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Archive for October, 2012

Initial Utah postgame thoughts

Random thoughts before a fit-full/futile restless night of sleep:

  1. Utah fans are a nice bunch and very talkative. Not at all like the arrogant reputation they have online on some sites. I only ran into two very mild trash talkers all day while wearing my Cal gear and they were quickly rebutted by others with sympathy.
  2. Is there anything else I can say to put off my rant?
  3. When I gave my game plan it was under the assumption that we would manage to make it a LOW risk affair. How the team managed to turn the game plan into such a mistake and bad-bounce riddled affair is beyond me.
  4. Similarly, I didn’t expect the team to be SO committed to the plan that they would make no attempt to make Utah’s defense pay for their massive focus on the run game.
  5. Tedford is starting to lose the team. The players held in remarkably long, but particularly on the defense you could tell there were series when their heart wasn’t in it.
  6. Despite that only 28 points were given up by the defense and the numerous short fields they had to defend.
  7. How many mistakes is Maynard allowed to make while still getting every snap of every game? Two of the three turnovers were his fault. He made countless other bad choices… Shouldn’t some other guys get some playing time at some point?
  8. WHY THE HECK ARE THEY HIDING BIGELOW UNDER A ROCK!?! Just when you think the coaching staff is learning from their mistakes, they pull this one… Bigelow made them look like fools… AGAIN!?!

Too many caps, time to step away from the keyboard. I’ll post more from the train ride home tomorrow evening and the podcast after I get home.

Fire Tedford


It may be a bit small to see in the picture, but that is $137 with my Cal hat and the ticket to the Utah game. It is what I brought on the trip for incidentals. It looks like I’ll have at least $120 left when I return home. However much is left I am donating to the Fire Tedford fund. Maybe the big donors are tapped out, but we can do this $100 at a time if we need to.

What is a Ute?

This was one of my favorite lines from My Cousin Vinny long before Utah joined the conference…

(sorry for the poor quality video… Best I could find quickly)

Utah preview

It’s been pretty surprising to me to see how quickly both the fan and pundit impression of the Bears have changed, and multiple times at that.

The Bears were done for after the first two games.  Then they played a close one against tOSU and all of a sudden they just might be able to beat USC (despite the fact that USC was probably better than tOSU).  Then the Bears lose to USC, as was to be expected even if an upset was possible, and the Bears were terrible again.  They were even more terrible after the loss to ASU (I’ve got no excuses for that one).

Then there was the VERY pleasant surprising dominant win over UCLA and the bandwagon was officially open for business again.  It gained even more steam after an all too easy win over WSU.

Then came the Big Game beat down and all of a sudden the question is just how terrible the Bears are.  Utah is all of a sudden a better team.

Look… maybe, just maybe, the Bears are just mediocre.  Nothing more complicated than that.  Mediocre teams can on occasion play a good game, some times even getting the upset, but most of the time they lose to the best teams.  (tOSU, USC, Stanford)  Sometimes it is ugly.

When mediocre teams play other mediocre teams, sometimes they win, sometimes they lose.  Sometimes all the breaks go their way and they win pretty big and sometimes it is exactly the opposite (ASU, UCLA, Nevada)

But when mediocre teams play crummy teams they win almost all the time and they make it look like they are better than they are.  Ocassionally they play a bad game and lose to a crummy team, but it is the exception, not the rule.

So I ask you, is 2-5 Utah a crummy team or a mediocre team?

I say crummy. They have been man handled by every team in the conference they have played, including the same UCLA team Cal handled easily.  They also lost far worse to ASU than Cal did.  The fact that their low score loss to OSU is considered progress further underlines how they are on the wrong side of mediocre.

People will bring up that they went 0-4 in conference last year before going on a run… but that was AFTER Cal made easy work of them to put them at 0-4 in conference.  Cal showed last year who has the better players and not much has changed since last year.

To the game itself…

The gameplan for this one is the same as it was for WSU and it will work again:  win this one at the line of scrimmage with superior athletes.  (The fact that we has the same gameplan against Stanford… well that is why Tedford’s job is at stake.)

But make no mistake, Cal is the better team and as long as they show up to play with a reasonable amount of heart (which I expect), the Bears should win.

Final score: Bears 27, Utes (what is a Ute?) 13

Amtrak relaxation


Mostly just testing the blog app I just downloaded… having fun on the train… we’ll see how they are doing after midnight.

Off to Salt Lake City to watch the Bears

The train from Roseville to SLC leaves in less than a half hour, so I’m off with my two eldest boys. It’s a scenic 14 hour train ride (particularly with the first snows falling earlier this week)… however, it arrives at 3:30 in the morning. We’ll have most of Saturday to recover with the game starting at 7:45 PM local time and with temperatures expected to drop to near 40 by the end, we’ve brought warm clothes to bundle up.

Sunday we’ll do a little bit of touring, including going to see the Golden Spike and stop by the Great Salt Lake before getting on the train at 11:30 PM for the overnight trip back home.

More to come about the trip…

Big Game OTRH Podcast

Late again… I guess that’s my theme for this year. I’ve been REALLY busy at work. Up at 4 AM, working hard all day sorta busy. When one adds the evening commitments for the Church and the kids, and there just isn’t much time.

Here it is:

First Big Game thoughts

Well that stunk. REALLY stunk.

I’ll start with giving Stanford’s defense credit. That front seven is even better than I thought. Either that or the Cal offensive line had the worst effort by a college football team in college football history. I would have trouble sprinting as fast as they got through the line. They were causing havoc everywhere. Every play that started with the ball in the backfield was in trouble. The sweep plays couldn’t even get to the outside to see if perhaps they could turn the corner. It was UG-LY.

To make matters worse, it appears Stanford took a page from Oregon State’s playbook that has been so successful in thwarting Cal. They KNEW they were going to get home to Maynard or the back quickly, so they didn’t need to worry about the long developing plays that could cause them lots of trouble. All they needed was to cover the receivers for the first couple seconds and if somehow the WR’s got behind them or wide open, the play was going to be a sack before that was a problem.

So the linebackers and the secondary very much focused on getting in the throwing lanes that develop in the first couple seconds and they had won. Lot’s of press coverage and other things that defend the quick developing stuff. It was a very good game plan.

But that’s where I end my praise for Stanford and start in on my criticism of the coaching staff, particularly since as I mentioned, we’ve seen this from Oregon State for years.


Here’s my four-point plan on how to beat the defensive strategy we’re going to see for the rest of the season:

  1. Change the routes so that they are much quicker developing. Focusing on things like quick slants to the inside, 5-7 yard outs, TE routes right up the gut and sit in a zone hole, etc.
  2. Pick routes that can be analyzed pre-snap by Maynard, so he knows where he’s going before he’s got 7 guys in his face. He’s just not able to read the field when he’s being harassed all day.
  3. De-emphasize Isi. I’ve been a big supporter of him for a long time, but what we need right now is not him and frankly, he hasn’t been playing up to the same level he was this time last year.
  4. Throw/toss to the running backs behind WR screening. This will work particularly well with press coverage because it will be easy for the WR’s to engage the DBs.

I’m not a football genius and I can figure this stuff out. But here’s what ticks me off…


Why is it that a couple times a year Tedford seems completely caught off guard by the adjustments teams are making to him? All of us saw what Stanford’s front seven was going to do to us a MILE away. And Tedford seemingly had no inclination or at best, and if that’s the best it’s terrifying, he had no answer to it.

The routes our WR’s were running were horrible. Lot’s of complex stuff that was slow developing. There must have been 10 different times I looked at the coverage and said “Oh, if WR X is running a quick slant, we’re golden.” But he NEVER was. Not when we were in the redzone when it should be the go-to play call.

I think Tedford out-thinks himself. “Everyone knows the right play here is a quick slant to Keenan, so I’d better not do that.” Take a lesson from Oregon coach… sometimes the reason everyone knows is because IT WORKS, and IT WORKS even when EVERYONE KNOWS. Oregon has something like 4 plays, but they run them with precision. The defense knows what it is up against and they still can’t stop it because it’s fundamentally sound.

I think part of why it ticks me off is because I really want Tedford to succeed. I like the guy and I want him to be successful in Berkeley. I think this game sealed his fate. Yes, if we come back and get bowl eligible, he’ll have saved his job, but I just don’t see it happening. Beating UW and OSU is not like beating UCLA. It won’t be that easy.

Heck, if he doesn’t change things, Utah may be good enough to follow Stanford’s lead and make WSU the last win of the season.

And I’m pretty sure Tedford needs AT LEAST 5 wins to save his job… and that assumes some intangibles that point in Tedford’s favor in the losses that remain.

So disappointing.

Big Game Preview

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I know it’s Big Game week, but it doesn’t FEEL like Big Game week, does it?

There’s a lot to discuss in this week’s preview, so let’s get right to it.

The first thing I want to bring to everyone’s attention is the obvious… although plenty of people seem to be ignoring it. Last year’s score was Stanford 31, Cal 28. Last year the Bears proved that when the brought their best effort, they were very close to Stanford in their ability to execute.

Thus the question one has to ask is how the teams have changed since last year. Stanford lost Andrew Luck and has tightened things up a bit on defense. Their offensive line is still strong, but has taken a little bit of a step back. But they don’t have Andrew Luck.

The Bears on the other hand have improved their wide receiver play, have replaced their losses on defense for the most part, but due to injury have struggled a bit on the offensive line. In other words, the team is about where it was last year.

So we’ve got one team that has lost a critical player and has taken a step back and one team that is basically in the same shape it was last year. And who is favored here?

OK, I get it. Stanford wasn’t all about Andrew Luck. But their ability to put up points both at home and on the road was a lot more dependent on Andrew Luck than people are giving them credit for. Last year’s lowest score: 28 points (at home vs. Notre Dame). This year they’ve only reached 28 in two of their six games (Duke and Arizona). They have yet to score an offensive touchdown on the road. Andrew Luck’s Stanford would NEVER have let that happen.

Then there’s the little matter of the quality of their wins: San Jose State, Duke, USC and Arizona. Other than USC, there’s no team on the list that Cal wouldn’t be favored against.

Which brings us to our one common opponent, USC. Of course it is easy to look at their 21-14 victory and our 9-27 loss and say that Stanford is a better team, and it’s not entirely dismissable, but there are a lot of caveats.

First of all, that was one sloppy game between USC and Stanford. 3 interceptions in 3 plays? (2 by Barkley) Ridiculous. (and a 4th 5 plays later.) USC played a horrible game and I’m not sure if you play it again that Stanford wins. Secondly, one was in the comfy confines of Stanford stadium, while Cal had to go to the Coliseum. Finally, Stanford clearly has some voodoo curse on USC the same way Oregon State does on Cal ever since 2006. It’s a mistake to judge either USC or Stanford based on their matchup. Stanford’s struggles since then and USC’s victories (including over the common opponent that Stanford lost to, Washington) are proof of that.

Before I oversell Cal’s chances in this game, let’s get to where this game will be won… In the trenches. And I think both defenses will have the advantage.

Cal’s defensive line has improved steadily this season and there’s good reason to think they’ll hold their own against Stanford’s offensive line. I think this is particularly true because Cal doesn’t need a ‘win’ but more a stalemate in this battle. Stanford’s one-dimensional team is not going to be all that successful throwing the ball. Nunez has struggled on the road so far and I think he’ll throw a bunch of picks to Cal if Shaw takes the handcuffs off of him. I expect to see a heavy does of Taylor up the middle tomorrow. Thus Cal doesn’t have to win… just plug everything up and limit the inside run game.

Things don’t fare as well on the other side of the ball. Stanford’s front seven has the talent to cause MASSIVE trouble for the Bears. Our offensive line is getting better, but is still a work in progress. One has to believe that Stanford will win that battle handily.

The way I see it, the keys to victory is for Cal to mimic what it did against UCLA on offense. The ball needs to come out quick and they need to get REALLY diverse with their play calling. ‘Running Stanford’s front seven ragged’ should be the constant goal.

Can Cal do it? Yes, they CAN… but whether they will is a far more difficult question to answer. I’m expecting either a low scoring affair that could go either way or a low Stanford score and Cal wins going away, a-la UCLA.

Let’s be optimistic again and assume Stanford scores what they have in the last two road games and Cal scores the lower of their two scores in the last two weeks: Cal 31, Stanford 13

WSU OTRH Podcast

Ridiculously late OTRH podcast. Although the Bears seem to be winning the games I’m late on posting. So let’s hope that I’m as busy next week as I have been, and I’m late again, yes?

Here you go:

Stanford’s “Horrible Call”

I am not one who feels questioning the refs is out of bounds, as I frequently comment on their performance. However, I think the outrage over the no-touchdown call at Notre Dame is pretty ridiculous.

First, was it reasonable that the on-the-field ref didn’t call it a touchdown? Of course it was. Taylor was stopped, rolled to the side and didn’t really look like he had reached as far as he had. Most of us thought he didn’t get in on first watch. It wasn’t until we saw a replay we thought he might have got in.

So the fact that it went to the booth called a non-touchdown shouldn’t outrage anyone.

Now, when it goes to the booth, there must be UNDISPUTED evidence to overturn the call. With that in mind, I ask you to watch the following youtube clip, starting at the 14 second mark and watch the LEFT ELBOW of Taylor:

As Taylor extends his body forward at the 18 second mark, the front of his body falls toward the turf. Between the 20 and 21 second mark, his fall is halted, his upper.right elbow jerks downward and his body bounces. At this point, the ball is clearly not over the goal line. He then reaches forward and places the ball over the goal line.

I submit to you that his left elbow hits the ground at that moment, when his fall was halted.

Now, you can’t see the elbow either in this angle or the higher on from the same size, because it is obscured by a Notre Dame player’s calf. Is it possible the bounce is from something else and his elbow didn’t touch?

Yes, it is.

But the burden of proof is on the other side, and it’s very reasonable to say his elbow hit right there, and that without proof to the contrary, then he’s down before the reach forward with the ball. And I’d go even further than the burden of proof to say it is more likely than not. There’s no other explanation I can see of why he bounced like that. He bounced because the elbow touched.

This was no egregious call. Ted Miller, the guys on the Pac-12 network including Neuheisel, and others have been ranting and raving about this call as if the video evidence is conclusive. It’s not. It was a marginal call that could have gone either way and is very defensible being called down.

But, by all means, since we’re playing Stanford on Saturday, keep this going. I’d like Stanford to be consumed by this call for the next 6 days until they have something new to complain about Saturday evening.

Let’s not get carried away… it was WSU

Jeff Faraudo says: “O-line delivers most encouraging performance yet”

The Bears offensive line ALWAYS looks good against WSU. I wouldn’t get too excited about that performance.

First Sunday morning thoughts

The game went about like I expected. If WSU had converted on one of those drives that died when they got close, my pre-game prediction (31-24) could have been exactly right.

Things I liked:

  • The workman like quality of the win… the Bears knew what they needed to do and got it done.
  • Keenan Allen… great game for him. That long touchdown was a thing of beauty.
  • Secondary getting their hands on a lot of balls… FINALLY Steve Williams is back to his old self and the rest of the secondary is joining him in making far more plays on the ball than in the first few games of the season.
  • Running backs… they all played pretty well and came in for each other as they got banged up. Bigelow is FAST. CJ is tough and has more speed than in the past. Isi might be the weakest of the 3 but is doing fine.
  • Offensive line dominated like they should.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Secondary penalties… I’ll definitely take the bad with the good here, I’d rather have them batting a lot of balls and getting a few penalties, but this could be improved.
  • Bad calls by the refs… A few of those secondary penalties were pretty bogus. Also, the instant replay booth looks to be replaced by a monkey with a coin to flip. It sometimes went in our favor (and other times it didn’t), but there was no consistency in the booth.
  • Maynard locking on Allen… 14 completions total, 11 of them to Keenan Allen? That will work against a weak team, but it will not work against the better teams.
  • The last drive of the first half… were we running out the clock or were we going for the score? Because what we did was injure a couple of players doing neither.
  • 7:30 game… they stink and need to be run faster.

Will post both the very late tOSU and WSU podcasts later today as well as more detailed thoughts in addition to starting to look forward to Stanford (and some thoughts on their game against ND.)

WSU preview

There’s a lot of different ways to look at the WSU game.

The first is our recent history with them. There’s no team in the Pac-12 that the Bears have more dominated than WSU. Tedford lost to them in his first year (when WSU was just coming off a Rose Bowl appearance), but after a two year hiatus in 2003 and 2004 (remember when we only played 8 conference games and 11 games over all, and had to skip one team every year?), the Bears haven’t lost since.

And the reason is simple… Tedford’s run-first, expose our personnel advantages strategy always worked against a less talented WSU team. There’s been no one team except WSU that Cal has held a significant talent advantage each of the last 7 years. Add to that, that WSU wasn’t doing anything truly creative or unique to overcome that talent gap, and the Bears were perfectly positioned for their current run.

As proof of this, when one looks back at the scores, there are a lot that are closer looking than they felt at the time. 2008 at home: 20-17. 2010 on the road: 20-13. 2005 at home: 42-38. The reason? Tedford played it conservative and got just what he needed against an inferior team.

A very different way to look at this game is to look at the last time we faced their new head coach, Mike Leach… the 2004 Holiday bowl. Texas Tech’s air-raid offense gave the #5 ranked Bears fits and they won 45-31.

There are of course a number of mitigating factors as to why that game is not alone the best indicator of what is going to happen this evening. For one, our defense is an entirely different style. Gone is Bob Gregory’s ‘Bend But Don’t Break’ and in is Pendergast’s much more aggressive scheme. Another is that Leach’s 2004 team was one of his best, with players perfectly tuned to his offensive strategy. It will be years before Leach can recruit and develop the players needed to get his scheme back to the level it was in 2004.

Yet another way to look at this game is team trajectories and the motivation factor. Cal finally rebounded from a soul-crushing 3 game losing streak by laying the wood to UCLA. WSU started 2-1 but has themselves just had a soul-crushing 3 game losing streak, complete with a couple of close-but-no-cigar loses.

So, does Cal make it a 4-loss streak for the Wougs? Or said a different way, does Cal make it a 8-season winning streak? On the other side, does WSU seize the opportunity to do what Cal did to UCLA and right the ship? Does Cal have a let-up game after the strong effort against UCLA? Or was the UCLA game a season-turning game and the Bears play with the sort of precision and intensity that marked the UCLA game?

My gut says that it is somewhere in between all of that. The Bears won’t have everything go quite as well as it did against UCLA, but it will be a much stronger effort than ASU. WSU will play with heart, seeing this as a winnable game, to get them back on track. Their new offense will deliver a couple blows that past WSU teams wouldn’t have, but Tedford will work the talent advantage like he always does and the Bears will come out on top with a score a bit closer than the game would have had you think.

Bears win: 31-24

One more excuse…

It occurred to me that I have one more excuse as to why I haven’t been posting this week… The Oakland A’s! With their historic comeback and playoff appearance, I spent my little free sports time, watching them in the playoffs.

Luckily for this blog, the A’s inability to beat Verlander (and might I say that the 5 game series is a big advantage for a team with one dominant pitcher, who can ensure they win 2 games, requiring the opponent to sweep the other games) doomed the A’s to another one-and-done playoff appearance. Thus the Cal Bears will have my full undivided attention from here on.


OK, I know this is way too late. Nevertheless, there are at least a couple of people out there who indicated they’d still listen to it, so here it is.

Been quiet…

Yes, I had great plans Sunday morning. Off to Church, back home, post the podcast, write 3 or 4 posts… it was a great plan.

But somewhere between Mass and getting home, watching my 14 month old daughter playing in the family room, I decided to spend the day loafing around and playing with the kids. I’m sure most of you understand.

Then Monday morning came and it has been a really busy week at work. Lots of deadlines next week that must be met, etc..

The downside is that I now have two podcasts that are of dubious value. The more disappointing of the two is the Ohio State OTRH podcast, which has sat on the audio recorder for a month now. The UCLA podcast is just beginning to get stale. Are people still interested in them? Let me know in the comments.

Otherwise, expect a couple of posts between this evening and tomorrow previewing the WSU game and then hopefully I get back on track next week with posting.

Big Game time set for Noon

I normally don’t post this sort of thing, but seeing as how it’s not up on any other site yet, I figured I would…

Big Game to kickoff at Noon, to be telecast on Fox

Anyone hoping that the Bears magic was related to playing night games, need to change their reason for hope if they hope for the Ax to return to Berkeley this year.

What a difference a day makes

I’m off to Mass in a few minutes, but a quick post to say “WOW!”

Looks like my thoughts about the talent on the team weren’t unfounded. Where I was wrong, was thinking the Bears wouldn’t find it against UCLA. Boy did they ever!

And that was a pretty good UCLA team, better than ASU for sure.

I’ll be posting more after I get back from Church, including the OTRH podcast, and more on whether this game reflects a turning point, or whether this was that one game I was talking about where Cal comes up and beats a team they shouldn’t have.

UCLA Preview

I’m still a firm believer in the talent on this Cal Bear team. Other than Oregon, I don’t think there’s a team left on Cal’s schedule that Cal can not beat, talent wise. I even think that Tedford’s and Pendergast’s offensive and defensive strategies, if executed properly, could win all of those games.

Yet at the same time, only a fool could look at the last couple games and say that the team execution is there to deliver on those things, other than perhaps against WSU and Utah.

Execution is one of those very fickle things. The best teams have it in 11 out of 12 games and hope to survive that one game where they don’t. The teams in the middle have it some of the time and other times don’t. Some teams have it more often than not but don’t have the talent. Then there are the teams on the bottom that struggle to find it every game, but usually a couple times a year they put it together.

So when one puts that all together, I firmly stand my prediction from earlier in the week that the Bears are going to win a game or two that they shouldn’t. This team is too talented and has too many of the pieces to be as bad as they are, and they’ll rise to the occasion at some point.

But is it tonight?

My gut says no. My gut says that the Bears don’t have it in them. This UCLA team is not the UCLA team of the past that came up to Berkeley and was outclassed on a semi-annual basis for the last 15 years. They’ve got unfinished business, to prove that their rebound is real and to make a run at the Pac-12 south title, for real this time (unlike last year’s debacle). My gut says they’ll be intimidating the Bears from the first kick to the last whistle.

Bears lose big: 13-30