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Archive for September, 2020


Week 4 choice – 2019 Ole Miss

I don’t like the fact that half of the games thus far are from last year, but I promise that trend won’t hold. It’s just that two of last year’s biggest wins were early in the season.

Nevertheless, last year’s Ole Miss game was a great one:

(And yes, I know, I still haven’t posted the week 3 re-watch thoughts… still working on it…)

Week 4 candidate games

(As an FYI, I’m still working on watching the week 3 game. I didn’t manage to finish squeezing it in over the weekend (I’m currently mid 2nd quarter) and I’m in the middle of a critical project with a deadline tonight at work. I should have time tomorrow or Friday to finish it off.)

OK, we’re already in week 4. Not that we’re going to pick one of these, but week four has some awful games. Between 2009 and 2014 the Bears never won their week 4 game including the very demoralizing losses to Oregon in 2009 and USC in 2012. It also includes 2002 loss to Air Force. This might be Cal’s most inauspicious week of the season.

So the number of good games is not large… but luckily includes at least one gem. Here are the candidates:

  • Blowout of ASU in 2006
  • 2015 UW: First win in Husky stadium in a decade and sign that a Sonny Dykes team may have what it takes to be bowl eligible.
  • 2019 win at Ole Miss

That’s really about it (there’s only 3 other wins at all and they’re nothing remarkable) and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it an easy choice: Ole Miss.

Anyone disagree?

Week 3 choice – 2015 Texas

Well, it was as I thought, the two popular ones were 2002 Michigan State and 2015 Texas. And frankly I probably would have picked MSU since I feel like the final list will be a little too recently biased… but I ran into one problem: No full game footage of the MSU game. I personally have just about every game from 2006 onward in my collection, but online I was only about to find the 1st to 3rd quarters of the MSU game.

So Texas it is:

Check back for commentary by the end of the weekend.

Week 3 candidate games

As much as I enjoyed last week’s game, I have to admit it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Without video of the delay, it was void of the unique emotion that delay caused. Still, hard to argue with an upset over a top-15 team.

Here are the best candidates for week 3:

  • 2002 @ Michigan State: The Bears opened the Tedford era with 2 dominant wins over weak teams. But week 3 required them to go on the road to Michigan State, who was ranked 15th at the time. Could the Bears really have improved so much in so short a time to go on the road to a ranked Big-10 team and win? Impossible!
  • 2009 @ Minnesota: A game full of Jahvid Best highlights.
  • 2015 @ Texas: What is it about week 3 and big non-conference road games?
  • 2016 Texas: The return game back in Berkeley. To me, this one is not nearly exciting as the previous year’s game. But again, that may be because I have an emotional attachment to the 2015 game as my wife and I went to it (usually I would take my boys on the road trip games).
  • 2017 Ole Miss: Any win over an SEC team is notable, but it is worth noting that this is the home game in 2017, not the more memorable road game in 2019 (that game was in week 4)

No shortage of good games to pick from, yes? What tickles your fancy? What one do you want to watch?

(Selection will be made Friday afternoon/evening.)

2020 Virtual Season Game 2

For week 2, we’ve chosen a recent one: last year’s (2019) UW game. For those who don’t remember, the Bears had upset the Huskies at home 12-10 in 2018. It was a very physical defensive struggle. Washington fans felt they should have won and some bad in-game decisions by the coach had cost them the game. But of course the Bears felt otherwise (and I think felt a little disrespected by that talk). Could the Bears go on the road to Seattle and prove Husky fans wrong by beating 14th ranked UW (they had been ranked 15th in 2018)?

To add to all of that, this was what our family jokingly calls “the lightning bowl”. You’ll see why in a bit…

Commentary when watching:

  • After a long kickoff return (to about mid-field), the Huskies go 3 and out. That was capped by a 3rd down QB run where a relatively new rule (one that would loom heavy throughout the season) cost the Huskies a potential first down. The new rule is that when the QB slides, the ball is marked where he “gives himself up” (which is usually a couple yards behind where the knee hits the ground). The result was a 4th and 1 where UW lined up to go for it, but when they saw the defense, they did the QB pooch punt thing.
  • I’ve said this before, but the justification for that rule change is ridiculous. They say it is to “protect the QB”. But what it really does is encourage QB’s to dive head first to get the yards they need for a first down.
  • The Bears get a couple of first downs and then have to punt. Yet again the Huskies get a good return and are already back at mid-field again.
  • And with that, the game is delayed by a couple hours. The video I have cut out the two and a half hours of delay, so the built up nerves and anxiousness isn’t really there. Also how late it was. The game was already a 7 PM (or was it 7:30 PM) start, so with the delay the game was REALLY late. They didn’t restart until 10:30 PM and it was still early in the 1st quarter
  • The Huskies get a first down and then go for it on 4th down and fail giving the Bears the ball back at their own 35.
  • The Cal offensive line is not holding up well. Garbers has already been sacked twice and even when he wasn’t sacked, he was frequently hurried. The Bears punt again.
  • The UW run game is working reasonably well. There are holes to run through most of the time. However, just frequently enough the Bears are getting a stop for no gain and forcing the passing game, which was not working so well for UW.
  • After a QB sneak on 4th down works, the Huskies have to sub in the backup QB because Easton’s helmet came off. The Bears get a big sack with a corner blitz that is too much for the inexperienced QB. A very wise defensive decision that puts UW well behind the sticks on a 2nd down. The result is they force 4th down and a field goal. Huskies score first and the Bears are down a field goal: 0-3
  • The Bears continue to struggle offensively and in the punting game. After a 3 and out and 19 yard put, the Huskies get the ball at mid-field for the 3rd time.
  • But this time Bynum jumps the receiver’s route and gets an interception. The Bears get the ball back quickly, although deep in their own territory.
  • While the Bear run game starts to show some progress, a holding call kills another set of downs and the Bears punt again.
  • UW gets themselves into yet another 4th and 1 on the Cal side of the field. This time, over pursuit by the Bears inside (perhaps since the last two successful conversions were up the middle they felt the need to over compensate), opens a bit hole outside and Ahmed (UW RB) scores an easy 20+ yard TD. Bears in a big hole midway through the 2nd quarter: 0-10
  • A swing-out pass (kinda like a screen pass to the RB) results in a big 20 yard gain with another 15 tacked on for an illegal block on UW. With that, the Bears only take one play to get to the UW 32 yard line.
  • The Bears run game continues to Bear fruit. Brown breaks a 10 yarder, then a read-option gets Garbers down to the 5 yard line.
  • But between a false start and a bad play-call on 2nd down and the Bears are forced to settle for a field-goal. Bears back within a TD: 3-10
  • After a first down by UW, Weaver sacks the UW QB and forces a fumble. The Bears get the ball back on the UW side of the field (33 yard line). That’s two turnovers and they’ve most definitely helped keep Cal in the game.
  • But Bears go 3 and out and give ball back to UW with two minutes left in the half, but UW is unable to drive the field. They punt from mid-field with just over 30 seconds left at their own 11 yard line. They just take a knee. Halftime score: 3-10.
  • Bears have a good drive, mixing power runs from Brown, safe passes from Garbers and a big run from Dancy gets them well into UW territory. Then Dancy finishes the drive off with a 20+ yard TD run. Bears tie it up on the first drive of the 2nd half: 10-10
  • UW drives the field, mostly through running (although they convert a frustrating 3rd and 18 pass), but then the Bears stiffen and stop them on 3 consecutive plays inside the 5 yard-line. Huskies convert the field-goal to re-take the lead and put the Bears in an FG sized hole: 10-13
  • One thing that was definitely notable was how much quieter the crowd was than a normal game in Husky stadium. The 2 1/2 hour delay definitely thinned the crowd, and then it thinned further in the 2nd half as public transit options forced people to leave before the last train/bus.
  • Dancy playing a larger role now that he’s proved himself on the previous drive. Something about his running style is better suited to the UW defense. But after the Bears need a tough yard, they bring back in Brown and he not only gets the first down, but a few plays later breaks a bigger one to get the Bears down near the redzone.
  • But it’s Dancy who gets the TD after Brown comes out for a breather. Bears on top for the 1st time near the end of the 3rd quarter: 17-13
  • UW has yet another 4th and 1 and yet again converts. Both the Bears and Huskies have a terrible 3rd down conversion rate, but the Huskies have 3 or 4 4th down conversions to supplement that. It really kept a lot of drives alive.
  • And it happens AGAIN at the 2 yard line. Another 4th and 1. And again the Huskies go for it, but just before the play there’s a false start. With that, the Huskies kick the field goal. The Bears lead is narrowed to 1: 17-16
  • Wow, they just did a wide view of the stadium. There can’t be 15K there at this point.
  • Bad throw by Garbers on third down means the Bears go 3 and out and the Huskies get the ball back pretty quickly and a bit less than 6 minutes left. We sure the Bears win this one? Why am I nervous?
  • The Huskies are pretty methodical driving down the field. Nothing big ever, but lots of 4 to 6 yard gains to offset the few times the Bears come up with a stop. UW gets to the Bears 32 with 2 minutes left. But then 2 incomplete passes brings up 4th and long. The Huskies at first plan for a 4th down play, but then change to the field goal. It appears to be smart as he sneaks the 50 yarder inside the upright and take the lead. Bears need a two-minute drill down 17-19.
  • Two back to back fade passes net a bunch of yards, one on a completion and one on a PI foul. The Bears are down to the UW 30 with 1:30 left.
  • Then a big gain on a WR screen to Crawford gets the ball to the 4 yard line. That was a brilliant call after the last two passes. It had the safeties playing wide and going to a cover-2. It opened up the middle of the field for a play like that. Now the Bears are in a commanding position with just over a minute and in easy field-goal range.
  • On 2nd down the Bears center the ball at the 3 yard line to setup the game winning field goal on 3rd down on what is as close to an extra point as conceivable.
  • But then the Bears do the unexpected and run an inside with Brown. He appears to get over the goal line and score, but the linesman calls it short. There’s no good replay angle and the play stands. But the downside of the play is now the FG attempt isn’t straight on. Yet they do make it and are up with 8 seconds left 20-19.
  • The Huskies of course don’t convert and the Bears upset the Huskies 2 years in a row. Woohoo!

Week 2 choice – 2019 UW

As much as I have an affinity for the 2008 WSU game, it wasn’t a very important win. WSU was in quite a drought at that point and the Bears were close to the top of the Tedord era. So yeah, it was fun… but I want more than fun. I want important too!

So this week’s choice is last year’s “lightning bowl”:

Tune in tomorrow for my notes from watching it.

Week 2 candidate games

Alright, week 1 is behind us. It was a great victory over Tennessee. If the team keeps playing like that, this could be an undefeated season! Could this finally be our year?

Here are the games from 2002 to 2019 I think are worth considering for week 2:

  • 2006: After the disaster at Tennessee in week 1, the Bears come home and stick it to Minnesota.
  • 2008: Bears travel to WSU and absolutely destroy them. This one has a fond place in my heart because I was there and it was part of a memorable road-trip that lasted all the way through the following week’s game at Maryland (which will *NOT* be an option for next week).
  • 2010: Blow out over Colorado at home
  • 2011: Nail biter overtime victory over Colorado on the road
  • 2018: Solid win over BYU on their turf
  • 2019: What I affectionately call “the lightning bowl”… the win over UW in Seattle, preventing UW from avenging the previous year’s upset Cal Bear win.

So there’s actually a pretty good slate of games to pick from. While I will reserve the right to make the final selection, I’m all ears for which game people would prefer and your rationale for that pick.

What game to people want to see?

2020 Virtual Season Game 1

Tonight we re-watch the 2007 Tennessee game. The Bears had gone to Tennessee to start the 2006 season and been humbled. They were ranked 9th and the Vols ranked 23rd. Nothing went their way and a number of early big plays made the game a laugher, despite the more respectable final score (35-18). The Bears went on to have a great season in 2006 despite the weak start and were yet again ranked above the Vols to start the 2007 season. (#12 vs. #15) But because of the previous season’s game, there wasn’t a lot of confidence the Bears were the better team. That set the stage for a great game:

  • One forgets how full Memorial stadium was at this point in the Tedford years. Full to the brim and the crowd was very loud right from the get-go.
  • The Bears send the now legendary Zack Follett (he was young then) and hits the Vol QB in the back just as he went to throw the ball. Worrell Williams (another Cal linebacker) scooped and scored for an early Cal lead: 7-0.
  • Based on today’s standards, that would have been a personal foul on Follett for spearing. How the rules have changed.
  • Looking at the scores scrolling at the bottom of the screen, there are SOOOO many big schools that schedule weak opponents for week 1. That’s one thing I love about the Bears. We’re rarely afraid of a big week 1 match-up.
  • Tennessee pretty methodically drives down the field and scores a matching TD. The final play was particularly troublesome as a number of missed tackles turns what should have been a 2-3 yard gain into a 13 yard TD catch and run. Score tied: 7-7
  • Wow does Tedford look young in 2007. Kinda like being president really ages a guy, so does being a head coach (or at least for a lot of them).
  • People remember DeSean Jackson for his speed, but this was one of those games where he showed his other talents. He held on to a catch when he got drilled just as he caught the ball. That was very good hands.
  • Forsett was now the starting back after Marshawn Lynch went early to the NFL. A lot of plays he was easily stuffed for little game, far more so than Lynch, but his shiftiness and speed gave him some pretty night runs. A great juke on the Bears first drive gets the ball into the redzone.
  • A Cal QB sneak on the goal-line results in a TD. Bears back up 14-7
  • But Tennesse has a big kickoff return and is in the Cal redzone right away.]
  • For those who don’t remember, 2007 was in the middle of the tree-sitter era. They had a couple of pretty funny special interest pieces about it. Kirk Herbstreet was so confused. He just couldn’t imagine it.
  • Tennessee finishes off the drive with a short run of their own. Tied again: 14-14
  • After trading punts, well, really on the 2nd punt, DeSean Jackson does what he does in one of his most iconic punt returns. “The wizard of returns!” Bears back in front: 21-14
  • After Tennessee goes 3 and out, Tennessee purposely punts it out of bounds. The crowd was not pleased…
  • Tennessee gets a 44 yard pass play on a busted coverage and back into the Cal redzone again. A couple plays later a well designed swing pass evens the score again: 21-21
  • Jahvid Best came into the game as a true freshman on the next drive and breaks a big run on his 3rd carry to get down to the Tennessee 5 yard line. The beginning of a great career at Cal.
  • A screen play (a bit odd in the red-zone, yes?) gets Cal back in the red-zone and back to a TD lead: 28-21
  • Both teams are having pretty good luck on their kickoff returns. The ball always seems to get out to at least the 30, if not the 40 or more.
  • After Tennessee fails to convert on a 4th down at the Cal 30, Cal runs a brilliantly schemed screen to Forsett with a minute left in the half that gets down to the Tennessee 20 yard line.
  • But Longshore has 3 bad throws near the goal-line and the Bears settle for the field goal just before halftime. Bears up by 10: 31-21
  • And that’s the halftime score.
  • DeSean is given the ball on a reverse and gains 20+ yards on the 1st drive of the 2nd half.
  • Something about that run play really loosened up the Vol defense and Longshore makes 2 quick passes to get into the endzone. Bears up big now: 38-21
  • Tennessee breaks a long run down to the Cal 3 yard-line, but then Cal has a great defensive stand to force 4th and goal. Tennessee goes for it on 4th down (I’d say it was a bit early to get that desperate, particularly when down by 17 and a field goal is helpful). The Bears break up the pass and get the ball back without giving up any points.
  • Bears get enough yards to flip the field before having to punt after 2 bad snaps in a row result in a bad sequence.
  • The Bears defense does a pretty good job of forcing Tennessee to chip away underneath so as to lengthen their drives and stop the quick scores. However, Tennessee takes what the Bears give them and drive the field for a TD. Back to a 10 point margin: 38-28
  • Bears go 3 and out and give the ball back to Tennessee awful quickly. I remember this was a moment I started to get nervous. Tedford appeared to be going to one of his worst habits: Getting conservative offensively too early to try and run out the clock. Although I must say, the 3 plays weren’t all that conservative: 2 passes out of 3 downs.
  • Bears defense again keeps things in front of them and this time it works more like planned. The Vols use a lot of time and only get a field goal out of it. Nevertheless, the score is down to a TD: 38-31
  • And I’m exhibiting a classic Cal fan syndrome. I’m feeling nervous even watching a game I know the outcome for.
  • After the Bears punt, DeCoud (safety) misses an easy interception when he doesn’t see the ball. Nevertheless, Tennessee goes 3 and out themselves and give the ball back to the Bears with 10 minutes left.
  • Bears actually stick to throwing the ball quite a bit on these drives. They finally get a good completion and convert a 1st down for the first time in a few “drives”.
  • Forsett has a nice run, weaving his way through the linebackers, for another Cal TD that seems to be the one that demoralizes the Vols hope for a comback. Back up 14 points: 45-31
  • After Tennessee has to punt again, the Bears commit themselves to the run game. Forsett has a number of good runs, and most definitly shows his toughness, grinding out some tough yards and breaking tackles.
  • Boy, I forgot about that Tennessee injury where the defender went head first into the back of another defender. I can say this now because I know he was eventually fine, but boy did he go down like a sack of potatos and then didn’t move *AT ALL*.
  • After driving the length of the field Longshore fumbles on a QB sneak at the 1 yard line. Not only do they not get the score, it’s called a touch-back (which was marginal at best) thus giving Tennessee the ball at the 20 yard line.
  • What a great defensive play! Vols try a screen play on 1st down and the Bears both put pressure on the QB and sniff it out, causing a 7 yard loss.
  • It kinda feels like between the team mate injury and the 14-point lead, Tennessee’s heart was not in it at this point with 2 minutes left.
  • The Bears force a 3 and out and are able to run out the clock after getting one first down.
  • Final score: 45-31
  • Redemption!

Best Game in week 1 – 2007 Tennessee

Week 1 is an easy one, at least as far as I’m concerned:

I hope to watch it this afternoon and post my thoughts before I go to Church to do live-streaming this evening.

2020 Cal football blogging plans

We find ourselves in uncharted territory… how are we to survive a Fall without Cal football? Are we to (to quote Fletcher from the movie ‘Liar, Liar’) “piss and moan like an impotent jerk and then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!?!”?

Well perhaps… that seems to be the theme of the year.

But, fear not! I have a plan to at least take some of the sting out our predicament. Why not make up a “fantasy season”, a season that was the best possible season one could imagine? Think about it, haven’t you said to yourself “wouldn’t it be great if we had a season where the Bears played at their best every week?”

Let’s do that this “season”!

Since the only way we can watch Cal football is to watch games from seasons past, I say we watch the best game from modern Cal history (from the hiring of Tedford in 2002 onward) from each week of the year. I’ll take recommendations for each week if people would like to make them.

(Quick note, the 4th week of the season is not necessarily the same as the 4th game of the season. Bye weeks count. So make sure you account for that when you make a suggestion.)

I’ll announce the game mid-week based on my analysis of what weeks the best games were played on combined with your recommendations (well, except for this week, where I will announce it today). Then I’ll watch the game sometime over the weekend and share my thoughts on the game in a blog post.

Sound good? Anyone out there?