The longest continually active Cal Bear blog

Larry Scott’s PR campaign is complete BS

(Written by kencraw)

Obviously Larry Scott and Co. have realized that the entire conference fan base is ready to revolt over the ridiculous number of late night games (starting at 7:45 PM… are you FREAKING kidding me!?1).  They’ve got the game announcers constantly repeating talking points and then he even comes on live for an interview to repeat those talking points.  Here are some rebuttal points:

  • There’s more to visibility than the TV rating numbers.  People flip between games.  People watch halftime highlights.  People watch the ESPN recap shows in the evening.  All of these things are happening before our late games kick off.
  • It’s not just that there are *some* late night games, it is that the MAJORITY of Pac-12 games are late night games.  All us fans want is balance.  Don’t tell me in an interview “it’s a delicate balance’ when there is ZERO balance.
  • It’s not just TV that matters.  Attendance matters too.  There’s no doubt it hurts alumni support for the program as well.
  • All of the above affects recruiting as well, so there are other long term effects as well.

Give it up Scott.  It was a money grab from the get go and your conference’s fans hate it.

Quick UW game preview

(Written by kencraw)

Wanted to make sure I had a prediction on record.

I think the Bears do better tonight than last week, but just don’t have the horses to keep up, particularly in Seattle.  However, I think we’ll be heartened by the effort and likely feel the Bears will likely be competitive in all their remaining games (things get much easier from here).

Bears lose 24-38

Speed kills – Oregon game thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Well…. THAT didn’t go as expected!?!

I find myself flipping back and forth between being disgusted with both the teams performance and the coaching staff’s plan and then a dispassionate understanding of what went wrong strategy wise.

Strategy failures:

The game plan the Bears put together clearly assumed the Bears would win in the trenches.  I think they looked at the Oregon game film and saw a dangerously fast but not particularly big team and assumed they’d out muscle them in the trenches on both sides of the ball.  What they didn’t seem to anticipate was that Oregon would be so fast, they’d win in the trenches with speed.  Never in my life have I seen an offensive line abused so thoroughly with speed on the inside.  The Ducks were able to beat Cal to blocking positions and get underneath the blockers using speed.  Once they had a positional advantage, they were able to leverage their way to success even when they had a size disadvantage.  Trying to be a dispassionate fan, it was pretty impressive.

But as a highly biased Cal fan it was disgusting.  The team to me seemed flat and uninterested for the entire 1st half, on both sides of the ball.  They looked demoralized by the USC loss and intimidated by Autzen stadium.  By the time they decided they actually were interested in winning the game, they had put themselves in a nearly impossible situation.  Even though they clawed back within 7, they had to work so hard to do it, they just couldn’t summon the energy needed to finish the comeback and played like the exhausted team they were for the final quarter.  Watching Oregon run their way to *THREE* fourth quarter touchdowns using backup running backs and a 3rd string QB (so the Bear *KNEW* it was going to be a run-heavy offense) was so massively discouraging, I wanted to burn my Cal gear.  Oregon could run at will and there was nothing the Bears could do about it.

The defensive execution was horrific.  They were out of position.  They didn’t know how to play the read option (did they practice defending it?!?).  They couldn’t get pressure on the QB.  They blitzing schemes didn’t confuse and as the Bears got more desperate trying to confuse, they got horrifically out of position and exposed.  They were indecisive when they needed to be flying to the ball, yet they were also jumping to the wrong places when they needed to just hold their position.  (One of the late/long running TD’s, there was a linebacker perfectly positioned in the running lane, but he jumped to the wrong side of the line for some inexplicable reason and opened a golden highway for the Oregon RB to the endzone.)

And on offense, it all fell apart on the offensive line.  The rest of the team was helpless because the offensive line was getting abused in the trenches.  The RB’s couldn’t run.  Bowers couldn’t find time to pass.  And ideas like rolling out were only making it worse.

It was just ugly, ugly, ugly, *UGLY*.

The only good news is that I don’t think Cal will see another team like Oregon for the rest of the season.  The key for the coaching staff will be preventing discouragement, particularly after a likely Washington loss next week.  But the rest of the way, the teams are pretty beatable if the team can get their confidence back and completely forget about this disaster in every way except as a reminder of how important it is to bring a strong effort every week.

Oregon preview

(Written by kencraw)

We’re finally starting to get to the point in the season where there are some (although not a lot) of meaningful results to look at.

A lot of people were high on Oregon after they beat Nebraska.  But then Nebraska lost to Northern Illinois the following week.  Then Oregon lost to Arizona State, who is now 2-2, confirming that Oregon is not an elite team.

But before we get too excited, Cal’s opponents are losing their luster every week.  North Carolina is 1-3, losing to Duke and Louisville.  Ole Miss had a bye last week, but has yet to beat a Power 5 teams.  And USC lost to WSU last night (although WSU is better than history would suggest IMHO).

The overall point of the above is that we’ve got two flawed teams coming together tonight.  From that perspective, either team could pull out the win with a good effort.  Who’s hungrier?  That might be the key question.  And to answer it, I’d suggest that both teams are VERY hungry.  Both teams have new coaches and both teams are looking to put the past behind them.  Both just came off disappointing losses where the game was very much in reach in the 4th quarter.

I think this game is going to come down to defense, although in asymmetrical ways.  Oregon hasn’t been held to less than 35 all season.  Cal will have a formidable task in front of them.  But who can think after watching the last few games that the Cal defense isn’t up to the challenge?  They’ve exceeded every expectation and I have to believe that they will confuse Oregon just like they have everyone else.

Oregon’s defense is supposedly improved, but they’ve given up at least 35 to all of the Power 5 teams they’ve played.  I don’t know that Cal’s offense is good enough to put up 35, particularly on the road in one of the loudest stadiums in the country, but one has to think they’ll find at least moderate success.

And so I’m going to go against the Old Blue in me that wants to call this one a loss, thinking about all the times Cal has gone to Eugene and lost a winnable game; the Old Blue that just can’t believe this defense can keep it up; the Old Blue who fears the offense will fall to pieces in Autzen stadium.  Nope!  I’m locking the Old Blue in the basement for this one.  The Cal offense will find its rhythm.  The run game will work enough to keep drives alive and keep the Oregon offense off the field.  And the defense will frustrate and confuse the Oregon offense.

Bears win: 31-23

USC game thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Well, I finally had a prediction that wasn’t too horribly wrong.  I got the margin of loss correct, but was off by one TD for both teams.  However, what I didn’t predict was that the Cal offense would out perform the USC offense minus turnovers.  Cal definitely could have won this game.  It was very much in reach right up until the ball slipped out of Bowers hands for the easy interception/fumble (it was called a fumble) at the Cal 3 yard line.  At that point, Bower’s youth caught up with him and he made a few too many mistakes.  It’s worth running down each of the interceptions after that point:

  • 13 minutes left in 4th quarter:  Bowers tries to split the safeties on a deep pass and completely misjudges their ability to close the gap.  This was the very definition of a youthful desperate throw.  If he had time to think it through and wasn’t giving in to desperation, there’s no way he would have made this throw.  In other words, it was all a mental error on Bowers part.
  • 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter: Bowers throws a weak lob downfield to nobody and into USC’s hands.  The key to understanding this one is seeing the receiver on the sideline and the rusher in Bower’s face that prevented him from setting his feet.  I believe Bowers was trying to loft one between the corner and the safety (who appear to be in a cover-2) to the sideline to Wharton.  His goal was to put it where only Wharton could catch it.  However, he couldn’t step into the throw and perhaps at the last second realized that even what he was intending to do was a bad idea.  The result was that he didn’t throw it anywhere near where he intended and it just looked stupid.  So, this one was less of a mental error (call it 40%) and more of a throwing error (60%).
  • 5 1/2 minutes left in the 4th quarter:  It’s worth noting that it was 4th and 5 at the opponent 30 yard line.  The QB is allowed to make a low percentage throw if that’s all that’s left to him.  An interception is no different than an incompletion.  However, it looks like the intended pass was a fade to the corner of the endzone but Bowers arm was hit as he threw the ball.  (This is unclear because they never showed a close-up/replay of the throw.)

When one adds that the 1st quarter interception was a deflection at the line, all of a sudden the hard stats of 4 interceptions doesn’t seem so bad as it was really just one huge mental error and one really bad throw combined with two justifiable ones.

Which brings me to my next point: Cal didn’t get any favors from the bounce of the ball.  One could have easily seen this game “bouncing” in favor of the Bears with just a few different outcomes one “luck” plays.  Great teams find ways to overcome that sort of thing, but the Bears are still young and learning, and were playing a reasonably good USC team.  Between the bounces and the mistakes, it was just too much against a team of USC’s caliber.

One thing that is not luck, but isn’t helping the Bears, is Matt Anderson.  What has happened to this guy?!?  I was a little hesitant to be too harsh on him because most of his misses this season have been from outside 40 yards and if Anderson had a flaw last year it was that his kicks aren’t very long and he loses accuracy on the long ones.  But Saturday he missed a sub 30 yard kick.  That’s close to inexcusable.  And he misses them all the same direction: To the left.

And think about the difference in how the game would have felt down 7 as opposed to 10 after the interception/fumble and touchdown by USC?  The game might have played out very differently and Bowers wouldn’t have been so likely to throw up that ill-advised decision only down one score.

But here’s the point I want to finish with: The Bears proved Saturday that they can beat any team in the conference.  They can run and pass against big/tough defenses.  They can defend against just about every kind of offense.  There’s not a game left on the schedule we should count the Bears out of.  This team is for real and they proved it by hanging with USC until youth got the best of Bowers.  But he’s going to learn a lot from that game and the rest of the conference better watch out.  Anyone who circled Cal as an easy game on the schedule better re-think that.

Call me disappointed but optimistic about the future.

USC prediction post

(Written by kencraw)

The problem with predictions after a few games is you don’t really know how good the teams both you and your opponent played.  North Carolina is 1-2 having lost a not very close affair to Louisville before blowing out a FCS team.  Not the most impressive resume.  Ole Miss beat two pathetic teams before playing us, what does that mean?  As for USC, they’ve got a dominating win over Stanford under their belt (but the trees lost to SDSU as well) and a tight win over a supposedly mediocre Texas team, plus Western Michigan.

One can go in all sorts of circular logic loops with that data.  Out of all of them, I only have one thought I feel reasonably confident about:  Texas and Ole Miss would probably play a reasonably close game.  Thus, I think that the Bears are likely to at least be capable of beating USC.  But at the same time, I think Texas played up to USC as part of those two team’s mythical battle from the BCS title game over a decade ago.  So my gut says that USC would have beat them more soundly on average.

Here’s what it will come down to on Saturday… the trenches.  Can Cal’s young offensive line open enough holes and protect Bowers enough to score some points.  I think the Cal defense is maturing rapidly enough to keep USC in check.  But USC will score *some* points.  What I fear is that the Bears won’t be able to score many.

So, despite calling for a bunch of losses and having been wrong, I still think this massively improved team isn’t quite good enough to get it done.  But, compared to my pre-season prediction, I think it’s going to be a lot tighter.  Bears lose an offensively frustrating game that through late in the 3rd quarter the feeling is “if the Bears could just get some offense going”.

Bears lose: 13-23

USC tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

My USC tickets, all 7 of them, are for sale on ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/253165542196?

You could likely get them for a steal.  Starting bid $50, Buy It Now $135 (which is half of face value)

Re-watch of Ole Miss game

(Written by kencraw)

Had a ton of fun at the Ole Miss game last Saturday night.  But these late games kill me.  I was up for 7:30 AM Mass on Sunday and felt like I didn’t get my feet back underneath me until this morning.  In any case, here are my notes based on re-watching the game this evening:

  • As much as the coverage wasn’t all that good on the 1st long pass for Ole Miss, that was an exceptionally well thrown ball.
  • One of the things I don’t like about watching games on TV is you don’t get a good sense of what is happening downfield, so you can’t see this on TV, but that long pass the Bears only had one safety on that 1st long pass play and left the corner on an island.  Not a good schematic choice.
  • The 2nd down run on the goal line stand was very indicative of how the Bear defense has changed.  There must have been 8 defenders around the runner when they finally brought him down.  While that particular play wasn’t the best tackling, the swarming defense prevented any meaningful damage being done.
  • Bears got a little lucky on that diving missed catch on 3rd down.  A good receiver would have caught that ball.  But, who can argue with forcing a field goal after the long pass play.
  • (Ole Miss FG: 0-3, early 1st quarter)
  • I wasn’t particularly pleased with the play calling and execution on the Bears 1st drive that resulted in a 3 and out, particularly Bowers pass on 3rd down.  He picked the wrong receiver.
  • Why was it Ole Miss was struggling with false starts so much?  It’s not like it was loud at the game.  (Frankly, attendance was pathetic.)
  • The early interception was much needed after the 3 and out.  It really helped the Bears to have those turnovers in the 1st half while they were still figuring out the right pass protections.
  • Our new TE Reinwald had a great game.  He has great hands and runs great routes.  His difficult catch on 2nd and 10 that setup 3rd and 2 for the touchdown run was a critical catch.
  • As for the touchdown, what a good play call (the option) and great execution.  Bowers played it perfectly.  He forced the LB to cover him before tossing it.  And then Laird turned on the jets and bowled himself into the endzone.
  • (Cal TD: 7-3, 8 mins left 1st quarter)
  • And if false starts aren’t bad enough, delay of game penalties too for Ole Miss.  That was the sort of stuff that scares me into fearing Ole Miss isn’t very good and we’re over rating this win.
  • The coverage on the long TD catch for Ole Miss was H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!!!  And yet again, only one safety back and he took a *very* bad route to the WR.
  • (Ole Miss TD: 7-10, 8 mins left 1st quarter)
  • Ole Miss had a pretty good kicker for kickoffs.  The ball hung up there for a long time and generally was pretty deep.  That was why the Bears returns were so short.
  • The Bears clearly thought the swingout passes to Laird would work in their game planning.  They were clearly wrong.  But the good news is they only ran it a few times and abandoned it as part of mid-game adjustments.  How long has it been since we’ve said that for the coaching staff?
  • Noa had the best hands of the WR’s in this game.  3rd and 20 and he hauls in a tough one fit in a tight window for a 1st down.
  • I didn’t see it live nor did they really show it on TV, but what did Wilcox do to get a personal foul after that no-call on the pass interference?  Doesn’t really seem his style.  Perhaps it was something inadvertent like touching the ref.
  • After the punt with 4:30 remaining in the 1st quarter is when the Bears changed to a 2 safety scheme.  It was also when Ole Miss started running the ball more.
  • And the Bears get another interception.  In fairness, Ole Miss would have had to punt had it just been an incomplete.  But again, the Bears really needed every chance to get off the field as the defense was finding their legs.  That one was just a great coverage by the corner and a heads up play by the safety.
  • Another key catch by Reinwald!  I’m telling you, this guy is going to be good.  Also, good play calling there.  Even though it was 3rd and 2, the Bears knew running up the middle was dicey the way Ole Miss had been playing on the line.  So fake the run and to a quick out to the TE.  That’s good play calling.
  • The Ole Miss defense was pretty disciplined.  The few times Cal ran a play counting on them over pursuing, they didn’t go well.
  • I still have no idea what has happened to Matt Anderson.  That guy was money last year.  And even before Saturday you could tell he wasn’t himself.  But how many did he miss Saturday, three?
  • OK, so the last Ole Miss TD, Cal had 2-deep safeties, I think the scheme was right, but the execution was horrible.  The safety bit on the run fake and that meant disaster.
  • (Ole Miss TD (missed extra point): 7-16 with 13 minutes left in 2nd quarter)
  • Also, it is worth saying that the Cal defense didn’t just hold Ole Miss scoreless in the 2nd half, it basically did it for the 2nd quarter as well.  43 minutes to be accurate.
  • I have to admit, after Cal had a 3 and out at this point, I thought it was going to be a very long night.  The offense was dying and the defense couldn’t stop the big play to save their lives.
  • Both of the next two Ole Miss offensive sequences the Bears played really good defense, particularly in coverage.  There was no meaningful pressure, but Patterson just had no where to go with the ball.
  • I think the TV commentators were too hung up on not having Demetris Robertson.  He hasn’t exactly had a banner season thus far.  Yes, he’s fast and yes, he helps Cal stretch the field.  But he’s not indispensable to this offense.
  • Wharton and Bowers were in good rhythm in the 1st two games, but on Saturday, they just weren’t in sync, particularly in the 1st half.  Wharton let one go through his hands.  Bowers over threw him.  They just weren’t clicking.
  • It obviously was the right decision to take the field goal off the board and take the 1st down, but I remember thinking at the time (particularly with how poorly the offense had been executing) that an interception would suck when they had taken 3 points off the board.
  • Bowers mistake on the interception was that he didn’t put any air under it.  You have to loft that up so no one at the front of the endzone can make a play on it.  Bowers had his struggles in this game with slinging it in there a few times when some touch would have been wiser.
  • Both teams had stupid penalties, but the stupidest of the game may have been Downs shove of the QB after he was out of bounds.  Why in the world did he do that?  It wasn’t even remotely close or justifiable.  Good thing it didn’t burn the Bears.
  • I wasn’t too pleased with the clock management on the last drive before halftime.  But, seeing as how the offense was struggling all half, perhaps playing it a little conservative and going into the locker room without a terrible mistake was the right choice.
  • And not that it generally matters much, but the execution on that Hail Mary pass was pretty pathetic.  No Cal receiver was in the area.
  • In contrast to the good play calling on the previous 3rd and short, on the 1st drive of the 2nd half, the Bears tried to run up the middle into the expected blitz and failed miserably.  Luckily the Bears converted on 4th down to prevent the drive from stalling
  • Gotta give Bowers credit for knowing his offense and the play when Ole Miss does an all-out blitz on 3rd and 7 just outside the red zone.  That said, it showed that Ole Miss didn’t have much respect for Bowers.  One should expect a good QB to read that one right and take the easy TD pass on the slant.
  • (Bears score TD: 14-16 with 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter)
  • Downs again on the late hit on the QB.  I didn’t catch that it was the same guy both times.  This one wasn’t nearly as stupid/bad, but still, with the way the game is played today, he should have known to back off.
  • Another drive killing false start for Ole Miss and they almost had another drive killing delay of game had the coach not called a timeout.
  • The mid-3rd quarter drive the Bears had was the point when I thought the Bears had the advantage.  The balance of the offense between run and pass was good and one had to think they’d keep going.  I was a bit frustrated that the play calling from 1st and 10 from the 11 was so boring (3 inside runs) and resulted in a stalled drive/field goal.
  • (Bears score FG: 17-16 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd)
  • By this point in the game, it was clear just how much the Cal defense confused the Ole Miss QB Patterson.  He was very hesitant.  One wonders if he was coached to play it conservative under the thought that the Cal offense was stagnant and they had to believe they’d get a couple more long passes at some point.  Both were of course mis-calculations (had they even thought that).
  • One of the things that is harder to sense at the stadium is less-prominent player changes, like the kicker.  I though the Ole Miss kicker who shanked the extra point was the same guy who shanked the 4th quarter field goal attempt.  Turns out it was an entirely different guy and the 1st one was due to an injury mid-play.
  • Gotta love the heart of Bowers to leap to try and get the 1st down.  I’m not sure it was advisable, we need him after all, but great heart and the sort of thing a young team needs from its leader.  It speaks to the coaches motivation of the players as well.
  • Ole Miss gave Cal another free 1st down with 12 men on the field for a punt.  I think the Bears would have won anyway, but Ole Miss could have made it a lot tighter if they had played a cleaner game, penalty wise.
  • Have the Bears failed to convert on a 4th down try yet?  The Bears have gone for a number (and all of them in appropriate times) and it has been working for them.  But it was now 2 4th downs on this drive (the penalty and the run) and they’re still going.
  • But then of course Matt Anderson pushes it again for another miss.
  • The refs blew it on an intentional grounding for Ole Miss.  The penalty is 5 yards from the spot of the throw plus loss of down.  The ball was thrown from the 12 and they spotted it at the 12.  It should have been at the 7.
  • The composure of the offense in the 4th quarter is impressive.  Their execution isn’t great, but they’re battling and they have confidence they can get the job done.  They didn’t make any meaningful mistakes.
  • And this time Anderson rewards the offense’s persistence.
  • (Bears score FG: 20-16 with 3 minutes left)
  • OK, I told my son at the beginning of the Ole Miss drive that on their 4th pass attempt of the drive, they’d throw an interception.  I just had a feeling that now that they were down by more than a field goal, the QB would start pressing and he couldn’t play it conservative anymore.  I didn’t call it quite right, it was the 3rd play and only the 2nd pass, but I had the dynamics right.  That was a QB who could no longer afford to be careful, but he was still confused by the coverage schemes Cal was showing him.  Result: Pick-6!
  • (Bears score TD: 27-16 with 3 minutes left)
  • Bynum (#24) played an incredible last drive at cornerback.  He was challenged twice on a long pass play and both times he knocked the ball away.
  • These announcers were *waaay* too obsessed with the idea of kicking a field goal first and then doing the onside kick.  They were down by 11.  If you kick the field goal, you need both an onside kick and a two-point conversion.  Both are low percentage plays.  And it just gets a tie to go to overtime.  No, you go for the win with 2 touchdowns.  Ole Miss played it right (minus the execution to get it done).
  • Although the announcers might have been right on 4th and 8.  That’s a pretty low percentage play in the redzone.  But they still don’t seem to be recognizing the two-point conversion issue.
  • It was very appropriate that Cal gets a sack with a middle linebacker blitz on 4th and 8 to effectively end the game.  The defensive blitzing scheme the Bears used in this game was top notch and considering it also came with a pass coverage scheme that confused Patterson as well, it was a very impressive game plan once they solved the deep pass problem.
  • Final score 27-16.  Go Bears!

Ole Miss OTRH podcast

(Written by kencraw)

A little late this week, but here is the podcast I recorded on the drive home:

Ole Miss Tickets still for sale

(Written by kencraw)

1st auction didn’t get any bids.  They’re a steal at $30 for 3 tickets:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/253155426373

Auction ends tomorrow morning and I’ll have the tickets sent to you digitally before noon.

Ole Miss Preview

(Written by kencraw)

How does one judge a team that has only played South Alabama and Tenn-Martin?  How does one judge a team that has an interim coach and self-imposed sanctions?  It’s a really difficult task.

Thus I’m going to end up making a lot of assumptions that I’d rather not make, particularly based on last year.  Ole Miss was a middle of the conference SEC team last year.  But even in the SEC, middle of the pack means big lines and relatively good speed.  Their QB, Shea Patterson is touted as being pretty good, having destroyed his 1st two opponents.  However, it is worth noting that his stats last year were not all that impressive,.  But for the 1st two games of the season about all they did is pass the ball, which is strange considering the competition (most schools stick to a conservative run game when playing weaker opponents) and shows they have a lot of confidence in Patterson.

As for the Ole Miss defense, they are a lot like Cal: A work in progress but with reasons to fear them.  From where I sit, I think this defense will be vulnerable if the Bears can hold their own on the line of scrimmage.  If Cal can find a respectable run game, that will open up the passing game and slow down the Ole Miss pass rush.  However, what we saw with Weber State gives me great pause in that department.  The offensive line that looked so good against North Carolina was exposed to have lots of gaps.

So as much as I won’t be shocked to see the Bears pull out a win, my prediction is going to have to be a loss because of two things:

  1. The youth of the Cal secondary against a talented QB.
  2. The Cal offensive line struggling against a big SEC-sized defensive line.

I expect the game to feel like the Bears could win if they could just get some consistency on offense, and every time it looks like the Bears are getting close, they’ll give up a big pass play that opens it back up for the Rebels.

Bears lose a frustrating, missed opportunity game: 24-35

Portion of Ole Miss tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

I’m only bringing a few people to the Ole Miss game, so I’m selling the back row of my tickets on eBay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/253149624300

So if you’ve ever wanted to hear my “brilliant” commentary live and in person at a game, now is your chance.

Auction ends Friday morning and I send the tickets digitally after that.

Initial Weber State thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Phew!  That was too close for comfort.  It was significantly tighter than my pre-season (pre-North Carolina) prediction of 38-13.  Some initial thoughts:

  • Anyone who wants to say that North Carolina had a great defensive line can take a long walk of a short pier as far as I’m concerned.  The Bears struggled with the Weber State defensive line far too often, more so than North Carolina.  There’s no way Weber State has one of the best defensive lines in college football.
  • Laird impressed me last week and now I’m officially a huge fan of the guy.  He’s got great vision, great instincts, good timing, and deceptively impressive speed.  He’s looked better than Watson in every regard and is frankly giving Enwere a run for his money power-wise.  I think the depth chart officially got turned upside down for RB.
  • The wide receivers are struggling a little bit with route running, in particular after the catch.  They need to get up field faster and are cutting short too often.
  • Bowers has a great completion percentage, but his yard totals are pretty mediocre.  In part that is due to the previous item, but I think it’s also because he’s picking the wrong guy too often.  The dump offs have not been working.
  • Cal’s defense got abused in 3 ways that are very troubling: 1. Linebackers running circles around our LBs in coverage.  2. Deep pass patterns.  3. The O-line getting too much of a push on Cal.  These are all things we should be watching with a close eye as the teams get more talented.  One caveat: Saffle was missing.  With him back things will be better.
  • The offensive line looked much more mediocre today, more the way I was expecting.

More to come later…

North Carolina game thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

(Sorry for the slow posting… I was backpacking for the holiday weekend and didn’t get to watch the game until Tuesday night and then scrambling to catch up on all my various commitments)

Well THAT was a lot better outcome than most of us were expecting, yes?  I’ll get down into the details in a second, but first, I’m very tempted to be getting on both the Wilcox and the Bowers bandwagons after watching that performance.  I was expecting North Carolina’s defense to be very disruptive to our offensive line and Bowers to make a lot of mistakes as a result.  As such, I only expected the Bears to put up 10 points.  Frankly, 35 was amazing to see!

I think I had the defense about right.  They were noticeably improved.  I said 24 points and had it not been for the last minute TD, I would have nailed it.

However, I think we should be a bit cautious.  I think we are going to look back on North Carolina later in the season and realize they weren’t as good as we thought they were.  That was not a particularly good team.  They didn’t play with a lot of heart.  They had nothing particularly innovative or impressive on either side of the ball.  That was a team that looked to be in rebuilding mode on both sides of the ball.  Even still, they’d have won that game had they gotten all the interceptions they should have and if they’d hit a few wide open receivers for easy TDs.

As such, my prediction for the season win total only moves by a couple games after this one.  The Bears should be 2-1 after non-conference (although 3-0 seems not out of reach) and I’d still expect them to lose their first 4 non-conference games (USC, Oregon, UW, WSU).  But particularly as this young team matures, the Bears should have at least a shot at each of the remaining games, 3-2 is a good expectation, 4-1 is not out of reach.  So we’re looking at a 5 to 6 win season.  That last game at UCLA after Thanksgiving may be for bowl eligibility!

Let’s break it down unit by unit:

QB: The difficult thing to be Bowers is us Cal fans are *very* spoiled.  So while what I saw didn’t bowl me over, I see a lot of upside in this kid.  His accuracy was what worried me most.  Every handful of throws he had a pretty inaccurate one.  When coupled with a handful of bad decisions, he had far more interceptable balls than I’d feel comfortable with against a ball-hawking defense.  The good news is I think the mistakes lessen as he matures and I expect a sharp learning curve from him as the season progresses.

RBs: This was the area with the least question marks coming into the game.  That said, while both Enwere and Watson performed reasonably, I was hoping to see a little bit more out of them.  Enwere got the tough yards, which was good, particularly on 4th down.  I’d hope to see them break more runs open in the future and I have hopes that they will.  Laird was a pleasant surprise who I hope to see more of.

WRs: Even though Cal lost WRs in the off season, we knew because of the shear volume of recruits the previous administration brought in, it would be near impossible for there not to be reasonable replacements here.  That was definitely the case.  They seemed to be in pretty good rhythm with Bowers as a group and it was very good to see Bowers being able to spread it around to such a large group.  A few of them could have better hands (not that they were horrible).

TE: Not much stood out to me here.

O-Line: I was most pleasantly surprised here.  When the whole right side is freshman, one has to think it’s going to be a disaster.  But they were getting a pretty good push on run plays and Bowers wasn’t pressured all that much.  The group as a whole did very well.  If I had more confidence in North Carolina, I would have said awesome.

D-Line: Another pleasant surprise.  I very much liked the return to the 3-4 and the hybrid edge rushing strategy with Saffle worked well.  Their push and penetration on the line was good.  Overall, this is a group that I think will continue to improve as the season goes on.  I liked the balance of blitzes and good protection.

LBs: A solid performance here as well, although nothing overwhelming.  They seemed well coached and in position.

DBs: This is the defensive group I was most happy with the improvement I saw.  How many times in the past did we cringe at poor corner play?  How exciting was it to see DB’s make plays on the ball in the air?  This group will be tested much more in the weeks to come, but so far they’re doing a great job and are *HUGELY* improved.

So yeah, good stuff.  But it is important to remember the quality of the opponent and that we tend to grade on a curve of how poorly we were expecting the team to do.  But what we saw was most definitely a step in the right direction.

Weber State tickets for sale on ebay

(Written by kencraw)

As promised, I’ve posted the Weber State tickets on eBay.  Starting bid: $30.

Go see the auction here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/253140810665?

It’s a 1-day listing (since they don’t have a 2-day option).  If you want to make an offer below the $40 minimum, leave a comment in this post and once the auction expires I’ll be likely willing to consider it.

Tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

As I posted a few times in the off-season, there are a lot of games I won’t be able to make and will be selling tickets for the following games:

  • All seven tickets (2 adults + 5 kids) for Weber State on 9/9 @ 2:30 PM – Asking $75 (face value is $155)
  • 3 tickets (2 Adults + 1 youth) for Ole Miss on 9/16 @ 7:30 PM – Asking $100 (face value is $150)
  • All seven tickets (2 adults + 5 kids) for USC on 9/23 (time TBD) – Asking $150 (face value $270)
  • 3 tickets (2 Adults + 1 youth) for WSU on Friday 10/13 @ 7:30 PM – Asking $60 (face value $93)
  • All seven tickets (2 adults + 5 kids) for Arizona on 11/4 – Asking $100 (face value $185)

Let me know if you’re interested by leaving a comment in the post.  For longtime readers (you know who you are) I might be willing to cut you an even better deal and consider partial ticket offers right away.  Others I’ll wait until I’m closer to the game date before accepting an offer for part of the seats.

Let me know if you’re interested for Webber State by Tuesday morning.  I’ll put them on eBay later in the day.

2017 prediction post

(Written by kencraw)

As this post will make clear, I’m on the pessimistic side of the Cal fan-base this year.  I’m actually somewhat optimistic about the long-term with Wilcox at the helm and with the current state of the facilities.  But the reality for 2017 is that the talent cupboard was too bare and the new system Wilcox is putting in won’t be ready for prime time this year.   Here’s a game by game preview:

Cal at North Carolina: After having caught Texas at exactly the right time in its history the last couple years, it unfortunately is time for our comeuppance.  North Carolina is on the stronger side of their range right now and the Bears are on the weaker side.  I expect this to be a lower scoring affair than we’re used to, but the Bears offense will have trouble being productive.  Bears lose: 10- 24.

Cal vs. Weber State: If there’s one thing I have a lot of confidence in Wilcox in, it is his ability to win a game when he has the talent advantage.  In this way, he shares a lot in common with Tedford (who knew how to grind out a win whenever he had the advantage).  It will be interesting to see how much the offense can produce and how well the defense is gelling against a clearly inferior opponent.  My feeling is we’ll see spurts of it, but there will be portions of the game that are worrisome for there season-long implications.  Bears win easily: 38-13.

Cal vs. Ole Miss: This might be the toughest game of the season to predict.  Will the Rebels play up to their talent level or will their coaching/sanction chaos hamstring them?  Will they come to Berkeley expecting an easy win?  Perhaps if I wasn’t closer to an Old Blue than I’d like to admit, I’d be more optimistic.  Bears lose 23-42 (but it’s closer than that in the 4th quarter)

Cal vs. USC: When’s the last time Cal beat USC?  When the last time it was even close?  What makes you one think this is the year that changes?  Bears get dominated: 10-42.

Cal at Oregon: I’m of the belief that Oregon is on the rise.  However, Wilcox knows Eugene and will have Bears ready to play.  But the Bears best won’t be enough.  A single-score lead in the 2nd quarter is as close as the Bears will get: 20-31

Cal at Washington: I’m one who thinks Washington will take a little bit of a step back this year.  If the game was in Berkeley, I would at least toy with the idea of an upset.  But not in Husky stadium, which is even more intimidating in its new configuration. 23-35.

Cal vs. WSU: Here’s where the coaching staff will earn their salary.  After a  *very* tough start to the season, the Bears will be 1-5 with a number of losses they’d rather forget.  How much can Wilcox and Co. keep the optimism up with the players going into a much softer half of the season.  Sadly, WSU just keeps getting better and in my opinion will be the surprise team in the Pac-12 North.  While I’ll put this one on my potential upset list, I think the Bears still lose.  Their lone hope is the defense has matured a *LOT* through the first half of the season.  31-38.

Cal vs. Arizona: There’s only one team that got fewer points in the Pac-12 media poll than Cal and the Bears get to play them at home.  Some good scheduling karma!  (It’s about time.)  The Bears will look good in this one and will let out a lot of frustration on Arizona.  Win #2 comes in late October: 38-27.

Cal at Colorado: Colorado is the most over-rated team in the conference.  They got decimated by graduations last year AND got lucky the way the schedule fell.  Actually, technically, since decimated is only 10%, they got quadruple decimated.  But, this will still be an upset, particularly on the road at altitude.  Nevertheless, something in me says this is the game the Bears win that no one expects.  It will be a low scoring affair where the defense wins the day.  17-13.

Cal vs. Oregon State: The optimist would say that Cal has a good shot at this one.  But I think OSU is improving every year and will start to be firing on most of their cylinders by this point in the season.  It will be competitive, but mistakes will cost the Bears: 27-31

Big Game: The horrible streak continues but there will be signs that parity is closer to being restored than we fear: 17-24

Cal at UCLA:  At this point the Bears will just be playing for pride.  And to make matters worse, UCLA may be playing to get to 7-5 and ensure themselves a respectable bowl spot.  This is another one that at a different time and different place (Berkeley) the Bears would have more of a shot at it.  I tell you what, if Wilcox takes the team down there and pulls off the upset, you’ll never hear the end from me of how I’m on the Wilcox bandwagon.  As much as I’d like that to be true, I think the Bears peter out on this one: 17-35.

In summary, the Bears don’t get much schedule help and are in a tough spot talent wise.  If there’s some good news hiding in the schedule it is that most of the winnable games are later in the season after the team has had some time to gel.  If they over-perform my expectations, particularly if they can pull off a win against the Rebels, this team could go bowling and even reach 7-5 with wins over WSU, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State and one of UCLA or Stanford.  That’s the high water mark in my opinion.

Back for 2017

(Written by kencraw)

I’m sure my *huge* readership has been on the edge of its seat wondering if I’m going to keep blogging.  It’s been a particularly quiet off season.

But as the longest continuous Cal football blogger, I can’t just give up my title!

Here’s what you can expect from me this year:

  • Previews for each game
  • Recap of each game
  • Various thoughts as they come up
  • Pre-season prediction post (coming soon!)
  • Oregon eclipse recap (gotta share my awesome experience)

So stick around for another great season of blogging (notice I didn’t say great season of football)

Update on tickets for sale

(Written by kencraw)

As I mentioned about a while back, I’m trying to find someone to split my season tickets (2 adults, 5 kids seats) with.  I haven’t yet found anyone, but I still decided to go ahead and renew before the mid-February deadline to renew.

Which means I’m still looking and also open to more flexible arrangements.  Want just specific games?  Want the whole year?  Heck, even want to propose something that you don’t want to move on until later… make me an offer (or proposal), even one significantly below face value.  As long as it isn’t a joke of an offer, there’s a good chance I will accept.

So, if you want to take your family to a Bears game and you want to do it on the cheap but with pretty good seats, particularly from a logistics stand point, I’m your man.  Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

 

Signing day thoughts

(Written by kencraw)

Obviously Wilcox had a tough task in front of him:  Just a few weeks to prevent mass exodus of the signing class Dykes was putting together AND to get some additional recruits to bolster the class.  But even if that task was exceedingly hard, it’s difficult to look at the end result with anything but consternation:

  • 14 total recruits (not the 20+ Cal needed)
  • Only 2 4-star players
  • Only 4 dedicated defensive players (we’ll see how much luck he has in getting the 3 “athletes” (which means they play multiple positions, often on both sides of the ball) to play defense.)
  • Only 1 DB

Rivals ranks it as the 78th best class in the country and worst in the conference.  There’s just no other way to say it than it is a bad class.  Now, good coaches find ways to overcome a weak class.  They have lots of knobs to work with to get around one bad class (mid-year recruits, JC transfers, work extra hard on next year’s, etc.).  But there’s no doubt that Wilcox’s job, which was already hard, just got a little bit harder.