Check my live blog post for game by game notes.
It’s been quite some time since a game has shown so much and so little at the same time. On one hand, you got to see nearly the entire team get some extensive playing time due to the blow out, at the same time you have to take into consideration the level of Cal’s competition this weekend.
Here’s what we learned this weekend.
Washington State is really bad.
And by bad, I mean REALLY really bad. I’m not trying to trash talk here. There would be no need after what happened on Saturday. But seriously, this is one of the poorest on-field performances I’ve seen by a Pac-10 team in years. There were mistakes all around on their end, which ended up making Cal look a lot more dominant than they probably are at this point. I believe in evaluating Cal’s performance this past weekend, it’s important to really take into Washington’s performance into very strong consideration.
Riley and receivers need to continue to work
There’s really no other way to say it, Cal’s passing game is still a work in progress. After an efficient performance against MSU opening weekend, Kevin struggled in connecting with his receivers against Washington State.
It may have been a combination of imprecise route running, or a Riley putting a bit too much on his passes, but Cal missed out many opportunities in the passing game. It looked as though Riley was constantly overshooting wide open receivers. Riley finished the game 6-14 passing for only 51 yards, and a TD. Riley has yet to throw an interception so far this season, but I don’t think anyone is too pleased with only 51 yards through the air from their starting QB.
Keep in mind, I expect Cal to have a lot more opportunities to open it up in the next few weeks as teams eyes’ have undoubtedly opened up to Cal’s running game and will be loading up on defending the run. The question is whether Cal will be ready to take advantage of it.
On the bright side, Riley did gain 45 yards and a score rushing. On the not so bright side, Riley fumbled the ball on his second run. Hmm, maybe a quick post-it-note to throw in Riley’s play book: “slide.”
(AP Photo/Dean Hare)
What did I say about those kickoff returns?
So I saw a lot of good things with our special teams unit with Saturday’s game. Specifically, the kick offs were much better this week. David Seawright seemed to handle the kick off duties a bit better this week, able to at least get the ball inside the 10 yard line fairly consistently. It’s a bit sad that I’m excited by something as mediocre as that, but hey, it’s better than last week when MSU return men were fielding kickoffs at the 15.
Oh, and let’s not forget another huge Special Teams play, coming in another blocked kick returned for a TD. This time, a Wazzu FG was blocked and returned 65 yards by Zack Follett. Loved the grin and little shrug by Follett after the score.
The bad? Pretty obvious choice here, the kick off returns. Cal gave up 296 yards on kick off returns, including returns of 66 and 68 yards. This, coming right after I had ragged on how poor WSU was in their special teams coverage. The Cougars’ first big return set up their only score for the day, and it nearly goes without saying that Cal would have pitched a shut out had it not been for this return.
Cal dodged some major bullets with WSU being unable to capitalize on their good field position, but this will be not be the case with tougher opponents. Cal will not be able to stay in games consistently allowing opponents to start their drives in Cal territory.
Cal’s run defense continues to impress. Again, I’m excited to see how Cal does against some of the stronger running opponents (Oregon comes to mind), but still, the 3-4 is still looking very good against the run. Cal limited WSU’s starting running back Dwight Tardy to 20 yards on 14 attempts, and kept the entire team to only 59 yards. Wow. So far, me likey.
Shane Vereen…Better than Best?
I know, what you’re thinking. Uh…Mr. Bear with Fangs, in case you didn’t notice, Jahvid Best had 200 yards on 14 carries. P.S. Douschebag, he also had 3 TDs.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Best is special. He may be one of the best the school has seen when it’s all said and done, but I really like how Vereen runs. His 39 yard TD run in which he bounced off a WSU defender, spun and blazed into the end zone left me really impressed. Vereen finished his short day on 9 carries or 80 yards.
Right now, I can’t even decide who I like more. It’s like having to choose who you’d want to date between Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johannsen. You can’t go wrong with either. But, my very initial observations appear to be this: Best is a bit more explosive running into his holes, and has world class speed which makes him one of the most dangerous backs in the game. Vereen is a pinch slower, but looks like a slightly more natural back, showing a little better balance and vision.
I'm just glad that both are paying for the Bears.
Other quick hits
- Want to know the one of the main reasons for all the big runs? Start off with the big uglies up front. Granted WSU didn’t have a really daunting D-Line, but the holes they were opening up for the backs on Saturday were huge. Red Sea huge. The Bears amassed a whopping 391 yards on the ground.
- The notorious Cal secondary notched up 4 interceptions on Saturday, the most in quite some time. Syd'Quan had 2, Bernard Hicks dove for one, and Brett Johnson notched up the final. Hmm, talented free safety and explosive special teams player. Could Johnson be the next DeCoud?
- Good to see Nate Longshore get some playing time and an opportunity to regain some confidence. Without any late-game pressure or much of a need to prove himself, Nate turned in a much better performance than his debacle against MSU. Longshore avoided pressing any throws, settled down, took his time, and played more to his game. Simple hooks and out routes let Nate finish 7-8 passing for 53 yards, and more importantly, NO turnovers.
- Same can be said for Nyan Boateng, who bounced back from a rough debut as a Cal receiver, when he dropped both passes thrown his way. Boateng led the Cal receivers in catches and receiving yards this week with 4 catches for 44 yards. Good to see for Nyan, who has all the talent, and just needs to the confidence to begin building some consistency on the field.
- Oh and Cameron Morrah, where did you go?
That's about it for now. Check in tomorrow when I award my helmet stickers to the best performances and plays of the game. Can you guess who?