Ayoob made a great read finding DeSean open on the outside, but he well under-threw the ball, forcing a punt. After Lonie shanked the punt, UCLA had the ball on the Cal side of the field before having ever touched the ball.

UCLA didn’t waste any time trying to strike back throwing the bomb on 1st down. Hughes managed to catch up to the slightly under-thrown ball, forcing the incompletion. After a holding penalty and good pursuit on an outside run play forced a 3rd and very long, which UCLA was not able to convert, UCLA was forced to punt back to the Bears.

After UCLA stuffed Cal on 1st and 2nd down, DeSean continued to assert himself as the 5-star recruit he was, catching a nice pass over the middle to get the 1st down. The Bears tried to make use of DeSean again on the next play, calling a reverse. Unfortunately UCLA had called a blitz off the edge that stifled the play before it could get started. After Ayoob was unable to get the ball to Forsett on what would have been a big gainer of a screen play and a false start, the Bears were stuck trying to convert a 3rd and 20. Without a good downfield option, Ayoob was forced to go with a shorter pass that was not nearly long enough, resulting in a punt.

Yet again the special teams for Cal let their teammates down, over-pursuing again, this time leaving a seam up the middle for Jones-Drew to explode through for another easy touchdown. Fully half of UCLA’s 28 points had now come on the backs of the punt return game. Beyond the concern for later in the game, it also put the Bears in their first deficit of the game, down 27-28.

Forsett quickly gave the Bears back some momentum with a great run down the sideline on a fake reverse to DeSean that took the Bears from their own 35 to the UCLA 18 yard-line. A defensive holding penalty gave the Bears 1st and goal from the 9 yard-line. However, UCLA was able to hold again, forcing yet another field-goal, putting the Bears back on top, albeit by a slim margin, 30-28.

UCLA was forced to punt on their next possession, going 3 and out. Forsett yet again busted a big run, this time getting down to the UCLA 23. Unlike the previous drive, Cal was able to get the ball into the endzone with an 11 yard run by Lynch, putting the Bears back up by 9 with just over a quarter left to play, 37-28.

UCLA let a couple penalties and some bad rush plays back them up to their own 2 yard-line. That forced a very weak punt giving the Bears the ball back on the UCLA 38 yard-line. An 18 yard pass to DeSean got the ball down to just outside the redzone. The drive stalled there and Schneider kicked his fourth field-goal of the game, putting the Bears up what seemed to be pretty comfortably, 40-28.

After the Bears forced what should have been another 3 and out, UCLA managed to run a fake punt that took the ball all the way down into the Cal redzone, turning what seemed to be a near fatal dagger into the Bruins with nine minutes remaining into a fresh opportunity for UCLA to get back into the game. After a personal foul on the Bears gave UCLA a 1st and goal, two runs by Jones-Drew setup a 3rd and goal from the 1. Olsen ran it in to close the score to 40-35.

The Bears went back to the run game on the ensuing drive. Lynch busted a big run that was called back by a marginal holding penalty. After a good scramble by Ayoob on 2nd down setup a 3rd and 2, UCLA was able to prevent Lynch from spinning out of a stuffed up line holding him 2 chain-links short of a 1st down. Tedford uncharacteristically went for it on 4th down on the Cal side of midfield, with Ayoob running the QB sneak for the 1st down. However, with Cal emphasizing the run, UCLA was able to force the punt on the next set of downs.

UCLA got the ball back with 2:30 left on the clock at the UCLA 25 yard-line. For the first time all game, UCLA was able to complete a pass deep down the field, getting the ball inside the Cal 40. Maurice Jones-Drew then made the definitive play of the game, using his speed to get outside on a passing play out of the backfield and run it into the endzone giving UCLA back the lead. After the 2-point conversion failed, UCLA held a 1 point lead, Cal down 40-41.

The silver lining was that there was 1:35 left on the clock and the Bears only needed a field-goal to win. After an offensive pass-interference call put the Bears in a 1st and 20 hole, Ayoob threw his one big mistake of the game both making a bad read and under-throwing the ball, giving UCLA an easy interception, sealing the game.

UCLA would go on to score one more touchdown on the final play of the game while running out the clock, for the final score of 40-48.

Summing up the game, Cal thoroughly out-played the Bruins on all but a handful of plays. 550 yards of offense was only able to produce 40 points for the Bears because of their ineffectiveness in the redzone. At the same time, the Bruins scored two less times than the Bears but were setup by the return game and Maurice Jones-Drew. All in all, this was a wasted opportunity for the Bears. The better and more talented team had lost because of a handful of mistakes and poor execution in the redzone. The score shoud have been somewhere in the 48-31 range, instead those execution problems, particularly on special-teams and particularly at those moments that the Bears seemed poised to seal the deal, doomed the Bears. Also of great frustration to Bear fans was the interception Ayoob threw to end the game. After 3 years of quarterbacks who played great football in clutch moments, Ayoob had shown both in his first jittery games and now in his first clutch opportunity, that he may not have the ‘stuff’ that great quarterbacks are made of.

Would the Bears rebound against Oregon State at home? Would the special team mistakes and Ayoob’s jitters just be a lost opportunity or would they doom the team to a disasterous fall? Find out on Saturday.

Looking back on ’05: Arizona

With the Bears back at home after their trip to New Mexico State, Cal fans were excited to see their 4-0 team. Despite the easy competition in those games, expectations were high. Traditionally Arizona had not been a respected program in the Pac-10. However, there was a great deal of hope in Tucson that by bringing in Mike Stoops, former Oklahoman defensive coordinator, as head coach would turn around this program. The hope was re-enforced by the media’s respect of Stoops and his family’s coaching tradition.

Now in his second season, it was thought Stoops would at least have the defense playing well for the game against the Bears, despite Arizona being 1-2. At a very least it would be a test for the somewhat inconsistent Bear offense. On the other side of the ball, the general feeling was that the Bear defense was a superior unit to the young and inexperienced Arizona offense.

The teams traded 3-and-outs on their first possession, confirming the consensus about which units would dominate. On their second possession, the Bears leaned on Marshawn Lynch, who was fresh back from his broken hand injury. A 29 yard run play by Lynch got the Bears down to the Arizona 22 yard-line on the fourth play of the drive. However, a sack and a holding penalty put the Bears in 2nd and long. Ayoob made his first big mistake as the starting quarterback, forgetting to account for the corner on a out-pattern giving Arizona an easy turnover.

The Bears were given a similar gift 3 plays into the ensuing Arizona drive. Arizona quarterback Hovalcheck tried to make too much of a busted play when he was hit as he threw a wounded duck up that was easily intercepted by Mixon.

After Ayoob made the least of the Bears next set of downs, thowing the ball at DeSean Jackson’s feet on first down and over-throwing an open receiver running down the seam on 3rd down, Bear fans got to see Mike Stoops first melt-down of the game. On the punt, the Cal coverage team gave too much room up the middle allowing for a big return down to the Cal 5 yard-line.

Luckily, there was a holding penalty away from the play that negated the return sending Stoops into a rage. As is usually the case, Stoop’s rage did little to invigorate his team and Arizona was forced to punt when they couldn’t covert on 3rd and less than a yard.

The Bears tried to match Arizona’s return game when Mixon found a nice seam that got well into Arizona territory. Unlike the fuming Arizona sideline, the Cal sideline was able to rejoice their penalty-free return. The Bears got their rhythm back on that drive, mixing run plays and quick passing plays to get into the redzone. A busted play gave Ayoob an opportunity to run the ball down to the 1 yard-line where Lynch was able to power it in for the first score of the game with nearly one quarter of the game complete, the Bears up 7-0.

After the ugliest 3-and-out of the game gave the ball back to the Bears, Marshawn Lynch re-injured his hand on 2nd and 3. The resulting fumble was picked up by Arizona just on their side of midfield. Another 3-and-out ensured that the only penalty the Bears would feel from the fumble was the injury to Lynch’s hand as Forsett took the field on the ensuing drive.

Forsett, as he had all season, made the most of his opportunity. His 5 rushes got the ball down to the Arizona 21 yard-line as the offensive line asserted its dominating size. The Arizona defense stiffened in the redzone, holding Forsett out of the endzone on 3rd and goal from the 1. Tedford uncharacteristically went for it on 4th down and Ayoob walked into the endzone on the option play, putting the Bears up 14-0.

Arizona finally found some offense, gaining 3 first downs, the frist to Steptoe for a 30 yard gain, the second on a marginal pass-interference call and the third on a nice slant pattern from Hovalcheck to Johnson for 16 yards down to the Cal 23 yard-line. Again the defense stiffened forcing a 3rd and 6. On that important down, Hovalcheck was forced into an intentional grounding situation, setting up a 50 yard field-goal attempt that was blocked as the kicker didn’t loft the long attempt enough to clear the leaping Cal defense. The grounding penalty in effect preserved the 1st half shutout.

Summing up the half, the defense was indeed the unit that lived up to its billing holding Arizona to 74 yards and only a handful of 1st downs. On offense, the Bears relied on the ground game to be the difference. With the defense holding Arizona in check so thoroughly, it’s hard to argue with the strategy. For Ayoob, his touch over the top was still lacking on his couple of attempts. However, generally speaking, when he was able to muscle the ball to the receiver, his accuracy was more than acceptable and his reads generally the right ones minus the single interception.

To start the 2nd half, Arizona was able to maintain some of the offensive rhythm in their only drive late in the 1st half. A couple of good passes, spelled by good running by Bell got the ball down to the Cal 30. On 3rd down Hovalcheck forced the ball to a crossing receiver playing into the hands of the waiting Hughes who intercepted the ball inside the redzone and ran it out to the 38 yard-line.

The Bears took advantage of the opportunity on a busted play. Ayoob again made use of his legs, this time to avoid the rush. Buying time running to his right, he was able to hit a streaking Robert Jordan in stride, and one wonders why he only had this touch while running for his life, for an easy touchdown, putting the Bears up 21-0.

After the teams traded punts, Arizona took advantage of their punt return opportunity with Steptoe taking the ball down to the Cal 19 yard-line. Giving the ball to Bell play after play, they got the ball down to the 2 yard-line for a 1st and goal. The Cal defense pushed back Bell on both 1st and 2nd down forcing passing attempts on both 3rd and 4th down, neither of which were complete, keeping the shutout intact when perhaps it wasn’t deserved on what would otherwise have been an easy field-goal late in the 3rd quarter.

After the Bears had to punt (twice with a drive saving roughing the kicker penalty in between), Arizona managed to complete a nice fade pattern into Cal territory. Yet again the defense stiffened and forced a punt.

After the Bears were yet again the forced to punt, the Cal defense seemed to settle into what we now call the Bend-But-Don’t-Break defense. Forcing Arizona to chip away with less than 8 minutes left, Cal allowed Arizona just past midfield when Hovalcheck made yet another mistake while throwing on the run on 3rd down. The ball was thrown straight into Hughes hands for his second interception of the night. Adding insult to injury, the ineffective drive had taken another 3:22 off the clock.

The Bears put the game away on the next possession. Just when Arizona had seemed to lock down the powerful Bear running game, the play-calling was switched up despite the textbook approach which argues to run out the clock. Instead the Bears threw a handful of safe passes that allowed the Bears to both take the clock under two minutes en-route to a Ayoob to Manderino touchdown to put the Bears up 28-0.

Summing up the game, while the shutout was a statement for the Bears, the reality is that the shutout was a combination of weak play by Arizona, a number of procedural penalties by Arizona and Arizona playing from behind and not taking their easy points in addition to the strong play of the defense.

On the offensive side of the ball, it was yet again another uneven performance. On the positive side, the offensive line was able to assert itself throughout the game and Ayoob continued to show good decision making skills. While his deep throws still have significant touch issues, his shorter passes were crisp and on target. Add in the powerful combination of Lynch and Forsett in the backfield and there was plenty to be excited about.

Yes, the Cal faithful believed they had a great team on their hands. A team that should easily break the southern California curse that Tedford had to date been unable to win in that half of the state, by beating UCLA in the Rose Bowl

You’ll be able to see how that game turned out next Wednesday.

Excuse me for my politics – moved

The post that was here has been moved to my personal/Catholic blog:

It’s not being moved because some people didn’t like it, as Doug suggested in the comments, I really don’t care. I don’t care that some didn’t like it. I don’t care that some don’t care what my thoughts are on the subject. I also don’t care that I got a fair amount of extremely bigoted hate mail by people accusing me of being intolerant (which I always find a great irony). I believe that my post was both important and reasonable and I have no regrets for having posted it in regards to those who didn’t like it or thought it was off topic. It was too important to ignore.

However, what I do care about is my co-blogger Jason Snell. I did not consult with Jason before posting, which was a mistake. I’ve apologized to him personally and I do so now publically for having not consulted him about the post. Jason is reasonably concerned about having his name attached to a blog that has any political content. He perfers to keep his political beliefs private and is worried that there will be some confusion as to whether any political posts would be assumed to speak for both of us, which is not the case. Particularly since his career is a fairly public one but not at all politically related, he would like to avoid any issues that may arise by being attached to political commentary on this blog.

So, out of respect for Jason, I have moved the post to my personal/Catholic blog even though I strongly stand behind both its content and the decision to post it on a Cal blog, had the blog been soley my own.

(The previously posted comments have been moved to my personal site and the comment section has been closed for the post on this site although remain open on my personal blog)

Looking back on ’05: New Mexico State

After the somewhat shaky Illinois game, there was a bit more trepidation amongst Bear fans. All of that trepidation was something for another day as their next opponent would not be the game that a mixed performance should hurt the Bears.

New Mexico State was a middle conference team and not a good one at that. They were in the middle of a rebuilding process. Everyone was sure that this was another Sac State game in which the game was not a test but an opportunity to work out the kinks while cruising to an easy win.

The first drive of the game, the Bears cruised to an easy touchdown, confirming everything Bears fans had thought. However, the extra point was blocked off the edge and nearly ran back for a “opponent 2-point conversion”. Nevertheless, nobody was too concerned, leaving the Bears up only 6-0.

That concern however would come quickly on 3 consecutive plays for the NMSU Aggies. The first was an outside bomb where Mixon was beat. The second was a broken play where the Aggies QB was able to escape pressure and gain big yardage into the redzone. The third and final was a 1st down run for another 10 yards giving the Aggies a 1st and goal. The Bears defense stiffened and held the Aggies to a field-goal, the Bear lead cut to 6-3.

The Bears only took two plays to get back into the endzone with Forsett bouncing outside for a long run into New Mexico State territory. The second was a play-action pass to a wide-open DeSean Jackson who showed off his speed down the seam en-route to the endzone. After a unsportsman-like penalty took the Bears out of 2-point conversion range, the Bears went for the extra-point, now leading 13-3.

New Mexico State struck back on the kick-off empoying a hidden-ball strategy to fool the Cal coverage team. By the time the Bears realized which of the 3 potential runners had the ball, only kicker Tyler Fredrickson had a shot at him. Fredrickson didn’t take a very good angle and it was an easy touchdown, the Bear lead cut to 13-10.

The Bears were continuing to do well on their next possession when Lavelle Hawkins made a mistake he would later be all to associated with. After catching the ball for an easy 1st down on 3rd and 9, he back-tracked to try and get more yards. Instead of gaining more yards, he gave up the 1st down and the Bears had to punt.

Luckily for the Bears, New Mexico State committed a holding penalty on 4th down giving the Bears an undeserved 1st down. Unfortunately the Bears were forced to punt again after an ineffective set of downs. The momentum was clearly on the Aggie side of the field.

The Bear defense, finally given a second chance to prove themselves, forced a punt after only one 1st down. The offense showed their gratitude my methodically marching the ball down the field with offensive balance. Ayoob completed all of his passes and Forsett took advantage of the defense being on their heels. In the end it was a quarterback draw from Ayoob that scored the touchdown, putting the bears up 20-10, still in the 1st quarter.

The Aggies were able to chip away at the Bear defense on the next drive. A marginal personal-foul for a late hit put New Mexico State in field-goal range with a fresh set of downs. After the Bears held the Aggies on the next set of downs, they escaped without allowing a score as the 42 yard field-goal attempt was pushed right.

A trend that had started in the last couple series for the Bear offense killed the Bears on their next possession. Ayoob, who had been making good reads and hitting the short passes, was also missing some touch on the longer passes. On 3rd and 4, Ayoob missed an open receiver, forcing the Bears to punt.

The Aggies decided to repeat their previous drive. Chipping away for 17 plays, including converting a 4th and 1 put them in field-goal range. Yet again the attempt was missed, pushed right. Thomas DeCoud may have gotten a finger on the kick, but more likely his pressure forced the kicker to push the ball.

With the Aggie defense starting to wear down, the Bears returned to their run game. They got everyone minus the injured Marshawn Lynch involved on the drive including Williams and Manderino. It was then Ayoob who ran it in on yet another quarterback draw from the 6 yard line to put the Bears up by their first semi-comfortable margin considering the speed of scoring in the game, 27-10.

Damien Hughes made one of his signature interceptions on the ensuing drive. Coming off of his man and jumping high in front of the receiver he both picked off the ball and then ran it back from the Cal side of the field back to inside the Aggie redzone.

With just under a minute remaining in the half, the Bears put the ball in Ayoobs hands. Two incompletions, a procedure penalty and a sack later, the Bears were pushed back to the Aggie 24 yard-line. The resulting field-goal attempt was the defining memory of the game for many Bear fans. Head coach Hal Mumme proceeded to call three consecutive timeouts. It worked as Schneider missed the attempt, pulling slightly the 41 yard attempt. It was the coach’s jubilant celebration and arrogant looking smile that irked many a Bear fan wondering what a coach who was trailing by 17 would be so excited about.

Looking over the 1st half, overall it was an acceptable performance. Again Ayoob’s performance was a bit uneven, particularly the long-ball. While his numbers looked good, it was clear that his touch left something to be desired. The defense’s performace, although again acceptable, wasn’t as dominating as one would hope. While they only gave up 10 points, they also allowed two sustained drives that made it into the redzone before being shut down. Nevertheless, there was little to be concerned about for the Bears going into the 2nd half.

That comfort level increased when Mixon picked off a pass on the first drive of the 2nd half on an over-thrown deep crossing route. Unfortunately the Bears offense was unable to convert on 3rd and 2, Forsett getting stuffed on the inside run. The Bears punted back to New Mexico State.

After another NMSU punt, Cal went back to the run game marching nearly the length of the field. Ayoob threw two ill-advised passes in the redzone, stalling the drive. To add insult to injury, the field-goal attempt was blocked, ensuring an otherwise productive drive was literally pointless.

New Mexico State went back to chipping away at the Bears on another sustained drive into Cal’s redzone. Yet again the Bear defense stiffened, looking a lot like the yet-to-be-named Bend But Don’t Break defense, holding the Aggies to a field-goal attempt. Unlike the previous two Aggie drives that would otherwise be clones of this one, the field-goal attempt split the uprights for the first score in a long time, closing the Cal lead to 14, 27-13.

With the game now into the 4th quarter, the Bears continued to emphasize the run game. Although a big chunk of yards came on a 33 yard catch by Hawkins (another mis-thrown ball, this one under-thrown), just about every other play was a run play. It was capped by yet another Ayoob touchdown run, this one a bootleg, putting the Bears up 34-13.

After another Aggie punt, the Bears continued to work on the clock. Mixing in a couple of screens and a reverse to keep the defense guessing, the Bears marched down the field while taking 7 minutes off the clock. The resulting touchdown on the back of Williams, was a unneeded but desired bonus, putting the Bears up 41-13.

New Mexico State was able to chip away on their final possession of the game. However, like their last productive drive, the speed with which they were able to move the ball was a hindrance while trailing by so much. The game ended after they were unable to convert on a 4th and 3 around mid-field and the Bears ran the ball one final time to run out the clock.

Overall, while the final score of 41-13 seemed to reflect a dominating performance, the quality of the foe and the weaknesses the team showed, did not bolster the confidence of most Bear fans. While Ayoob got some of his touch back towards the end of the game, he was still plagued by inconsistency. Whether it was a case of conservative formations or whether the defense under-performed against a young and struggling offense was a matter of debate. Nevertheless, the general consensus was that next week’s game against Arizona, a team with a much more stout defense, would be the first real test for the Bears.

Tune in on Friday to see how it turned out.

Looking back on ’05: Illinois

(Note, there was no TV coverage for this game so the recap comes from my memory and reading the play-by-play.)

After the Washington game, Bear fans had a great deal of confidence back in their team. Ayoob had apparently just needed a week to get comfortable with D-I football. While there was still a little bit of trepidation, Washington was very early in the process of rebuilding under Willmingham after all, the thought was that Illinois would provide little resistance.

The one caveat to that feeling was the absence of Marshawn Lynch who had to sit out the game with a broken hand. Nevertheless the concensus was that Justin Forsett and Marcus O’Keith would fill in acceptably.

Illinois was on the bottom of the Big-10 heap. Desperate for a turn-around, Illinois had hired a new head coach, Ron Zook, who’s first order of business was to install the spread offense. Their first two games of the season showed both the positives of the spread and the negatives of switching to a new offense, having difficulty beating a weak Rutgers squad and finally getting some productivity against San Jose St..

Seeing as how the Bears had struggled mightily on defense against the spread happy Texas Tech Raiders, the lone concern facing the Bears it seemed would be whether their defense could hold Illinois to few enough points for their prolific offense, now back on track, to win the day.

The first series for each team confirmed that idea with both teams fairly easily marching down the field for a touchdown with Illinios showing great patience at chipping away at the Bear defense.

The Bears went 3 and out on their next possession after Forsett’s run on 1st down was stuffed and Illinios was able to fall back into pass protection on 2nd and 3rd downs forcing two incompletions from Ayoob. After the punt, Illinios was able to march down the field again for another touchdown, putting the Bears in a 7-point hole, down 7-14.

Luckily for the Bears, their defense stiffened, having apparently finally figured out how to defend the spread. Both teams traded a number of punts before Marcus O’Keith busted a 25-yard run down to the Illinios 18 yard-line. From there the drive stalled and the Bears were forced to attempt a field-goal. Sadly the attempt was missed.

To add injury to insult, Illinois was able, with 4 minutes left in the half, to march down the field and convert their similarly distanced field-goal as time expired to increase their lead to 10, the Bears trailing 7-17.

At half the upside for the Bears was that they had finally seemed to figure out how to defend the spread after the first couple drives. The offense however, was not doing well against the Illinios defense. Of particular note was Ayoob had settled into a nasty funk, completing only one of his nine first-half passes. As the funk continued, the play-calling swung to emphasizing the run, something Illinois was anticipating even with Lynch unable to play.

The 2nd half proved to be very different than the 1st. After Illinios opened the half with a drive that got them close to midfield, Cal responded with a touchdown drive where Ayoob managed to find his game again, completing all three of his passes. With Ayoob completing passes again, the Illinois defense was forced to play a more balanced defense, opening holes left and right for Forsett who had 4 carries for 34 yards. The touchdown however was a 26 yard completion from Ayoob to O’Keith.

After trading punts and forcing Illinois to punt again, the Bears went back to work with a short field. Two Ayoob passes, one to Jackson and one to Jordan, got the Bears to the Illinois 2 yard-line where Forsett was able to punch it in, to give the Bears their first lead of the day 21-17, early in the 4th quarter.

The next Illinois punt netted yet another Cal touchdown, this one on a 79 yard punt return by Tim Mixon, putting the Bears up by 11, 28-17.

Illinois was able to strike back for their first score of the 2nd half on the back of a 52 yard pass up the seam, putting Illinios just outside the Cal redzone. The Bears were able to hold Illinois out of the endzone, ensuring that the Bears kept an 8 point lead with less than 9 minutes remaining, 28-20.

The Bears put the game away on the following possession with a heavy dose of Forsett and O’Keith. The Bears scored a touchdown in 6 plays, the only possible downside of their performance being that it only took 3 minutes off the clock. Nevertheless with the Bears up by 15, the game looked to be in hand, 35-20. After a punt by Illinios with 4:26 remaining, Cal was able to run out the clock.

Overall this was an uneven performance for the Bears. Ayoob took a full half to get his throwing motion working for him and the defense took 2 full touchdown drives to finally figure out how to defend the spread. However, once both sides of the ball was clicking in the 2nd half, the Bears dominated, outscoring Illinois 28-3.

Nevertheless, the optimism surrounding Ayoob’s performance in Washington had quickly diminished. Instead that optimism was being replaced by confusion, wondering just how inconsistent Ayoob could be. Only future weeks would tell, starting with the New Mexico State game, to be posted next Tuesday.

Televised games

ABC/ESPN did the first round of game selections for the Pac-10 last Friday picking 14 of their 20 Pac-10 games they intend to televise (they could chose to pick up more later). Cal was chosen for two games:

  • The season opener versus Michigan State on ABC (5:00 PM – 8/30)
  • USC matchup on ABC (5:00 PM – 11/8)

For those who don’t know how the system works, the Pac-10 has contracts with a few networks to televise their games. ABC/ESPN is the primary one. FSN is the secondary one. The third was TNT (or was it TBS?) but was sold to Versus last year. The 3 networks get to pick in that order.

They get to chose their games before the season starts. They can however chose to defer their choice until during the season, getting to pick 12 days before the game (or perhaps 6 days in rare cases).

So now that ABC/ESPN has made their picks (14 now and 6 deferred to the season), FSN is next up to bat and you should see their selections in the next few weeks. They’ll likely pick a handful of games and leave the rest for mid-season selections. They’ll be more likely to defer on weeks where ABC/ESPN has already locked in their selection as they don’t have to worry about ABC getting a pick before them when the time comes for the 12-day pick.

The final thing to note about how it works is that it only applies to games where the Pac-10 is the home team. So for Cal, the Maryland game will be determined by whatever contracts the ACC has and whatever mechanism they use to pick the games. It wouldn’t surprise me if that means it’ll be on ESPN gameplan or something like that.

Some notes of interest about ABC/ESPN’s selections:

  • They picked more games before the season than in the past. Usually it is less than half their alloted games. 14 of 20 is a lot higher than that.
  • USC was chosen for A LOT of the games. More even than usual. 6 of their games (so fully half) were chosen with half of those getting the prime 5:00 PM slot on ABC. What that says to me is that they’re having a hard time figuring out who’s going to challenge USC for the crown and so had to take a shotgun approach instead of risking not picking up the biggest game of the Pac-10 season.
  • UCLA was chosen for 4 games, the only other team besides USC to get more than 2 selections. That says a lot about how excited everyone is about UCLA with a new coach.
  • Stanford and WSU got ZERO selections and Arizona got one “maybe” where ABC has said it will either select Cal vs. UW or ASU vs. Arizona. Of course this means no one expects any of these three teams to do much this season and for very few people to be interested in watching.
  • Oregon also slighted with a single selection, again versus USC. That says to me that ABC/ESPN expects them to tank without Dixon and Stewart.

See this article for details.

Looking back on ’05: Washington

After the news broke that Longshore was out for the season, the big question was whether Ayoob would get the start as the number two quarterback on the depth chart or would Steve Levy, who had by far the better game of the two against Sac State, leap-frog Ayoob. Tedford pretty quickly ended the controversy by naming Ayoob the starter mid-week. People were not that surprised.

Nevertheless, Cal fans were very nervous for game two, particularly with having to travel to the ever challenging Husky stadium to face Washington. Would Ayoob be able to recover from his week one disaster?

It didn’t look that way after the first play as Ayoob lofts up a well under-thrown ball down the sideline to Lavelle Hawkins that bounced off the defender’s helmit for a first-play interception. To add injury to insult, the Husky’s ran just about the same play on their first snap and instead completed a 56 yard touchdown pass, putting the Bears in a 0-7 hole less than 30 seconds into the game.

Cal kept the ball away from Ayoob on their next possession, handing the ball off 3 times. Unfortunately for the Bears, the Huskies were expecting such a move. Although the Bears managed a 3rd and 1, they were unable to convert and the Bears had to punt.

Washington found a similar lack of success on their 2nd possession, giving the ball right back to the Bears. Ayoob threw two incompletes to start the drive, raising his incomplete streak on the season to 13. On 3rd and 10, just about all Cal fans expected the worst when Ayoob completed his first D-I pass to Robert Jordon on an underneath pattern that got the Bears their first 1st down of the game. Sadly the series died on a holding penalty and two consecutive coverage sacks where the Huskies were able to pin their ears back and blitz on 2nd and 3rd and long.

On the Huskies next possession, the Bears got what should have been their first break of the game when an overthrown screen pass was tipped and intercepted by the Bears. Unfortunately Tafisi marginally roughed Stanback and the interception was undone. After the Huskies got a couple more 1st downs they had to punt giving the ball to Cal on their own 20 yard-line after the punt bounced into the endzone.

Lynch proved his mettle and broke a big 25 yard run busting two tackles along the way to the 45 yard-line. Ayoob then busted off 4 consecutive passes of his own. The first was an underneath pass to Craig Stevens. The second was an easy swing-out pass to Manderino that went for 12 yards. The third was a great deep fade to Robert Jordan for 31 yards down to the Washington 9 yard-line. The fourth finished off the touchdown drive on a slant to Jordan again. All of a sudden, it seemed that Ayoob had found his rhythm and the game was tied at 7-7.

The Bears special teams showed their first sign of weakness on the kickoff, allowing the Huskies to run the ball out to their own 45 yard-line. Luckily the Bear defense remained stout and forced a 3-and-out.

Ayoob completed his first pass on the next drive, growing his completion streak to 6. Although the next pass fell incomplete, it was the right idea, trying to get the ball to a streaking DeSean Jackson deep down the seam to start the 2nd quarter. On 3rd and 13, Ayoob showed off his ability to run with the ball, getting not only the 1st down on a busted play, but ran for 26 yards. A sack and a recovered fumble later, Lynch ran a shovel pass for a 25 to get the 1st down on 3rd and 24. Ayoob again tried to get the ball to DeSean deep down the field, but he dropped the ball in the endzone. DeSean was showing that despite his talents, he was still a true Freshman. After a 10 yard rush by Justin Forsett, Ayoob was able to find Jordan down the field who was able to squeeze inside the pylon for his 2nd passing touchdown of the game, giving the Bears a 14-7 lead.

The Huskies rebounded on their next possession, completing a 45 yard pass play on a tipped jump-ball that the receiver was able to come down with. However, 3 plays later the Bears forced a 46-yard field goal attempt that split the uprights with just yards to spare, closing Cal’s lead to 14-10.

The Bears and Huskies traded 3-and-outs, giving the Bears the ball back on their own 6 yard-line. A 1st down later, Ayoob lofted a beautiful long deep ball down the sideline to Lavelle Hawkins. Although slightly over-thrown, Hawkins was able to dive for the ball, bringing it into his hands, but was unable to hold on. Despite the incompletion, it was a good read and fairly good touch. Ayoob continued to look strong by completing his next pass for a 1st down. Another 1st down later, Ayoob took his next shot down the field. While it wasn’t nearly as good a pass nor as good a read, a misplay by the safety gave Jordan the ball with a free path to the endzone, extending Cal’s lead to 21-10.

The Huskies had yet another 3-and-out, their 2nd in a row, but matters get far worse for the Huskies as the pressure up the middle on the punt forces the punter to pull the ball down and try to run, and to no avail at that. The Bears got the ball at the Washington 14. Ayoob didn’t waste any time, throwing a 14-yard post route to David Gray for another touchdown, their 4th in 5 possessions to take a commanding 28-10 lead with just under 2 minutes left in the half.

The Huskies showed some sign of life in their next possession, probably because the Bears were playing a soft defense. Nevertheless they were forced to punt before getting to midfield and the Bears were content to take a knee to end the half.

Summing up the first half, Ayoob was able to find his groove and after going 0-3 to start the game, went 13-17 with 4 touchdowns after that. At the same time, Ayoob’s tendency to go for the long play, even when the receiver is fairly well covered, which was his bread-and-butter in junior college, was evident. Luckily for the Bears, they were able to recover from these incompletions both through the power running of Lynch and through Ayoob’s generally good reads and passes, even when buying time by avoiding the rush.

As strong as the offense was, the defense was even stronger after their first-play brain-freeze. Minus one lucky play on a jump-ball, the Huskies never saw the Cal side of the field again in the first half. Particularly strong was the Cal run defense forcing the Huskies to pass the ball far more than they would have liked.

To start the second half, the Huskies were able to find some offensive rhythm. After getting two 1st downs, with a string of 5 complete passes. The 6th complete pass, a deep slant splitting the Cal defense, turned into a 39 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, narrowing the lead to 28-17.

The Bears returned to the run game, picking up 8 yards on two run plays. Unfortunately, the quick slant to David Gray fell incomplete on what was a bad read by Ayoob, forcing the Bears to punt. Luckily for the Bears, the defense corrected their errors, particularly bringing more pressure on Stanback, and forced a punt after one 1st down on a scrambling completion by Stanback.

On the Bears next possession, Ayoob showed some of his bad form from the Sac State game, not setting his feet and making bad reads. Also with Lynch in the locker room with a broken finger/hand, Forsett was unable to carry the same load. A lucky roughing the passer penalty, bailed the Bears out of a long-distance series at which point Ayoob went back to his favorite receiver on this day, Robert Jordan, for two successive plays to get the Bears down to the Washington 17. After a quarterback draw by Ayoob caught the Huskies off balance and got the ball down to the Washington 3 yard, Marcus O’Keith was able to pound the ball in for the first rushing touchdown of the game to re-extend the lead to 18 points, now 35-17.

The Huskies were able to chip away at the Bears on their next drive, over coming a couple penalties along the way. After driving the ball into Cal territory just after the beginning of the fourth quarter, they were able to get the ball down to the Cal 38 yard-line. 2 incompletes, a holding penalty and a busted up screen play later, the Huskies were forced to punt. Adding injury to insult, the ineffective drive took 5:36 off the clock, significantly worsening the Huskies situation.

On the upside for the Huskies, they were able to down the punt at the Cal 4 yard-line. The Bears responded with a heavy dose of the running game. Forsett and Manderino combined for 21 yards to get the ball out to the 25 yard-line. A handful of plays later that were mostly washed out by a holding penalty, O’Keith sprinted up a small seam in the middle of the defense and sprinted away from the secondary for a 71 yard touchdown run, to mostly put the game away, 42-17.

If the dagger was not already in the Huskies, it was put in on the first play of the ensuring possession. Stanback tried to force a ball where he shouldn’t have. A maturing Damien Hughes sat waiting to return the ball for his second of many interceptions for touchdowns to come, extending the lead to 49-17.

Clearly in a prevent style defense, the Bears let Washington slowly march down the field to the Cal 25 yard-line, where they turned the ball over on downs as the Bear defense stiffened. The Bears then put Terrell Williams, their fourth string running-back, to run out the clock, with 3:47 remaining. Despite the conservative play calling, the Bears marched down the field and with time expiring, Forsett ran a 35 yard running play, bouncing the ball outside when the hole collapsed inside, for the final score of the game, 56-17.

Summarizing the game, the Bears were definitely running on all their cylinders. Just about every criticism one could have about the performance of the team could be rebutted by an equally strong play by the same unit in a different part of the game. Winning a game 56-17, particularly when the team spots the opponent 7 points at the beginning, is mighty impressive. At this point, the Bears looked to be in full fighting form and Ayoob looked to be another Tedford quarterback ready to jump into the lime-light.

Would the trend continue against Illinois? You’ll have to wait until Friday to find out.

Blogging and the MSM

I’m a pretty Cal focused writer. I don’t read general sports blogs, even ones dedicated to college football. So when I saw a post over at California Golden Blogs about a big controversy with blogs and specifically an interview with the author of DeadSpin, I have to admit that I had never even heard of DeadSpin.

Seeing as how the conversation/controversy is really about blogging versus the print media, I think that I’m in a unique position to comment on it being a full member of the blogosphere and a half member of the print media.

Before I get to my main point, I’d like to make a couple foundational points (please see the video to understand the topic fully):

  1. Every blog is different: It’s completely unfair to compare my blog to another blog in regards to the appropriateness of the content. It’s not different than it being unfair to compare the New York Times to the Sacramento Bee. A good discussion of the topic needs to transcend the specifics of one blog or another to the reason certain types of blogs are popular.
  2. Viewership is what gives credibility: This is true for traditional print media just as much as it is for blogs. What is different is the bariers to entry. For print media, you have to have a certain level of readership before you can be in print. Nevertheless, the underlying principle is the same. However, print media advocates don’t seem to realize just how irrelevant a small blog is. They often seem to forget that the small blogs are far less consequential.
  3. Access to team only 1/2 the equation: The only aspect which professional journalist have an advantage is in quotes and ability to cover players. The reality is that any fan can watch the games and learn the formations and all that needs to be learned to be an excellent analyst of sports. What they will not have is the personal access to the players to see that half of the game.

With those foundational points out of the way, I think that what upsets people here is two-fold. The simplest level is just journalists who are losing their jobs being upset about that. I won’t begrudge them that. It is difficult to see your living disappear. However, that’s not the important aspect that upsets people. What upsets people is the vulgar, crude and inflamitory content that is on a number of blogs. As many might guess, you can count me amongst those who find those types of blogs very objectionable.

But here’s the key point: Those blogs are only popular because people enjoy/like them. The reason that is such an important point is that if we want someone to point a finger at there is only one place that blame should go: the public.

The public is who views these blogs. It’s their decision. You want to know why the blogger in the interview sounded so cocky? Because he knows he’s successful and there’s nothing any journalist can do to change that. So the reporter who was lambasting him was really lambasting the wrong group. Who he should have been lambasting is the crowd behind the moderator. They’re the ones who determine what is newsworthy and what is disgusting.

To go further, if you look at other aspects of the news, it’s immediately clear that it’s not just the blogs who are catering to low-brow content. All one has to do is look at the headlines of major papers that talk about tabloid content like Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton. A generation ago newspapers had a society page, and it was buried. It would never have made the front page.

So it’s not like the traditional print media is holding some impressive high moral ground here. They just as much as bloggers cater to what society wants. And what society wants has generally, in this bloggers humble opinion, degraded a great deal over the last generation.

To weave that point into the final thing I want to say, I’ve always been a big proponent of just covering the team. I like to talk X’s and O’s and all that sort of stuff. I’d prefer never to mention a player’s name. “The quarterback passed the ball to the outside receiver on the weak side” would be just fine with me.

But if we look at the majority of sports press coverage today, and I mean the print media primarily, it’s far more about the individuals involved than it is about the team. This has only become more true over the last 10 years as the press’s monopoly on game information has disappeared. As that has happened, their coverage moved to what they still had (and still have for that matter) a monopoly on.

In my opinion, it is the move towards covering the players, not the team, that is just as much directly responsible for the disgustingly tabloid-like coverage of sports. As such it is my opinion that the print media is just as much to blame. Or said another way (and circling back) they’re just as willing to cater to the public’s desire for low-brow news.

Finally, I wanted to give some perspective on how my mind changed when I became a part-time member of the press. I’m hoping that my experience will be valuable to others:

  1. I realized just how much the players are regular people: The moment this sunk in was when I was covering the 2006 USC game. I went up to Hughes after the game to interview him about the play where he got beat on 4th and 2 for the go-ahead touchdown for USC. I saw a man who’s heart was crushed. To some degree this is a bad example because of just how good of a cornerback he is and everyone was willing to overlook his somewhat minor mistake. Nevertheless, while there are plenty of players who make big mistakes that cost Cal the Rose Bowl now and again, let us not forget that these are human beings that need to be treated with the respect that every human being deserves. There is no need to kick them when they’re down.
  2. I realized how hard it is to write a good article: Blogging is hard work. To get a good following takes a ton of work and dedication. It’s peanuts easy to being a reporter. As a reporter, you’ve got to write a game summary article that can be printed whether or not you want to. You can’t just swear off football for a week after the OSU loss. You’ve got to stick it out. You’ve also got to find something good to write about both in the good weeks and the bad weeks. It’s really far more demanding and I say this as someone who’s given a great deal of freedom as to when to write.
  3. I realized how making something a job makes it entirely different: If I do something the Cal Athletic department doesn’t like, it’s a big deal. I can lose my job. While to some degree I think that means that bloggers are a bit more free to say the truth, that lack of accountability also means they’re far less likely to make sure they give everyone their due. They won’t spend the extra time to make sure that their opinion is supportable and reasonable because there is no consequence to not doing so. For the reporter, you need to be squeeky clean on everything and it’s a much bigger burden to carry than most people think.

Hopefully this post has some value other than helping me put my thoughts on paper. I can say that while Deadspin’s author made some good points about the value of blogging, I can also say that he really is, as the reporter put it, “full of shit”. Deadspin is completely unwilling to be accountable for their own content. They don’t care that it’s profane. They don’t care that the commentors are profane. Hiding behind free-speech and saying “not every post is like that” or “I didn’t post that” when you’re the publisher of the site is completely bogus. He’s personally responsible, just as is every publisher, for the content of their publication. I haven’t visited his site in the past and now I’ve got a reason to make sure I don’t in the future.

Hopefully the public will have the same sort of backbone and moral fiber to do the same to every publication, whether it be traditional print media or blogs, who are the cause of the this moral collapse. The public is not only the only entity that can reverse the trend but they can easily do so if they have the will.

Looking back on ’05: Sac State

Sac State was by far the biggest patsy on the 2005 schedule for the Bears. But with questions abound regarding the QB position, no one seemed to care before the game. Longshore was given the starting nod over Ayoob, although Ayoob was promised playing time later in the game.

The first thing of note when watching the game was the commentators spending a fair amount of time on Longshore’s improved footwork. It struck me in retrospect a lot like American car companies spending all of their commercial time telling consumers about their quality.

In the first series the Bears leaned on a conservative run-run-pass game plan. This seemed wise at the time because of the strength of the Cal running game, the weakness of the opponent and the fact that Tedford was breaking in a new QB. However, this was notable to me because of some of the criticism he received in later years for overly conservative play-calling, particularly against lesser foes.

That said, the strategy worked on the first drive. It gave Longshore a number of 3rd and short situations that were easy to complete and the Bears marched down the field with ease. The drive was capped with a 31 yard touchdown pass from Longshore to DeSean, their first of many touchdown connections in their years together.

Sac State’s first possession was not nearly as effective. In fact, they looked out-matched in just about all of their possessions. They went 3 and out on each of their first three possessions and only managed one first down on their fourth possession before having to punt again.

Had the Bears been able to keep their offensive game-plan on track, the game would have quickly gotten out of reach. Unfortunately for Bear fans, the offense sputtered. Sac State put more pressure on the run game, stifling the run-run-pass plan. In addition the execution was not nearly as sharp with a combination of penalties, bobbled snaps and handoffs as well as a failed trick play all combined to stall two consecutive drives.

On Cal’s ensuing drive, Longshore made his first big mistake, one that he would repeat a number of times in future seasons. He didn’t account for the corner jumping the route on an out pattern and was picked off as the Bears were finally getting their rhythm back.

After another punt by Sac State (although they did manage a first down again) that pinned the Bears at their own 3 yard line, the Bears went back to work, focusing in on the ground game again. They were able to bring the ball out to mid-field. Unfortunately a rare dropped ball by DeSean, where minor pass interference broke DeSean’s concentration on a well thrown deep fade route by Longshore, coupled with a busted up screen play ended the otherwise promising drive.

On the other side of the ball, Sac State was finally able to generate some offense. Two big plays, first a tailback sweep that went for 21 yards followed by a wide-receiver screen that went for another 15 yards, put the Hornets in the redzone. Luckily for the Bears, Cal’s defense stiffened and Sac State’s Chris Hurd missed an open man in the endzone, resulting in a Sac State field-goal to bring the Hornets within 4, down 7-3.

Longshore responded with a long pass of his own. A deep crossing route by DeSa left him wide open and Longshore hit him in stride for a 44 yard gain. Unfortunately, and far more so that anyone realized at the time, that play would be the undoing of the 2005 season. Longshore’s ankle was broken as a Sac State defensive end dived at his feet as he threw the ball.

Of note regarding this was that the announcers were told that x-rays were negative. That was particularly surprising to hear since I know that by the time the papers came out the next morning, we all knew Longshore’s season was over.

Joe Ayoob came in with a fresh set of downs and the ball at the Sac State 33. He was perfectly position to come in and lead the Bears to glory. Instead he threw three consecutive incompletions, each looking horrific. He started by throwing into triple coverage. On second down he massively over-threw the ball. On third down he made a bad read and threw the ball into double coverage missing an open receiver.

It’s interesting to note that while Longshore was given a gentle introduction into the game with a run-run-pass game-plan, when Ayoob came into the game, he had 3 straight passing plays. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Was Tedford less concerned with breaking Ayoob in? Was the play-calling trying to out-think Sac State who would be thinking with a new QB they’d return to the run? Or was it just a case of trying to make the most of the clock late in the 1st half? It’s hard to say, but the play-calling didn’t help Ayoob gain confidence in what was a very shaky beginning.

Luckily for the Bears, a young Schneider was ready to prove his mettle and hit a 49 yard field goal to put the Bears back up by 7, 10-3.

The Bears and Ayoob got one more shot before halftime after another Sac State 3 and out. Instead of making the most of it, Ayoob made the absolute least of it, throwing three incompletions that were worse than his first three, if that was even possible. The Bears went into halftime only up 10-3 in a game where they should have been blowing Sac State out. Luckily for the Bears, one half of their team was living up to their billing. The defense had shutdown the Sac State offense on all but two plays despite the frequent opportunities the Hornets were presented to try again.

After another 3 and out by Sac State to start the half, the Bears got the ball back less than two minutes into the 2nd half. Lynch quickly ripped off a 21 yard run up the middle to get the Bears into Sac State territory. Unfortunately another two poorly thrown balls by Ayoob forced yet another punt by the Bears.

Another 3 and out by Sac State had them punting again. This time Mixon made the most of the opportunity and retuned the ball to the Sac State 23. After Ayoob threw yet another stinker, the play-calling switched up, handing the ball off to Lynch again who ripped off two consecutive big gainers and another touchdown to his name, putting the Bears up with the first semi-comfortable lead, 17-3.

Taking an intermission from the game action, who would have thought/remembered that midway through the 3rd quarter that the Bears were only up 10-3 over what turned out to be a miserable Sac State team? All I had remembered when I began to watch the game was that Longshore was injured, the backups looked shaky, but the Bears managed to blow out Sac State anyway. I hadn’t remembered just how late and how special-teams/turnover heavy those blowout points were.

Back to the game, Sac State finally managed a first down on their third possession of the 2nd half, but the result of the drive was yet another punt.

Joe Ayoob was given one last chance to get his game in gear after a 4 yard rush on 1st down was negated by a false start penalty by Andrew Cameron on 2nd down. Twice more he botched the opportunity, the first time indecisively pulling the ball down and trying to run for a 1 yard gain and the second time air-mailing yet another one. Ayoob walked off the field for the last time during that game and Cal punted again.

Sac State made their first big mistake of the game, fumbling the ball on first down, giving it back to the Bears. Steve Levy, who came in for Ayoob, managed to be even more unimpressive in his first throw, badly under throwing the fade and giving Sac State an interception. Luckily for the Bears, DeSean managed to strip the intercepted ball from Sac State and the loose ball recovered by Cal. (It’s pretty impressive/unusual for the same team to lose a fumble on consecutive plays (by either team).)

Levy continued the “winning ways” of the backup Cal QB’s and threw 2 more incompletes bringing the incomplete string to 13 combined for Ayoob (10) and Levy (3). Luckily the fumbles had happened in Sac State territory so Schneider was able to make the most of the situation, kicking a 27 yard field-goal, putting the Bears up comfortably 20-3.

Another 3 and out for Sac State later (at least they’re consistent), Levy made the best of the situation and completed a 46 yard touchdown pass to Noah Smith making the 14th pass after Longshore’s injury BY FAR the best one yet. Nevertheless and despite the offensive ineptitude, the Bears were up 27-3 at this point.

At this point the Bears were playing nearly all 2nd string players on defense including Follett and a number of other names that are now the starters in 2007 and 2008. That didn’t stop Sac State, who had played a mostly mistake free game up until these recent miscues, from fumbled again giving the Bears the ball in the redzone. Not wanting to chance that Levy’s turn-around was temporarily, the Bears went back to the run game and in two plays scored a touchdown (Manderino), now up 34-3.

After this, the game was full of backups on both sides of the ball with each coaching staff trying out new combinations with different players to see who would be best. About the only notable thing that happened after this point was that DeSean was able to return his first punt return of his career (he had been back for a previous punt, but it was partially blocked so he was unable to catch it) for a touchdown, giving the Bears and the game its final score, 41-3.

To summarize the game: The bright spot for the Bears was the defense. They completely shut down Sac State. While it was difficult to tell just how good they were considering the opponent, it would have been easy for them to give up 20ish points for lack of effort. Instead they only gave up 3. In addition, the turnovers forced by the defense put the Bears in great field position that directly resulted in 10 easy points.

The special teams were also special this day, with 7 points directly to their name through DeSean’s punt return and an additional 7 on their shoulders through Mixon’s long return that setup an easy touchdown for the Bears. In addition, the kicking game was in full-force with Schneider going 2 for 2 including a 49 yarder. The punt-blocking team also got close to two punts, fully blocked one (I didn’t elaborate above on THAT odd play that resulted in a Sac State first down) and partially blocked a second one.

All in all, 24 points came from the effort of the defense and special teams making the remaining 17 points the Bears offense accounted for driving the field, far less impressive than the final score of 41 seemed to indicate.

Despite the weakness of the offense and their measly 17 points of their own doing, minus the QB situation, things looked pretty strong on the offensive side of the ball. There were a number of wide-receivers who were coming into their own. The offensive line, tight-ends and Lynch at tailback were all as advertised. However, particularly once it was known that Longshore was out for the season, the QB situation was as dire as dire could be. Ayoob and Levy were a combined 2 for 17. Considering what happened later in the season, it’s particularly interesting to note that Levy played by far the better game against Sac State yet he was passed over for the starting job by Ayoob who would start again the following week.

But you’ll have to wait until next Tuesday to read about that…