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Archive for October, 2020


Week 8 candidate games

(OK, I know I’m *ridiculously* behind on watching these… 3 weeks now. But the end of my week and weekend are free for the first time since mid-September, so I should be able to catch up by the end of the weekend.)

This might just be the weakest week of the season:

  • 2004 Arizona – Shutout of Arizona on the road
  • 2005 WSU – During one of WSU’s good streaks, a tough fought victory at home
  • 2016 Oregon – Probably the best choice. A win over Oregon in recent years is something notable. This is the last good win of the Dykes era.
  • 2018 OSU – Wonderful rebound game after the UCLA disaster the prior week.

So really nothing that jumps out. 2016 Oregon isn’t even a game with Goff. Is this the week we substitute in 2007 Oregon?

Week 7 choice – 2017 WSU

I had forgotten this was the smoke bowl. How can we not go with the smoke bowl?

Week 7 candidate games

(Yes, I know, I’m two weeks behind again on watching games… I hope to catch up later this week.)

Here are the games to consider for our 2020 virtual season:

  • 2009 UCLA – The game that finally broke the losing streak in the coliseum. Also the first game of a 5 out of 6 winning streak that salvaged the 2009 season (the Bears were 2-2 going into this one having lost two *horrific* games to Oregon and USC)
  • 2017 WSU – In Wilcox’s first season we get a first glimpse of the defense to come when they beat 8th ranked WSU, holding them to 3 points, and putting up a fair number of points to book. And not to give away too much, this was the Bowers head-over-heals flip.

And really, that’s about it. Or is this the week we use the substitution pick of 2007 Oregon? Looking ahead, if we’re going to do it, it’s this week or next week. After that, there’s too many good games to pick from each week.

Week 6 choice – 2006 Oregon

This was an easy week. 2006 was one of the most remarkable games of the last 20 years. Sorry for the delayed posting of the choice (had a busy end of week prepping for a crazy weekend driving trip).

Week 6 candidate games

(yeah, yeah, yeah… I know… I suck at being timely this year. I still haven’t done the week 5 game review and am late on the candidate games. I could pretend things are going to get better in the next week, but it doesn’t look likely.)

This week there are only 3 games that really stand out:

  • 2006 Oregon – For those who don’t remember, the previous few years had been hard fought, tough games between two up and coming teams in the conference. 2003 was the infamous ‘turn out the lights’ game where Cal was leading and then the lights “went out” at the Oregon stadium, and lost momentum and the game. In 2004 Cal won a nail-biter to stay on track for a 1-loss season. 2005 was a rain-heavy game where Cal couldn’t convert the end of game field goal that would have won it and then lost in overtime. What would happen in 2006?
  • 2012 UCLA – If you’re looking for a game from the late Tedford era (2010 – 2012), this is one of the few candidates. Cal was 1-5. UCLA was ranked. But Cal came in and dominated. A rare bright spot in an otherwise horrific season that got Tedford fired.
  • 2014 WSU – If you like points, this is your game. Let’s just put it this way… I’m glad I never have to say “remember that time we scored 60 points and lost?” And yet that nearly happened.

What are people’s preference?

Week 5 choice – 2003 USC

Well, as much as the choice is as obvious to me as it is to Katster, I don’t feel good about missing 2007. So here’s the plan… I’m going to put up 2007 Oregon as an audible in all future weeks. If we decide the offerings on the table are weak enough, we can substitute in this ‘out of order’ pick.

Nevertheless, 2003 USC might just be the greatest Cal win in my lifetime, so it gets the pick:

2020 Virtual game 4

Cal was 3-0, including a win over a ranked Washington earlier in the season. Could Cal continue to demonstrate that they were a team on the rise and live up to their #23 ranking? Or would the long distance non-conference game be their undoing like so many previous years? That was the backdrop for this 4th game of the 2019 season against Ole Miss.

  • On their first drive Ole Miss has some success, using some late pass-run choices to get down the field into field-goal range, but ultimately misses the kick.
  • Cal has a pretty surgical drive down the field led by Garbers throwing the ball, including a couple of critical 3rd down conversions. The result is a 6 yard TD pass for an early Cal lead: 7-0
  • Ole Miss has similar success on their next drive, again mostly through the air, but this time execute better in the redzone. The key play is a one-yard run on 3rd and 1 from the 2, that sets up 1st and goal from the 1 where they easily punch it in and even the score: 7-7
  • On a 2nd and 6, there’s a significant blocking breakdown for Cal, setting up a 3rd and 15 where the Bears can’t convert and the Bears have to punt back to Ole Miss.
  • A developing trend for Ole Miss is success on the QB keeper on read-option plays. It got them into the redzone on the previous drive. It scored the TD. And it converted a 3rd and 1 on their next drive.
  • On the next play Ole Miss completes a 30+ yard pass down the seam, get again get the ball well on the Cal side of the field, just outside the redzone. But from there the Cal defense stiffens and forces the field-goal attempt, which they make. Cal in a 3 point hole: 7-10
  • Garbers is very much on his game today. On 3rd and a long 12 from just outside field goal range, he perfectly lobs in a ball on a crossing route to convert and get into the redzone.
  • And on yet another 3rd down a swing pass to Chris Brown gets all the way into the endzone. Key execution on 3rd downs, even from longer distances out, give Cal back the lead: 14-10
  • So far, this is not the defensive struggle one would expect. 5 drives, 4 scores (and the 5th had a field goal attemp). Both teams are having good success throwing the ball and not so much success running, particularly inside.
  • A backwards pass that is dropped (but fell on) and false start sets up 3rd and 18 for Ole Miss. The Cal defense plays it smart, gives up the underneath pass that is well short and Ole Miss must punt.
  • Cal has been aided by a couple of pass interference calls on Ole Miss’s young corner. Garbers makes use of another such opportunity on another 3rd down, this time deep in their own territory. The key for Cal thus far has been 3rd down execution by Garbers.
  • Garbers mis-reads the defense and tries to squeeze in a pass down the seam, which is intercepted around mid-field and runs it back to the Cal 35. Definitely one the great Keith Jackson would have called an “ill advised decision”.
  • Ole Miss had a great touchdown opportunity on a 3rd and 8, but the QB puts it over his outside shoulder making for a much more difficult catch which is dropped. Ole Miss settles for the field-goal off of the turnover and the Cal lead is cut to one: 14-13
  • Ole Miss has gone to a tighter coverage strategy and its paying off. Cal has to punt again after only getting one first down. Ole Miss will have just over 2 minutes to get a score in before halftime.
  • Ole Miss hurting themselves with penalties and negative plays. They are generally being offensively successful, but these occasional problems setup another long 3rd down and the Bears will get the ball back with 50 seconds left.
  • But a great punt gives Cal the ball at the 5 yard line and Cal decides to take a knee to end the half and take the one point lead into the locker room. A wise decision considering they have a lead and get the ball to start the 2nd half.
  • On a 3rd and 10, Garbers hold in the pocket for a LOOOONG time and then airs it out to Nico Remigio for a big gain down the Ole Miss 23.
  • And then another big 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 14 keeps the Cal drive alive and into the redzone. Man… imagine this game without the 3rd down heroics!
  • Garbers throws a back-shoulder TD pass and Cal extends the lead:21-13
  • The Cal defense asserts itself on 3rd and 1 and stuffs the inside run. Ole Miss has to punt, giving Cal the ball back after a 3 and out.
  • Wow! A quick seam pass to Tonges and a couple of missed dive tackles turns into an unexpected rumbling 60+ yard TD catch and run. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Cal have any ‘quick strike’ ability. A great way for Cal to extend the lead to 15: 28-13
  • Cal’s defense is starting to assert itself. They give up one 1st down and then Ole Miss has to punt. The “I’ll pretend I haven’t seen this game before” part of me thinks this could be the moment Cal puts the dagger in and opens an insurmountable lead.
  • After yet again well mixing pass and run to start the drive, Ole Miss brings great pressure two plays in a row and gets back-to-back sacks to set up 3rd and 21. To add injury to insult, Garbers is injured on the 2nd sack and Modster has to come in for the long play. A wise wide receiver screen pass (both safe and something that can pick up big yardage) gets Cal to 4th and 5 at the Ole Miss 37. After thinking about going for it, Cal decides to punt. Sadly, it only nets 12 yards (that’s why teams so frequently go for it at this point of the field).
  • On their first play of the next drive Ole Miss breaks their first big pass play down to the Cal 35. But a sack and 2 dropped passes sets up 4th and 12. Ole Miss decides they’ll go for it from the 37 (perhaps after having seen what happened to Cal punting from the 37). But then a false start penalty causes them to change their mind. Their punt team does a much better job of it and Cal is forced to start from the 11 yard line.
  • Garbers returns to the field, but can’t convert on 3rd and one on a delayed QB run inside (which may not have been a designed play) and Cal has to punt on the 1st play of the 4th quarter.
  • Ole Miss goes run heavy on their next drive, particularly using the QB off of the read-option. All of a sudden the Cal defense looks tired and the Ole Miss offensive line is getting a good push. But a broken play on 2nd and short sets up a 3rd and 6. Cal almost gets a sack but the QB Corral escapes and gets just enough for the 1st down.
  • Ole Miss goes for it on 4th and 6 from the Cal 22 (I would have kicked the field-goal to make it so no 2-point conversion would be needed on future TDs) and converts. Now they have 1st and goal inside the 5 yard line. After they are stuffed on 1st down, a bad snap forces the QB to fall on the ball at the 12 yard line. After a bat down on the 3rd down pass attempt, Ole Miss settles for the field goal attempt… but then they shank it! OUCH for Ole Miss! Cal still has a 15 point lead with under 10 minutes left.
  • Cal goes a bit too conservative and two small runs up the middle plus a delay of game when they try to milk the clock too much. But then on 3rd and 8 Duncan has a GREAT catch, high pointing a fade pass from Garbers, getting his toe down inbounds and extending the drive.
  • But Cal can’t convert on the next set of downs and punts with 6 and a half minutes left.
  • Ole Miss goes for it on 4th and 10 from deep in their own territory. An underneath pass looks like it will be well short, but somehow the receiver splits the defenders and is just slippery enough to convert and extend the drive.
  • Ole Miss’s QB gets injured and a true freshman comes in. Somehow he busts a long run (that QB has some wheels) and runs the ball down into the redzone. The stunned Bears are caught off guard and then Ole Miss goes hurry up and a read option to the RB goes into the endzone to close the lead to one score with 4 and a half minutes left: 28-20.
  • Cal changes up the offensive strategy, going away from the safe run-first, grind out the clock strategy. Instead they pass on first down for a 12 yard gain. Then a designed QB run for 8 yards. Dancy comes up inches short on the 2nd down run and Ole Miss calls timeout (one left) with 3 minutes left. A first down would make it so Cal could bleed most of the remaining clock.
  • But of course they don’t get it and Ole Miss uses their last timeout before the Cal punt to keep most of 3 minutes for a potential game-tying (with a 2-point conversion) score. The Cal punt is a good one, forcing Ole Miss to need to go 90 yards.
  • Ole Miss is still using the true freshman and the Cal defense looks very uneasy with this unknown quantity. So they play a little soft and force Ole Miss to work the clock. It works for a while, they’re only at mid-field with 1:15 left. But a long pass over the top has Ole Miss inside the Cal 10 with a minute left.
  • And then all hell breaks loose! Ole Miss for whatever reason manages to run 4 plays, all in bounds, and the clock runs continuously. First down is an inside run stopped after a 2 yard gain. Then the QB runs out to the right for what looks like a pass play, but decides to run it down to the 4 or so… but in bounds. Then comes the controversial 3rd down pass where the receiver dives and catches it falling on the goal line… but the ball was on his front side and in the field of play. With only 10 seconds left and the clock running, they don’t have time to review it (although later reviews showed the play would not have been overturned on review… it would have stood) and finally they try a QB sneak on 4th down, which failed. Phew!

That game went from a bit sleepy to over the top rushed in just one play. Boy is my heart racing… and I even knew what was coming!

What a game!