Well, I’m here in the pressbox. As I suspected, we’re using the baseball pressbox, which is in a great spot for a baseball game but a horrible spot for a football game. I’m in the corner of the endzone and pretty low too. The good news is that there is a good TV right in front of me to get that view of things.
3:35 PM: We’re still nearly 1 1/2 hours from kickoff, but I’ll give a few updates between now and then. I’m going to take some pictures now…
3:40 PM: Oh, before I go and just to drive everyone crazy, Riley is listed as the starting QB on the official press depth chart. Sometimes these things are printed days before the game and they make corrections over the air just before game time. In any case, I think Longshore is starting, but it was interesting to see that.
4:21 PM: I’m back from my tour of the stadium taking pictures. Quite the cozy little stadium. It was a weird feeling to see all the high end concessions and particularly all the alcohol which they don’t server in college stadiums. It’s pretty clear to me that the point of new stadiums is to increase concession revenue dramatically.
4:23 PM: The Bears are in yellow tops and blue pants. Miami is in white tops and orange pants. Cal gets the bench on the east side of the 50 (so towards the home-run wall) and Miami the west side (towards the 1st base line).
4:36 PM: Reason number 4354934 why you should attend the game in person: I’m pretty sure the Emerald Nut mascots are never going to be on TV. One is a nut and the other is a nut container.
4:37 PM: Cal is starting their pre-game band show and the stands are a little more than 1/2 full.
4:45 PM: Now it’s Miami’s band’s turn. It’s not exactly clear where the Miami section is. Although from the sounds of things it might be right above me in the 2nd deck. The band is not as good as the Bears.
4:47 PM: In entirely different news, I saw Kirk Herbstreet’s picks this morning. He was using confidence points for the games 1-34 for each of the bowls. He not only picked the Bears to win but picked them with 33 points, so it’s the bowl he has the 2nd most confidence in his pick.
4:54 PM: With the end of the anthem, they then had 3 parachuters come down. A Cal flag one, a UM flag one and an American flag one. See what you’re missing?
4:58 PM: Word came down that Miami will be without their starting TE (#18 Dedrick Epps) who has a leg contusion.
5:04 PM: Cal won the toss and will receive. Miami will defend the west endzone to start. There is very little breeze and completely overcast to the degree it “feels” almost misty but there doesn’t seem to be any rain falling.
5:07 PM (14:57 1st) Not the most graceful kickoff by Miami. He slipped as he kicked the ball giving the Bears the ball on the 37. The Bears return the favor when Longshore mis-threw the ball to Ross who was open behind the defense on a deep crossing route. Longshore’s 2nd throw didn’t look any better. Not sure what the story is but that’s not the start Tedford was hoping for out of Longshore. Nor the punt they wanted out of Anger… only 35 yards.
5:10 PM (13:30) Welcome to the 3-4 Miami. That type of play on 1st down plays right into the hands of Follett playing on the edge when he releases the receiver into the zone.
5:14 (12:22) Both teams went 3 and out on their first possession. Looks like my prediction that this would be a lower scoring affair than people think may be about right.
5:17 (11:06) It’s the Bears who commit the first turnover. That was one heck of a strip by Miami. Vereen held on pretty well but just couldn’t muscle it away. Now it’s time for the Bear defense to step it up and force another punt.
5:19 (9:25) Miami is sorely mistaken if they think they can get 1st downs running between the tackles on 3rd and 5. Bears forced the punt they needed to nullify the fumble.
5:23 (8:30) Longshore is playing with fire on both of those two passes, particularly the 1st one where it looked like he was throwing it away but it was not out of bounds. And then he COMPLETELY redeems himself with that perfect throw to Tucker who ran like his life depended on it in route to the endzone. This is going to be reviewed.
5:27 (8:17) Yeah, his knee was definitely down. Ball should be placed around the 1 yard-line. Review is taking a long time. Are these Pac-10 refs? Indeed, ball at the 2. Shouldn’t matter. The Bears have no excuse if they can’t punch this in.
5:31 (7:15) Well, it took two tries but sure enough the Bears punch it in. Bears up 7-0.
5:32 (7:15) It definitely seems that Miami is doing a lot of press defense and there will be lots of opportunities for the Bears to pass over the top for big gains.
5:34 (7:15) The Miami band is USC-esque in their decisions to play songs even when they just got schooled. As an example, their 5 yard run gain that got them from 2nd and 23 to 3rd and 18, got a “good play” song.
5:37 (5:05) Horrible punt by Miami. Bears will get the ball on the Miami 42. And Best doesn’t waste anytime making the best of that short field. Best’s ability to accelerate away from the last set of defenders really shows his speed. Bears up, and fast at that, 14-0.
5:43 (4:09) Another 3 and out for Miami. This Bear defense really has Miami confused. They can’t run. They can’t figure out the coverages. They can’t block the rushers. It just looks ugly for Miami.
5:45 (3:19) That was a very poorly sold trick play by the Bears. You could just tell that something was amiss by the way Longshore tossed the ball to Best. Longshore did the right thing by throwing it away.
5:46 (2:29) Longshore is throwing too tall when he mis-throws. Missed a pretty open Tucker to end the drive.
5:50 (0:16) Miami gets their first big play. Minus that play they had less than 10 total yards in the 1st quarter, which ended just after the play. Looked like a blown coverage of some sort. Didn’t catch how.
5:57 (13:46 2nd quarter) Miami dropped an easy TD in the endzone. The Bear defense lost a little something on this drive. Most of the plays are good, but there are just a few breakdowns here and there. The long pass, the QB run, the missed pass, and now a TD pass where Hagan just looked dazed. He was in position but didn’t make the right moves. The Bears need to get out of this funk. Bears still up 14-7.
6:08 (11:07) Boy, the Bears funk continues. Anger has lost his punting magic (the one good punt sailing way into the endzone) and the offense just isn’t operating on all cylinders. If the defense can return to their dominating ways though, it won’t matter.
6:16 PM (8:11) Well, it wasn’t as efficient or pretty as the first quarter’s stops but the Bear force a punt after only one 1st down. The Bears get the ball back at the 20 after the punt went into the endzone. Let’s see if the Bears can get out of their offensive funk.
6:20 (6:30) OK, another blown up trick play for the Bears. Looks like Miami doesn’t bite on that sort of thing. Hopefully that’s the last attempt at that because both times it has put the Bears behind the chains and ended up resulting in a punt.
6:27 (1:47) I had a feeling that if Miami kept up their pass-happy ways they’d eventually make a mistake and sure enough, Mohammed intercepts the ball at a critical time. With less than 2:00 left in the half, it gives the Bears not only a short field but one more opportunity to score before the end of the half. A TD would be huge here. There’s a big difference between 14-7 and 21-7.
6:31 (1:18) Of course when you can’t get a 1st down, it really doesn’t matter does it? The Bear offense has really stalled here in the 2nd quarter. They’ve only gotten one 1st down in the 2nd half. Not good. Luckily it seems Miami doesn’t know how to manage the clock and the half ends without incident.
6:40 (Halftime) Well, the defense has done their job. Minus the one drive where they didn’t quite look right, they’ve been very solid particularly in the 1st quarter. The offense on the other hand has not impressed overall. Really it’s been about one big pass and one big run. Otherwise its been inconsistent. Now the Miami defense seems to have the philosophy of “stop Best at all costs” and is just daring Longshore to throw the ball. So far he’s not proven up to the challenge. Part of that has been poor pass-protection. That’s particularly important because I think the “stop Best at all costs” philosophy leaves some room down the field for big plays. But for those to develop, the QB needs time to throw. The other thing the offense needs to do is give up on the trick play. Miami isn’t biting. I’ll tell you this: Longshore isn’t taking advantage of this unique opportunity to give himself a bump in the NFL draft.
7:02 (13:05) I don’t get Miami’s strategy on 3rd and long. They seem time and time again to go with plays that don’t have a chance. Is it just a lack of confidence in the passing game?
7:03 (12:20) Of course Longshore isn’t inspiring any more confidence with his lack of accuracy on the out routes. Bears are punting again. They’d better hope the defense keeps it up because the offense isn’t going to score a ton of points unless something signficant changes.
7:11 (8:54) The Miami running game is starting to open up and Miami is looking pretty balanced. This is bad news for the Bears. Miami had nearly 19 minutes of possession in the 1st half. That’s got to be wearing down the Bear defense despite how well they’re playing. What the defense really needs is for the offense to get their act in gear.
7:13 (7:34) Miami is able to convert their 3rd and goal from the 6 for a touchdown and this game is tied: 14-14.
7:16 (7:34) So, if you’re Tedford, what do you do? Do you keep Longshore in there at this point? Or is it time for a change?
7:18 (7:20) Or do you just hand it off to Best over and over?
7:19 (6:56) Boy, what is the story with Longshore? I’ve been one to be a bit soft on him because he battled through injury and had gotten too much blame for the teams short-comings. But there is no denying how poorly he’s playing tonight. He’s had guys wide open and just completely missed them. Ross was at a minimum going to get a big gain out of that one and if he could have slipped one tackle would have quickly found himself in the endzone. Instead a wounded duck hits the turf 5 yards behind him.
7:25 (3:48) Well, if there is one good thing it is that Miami has had to use two timeouts for the defense not being ready for the snap. That could matter later in a tight game. For this 47 yard FG, there’s no wind of any sort. The biggest issue may be the turf which has been a bit slippery… what the… they decided to go for it and then call a timeout? And now they’re going for it again?… well it worked out. But I don’t think it was the wise move there. Take the points.
7:29 (3:08) Cal picked a HORRIBLE time for their first penalty of the game. From 1st and goal at the 5 to now at the 10 is a really big difference. Although when Best takes it down to the 1 on 1st down. Now they just need to punch it in… or have Longshore trip coming away from center… you know whatever works. UGH! At least the field-goal is an easy one now. Bears back in the lead 17-14.
7:43 (13:33 4th quarter) The Bears just got the shaft. Not only did the punt go off so quick that the box didn’t have a chance to review Worrell’s INT (which was much closer than I thought) but the running into the kicker gives Miami a 1st down. A bad break.
7:48 (11:44) Bear defense is looking tired again. The intensity is just not there that was there in the 1st half. Add in the balance of the Miami offense and things are not looking nearly as good. This stand from 1st and goal from the 8 is very important. A tie and the Bears just need to get some offense going. Down 17-21 and I think it will be hard to recover.
7:51 (9:13) And the Bears hold to force the field-goal. The game is back to tied: 17-17.
7:58 (8:15) Back to running game and it’s working. Vereen now is busting off some good runs too. The Bears are already down in FG range. Unfortunately a one-dimensional team is eventually one that will get stopped. So the Bears come up a 1/2 yard short at the 16 yard-line. Then Tavecchio pulls the FG attempt and the game remains tied. It did give the defense a good rest though and a reason to believe their efforts are not in vein.
8:05 (4:24) The Bears have to be careful here. A long drive could take 4 minutes and give the Bears no chance to respond if Miami scores. Basically, the defense needs to get a quick stop here.
9:19 (Game over) Sorry for not giving notice on disappearing. Had to make my way down to the field for post-game interviews. In any case, while the defense and Follett deserve a lot of credit for forcing that fumble deep in Miami territory, overall it was a lucky break as I saw it. The reality was that outside of that, the Cal offense was sputtering and the Miami offense was gaining momentum. That one turnover changed everything and let the defense tee-off on Miami to prevent a tying score.
More commentary in the days to come…