(Written by Ken Crawford)
The pre-game Storyline:
After a sub-par performance the previous week, the now #8 Bears would need a better performance against Louisiana Tech to continue to get respect with the pollsters. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs were expected to be an easy team for the Bears to beat.
The pre-game reality:
Every BCS team should fear playing a solid WAC team early in the season. The WAC is by far the best non-BCS conference and the teams in it are used to playing BCS caliber opponents both in their generally strong non-conference schedules and against the best of the WAC like Boise State and more recently Hawaii. If the Bears came with another performance like they did versus Colorado State, it could be trouble.
The key plays:
- Lavelle Hawkins able to run fake reverse on kickoff to start the game for a quick touchdown to put the Bears up 7-0, 12 seconds in to the game.
- Catch and fumble by Bulldogs that was recovered by Cal was called an incomplete pass when it was clearly a catch and fumbleâ€¦ although no damage was done later on that drive.
- A second review on a low catch by Robert was called incorrectly, saying that the ball hit the turf on what was clearly a catch.
- Jordan Kay missed a 39 yard field-goal early in the 2nd quarterâ€¦ his first miss of the year.
- Bulldog quarterback Champion let the ball slip out of his hands and the Bears were able to pounce on the ball, giving the Bears great field position at the Bulldog 25. Forsett was able to run it in from there.
- Justin Forsett runs a 39 yard touchdown weaving through the secondary, putting Cal up 21-6 (see photo above).
- Longshore forced a ball on a throw in the beginning of the 2nd quarter into the endzone giving the Bulldogs an easy interception and killing what had been the Bears best passing drive of the game.
- Brandon Hampton intercepts an under-thrown ball and runs it down to the Bulldog 17 yard-line. Cal was able to punch it in from there on a throw from Longshore to Stevens to go up 28-6.
- The Bulldogs completed a 4th and long just outside of field-goal range late in the 2nd quarter that kept the drive alive. However the resulting field-goal attempt was blocked by the Bears.
- Louisiana Tech had a nice kickoff return to the Cal side of the field after Cal had ramped up the score to 35-12. However, the defense was able to stop them there to prevent any future damage.
- The Bulldog safety missed what would have been an easy interception over the middle, but the miss distracted DeSean who was behind the defense and would have run it in for a touchdown had he not dropped the ball.
- Robert Peele intercepted a tipped ball deep in Cal territory late in the 3rd quarter killing the little bit of momentum and field position Louisiana Tech had built up in the quarter.
- Noris Melele had 2 false start penalties early in the game, one on each of the first two drives. Both were instrumental in stalling those drives turning 3rd and short into 3rd and long in both cases resulting in a punt.
- DeSean fumbled a punt return trying to make a quick cut after catching it. Luckily it was recovered by the Bears.
- Neither team had scored midway through the 2nd quarter with the Cal offense shooting itself in the foot with penalties and mis-throws and the Bulldogs overwhelmed by the Cal defense.
- After Cal went up 14-0, the Bulldogs came out with determination on their drive and were able to over-power Calâ€™s defense en-route to a touchdown.
- Cal had 6 penalties for 50 yards in the 1st half including a personal-foul that took the Bears back to their side of the 50 with just over 30 seconds remaining, killing the chance to get a final score in before halftime. When Tedford was asked in his halftime interview about the penalties, he replied, â€œThatâ€™s exactly what weâ€™re going to be talking about at halftime.â€
- Louisiana Tech opened up the 2nd half with a powerful drive running the ball right at Cal and driving the full length of the field to get a touchdown.
- Justin Forsett carried the team in the 2nd half getting carry after carry to grind out the win.
The post-game storyline:
Cal was back on track winning easily against a solid WAC team. Although there were moments the offense was stalled and the defense was not completely dominating, overall it was a solid performance that is reflective of their #8 ranking.
The post-game reality:
While the win was solid, there were plenty of moments and mistakes that were troubling to Bear fans who knew the Bears would be facing much stiffer competition once Pac-10 play started. While it wasnâ€™t consistent, one of the more troubling aspects was the times when the defensive line was manhandled by an inferior team. Also troubling was Longshoreâ€™s accuracy/touch issues on the long pass. What was not troubling was the domination of the Cal running game.
The 2007 learnings:
- Longshoreâ€™s struggles with his touch were not limited to the high altitude of Colorado, missing a few open receivers, a couple of which in succession on a key drive in the 2nd quarter.
- Jordan Kay may not be the miracle backup he seemed to be in the first couple of games, missing his first field-goal attempt.
- Jahvid Best continues to impress and has the potential to be making large contributions every week.
- The kickoff team continues to struggle with short kicks, putting the coverage team in the difficult position of having to get downfield faster than usual without over-pursuing (that risks a long return).
- Rulon Davis was injured in this game, having a stress fracture in his leg. The weak defensive line looks really weak at this point.
- Kevin Riley got his first playing time in the mid-4th quarter. He didnâ€™t look all that sharp and it was clear that Calâ€™s hopes for 2007 would be pinned to Longshore if at all possible.
The 2008 implications:
Memorial Stadium is a bigger home-field advantage than most of us realize and the difference between the performance against Colorado State and Louisiana Tech reflect that home-field advantage. With two non-conference games at home there is much to be hopeful for in the non-conference schedule for 2008. Beyond that, with the Bulldogs not on the schedule for 2008 and it still being early in the season, thereâ€™s not too much to decipher from this game.
My memory of this game was that the Bears had played flat again. Not as flat as against Colorado State, but still flat and not as crushing a victory as it indeed was. This game was a pretty convincing win that minus the penalties, there wasnâ€™t too much to complain about.
Would the momentum carry over to the Pac-10 schedule? Could the Bears get revenge against Arizona for their 2006 upset of the Bears that cost Cal fans yet another shot at the Rose Bowl? Tune in tomorrow to find out.