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Archive for September, 2009

Around the Pac-10 – week 4

More thoughts on our competition (that we didn’t play this week and beat to death… which reminds me of an old family joke, well humorous vignette anyway, to explain the way my family is, about Lord Crawford back in Scotland in the horse carriage when the driver comes back and says, “sir, the horse is dead.” sending Lord Crawford into a rage “I’LL SHOW YOU A DEAD HORSE” (whip!)) from around the Pac-10:

  • WSU (6) @ USC (27): USC continues to look very vulnerable. If WSU’s offense wasn’t so incompetent, this would have actually been a semi-competitive game. Worse yet for USC fans, this was in the Coliseum, so no excuses about playing away from home. USC looks VERY vulnerable and I sure hope that us Cal fans bring the noise on Saturday because we can beat this team. As for WSU, at home they’ll prove to be an easy win in a month. No surprise there.
  • ASU (17) @ Georgia (20): Boy, that was a tough loss for ASU. They really had a shot at the upset. It’s hard to tell what to make of this game because I’m pretty confident that Georgia is suspect. I will say this, the 17 that Georigia gave up is the smallest number that they have all season. So my gut feel is that the ASU offense isn’t all that potent. At the same time, it feels like their defense may be better than advertised.
  • Arizona (37) @ Oregon State (32): Boy, Oregon State sure isn’t living up to their usual reputation. The offense is sputtering and the defense isn’t what it used to be. Never overlook the Beavers but I just get the feeling that this is a down team and the defenses that kept them in so many games for their opportunistic offense to capitalize on, isn’t there this season and it’s going to be a long season for the Beavers. As for Arizona, it looks like their young QB has potential and with their defense, they might just be this year’s Oregon State (meaning the defense gives the offense opportunistic chances).
  • Washington (14) @ Stanford (34): I’ll call this one the enigma bowl because I don’t know what to make of either of these teams. Is USC just so remarkably horrible that we are over-appreciating Washington? It sure seems like it with the beat-down Stanford gave them. On the other hand, the were very competitive with LSU who looks to be on the rise, so I just don’t know what to think. As for Stanford… so who are they? Are they the team that let Wake Forrest push them around all 2nd half or are they the team that put the beat-down on USC-beating Washington? This may be a case of two teams who are good enough to be inspired at home but lack the fortitude to win on the road (I sure wish I could say I have no experience with that). That would explain a lot for both of these teams to date. The Tin Bowl in Palo Alto is becoming quite the home-field advantage despite only have 15K fans in the stands.

From now on I’ll use the end of this post to re-cap what’s going on in the Pick’Em League:

Tedfordium continues to be the class act of the group with his 84.4% winning percentage. Usually we have someone with a great winning percentage but who’s doing horribly in the MVD and TPD, but Tedfordium is pretty strong there too. Blogging co-host Jason Snell is back on his Mojo and is a solid 2nd place and CalBandGreat had a stellar week to get into 3rd place. I’m slowly creeping up the standings into 4th, but there’s a big group of us, all the way to the 9th spot who are very close. Tedfordium is leading the winning percentage category, so he should be better based on odds not spreads, Jason is leading in margin of victory, so he should be betting the spread and I’m leading the total points and should be betting on the over-under.

Oregon OTRH Podcast

The OTRH Podcast is up. Because this was a road game I reported on it has audio of coach and player interviews. Here’s the list of quotes at the end:

Tedford on how well Oregon played
Tedford on execution issues
Tedford on positives to take from the game
Tedford on turnovers and momentum
Tedford on the line of scrimmage battle
Tedford on Tuckers personal foul
Tedford on pass protection
Tedford on being manhandled up front
Tedford on rebounding against USC
Tedford on confidence in the team
Tedford on noise
Gregory on TE success
Gregory on 3 WR sets
Gregory on Oregon’s offense
Gregory on seeing this coming
Gregory on suprises from the Oregon offense
Gregory on starting Josh Hill over Hagan
Gregory on why Syd was pulled at the end of the game
Gregory on Syd’s health
Riley on what went wrong
Riley on never getting things going
Riley on halftime adjustments
Riley on the mood of the team
Riley on crowd noise
Riley on fumble on handoff to Jahvid Best
Riley on not getting the passing game going
Riley on confidence in the team
Riley on rebounding for USC
Riley on this being his worst loss
Best on why they didn’t execute
Best on how quickly Oregon scored
Best on putting the game behind him
Best on team mood
Best on coaches message to team
Best on team believing in itself
Tepper on Oregon loading the box
Tepper on surprise of poor play
Tepper on mood of the team
Tepper on bouncing back
Tepper on loading the box
Tepper on his confidence in the team
Tepper on surprises and noise
Tepper on noice in Autzen versus Minnesota
Tucker on passing game taking pressure off running game
Tucker on mood of the team
Tucker on team being prepared
Tucker on throwing early versus balance
Tucker on personal foul
Mohammed on tight end plays
Mohammed on the mood of the team
Mohammed on having more motivation
Mohammed on preventing a collapse
Mohammed on not expecting the passing game
Mohammed on Masoli throwing on the run
Mohammed on 3 WR sets
Mohammed on poor tackling later in the game
Mohammed on fast pace of Oregon affecting play
Thompson on a tough game
Thompson on his physical health
Thompson on Oregon’s passing game
Thompson on Oregon’s offensive strategy
Thompson on success of Oregon’s tight ends
Thompson on what they expected of Oregon
Thompson on mood of the team
Thompson on not looking ahead
Thompson on bouncing back
Thompson on performance hurting confidence

Oregon Articles

Since I went to the Oregon game as a reporter, I’ve got some articles to share:

Two are subscription articles:

Tough Loss – recapping the players and coaches thoughts on the loss.
Putting it behind – player and coaches thoughts on looking ahead, not behind.

One is free for all to view:

10 Things That Went Wrong – The title is self explanatory.

Make sure you read that last one both because it’s free for all to view and because I think it best gives my thoughts on the loss without holding anything back.

Evaluating Coach Tedford

I was completely shocked to find last night that the top search criteria that had people coming to my blog was some variant of “Fire Coach Tedford”. That was taking them to my old post titled “Fire Tedford, are you NUTS!?!”. Rather than repeat the sentiment there, which I fully stand behind, allow me to give some thoughts on the state of the Cal program and specifically it’s leader Jeff Tedford.

I believe there are 5 things that make up good head coaches: Recruiting, talent development, game planning, good assistent coaching hires and finally empire building. Let’s take them one by one:

I believe Tedford has a very good sense of which recruits are truly worth their “stars” and which are all hype. It’s a similarly difficult task as NFL coaches have to determining if great college players can make the transition to the NFL, but instead it is the transition from high school to college. Additionally, I think he’s done an exceptional job of convincing a lot of very good players to come play for Cal despite our lack-luster facilities. Additionally he’s recognized the schools issues that have prevented them from recruiting the top talent and has worked diligently to address those. I’ll come back to that in “Empire Building”, but suffice it to say that ever since Cal broke ground on the SAHPC, the recruits have been pouring in like never before.

Talent Development:
While I’ll admit the inability to get another QB to perform at the level of Boller or Rodgers in a number of years is a bit baffling to me, in the big picture I think Cal has done an exceptional job of making the most of its talent. In fact, for the most part when I’ve seen Cal lose in the back of my head I’ve always known that part of the problem was the talent differential between Cal and its opponent, although due to recruiting this differential is lessening every year. I think this is part of the reason Cal fans are so upset about yesterday’s loss. They know we finally have talent that is well developed.

Game planning:
OK, I’ll admit I’ll have a tough time selling this one to those who watched yesterday’s game, but I think the history of Cal football under Tedford shows him to be a great game planner, particularly in his ability to grow and learn. Particularly if you include game preparation as part of game planning, which I do, his willingness to do things like travel to Minnesota on Thursday after how poorly traveling to Maryland on Friday worked out or changing the emphasis from the opponent to internally on the team when facing a big opponent after he did the opposite versus Tennessee in 2006, show not only that he’s a good game planner but that he’s one who’s on a mission to constantly improve. I can guarantee you that Tedford will be spending a lot of time thinking about this Oregon loss and figuring out how to address it.

Good assistant coach hiring:
I think if you look at Tedford’s overall record here, he’s done pretty well, but I must admit that this is the weakest of the 5 categories for him. Sticking by Alamar may be his worst on-going mistake, but sticking by Gregory while he completely re-tooled the defense was one of his best. Bringing in Dunbar may not have been the best decision for the short term but it helped the Bears add new aspects to their offense that have remained to this day. Cignetti is hard to judge but was not a bad hire. Just as importantly the next tier of coaches have been awesome hires including Gould, Lupoi and Marshall (or Michalczik before him), If Ludwig proves to be a good OC, and no yesterday’s game does not prove that he won’t be, I’d say Tedford has done pretty well in this category.

Empire Building:
And here’s where it all comes together. Between Tedford and Sandy Barbour Cal football has come a REMARKABLY long way in the last 7 years. Has everyone noticed the big hole in front of the stadium or the 200 million dollars in the bank for future improvements? Or what about the fact that there’s a ton of interest in Cal football like there has never been before. 8 years ago when I told some random person I was a Cal fan, they’d say “you’re a, what did you say, cow fan?” Or if I said I was going to the Bears game in Berkeley people would ask why Chicago was playing an AFC team and didn’t I mean Oakland? Now although there is the occasion oblivious person but the vast majority of people in northern California are well aware of the empire being built in the Berkeley hills. It’s the first empire to topple the formerly unbreakable grip that the radical socialist activists had on Berkeley. And here’s the most incredible part, most people in Berkeley CHEERED when it happened! There’s no doubt that Tedford has built something special in Berkeley. Even if he were to get run over by a bus tomorrow his impact on the program would endure and his influence would never be forgotten. Andy Smith, Pappy Waldorf and Jeff Tedford, those are the great names of Cal football.

Does Tedford make mistakes? Of course. He’s not God, or even a god, despite reports to the contrary. In fact, perhaps that’s the problem. Sometimes we put him up on a pedestal that nobody could possibly live up to. Nevertheless what I like about Tedford is that he’s committed to continuing to improve and to learning from his mistakes. People forget this is his first head coaching job and he’s learning as he goes. He’s got great instincts and pretty good analysis skills. Between the two he’ll continue to improve and I’m absolutely that Cal will reach the promised land and I will be able to take my children to a Rose Bowl not just before I die but before any of them are off to college themselves. Heck, I still haven’t given up hope on this year.

I believe Tedford is our guy and he’s going to get us there. We just have to be a little bit patient and keep showing up. I’ll be there next Saturday, will you?

A good night sleep

After I finished up my post-game articles, I went to the local brewery, had a good beer, went back to the hotel and after checking my e-mail and the blog, went to sleep.

And a good night of sleep it was.

There was no tearing out my hair in the middle of the night, no restless tossing and turning, just good, solid, high quality sleep.

And the world is not such a bad place today.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot to worry about on this team, but it’s a lot easier to have perspective after a good nights sleep.

(More to come, including the OTRH podcast)

So what now?

Well, that was a very disappointing performance. I’m not sure whether the interviews with the players and coaches give me some confidence or further increase my despair. On the one hand, I was very happy with the taking of responsibility and the attitude. They seemed to be very determined to learn from this loss and get back to work to beat USC. On the other hand, there seemed to be very little recognition of how horrible the game plan was.

The biggest problem was that the Cal offense did nothing to spread the field against Oregon. What happened to all the reverses and the diversity of play calling that we’ve seen in the last 3 weeks? Why were the Bears constantly making in easy on Oregon who wanted to put 9 in the box by bringing in their wide receivers and running a very tight formation? It was just a horrible, horrible offensive game plan.

The defensive performance is harder to judge. The two areas that were clearly an oversight, were not as bad as the offensive scheme problems. One was how they let the TE run wild in the middle. They weren’t having an inside linebacker stay deep enough so that the TE couldn’t escape him for a long gain. The other was corrected as the game went on, the 3 WR’s to one side, they really needed 3 defensive guys there (OLB, CB and Safety) to corral the blocking options. And by the 2nd half they had that figured out.

But in the big picture, this is the side of the ball I give a lot of credit to Oregon. Masoli was on his game and looked really strong offensively. The whole Oregon offense, particularly the offensive line, was in sync and looked sharp. Considering that the Bears offense couldn’t do anything to give them a rest, the Cal defense was given an exceptionally difficult task.

So, I’m left scratching my head. Does the players attitude give me confidence or do the scheme problems bother me too much for that?

I don’t know; I just don’t know…

(more to come)

Live-Blog of Oregon Game

Hello from Autzen Stadium in Eugene! I’ll (Ken) will be Live-Blogging the game from the press box and Jason should be joining in from his work conference in the midwest where he’ll be watching via Slingbox. Make sure to add your thoughts in the comment section.

Some pregame thoughts… The environment is a lot more relaxed than 2 years ago when Gameday was here. I’m sure it’ll get a lot more intense by game-time. The rumor about throwback jerseys is true although I have yet to catch a glimpse of them. The players on the field are still in workout clothes.

It’s an absolutely beautiful day. High is supposed to be 81 and there’s not a cloud in the day. Right now it’s cool enough that in the shade you can feel it but when you’re in the sun it’s a perfect balance of cool air and warm sun. This is as good as football gets, well, minus not being in Memorial stadium which has by far the best views in the Pac-10 if not the country. The Williamette Valley is very beautiful too, and if it wasn’t a bit smoggy (Was there a big forrest fire somewhere in Southern Oregon or Northern California recently? This haze has been there along most of the trip starting around Red Bluff.) it would be strikingly beautiful. I’ve got a great view of the mountains from here perched high above the stadium in the press box. The press box is literally the highest floor in Eugene so you can see for miles from here. It would still be no match for the view from atop the Memorial press box.

The Cal band has been out in the parking lot entertaining the Bear fans who made the trip up and the Oregon band is in the stands practicing, including their own rendition of Stanford’s fight song “All Right Now” (assumably to be used to intimidate the Bears at some point during the game. The band does realize that these Bears have only heard that song twice in their lives with how little Stanford has had to celebrate about in recent Big Games, right? They may not even recognize it.)

It’s going to be a great day of football! (more…)

Oregon game preview

Well, I keep going back and forth on this game.

On the one hand, Oregon has had a LOT of problems to date and they’ve been masked by just how weak their opponents the last two weeks have been. Both of their lines are not getting the job done and there have been mistakes galore on the offense with turnovers. Then when you look at the statistics in my statistical preview article over at (subscription required) it paints an even more ugly picture for the Ducks.

But through it all I’ve had this lingering feeling in the back of my head that the Ducks could just be a sleeping giant. Well, not quite a giant, but a large guy that you don’t want to mess with on their home turf. Then I re-watched the 2008 match up between the Bears and the Ducks last night and was struck by just how potent the Oregon offense was. It’s really hard to tell because there are so many variables, but the Bears may not have won that game if it wasn’t The Lake Bowl. All of a sudden I wasn’t feeling so good about the game.

At the same time, this isn’t the same Oregon team. Gone are Reed who caused all kinds of trouble in the Cal backfield and Byrd who caused all kinds of trouble in the secondary. The lines have been decimated. So, this isn’t the same team that impressed last year.

In the end, I keep coming back to Masoli’s throwing problems. If Masoli can’t prove that he can hurt the Bears through the air, the Bears will have no problems plugging up the Oregon running game. So, since the way I see it, Masoli lost something in the offseason with his passing game, I think the Bears are going to be able to shutdown Oregon’s offense. Add in Cal’s offensive balance that they didn’t have last year, combined with the Cal offensive line being able to likely win the line of scrimmage battle and I think the Bears win this one, probably easier than my heart is willing to believe.

Bears 31, Ducks 20

Looking Back on ’08: Oregon

(We continue the looking back series for the 2008 season. Unlike prior seasons where I did these games in chronological order, I’m going to do them as what will look like previews for this year’s match up. Go here for past posts.)

Pre-Game notes and thoughts:
Rain was the order of the day for this game. The Bears had already racked up two losses to Maryland and more distressing to Cal’s Rose Bowl hopes, Arizona. While Arizona didn’t seem to be a Pac-10 title contender, it was still a bad sign for Cal with all the tough teams still in front of them on the schedule. So while Cal controlled their destiny, Oregon had only one loss, but it was a blowout loss to USC. The rest of their schedule was still in front of them too. Riley was back under center starting the previous game against UCLA after a couple of game where Longshore had gotten the start.

Scoring and momentum changing plays:

  • Riley throws an interception on the first drive of the game, trying to throw a dump-off pass to Best over the middle but throws right when Best moved left. Oregon gets the ball at the Cal 45.
  • Masoli runs the read-option to the right from 17 yards out and the Ducks score in very easy fashion after the Cal interception. Things don’t look good early for the Bears. The extra point is blocked to minimize the damage: 0-6
  • Riley completes a 3rd and 15 pass to Tucker after escaping pressure and rolling out on the ensuing drive. With Oregon having scored so easily on their first drive, Cal keeping the ball and not going 3 and out was critical for momentum reasons.
  • Riley throws passes of 23 yards to Tucker and 30 to Ross for the touchdown, the pass to Ross a nice seam route on the slant. Bears take a one point lead: 7-6
  • Best rips off a 60 yard run, cutting it back to the middle after going up the sideline. However, at the end of the run the ball squirts out and the Bears give up their 2nd turnover of the game. At least this time the ball was at the Oregon 30.
  • Oregon’s long-snapper snaps the ball WAY over the punters head sailing out of the back of the endzone for a safety. The Bears extend to a field goal lead: 9-6
  • Riley runs up the middle on a broken play for a sizable gain but takes a hard hit at the end of the play and goes off the field woozy. Nate Longshore comes in as his backup.
  • Tedford has the team go for it on 4th and 17 from the Oregon 35 and Longshore completes it to Tucker for a 1st down, getting Cal into the redzone.
  • After guiding the team down to the Oregon 5 yard line, Longshore bobbles the snap on the hold for the field goal and Oregon escapes without a Cal score.
  • Best fumbles the ball inside the Cal redzone when he didn’t have a good grip on the handoff. Oregon gets their second short field of the day.
  • Sean Cattouse picks off the pass from Masoli on the goal-line cutting off the slant pattern. It prevents the Ducks from scoring on their short field.
  • Vereen gets in on the fumbling act as Oregon gets a helmet on the football, shooting it up in the air, giving Oregon the ball around midfield.
  • Oregon tries a fake punt by putting backup QB Roper as the punter. However, the fake fails and Cal gets the ball back at their own 40.
  • Tavecchio from 41 yards out pulls a line drive wide left.
  • Oregon tries for a end of half score and Masoli throws an interception to Worrell Williams who rumbles down to the Oregon 3 yard line.
  • Longshore throws a nice out-pattern to Boateng who turns it up field just enough to get it into the endzone. Bears take a 10 point lead: 16-6
  • Oregon kicks a long field goal to finish of their first drive of the 2nd half. Bears lead shrinks to a TD: 16-9
  • Tavecchio kicks a 32 yard field goal from “the lake” after a nice drive by Longshore that was aided by a pass interference call. Bears back up by 10: 19-6
  • Jeremiah Johnson has a surprisingly easy 21 yard run into the endzone on the 3rd drive of the game where the Ducks offense comes to life. Bears lead down to a field goal: 19-16
  • Oregon misses a field goal attempt at the start of the 4th quarter leaving Cal with that 3 point leed and now the benefit for the Bears of not running into the lake.
  • Oregon’s return man drops the punt and the Bears recover the fumble at the Oregon 6 yard line.
  • Vereen finds a hole on the edge for a 2 yard touchdown run. The Bears are back out in front by 10: 26-16
  • Oregon is unable to move the ball for the entire 4th quarter ending with an incomplete on 4th and 17 from around midfield with 39 seconds left.


  • Oregon did a really nice job with their first possession. They spread the ball around and proved to Cal that Masoli could throw the ball with a couple of nice pass plays. I had completely forgotten about the early interception and easy TD that really made it look like it was going to be a long day in the rain in Berkeley. Luckily the Bears marched right down the field and got a return touchdown to undo the momentum.
  • The Oregon secondary was playing very physical in this game as evidenced by a couple of pass interference calls and the hit on Riley. Cal was doing a good job of not letting it affect them and doing their best to stay on their routes.
  • It’s effectively impossible to understate how much of an affect the rain had on the game. From bad snaps, to bad holds, plus fumbles and errant throws, about every other play was notably affected by the slick conditions.
  • Oregon’s tendency to go for it at the end of the half has burned them on more occasions than it has helped them from my vantage point. They treat it like it’s the end of the game and big interceptions have been the rule of the day.
  • Oregon’s run game seemed to come back to life at the beginning of the 2nd half, similar to how they did well to start the game. But the defense made adjustments both times and locked them down.
  • The difference between how the north end of the field looked before halftime and after halftime was very notable. It had turned into a lake in the mean time. It was pretty much impossible to be effective down on that side of the field, particularly when running to the right. Tavecchio’s field goal from that lake was darned impressive whereas when the Oregon kicker tried to make effectively the same kick from the same spot later in the game, he missed.
  • The Cal offense was really ineffective in the 2nd half with lots of 3rds and long that they weren’t able to convert.
  • At the same time, the Oregon offense became resurgent towards the end of the 3rd quarter, their run game coming to life. Probably their biggest mistake was letting the 3rd quarter expire while they were driving all the way into the redzone. That put them squarely in the middle of the lake when they switched sides. A false-start on 3rd and 1 was likely due to the lineman not being comfortable in the lake and then the Ducks were unable to convert the 3rd and 6 in the middle of the lake. Then to add injury to insult, the field goal attempt from the lake is wide right.
  • The impact of “the lake” just can’t be understated. It effectively ensured the defense only had to cover half the field. Each time Oregon would get to midfield, their drives would come to a halt.
  • Roper came in for Masoli on the final drive of the game. Although Masoli clearly isn’t as good of a passer, it was an odd choice in my mind because Roper was on the sideline all game and he just doesn’t have the time to get in rhythm that he needed.

Implications for 2009:
After looking at the statistics and watching Oregon’s games this year I was starting to buy into the notion that Oregon isn’t all that good and that Masoli stinks. Re-watching last year’s game and knowing how many of those players are back, I have much more respect for Oregon than I did before. At the same time, the weather was a HUGE factor in this game and its hard to draw too many conclusions. What we know for sure is that when Oregon’s run game is firing on all cylinders, it can be a long day for the opposing defense, so shutting it down is key to victory. If Masoli can’t improve on last year’s throwing performance or even more critically is weak throwing performances this year, that could prove to be the key to a Cal victory. However, if he can force the Cal defense to play Oregon balanced, it will make the game much more challenging.

This will always be a game that sticks with me because of the weather. I think I’ll call it “The Lake Bowl” from now on…

80 Duck Uniform Possibilities (EMFMV 2009 Podcast #4)

Hide your eyes, friends, it’s the fourth installment of this year’s Excuse Me For My Voice two-man podcast, featuring Ken Crawford and Jason Snell.

Today’s topics: Cal-Minnesota as viewed from our couches. ESPN’s announcers, who we aren’t big fans of. That awful third quarter that made every Cal fan fear the worst. Previewing Oregon, a match-up that makes us feel better than you might think, but that doesn’t mean it makes us feel good. Rehashing USC’s loss to Washington. Looking ahead to the meat of Cal’s schedule.

Oh, and uniform talk. Did you know that there are 80 combinations of Oregon Ducks uniforms? Or 160, if you count black and white shoes.

You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

Around the Pac-10

I wanted this to be a regular feature, but ran out of time the first couple weeks. Let’s see if I can keep it going through the rest of the season.

  • USC (13) @ UW (16): This could be a blog post of its own. I saved this game on the Tivo and watched it later in the weekend. Here’s the two sides to this upset:
  • Upsides for the Bears:
    • This is the most sloppy USC team I’ve ever seen. One thing you could count on USC for throughout the years is that they were perfect in their simplicity. They just hit you hard and did what they did and won even when it was more ugly than it could be. I think this is part of the reason they never looked inexperienced, they just kept things simple. Not this team. They’re fumbling for no good reason, over-pursuing on defense, allowing gaping holes in the secondary, just not very good play. For the first time in recent memory USC looks like an inexperienced team.
    • Neither USC line looked all that strong, even the lauded offensive line, but particularly the defensive line. Between Cal’s confusing and attacking 3-4 defense that’ll give the USC offensive line as much if not more than they can handle and Cal’s rushing game having plenty of holes to run through, these USC lines better improve dramatically if they want a shot at beating Cal. They didn’t control the line of scrimmage.
    • Unlike previous USC early loses, something about this didn’t feel like an aberration. USC looked shaky against Ohio State and they looked even more shaky versus UW.
    • This was not some early lead by UW that they had to hold on to like previous USC upset examples. Nope, UW was down 10 early and the game was tied at 13 mid-4th quarter. UW still came up with the game winning drive.
  • Notes of caution:
    • Aaron Corp was TERRIBLE! Really, if USC had any balance on offensive, USC doesn’t lose this game. It’s pretty clear now why Barkely was starting. He’ll be healthy by the Cal game in two weeks so we won’t have the benefits that UW did.
    • USC had a number of turnovers that killed drives. I’ve got this in the ‘upsides’ half as “sloppy play” and we can definitely take that sign as something that compromises the team, but turnovers are not something to count on. A lot of the time its the luck of the draw. Also, it’s something that can more easily be corrected in practice so USC may not have this problem by the time the Bears get their shot at it.
    • USC does this every year, lose their first conference game, and comes out no worse for the wear, national title implications aside. Even the Bears win in 2003 was the 1st conference game for USC. 2008 Oregon State was too. 2006 Oregon State was the first game if you don’t count Washington and Washington State as conference teams. Only Stanford, which really won because of a QB injury wasn’t the formulaic loss (hmmm… 1st conference game, 1st conference road game, injured starting QB… USC didn’t stand a chance, did they?)
    • I know this has been all about USC, but don’t forget UW. Going to Seattle in December could be trouble with a revitalized UW to match up against. No matter what happens from here on out that’s going to be a team that knows they’re capable of beating anyone, even if they don’t always pull it off. Let’s hope the Bears have the Rose Bowl locked up before we get to that one.
  • Utah (24) @ Oregon (31): Another one I watched Tivo’ed. If Oregon wants to keep winning, they’re going to have to clean up their act substantially. For whatever reason both Purdue and Utah seemed to completely forget that Oregon runs a read-option and that Masoli is a pretty decent run threat in those plays. More than half of their scores came on long Masoli runs where the DE and safety bit on the inside run. Cal is not going to be so stupid. Add in that Masoli still has trouble hitting the broad side of a barn throwing the ball and Oregon put the ball on the ground WAY too many times (they were even more sloppy than USC) and Cal will win this game with ease if Oregon puts up a repeat performance. But don’t count out this Oregon team yet. They’ve still got lots of talent and if they turn the corner mistake wise, they’ll be a much more formidable opponent than they have been.
  • Arizona (17) @ Iowa (27): This Arizona team is about what everyone expected. Not quite good enough on offense to be good but having a strong enough defense to keep them in lots of games. Iowa was just a bit to strong for Arizona to handle on the road. Still, I’m thankful Cal gets them at home this year.
  • Kansas St. (9) @ UCLA (23): Anybody else getting more scared about UCLA? OK, they’re not USC yet, but we all know how tough UCLA has been in the Rose Bowl. This team is for real and even without their starting QB they’re looking like a formidable yet beatable foe.
  • Cincinnati (28) @ Oregon State (18): I really expected a stronger effort out of OSU. Cinci seems to have their number and Oregon State always starts slow, but I think this game is further proof OSU is a step behind where they were last year.
  • SMU (27) @ WSU (30) 1-OT: Nice to see WSU get one in the win column before it’s too late. Actually, here’s my prediction for WSU. They’ll win at least one conference game, more likely two, over teams that assume they’ll be as terrible as last year and won’t bring their A-game to the frozen potato patch (the less terrifying version of the frozen tundra) in Pullman.
  • SJ State (17) @ Stanford (42): Get ready for an obnoxious Stanford fan base that thinks their remarkably mediocre team is something special. It’s not. SJ State stinks this year and Stanford just doesn’t have the tools yet to compete on the big stage.
  • LA Monroe (14) @ ASU (38): Is anyone still awake or are we all snoring now that we’re in the garbage games? Ho Hum.

Overall, the Pac-10 well represented themselves this weekend. The only non-conference loss was to Cincinnati (EDIT: Oops. That’s two loses with Arizona going down to Iowa) who everyone thinks is going to win the Big East again (or so I hear). If OSU could have pulled that one out the Pac-10 would be nearly unimpeachable. As it stands, the few losses are either to good teams (LSU, etc.) or by teams that are at the bottom of the conference.

Thoughts on the Minnesota game

Here are my thoughts on the Minnesota game after re-watching it:

  • The half-back pass thing to start the game is just too obvious these days, particularly since Best can’t pass. It’s most definitely a “tell” that Vereen is in the game to start instead of Best. I think the play still has some legs if used later in the game at a point where it is natural to sub in Vereen for Best. It was a good job by Vereen to take it and tuck it for a nice gain for a broken play.
  • The unexpected star of this game, was Ross. After the Maryland game I felt like he was done, but in both the last two games he’s been a strong contributor. He’s been our end-around/fly sweep guy (is that perhaps a “tell” too?).
  • What I really liked about the start of this game, on both the opening drives, was how much Cal showed its diversity. They even through in the QB keeper on 3rd down. Between the sweeps, the fake sweeps, the deep throws, the underneath throws, even the half-back pass, it really gives the defense a lot to think about.
  • Best’s first TD run was just awesome. We’re going to see that on ESPN for a long time to come. Very Bush-esque with the leap into the endzone.
  • We’ve all been impressed by Holley as a receiver and runner, but his pass protection so far hasn’t been as stellar. The first sack on Riley was definitely a blown block by Holley. His run blocking has seemed OK to me.
  • If I had to say one thing that I think was the best thing to see out of this game it was Riley continuing to improve. The Bears really have balance now and Riley is doing what Longshore wasn’t: making clutch throws when things break down on 3rd downs.
  • I’m pretty sure it was Tucker who had a play against Arizona where Longshore threw one of his trademark interceptions for a touchdown, but in this particular case, Tucker had an opportunity to play defensive back and break it up, but didn’t even make an attempt at it. As such, it was really nice to see him maturing and breakup the would be interception. There’s been a lot of growth on this team in the last year.
  • OK, it’s not time to freak out yet, but D’Amato’s first attempt at a longer field goal doesn’t inspire much confidence. Am I right in thinking he’s now 1-3 on the season? I’ve seen him kick in practice and he looks really good (particularly the height he gets on his ball preventing the potential block) so I’m optimistic that he’ll get on track, but definitely something to watch for.
  • For what it is worth, Minnesota’s worst field position of the 1st half was after that missed field goal (the Minnesota 30 yard line). Pathetic.
  • Another thing to really like about this Cal offense is the WR run-blocking. Marvin Jones had a key block on Best’s 3rd TD run, which was impressive because the run was up the middle so Jones had to run a long way into the center of the defense to make the block.
  • One of my complaints of personal foul calls is when they call both guys involved. Sure, sometimes it is merited, but I think about 75% of the time it’s a courtesy call to offset the real call so they don’t get boo’ed/yelled at. What you have to do is analyze each player assuming the other guy hadn’t done his part. So to use an example not from this game, when Blount hit the Boise player and there were calls to throw the Boise player out of a game or two, you have to think that if Blount hadn’t hit him, no one would have even thought to care about that guys actions. Same thing with the Cattouse incident in the 2nd quarter. Yeah, he did a light verbal taunt of the receiver, but if the receiver hadn’t shoved him, there’s no way he would have gotten a personal foul.
  • I still disagree with the offensive play-calling on the last Cal series of the half. I would have at a minimum thrown the ball on 3rd and 7. Let Minnesota keep their last timeout if you don’t complete it, but don’t concede the lack of a 1st down by running on 3rd and 7. It was particularly bad because Minnesota didn’t need to use their timeout because the holding penalty stopped the clock anyway.
  • You’ve really got to give it to the Minnesota QB for avoiding sacks with his shovel passes, two of which were completed for gains. Otherwise Cal has 6 sacks again.
  • I was going to say that I was happy that at least one of Minnesota’s touchdowns wasn’t to Decker (seriously Cal D, it was pretty obvious who they were going to pass to) but when Decker is the one throwing the ball… it doesn’t give one much solace.
  • Riley had yet another game with zero interceptions. He got lucky a few times in the game, but there’s something about the way Riley throws that even when he’s off the mark or throwing a risky pass, he seems to have a feel, even last year when he was struggling, for when a risky play is worth taking and won’t burn him.
  • While there was criticism of the defense for not covering Decker, you still have to give them a lot of credit. Particularly consider what horrible field position they had to deal with, they did an exceptional job, most notably against the Minnesota run game. (They only gave up 37 yards!)
  • Another clutch throwing play by Riley was with less than 10 minutes left in the game. The Bears hadn’t had any success yet in the 2nd half and it was 3rd and 15 and Riley laid a perfect throw to Ross for a 1st down. The Bears may not win this game without that play.
  • D’Amato had two kickoffs. One was just beautiful down into the corner of the endzone. The other he got under and went to a Tavecchio like 16 yard-line. Inconsistent to be sure, but I still think it is time to give D’Amato an extended period to work out his kinks now that Tavecchio got plenty of time to work out his and never did.
  • Despite the fact that the Cal D has been great in pass-protection, I heard a lot of grumbling about the lack of interceptions. Even though two of the three were garbage/end of game interceptions, hopefully it let the air out of that complaint.
  • One of my favorite parts of the game is the garbage time pep-talk the announcers give to the losing team’s fans. They always talk about the positives to take from the game, the great things the program is doing, the recruits on the horizon or if worst comes to worst, they talk about the tough breaks. I guess it’s more funny when it’s not your team being patronized.

In summary, not the most beautiful game and the special teams were a big problem, but a win on the road is a win worth celebrating after a couple of frustrating road years. They should have never let Minnesota back in the game, but the emotional benefit of having to re-group and proving to themselves they could do it is well worth it in this case particularly since the final score doesn’t indicate a close game.


Minnesota OTRH Podcast

Don’t go into shock with me posting this on the day (OK, evening) of the game. It’s a lot easier when I’m not traveling to and fro to get the podcast finished in a reasonable amount of time. In any case, enjoy:

Washington 16, USC 13

So, I guess USC is vulnerable after all, huh?

Formerly Live Blog: Cal 35, Minnesota 21

8:58 PT: Hi everyone. Jason here, with Ken chipping in via instant message. We’re getting settled and ready to go. I’m microwaving my oatmeal, and no, that’s not a euphemism. Ken: “Are you ready for some Tour De France football?” What exactly is Lance Armstrong doing there on ESPN?


Updates on the stadium renovation

Over at, they’ve got up a post about the UC regents preliminarily approving the stadium renovation. This allows them to move forward on specific construction plans and drawing and to work on the financing plan. I think this is a very good sign that they’re not getting gun-shy with all of the budget cutbacks. Of course there’s no actual financial relationship between the two, but it doesn’t change that the PR issues surrounding raising fees while at the same time reducing services makes managers nervous about approving a big project, even if they’re independently funded. It just looks bad to people who are ignorant to the distinctions and often by the time those financial distinctions are corrected, the horse is already out of the barn.

In any case, there are some notable details that are spelled out in black and white:

  • The year we’ll be nomads is 2011. (Court delays aside)
  • The project will cost $321 million. That’s worrisome to me because of the rules of Alto-Priolo. That means we’ve got to get a stadium evaluation at $642 million or higher. It sure would be nice if that number was under $500 million. I think that’ll be a lot easier to justify in front of a judge. I wonder if they’ve figured out ways to minimize how much of that $321 counts towards the official retrofit?
  • There’s more data there on the number of ESP seats sold (at nearly 2000 of 3000).
  • It also makes it pretty clear that the east side renovations are on the back-burner for quite a while, at least until “funds become available”.
  • Not that this is new, but they’ll be lowering the field 3 feet.

In any case, good to see they’re moving forward.

Minnesota Preview

I feel like I’ve talked myself to death talking about the upcoming Minnesota game, so this preview will be shorter than usual (“phew!” says all the non-fanatics who visit the site).

My initial impression of Minnesota was that they were a one dimensional run team, but the more footage I’ve watched I’ve realized that they’re more than that. They’re a one dimensional run team with a single receiver their QB loves to lock on and throw to. I guess that makes life a little bit more difficult than if they were just a run team, but this Cal secondary has proven time and time again that you can’t beat them with just one threat. You’ve got to spread the ball around.

So, on paper, particularly when one adds in talent levels and both team’s 2009 game performances, this should be a pretty easy win for the Bears.

But everyone here knows that’s not the real story. The real story is whether these Bears are going to be able to go on the road and win. I feel a lot like I would if Cal had to travel to Arizona this year (not last year where they actually had a pretty good offense). I feel like the Bears should win but I know all to well how dangerous it is to go into the desert and come out unscathed. Particularly with the Gopher’s new stadium, a topic that I think is being under discussed emotion wise because teams don’t like to see their new virgin stadium defiled by a loss, I’m a lot more nervous about this game that I’d like to admit.

All one has to do is read my statistical preview over at (subscription required) to know just how much us Bear fans have to be nervous about in the history of non-conference road games for Tedford’s Bears.

Nevertheless, I’m going to ignore those fears and predict the Bears cruise to an easy win 35-17.

Gopher Podcast interviews me

well, let there be no doubt that I’m dedicated to Cal football. There were FIVE different opportunities to hear my scratchy voice this week:

  1. On The Road Home podcast
  2. podcast
  3. Speaking at the Sacramento Grid Club
  4. EMFMV podcast w/ Jason
  5. And most recently (and the point of this post) the Gopher Football Blog Podcast

The Gopher Football blog guys got a hold of me earlier this week and it took a near act of God to get my interview scheduled with everything else on the Calendar and the two-hour time difference. We finally synced up last night. Here’s the result:

(Note that I was having some trouble listening to it on the permalink but I suspect it’ll work fine for you. If it doesn’t, it is embedded on their blog

The interview with me starts somewhere around the 15:00 mark.

Neon Yellow Gophers (EMFMV 2009 Podcast #3)

And now it’s the third installment of this year’s Excuse Me For My Voice two-man podcast, featuring Ken Crawford and Jason Snell.

Today’s topics: Recapping Cal’s win over Eastern Washington. Pre-capping Cal versus Minnesota. Minnesota’s nice new stadium. Minnesota’s frightening new uniforms. What we know about Cal’s weaknesses, and what we don’t yet know. And a look at the Pac-10’s results and forthcoming games.

You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

Looking back on ’08: Michigan State

(We continue the looking back series for the 2008 season. Unlike prior seasons where I did these games in chronological order, I’m going to do them as what will look like previews for this year’s match up. I’m matching the Michigan State game, Cal’s 2008 Big-10 opponent with Minnesota, the 2009 Big-10 opponent. For the rest of the games, all conference games, I can do an exact matchup comparision from 2008 to 2009. Go here for past posts.)

Pre-Game notes and thoughts:
For the 3rd year in a row the Bears started off the season with their toughest non-conference game (Tennessee getting that distinction in the two previous seasons). After the previous year’s success against Tennessee at home, there was a lot of confidence that the Bears could take on Michigan State. However, with Riley getting only his 2nd start there was reason to be concerned about the inexperience there. Additionally, it was the first game for Cal’s new 3-4 defense. While there was a lot of talent at linebacker, a new formation is always something to be a bit concerned about. So generally, as with all Cal teams of late, there was optimism mixed with concern to start the season and it didn’t help that the first opponent was such a formidable one.

Scoring and momentum changing plays:

  • Consecutive big penalties setup 1st and 40 for Michigan State who was marching down the field and was inside the Cal 30 before the penalties, ends the scoring threat.
  • 2 drives later Cal blocks the punt on the MSU goal line by Bret Johnson and it is picked up by Nnabuife who ran it for a touchdown. Bears up early: 7-0
  • Anger kicks his 2nd booming punt pinning MSU back deep in their territory yet again. His kicks have been ensuring Cal is winning the field position game.
  • After Best’s running game comes alive and the Bears have their first sustained drive, Seawright kicks the field goal on 4th and 1. Bears extend their early lead: 10-0
  • MSU has to kick the field goal after the instant replay takes back what looked like a touchdown pass. To add injury to insult, the 40 yard field goal attempt is wide left.
  • Longshore throws 2 interceptions in quick succession, the 2nd of which getting returned for a touchdown. Bears lead eroded all too quickly: 10-7
  • Best finishes off the drive he started with a 33 yard swingout pass with a 2 yard touchdown run. Bears get their touchdown back: 17-7
  • Syd intercepts a wounded duck of a pass that kills another potential scoring drive that had reached the Cal 11 yard line with less than a minute left in the half. Bears go into the locker room with a 10 point lead.
  • Anger can’t corral a good snap from Sundberg and tries to punt on the run and is tackled. It gives MSU the ball in the Cal redzone.
  • Ringer was able to rush it in from there. Bears down to a field goal lead again: 17-14
  • After Riley got a 42 yard pass to Sean Young to get the ball down into the redzone, Riley caps off the drive with a TD pass to Morrah. Bears get back their 10 point lead: 24-14.
  • MSU decided to punt from the Cal 40 but Kendricks roughs the kicker giving MSU a fresh set of downs at the Cal 25.
  • Ringer gets a 10 yard TD run on the end of that drive. Lead back down to a field goal: 24-21
  • On 3rd down Kevin Riley gets off a play as he is being sacked that he inexplicably manages to to get to Morrah for not only a 1st down but an extra 15 yards, keeping the drive alive.
  • After Best takes it down to the 5 yard line on an outside run tip-toeing down the sideline, Riley connects with Ta’ofo’ou on a rollout play for a touchdown. Bears get their 10 point lead back: 31-21
  • Hagan and MSU WR Dell have a simultaneous catch (really 70% Hagan and 30% Dell, but those sorts of things don’t count in the rulebook) on a long pass down the middle, giving MSU the ball at the Cal 24 yard line.
  • Cal holds from there and MSU kicks the field goal. The Bears lead is down to a touchdown: 31-24
  • On the first play of the ensuing drive, Vereen takes it 81 yards off tackle for a HUGE touchdown. The Bears have their first 14 point lead: 38-24
  • After a near-interception is overturned by the replay booth, Dell gets another pass, this time in traffic where somehow all three Bears around him miss on the tackle and Dell is able to sprint into the endzone. Bears lead down to a touchdown again: 38-31
  • The Bears get the clock down to 48 seconds with a 1st down or two, making life really difficult for MSU on their final drive and attempt to tie the game. MSU can’t convert on 4th down from mid-field and the Bears are able to run out the clock.


  • Tavecchio has his first kickoffs as a Bear and is kicking just outside the Cal 10 yard line.
  • There’s no doubt that Longshore was forcing things. Even his successful throws were dangerous and aggressive throws. He was playing things on the worrisome side. His two interceptions not only sealed his starter fate, I think it also killed his confidence.
  • Boateng really had a bad game dropping the ball. While it was something that got better over the course of the year, we’re seeing the same thing again at the start of the 2009 season.
  • Best really got his motor running in the 2nd quarter after getting stuffed in the 1st. Once he breaks one for even 10 or 15 yards, it really gets inside the defense’s heads with his explosive speed. That seems to loosen up the shorter running game because the defense isn’t willing to be as aggressive for fear of getting burned.
  • Vereen also got going in the 2nd quarter and was really an important component of the Cal running game. It gave Best a lot of rest when he needed it but at the same time picked up some critical 1st downs.
  • The defense really had the MSU running game bottled up. Ringer was never able to get his feet under him. He wasn’t able to pick up 1st downs and he wasn’t able to bust any big runs. The defense was clearly trying to force MSU to beat them through the air.
  • By the time the 4th quarter had rolled around MSU had somewhat answered that challenge from the Bears and had figured out how to be productive passing the ball in small increments. The fact that they were able to get 3-5 yard pickups on high percentage passing plays really helped them have easier 3rd down conversions than earlier in the game.
  • This was really Sean Young’s one good game of the 2008 season, which on the one hand sounds bad at first blush, but you have to give Young a lot of credit for being the leaders and leading the way for the young/inexperienced guys. That he had one good game to show the young guys how it was done was only icing on the cake.
  • In the 4th quarter Seawright took over for Tavecchio on kickoff duty. While Tavecchio started off OK (but not exceptional), he just kept getting worse and worse. Unfortunately a sign of things to come.
  • Anger was never quite himself, although he only got two punts to test this, after he was tackled as he tried to get off the punt on the run in the 3rd quarter. That injury would stick with him for a handful of games early in the season, including the road loss to Maryland.

Implications for 2009:
Michigan State was a very similar offense to what we can expect to see from Minnesota. However, Minnesota really relies on their one good WR and they don’t have a running back like Ringer. Defensively, Minnesota may just have a better linebacker core than Michigan State and they’ll need it if they’re going to slow down Cal’s offense. Riley looked really good in this game and his throwing form and accuracy were better than they were later in the 2008 season. In many ways I expect a similar game versus Minnesota with perhaps MSU having more heart and talent to stay in the game than Minnesota will.

I really like these big games to start the season, as much as they make us all a bit uneasy. It’s a bit unfortunate that Maryland is having a down year because the game with them could have been a big one if Maryland had been on the rise from 2008, not the decline. This win over Michigan State puts the Bears at 5-0 versus the Big-10. Can that continue?