(Sorry for the lack of a Texas wrap-up post nor a UW prediction. Never really got my feet back under me after the Texas trip last week.)
There’s few things one has to fight harder for than a win in Husky stadium. No matter how many times I see Cal go to UW as the favored team, you’re never going to see me over-confident. UW just doesn’t go down easily on their home field and more than one Cal season has been derailed by games up there (Heck, one could argue Tedford’s struggles up there were significantly responsible for his demise).
So no matter what you think about this win, don’t forget how hard fought it was. This team has heart!
- On the 1st series, as the announcers explained, Enwere went to the wrong gap when he didn’t get the 1st down on 3rd and short. It was a really weird play because it sure looked obvious/easy to pick the right hole, but for whatever reason he got scared and cut it back. Although later in the game Enwere seemed to come of age and find his power game, I’m still not 100% convinced about him. I still think Mohammad should be our #2 back.
- While were on that play, what is it with Dykes sacrificing his challenge on the 1st drive to a marginal ball-spotting review? You just don’t win those unless it is SUPER obvious and neither of the last two games was it obvious (in fact he was just wrong against UW). We could have really used that challenge at a couple points later in the game.
- While we’re on the negative, UW shot themselves in the foot a lot more than I think most people appreciate. Stupid penalties; Under throws that allowed the DB’s to get back into the play (Cal would have been in trouble against a better QB); Dropped passes that would have kept UW drives alive… it all adds up to a game where a better executing team would have exposed more in the Cal defense.
- It was also not the best refereed game. Cal got the good end of it a couple times (Goff definitely fumbled in the 4th quarter) and the bad end of it (Enwere’s butt hit the ground before he fumbled on the one returned for a TD (speaking of times Cal could have used a review in their pocket)) as well as some missed penalty calls, again some against Cal (Lawler push-off) and some we could have used (Lawler getting down right abused both by a targeting hit and a late hit on the same play). So it’s not that the refs were biased, but it wasn’t there best day on the field either.
- Speaking of refs, I wouldn’t be intellectually honest if I didn’t say the UW fumble where the question was whether the QB’s arm was coming forward should have gone the other way. I think it was a fumble, but that was very marginal. Since it was called a pass on the field, that should have been called as a “play stands”.
- My final ref thought is that the Bears got the absolute shaft from the refs on the 4 plays from the UW 1 yard line. Enwere had a great effort on 1st down and that was clearly a touchdown based on the slow-mo. He kept his knee off the ground (where was Cal’s challenge used again?). Then there was the HORRIFIC pass interference on Lawler. My only guess was that the refs were calling that uncatchable. But when the WR gets thrown just after the ball was in the air, how can you know? I guess they could have been saying it was before the ball was in the air and within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, but it was clearly after the throw was airborne.
- On to some positives, it was really nice to see Cal’s pass coverage making plays on the ball, including two interceptions. That’s the sort of performance I’ve been waiting for. The other way they were making plays on the ball was in the way they went after the receiver as they were catching the ball. There was more than one breakup that was impressive. Overall the effort was more than most teams do. The fumble by the WR was also a result of the DB’s getting their hands in as the WR was making the catch (although in that case, it was late, so it was a catch and a fumble instead of incomplete).
- We should all be really happy with the defensive line pressure. There were times they were getting pressure when only rushing 3 and they definitely could get pressure with 4. Whenever they got 5 rushing, they were pretty darned successful if it wasn’t a quick pass. I think this was instrumental in helping the secondary. The QB was definitely rattled.
- I really should give Enwere props for his running as the game wore on. He definitely disappointed me on that 1st drive, but as the game wore on I could see more of why the coaching staff is putting him in there. He definitely is the back on the team who is going to break tackles and make something out of nothing. Particularly as defenses get tired (which his kind of running can force) he’s going to break free more often. Hopefully he continues to mature in his decisions (and in fairness, I only saw the one really bad hole choice).
- Speaking of under-estimated runners, what is going on with Goff? It’s not quite like when Longshore broke a 25 yard run against UCLA in 2006, but Goff is really surprising people with his feet. While the game sealing run wasn’t exactly pretty, Goff had heart and 2nd effort. Add to that the decision to take the easy 10-15 yarders when the coverage breaks down and all of a sudden we’ve got something really surprising.
- Along those lines, while the play-call was a surprise, Cal going for it when everyone was expecting a pooch punt wasn’t a surprise to me both because I very much anticipated Dykes eventually lulling a team into complacency with the assumed pooch punt and because of where they were on the field. You’re only going to get another 15-20 yards if you’re lucky from a punt. If you’re choices are take a 50-50 shot at ending the game right now or push the ball from the UW 35 to the 15, I take the 50-50 shot. Now a Goff run… yeah, that was a surprise.
- And because it wouldn’t be me without picking on the details… I’m a bit uneasy with Dykes over-conservative tendencies. It’s showing itself in a few ways. One is the kicking game. We just can’t afford to be giving the opponent the ball somewhere between the 30 and 40 every kickoff. Another is his inability to pick the right plays as he’s trying to seal the win. While it wasn’t as bad as the Texas game, he still didn’t do a good job of mixing run and pass in a way that kept the defense off balance while still keeping the clock running. One particular series that troubled me was 1st and 25 from the UW 40 or so with 5 minutes left. Sorry, you just can’t run it up the middle on those.
- Finally, and this definitely feels like harping, this was not the WR’s best catching game. Lawler dropped two passes and there was a few others as well. I wouldn’t call it “bad” but it wasn’t up to their usual exceptional standard.
To sum up, it’s been said that the best win is the type that gives the coaches plenty to focus on in practice. Perhaps that’s just one more reason that this was a great victory for the team. Solid in lots of different ways to keep the confidence of the team growing, while still giving plenty for this team to work on in practice to strive to get better.