(Okay, their logo's actually pretty cool.)
I don’t know about you but this week has absolutely flown by this week. We’re just a little over a day away from game 2 of Cal’s football season, and many fans are just now settling down from the euphoria of a successful home opener.
In a game that’s likely to go unnoticed by national media outlets, and even some Cal fans, the Bears face off against FCS (Div IIA) ranked Eastern Washington. The Eagles are coming off a season opening over Western Oregon, and are understandable huge underdogs to the Cal Bears, appeared to be primed and ready to give it their best shot against the #10 ranked Golden Bears.
Really, there’s not much to expect from a game in which the Bears are expected to roll. For once I’d like to see one of Cal’s cupcake teams talk mad game and threaten to decapitate Jahvid Best, just to spicen things up. But the Eagles appear to be upbeat and ready to compete.
With that said, my usual keys to the game will be focused not so much on just the outcome of the game in the sense of who wins, but also considering what the Bears should hope to accomplish and gain from one last prep game before hitting the road against Minnesota and Oregon.
When it comes to FBS teams facing off against FCS teams, you usually don’t hear words like “contain.” You usually associate such contests with words like “destroy,” “bulldoze” or even spiffer verbs like “castrate.” But the Bears need to pay special attention to the Eagles who actually have a number of talented weapons on offense, most notably RB Taiwan Jones.
Jones is a speedster much in the same model as Best and Vereen, and actually even raced against Best in 2007 CA Track Finals. He came in 4th at a 10.56 which still recorded him as being one of the fastest high school athletes in the state. Jones showed his speed for much of his productive high school career, including a senior season in which he averaged 9.3 yards per carry while racking up 1,466 yards and 19 TDs on the season.
In last week’s win over Western Oregon, Jones took his opening carry the distance on an 87 yard rush. He finished the game with numbers similar to Best’s opening performance (Jones: 12 carries for 122 yards and 2 TDs / Best: 10 carries for 133 yards and 2 TDs). Needless to say, the kid can fly and can be gone if not treated carefully.
Of course, the Bears are more than sufficiently suited to handle the speedster, practicing against such speedy backs like Best and Vereen in practice. I wonder as well who has been running the scout position to emulate the speed and explosiveness of the RB named after a country. But for a team that was hurt a few times with runs to the outside last week against Maryland, the Bears are going to need to stay disciplined on their assignments, and more specifically, the defensive backs need to be focused at all times on quickly reading the run and direction on plays. Their play along with the outside linebackers might be more critical than anything in ensuring that Jones doesn’t take a simple toss into an 80 yard embarrassment.
Save the Special Teams
Everyone is hoping last week’s kickoffs were just anomalies. Poor, never-to-be-seen again anomalies. Right?
What happened to all the reports of Tavecchio booting inside the 5 yard line consistently?
What happened to it being a close race between all three kickers (Seawright and D’Amato) suggesting any of them could do the same?
Let’s hope that Tavecchio has spent enough time in the room and on the field this week to show that indeed his nerves had just worked up enough for him to undercut the ball, and that this won’t be a perpetual thing.
Keep up the Passing Rhythm
No one on the team can afford to stay content with last week’s offensive spectacle in which Riley and the wide receiving corps accounted for 298 yards and four TDs through the air. While it was a solid performance, and a revelation given the spotty passing performances of the 2008 season, the Bears’ offense needs to continue that level of rhythm and confidence into its second game.
One doesn’t need to look back any further than lat year to see Riley’s solid Michigan State performance followed up by the bland game that was his 6-14 for 51 yard performance against Washington State the week after.
Another efficient and comfortable outing from Riley and company can not only maintain their swagger headed into the more challenging portion of their schedule, but also continue to cement fan’s optimism that last Saturday’s performance was no fluke.
Continue to Build Depth
Watching the season opener again this week, I was amazed at how many substitutions there were in the first half, particularly on defense. Ken Crawford mentioned this in one of his podcasts, but it appeared that DC Bob Gregory made some gutsy and bold decisions to keep his defensive units not only fresh, but specifically composed of the most precise personnel for specific offensive plays.
Last week’s blowout also afforded the team the opportunity to continue to rest key players such as Best and continue to give key reserve players valuable game time. This might quite possibly be one of the deepest defenses of Coach Tedford’s era, and Saturday’s game could be a valuable opportunity for many such as Owusu, Guyton, Hill, Nnabuife, etc to play for extended periods of time. Even a full half perhaps.
On the offensive side of the ball as well, knowing the level of QB attrition in Pac-10 play, Brock Mansion could also be served well with a full half of football under his belt.
…this all assumes the Bears build a comfortable enough of a lead to do so. Without being egregiously disrespectful to Eastern Washington, very few, and by very few I mean not even EW’s players’ moms, think Eastern Washington has much of a chance of knocking off the Bears.
But if the Bears aren’t focused and see a drop off in efficiency and physicality, they may have a game that’s too close for comfort, losing out on valuable opportunities to build depth and preparation for the coming weeks.
Final Score? 59-10
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Posted by Bear with Fangs at 9:18 PM