I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Bad things happen when the Bears face off against the Beavers. And Saturday’s game was about as close to a nightmare as you can have of a game.
The temptation for the biggest story on the day will be the devastating injury to Kevin Riley. After completing a clutch pass to Marvin Jones on an all too common third and long, Riley was tackled low which left him on the endzone writhing in pain. An absolutely nasty injury, and you had to feel for the kid. It seemed like everyone knew Riley’s game was over, and it was even more sickening knowing his career at Cal was likely done as well.
The injury aside though, the bigger issue was again the biweekly faceplant by the Bears on the road. It became obvious early on that the Bears were again going to struggle mightily. Very few other aspects of the game, if any, went well for the Bears. OSU’s defense toyed with the Bears’ defense, and the Bears’ offense shot itself in the foot continually with a mind-blowing number of penalties and mental mistakes in their helpless attempts at scoring. Other than the Riley injury, it seemed like déjà vu with the ways the Bears gave up field position, and looked rattled on both offense and defense.
Another game, and another gloomy road loss.
Things Change with Mansion
The offensive gameplan changed greatly with Mansion in the game. Not only do you throw out a number of plays, but you play right into the defense’s hands knowing you’re going to focus on running the ball early on. Later, the defense doesn’t have to send nearly as many players on passing downs given how slowly Mansion was going through his progressions.
At the end of the day, I didn’t think Mansion did too poorly, but he took far too long in deciding where to go with the ball, and the results were stalled drives and numerous sacks. This was fairly evident in the second to last drive in the first half. With OSU’s missed field goal, the Bears had a chance to try and drive down the field in what would have been an obvious two minute drill, but instead the Bears took their time with Mansion needing valuable seconds to call out plays and attempt to read defenses before snapping the ball. The Bears would earn just 15 yards on five plays and again punt the ball.
Mansion did finish the game well though on a last minute hurry-up drive, checking down before hitting Anthony Miller for a 45 yard gain and avoiding the first offensive shutout by the Bears since 1999.
Penalties Kill the Bears
The most frustrating aspect of the afternoon on offense though were the penalties. The Bears had been one of the least penalized teams in the conference coming into the game, but imploded against OSU.
It seemed like every single drive was marred by backbreaking penalties. On the first drive of the game, a hold by Donovan Edwards negated a first down run from Shane Vereen and instead put the Bears at 1st and 20 at their own 20 yard line. The Bears were sacked on third down after Edwards missed his man, and had to punt out of their own endzone, giving the Beavers a first down at their own 43 yard line.
On the ensuing return, an Illegal block had the Bears start on their 10 yard line.
Cue the Bears’ third drive. Mansion throws for negative yardage, takes a coverage sack, and then another false start for the Bears ends the first quarter.
But the Bears would pick up right where they left off, starting the second quarter with another false start, with a 3rd and 25.
Later in the game, Vereen runs for a nice gain, but then an unsportsmanlike conduct flag? An Illegal crackback block on Spencer Ladner. A holding call on Galas? WTF?!?
Brock Mansion’s best pass of the day to Michael Calvin that would have put the Bears in the red zone for the first time was negated by a holding call.
[Edit: The final count was 12 penalties for 103 yards. Until the Bears' final drive, that was nearly the number of total yards the Bears had gained on offense.]
With all of the aforementioned said, some of the calls were simply terrible. The refs seemingly had it out for the Bears, refusing to call some obvious penalties on the Beavers, and being hypersensitive to each and every play by the Bears. It was enough to earn the Bears an unsportsmanlike penalty after Tedford “excessively” argued a no call on the Beavers. Go figure.
Nightmarish Day on Offense
With all the things working against the Bears on offense—losing your starting QB, excessive penalties, you have to try and overcompensate by extreme focus in execution. There was none of that to be found, with the Bears killing themselves in other ways.
Seemingly every single drive on offense was a nightmare. In the second quarter, Mansion completed a screen pass to Allen who showed terrific moves to pick up the first down, only to carry the ball like a loaf of bread and get it knocked out for a fumble.
I understand the offense changes considerably when you lose your starting quarterback in the early moments of the game. But there’s no excuse for the Bears to be as stagnant on offense as they were. The Bears have far too many athletes for them not to gain more than just 100 some yards against OSU. That’s just a combination of terrible execution and focus.
Offensive Line Struggles Again
It seems with each loss, the Bears’ physical deficiencies at the offensive line become more apparent. We knew the Beavers' defensive front had some studs, but for the Bears to be tossed aside and side stepped in the trenches that often was difficult to watch. And this is coming from someone who thought the offensive line had progressed a bit this year. If the coaches had been considering some personnel changes, now's the time.
Defense Fails to Contain
The Beavers just had their way with the Bears on offense. It seemed like every single play they dialed up went exactly the way they chalked it up.
However, what aided in the Beavers’ offensive efforts however was the Bears’ inability to contain the edges on the ground. The Bears were unable to shed blocks, lost containment off the edge, and allowing Rodgers to bounce outside for some big gains.
Then you start looking at the wide receivers on the outside. The lack of containment allowed the receivers to make big gains with plenty of open space.
The effort and focus on sealing off the edges were much better in the second half, but some of it is also attributed to the Beavers being more content with running it up the middle.
Few Bright Spots
Let’s look at the bright spots:
- For the first time in nearly three years the Bears are going to have a jump start on their quarterback evaluation. I thought Mansion showed some good things, but the coaches will be forced into giving each candidate an honest look. I’d be highly surprised if the current competition came down to anyone other than Mansion and Sweeney, but at this point, why the hell not take a look at Bridgford or Hinder? At least they might see some third team reps.
- I though Steve Williams continued to demonstrate some fantastic coverage. On each unsuccessful deep throw attempt, Williams was running stride for stride with his defender in good position. He’s still a bit too skinny to be a complete corner, as he's not quite as physical in his tackles, but I like what I’m seeing coverage wise for now.
- Anthony Miller has regressed in terms of his blocking, but the guy is still a load to bring down. That ball got into the endzone on sheer effort.
- Again, that last drive was critical for giving Brock Mansion some confidence headed into this week of practice. One thing: He’s got to be faster. Much faster. Get the ball out faster and call out the blitzes a faster. The name of the game will be speed.
- Cameron Jordan continues to have a nice season. His defensive line struggled to get much pressure much of the day, but Jordan was impressive in getting in the backfield.
Thank You Kevin
I hate that I have to write at this point in the season, but I want to give a special shoutout to Kevin Riley. It’s an absolute shame that your career at Cal had to end the way it did. You faced about as much as a collegiate quarterback could, yet you hung in there, worked your ass off and represented the university well. You were a leader to this team, and I for one, won’t forget your commitment and dedication to this team. Thanks and best of luck with your future. Go Bears.
The Bears will again have to regroup, under simultaneously similar and different conditions. They will again have to regroup after their second blowout in two weeks, but will have to do so without their starting quarterback.
It will be interesting to see whether they use this game a launching point in terms of trying to reinvent themselves a bit for this season (highly unlikely in my opinion). Will we see anything new? Perhaps the Bears use more shotgun and QB keepers with Mansion? I did think he did far better with his throws when the Bears were spread out wide.
It’s more likely though that the Bears try to truck through this season with what they have. The question as always though: what do the Bears have?
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Posted by Bear with Fangs at 7:12 PM