(Written by Ken Crawford)
(Today we pick back up my “Looking back” series. In theory it is supposed to just be last season, but because I tried to squeeze both 2005 and 2007 into the last off-season, I still have some 2007 posts to finish off before moving on to 2008. Note that you can go here to see the last post in the series (the Oregon game) or go here to see all the posts in the series)
The pre-game Storyline:
It was the best of times in Berkeley. A #2 ranking for the Bears and USC looked less than invincible after a stunning loss to Stanford during the bye-week. With USC having to come to Berkeley the question of the week was whether Bear fans would prefer the Rose Bowl or the National Championship game (count me in the Rose Bowl crowd). Oregon State should just be a minor road-bump as long as Longshore’s ankle was good enough to play.
The pre-game reality:
The reality that nobody knew at the time was that Longshore’s ankle was FAR more injured than anyone on the coaching staff was willing to admit. With what amounted more to a ankle fracture with bone fragments chipped off than the quoted ankle sprain. Also overlooked was the formidible defense that Oregon State brought to Berkeley. They were #1 in the nation in rush defense giving up only 40 or so yards a game.
The key plays:
- Jordan Kay misses 48 yard field goal on first drive of game
- Forsett fumbles on Cal 15 yard line setting up near certain score for OSU
- After noble goal-line stand by Bear defense, OSU converts 4th and Goal (less than a yard). Bears in early 0-7 hole.
- Riley throws nice seam route pass for TD to Hawkins to finish nice Cal drive. Score tied: 7-7
- LSU lost in 3rd overtime to Kentucky setting up Bears to take over #1 spot. Announcement made over PA system and players definitely heard. A distraction perhaps?
- Larson kicks a 74 yard punt w/ roll.
- Riley hit as he throws and sends ball up into air for easy interception. Ball returned from Cal 45 to Cal 17 setting up another easy scoring opportunity for Beavers.
- Cal defense holds OSU to field goal. Down only 7-10.
- Riley scrambles on broken play and finds Jordan along the sideline to setup 1st and goal.
- Riley runs option play for touchdown. Bears on top for first time 14-10.
- Bear defense too relaxed in final seconds and gives up 40 second field-goal drive. Lead is down to 14-13 after giving up more “easy” points.
- OSU converts 3rd and 15 on 1st drive of 2nd half to extend drive. Bend But Don’t Break defense playing too soft.
- Bernard finishes a drive he dominated with power running by scoring on a 1 yard TD run. Bears in a hole again: 14-20
- Forsett robbed of touchdown on a 1st and goal. Knee was never down before he rolled over defender into the endzone. Play not reviewed.
- Bears fail to convert on 4th and goal. All 4 downs less than 2 yards and all four downs ran Forsett into the line.
- Bears keep OSU pinned after failed conversion. Punt only out to OSU 26 yardline setting up another scoring opportunity.
- Forsett finds redemption in 7 yard TD run. Bears back in front: 21-20
- OSU converts another 4th and inches TD run.
- Beavers go for 2-point conversion and succeed to be up by a full touchdown: 21-28
- Best fumbles ensuing kickoff return at Cal 40 yardline. Minus a weak sideline personal foul call, Bear defense holds. However OSU converts fieldgoal. Bears now in 10-point hold with just over 6 minutes left: 21-31
- After 3 and out, Bears force 3 and out on OSU, giving them the ball back with 3:30 left and 3 timeouts still unused.
- Bears get first break of day when 10-15 yard seam pass turns into 65 yard touchdown pass to Hawkins. Bears still in it: 28-31
- Onside kick fails, but 3 timeouts and 3 and out gives Bears the ball back on own 6 yard-line with 1:27 left.
- Riley amazingly avoids what would have been a game ending safety getting out of the grasp of the OSU defender and throwing the ball away.
- Riley completes a 13 yard pass to Hawkins on 4th and 17, who somehow avoids 3 tacklers in route to picking up the 1st down.
- Pass to Jordan down sideline gets Bears in field goal range with 24 seconds left.
- Bears get pass interference call on DeSean getting ball down to 12 yard-line.
- The the play that defined the season occured. Riley tries to run for it with too little time left and no timeouts and the clock expires without the field-goal attempt that would have tied the game.
- What is forgotten about the last play was just how rushed everything had been on that last drive. The Bears had come all the way from their own 6 yard-line with 1:27 left. They had avoided two game ending moments in the possible safety and the 4th and 17. Then to come up with the long play to Jordan, it lulled the Bears into a false sense of confidence despite being so rushed. It doesn’t seem as boneheaded in real-time as it does when repeated over-and-over on ESPN.
- I had forgotten that Longshore was a game-time decision. While Riley had been practicing with the 1st team all week, it was still hoped that Longshore was going to play right up until 15 minutes before game-time. What effect that had on the team’s chemistry is unknown.
- For me, I had forgotten just how well Riley played. In my memory, it took him 3 quarters to get his form going. But really, he had a pretty good 1st half. The 3rd quarter was rough for him, but overall, he more than capably played QB.
- I also forgot just how many good breaks the Beavers got and how many bad breaks the Bears got. Overall the Bear defense stuffed OSU. They got 16 points off of turnovers including one 4th and goal conversion. Really OSU only had two “self made” scoring drives and one of those also required a 4th and goal conversion. Just those two goal-line conversions were enough to turn the game. Add in that the Bears failed on their 4th and goal shot and it was clear who got all the breaks this Saturday. The Bears wouldn’t have lost this game twice.
- It was interesting to see some signature plays of the 2008 OSU team in action in 2007, in particular the fly-sweep which they used a few times. While it wasn’t as effective in 2007, it was clear it was a play they refined for 2008.
- Cal’s Bend But Don’t Break defense was in pretty good form on this day overall, but it was interesting to remember just how different that defense was to the 2008 3-4 attacking defense. It was an entirely different scheme that all too often let the dumpoff passes and underneath stuff work while keeping things in front of the secondary. It seemed to speed up the game and keep the clock running, which was great when the Bears were ahead but was to their detriment when OSU took the lead.
- Not so much a “forgotten” but I hate it when the Bears are up by 1 at halftime. I’d much rather be down by 1. Their seem to be fewer halftime adjustments and corrections when the Bears have a halftime lead than not, and up by 1 is not a lead to “hold on to”.
- Another thing that was interesting to watch was Forsett in action. He definitely had his upside but he was not the raw talent that Best is or Marshawn was. He broke a big run in the 1st quarter but was dragged down from behind setting up the missed Kay field-goal. I guarantee you that either Marshawn or Best would have taken it into the endzone. At the same time, Forsett had a certain nimbleness between the tackles that was his strong point. It wasn’t the power of Marshawn but he had a way of getting through small spaces in the line without getting touched that Best doesn’t have.
The post-game storyline:
Disaster had struck in Berkeley. An opportunity to be #1 in the nation had been lost and all because our backup quarterback was too inexperienced (some who be more uncharitable and call him any number of explitives that in short meant ‘stupid’) to know when to get rid of the ball. Luckily our knight in shining armor, the man who the 2006 season was built around and had taken the Bears undefeated thus far including a huge win in Eugene, Mr. Longshore himself, would surely be back and in fine form for next week’s game against UCLA. With USC already having a conference loss under their belt (to Stanford) Cal fans still felt this team could get back on track en route to a Rose Bowl with USC coming to town.
The post-game reality:
Longshore was still far more injured than anyone was letting on and the Bears had two very difficult games in front of them. UCLA always brings their best game when the Bears visit the Rose Bowl and ASU was in fine form in 2007. While many had their doubts about a completely untested ASU team at this point, they were still a formidible opponent in the desert that loomed after the showdown in Pasadena.
The 2007 learnings:
- It was hard to know exactly what to take from this game. Was Riley any good or not? Was the QB the only problem? While everyone acted as if they had all the answers, in reality, nobody knew exactly what to think.
- One learning that was not yet obvious but would be a constant complaint moving forward was ineffectiveness around the goal-line. This was the first of many goal-line stands where the Bears just couldn’t punch it in. Later in the season the Bears were more likely to kick the field-goal instead, but in either case, it was points left on the board.
- Another learning was the turnovers. The turnovers really hurt the Bears on this night and there was no reason to see the dropped balls in this game were just a fluke.
There is probably no game in the Tedford era that evokes such strong emotions as this game. Everyone had their pet complaint and issue with the game. Of all of the games I’ve gone back to watch there was something much more “normal” about the game than my memory had. Yeah the Bears had some bad break and bad plays and yeah OSU escaped Berkeley with a somewhat undeserved win (the caveat being they played an excellent game and although being out-manned talent-wise, they did everything possible to put themselves in a winning position), but this was not a disaster game. It was unfortunate, but not a disaster.
Those were yet to come.