(AP Photo/Dino Vournas)
It was a stark contrast to the drama-fest that was last week’s contest against Colorado, but the Bears took care of business against Presbyterian Blue Hose this week to the tune of 63-12. If last week’s game was Jersey Shore, this week’s was an episode of Saturday Night Live--mildly amusing, predictable and occasionally sloppy.
The win was of historic importance as it was Jeff Tedford’s 75th, making him the winningest coach in Cal history. It is a huge accomplishment that will likely become more signifiant over time.
Cal predictably dominated the Blue Hose, a team trying simply not to embarrass themselves too badly, stay healthy and get their paycheck. The Bears on the other hand, took advantage of their opportunity to work out some kinks on both sides of the ball, and give their reserves some live game snaps.
The media will be all too quick to gloss over this game, but fortunately for a lot of people, I’m not the media. In fact, the press won’t let me anywhere near them. So there.
Let’s break down the game.
Poor, poor Blue Hose. The Bears were expected to bottle up Presby’s offense, and did just that, holding the Blue Hose to 48 total yards (28 yards passing, and 20 yards on the ground). In fact, 40 of those yards came in the second half.
Through the air, both Presby quarterbacks Ryan Singer and Brandon Miley went a combined 6 for 20 for 28 yards, with Singer getting picked off twice by safety Sean Cattouse. Both were giftwrapped and sprayed with perfume.
What really killed the Blue Hose was their absolute lack of rhythm on offense, with errant passes flying anywhere but the general vicinity of the intended receiver. There were also numerous Blue Hose drops. Getting demolished by and FBS school is one thing. Getting crushed while also beating yourself has got to be even more disheartening for the 14 Presbyterian fans out there.
Presbyterian averaged just 0.8 yards per rush, much of that due to Cal’s five sacks for a loss of 27 yards. Blue Hose’s rushing game was just swallowed up.
All in all, the Bears’s defense recorded 9 tackles for a loss, and kept Presbyterian to just one successful third down conversion on 12 attempts. And that’s all she wrote.
In Cal’s opening win, the Bears were flagged 11 times for 86 yards. Opening day jitters. No real worries.
In their second win, 5 times for 50 yards. It was a hostile road game, so a few mental mistakes are to be expected.
Yet, the Bears took a step backward today, getting flagged 10 times for 94 yards at home. That’s 26 penalties in three games.
That’s ridiculous. That’s so much, that even ASU’s Vontaze Burfict says, “Damn, those are a lot of penalties.”
It’s just very unTedford like to have so many flags, and something that you’d expect to start getting rectified, and it just isn’t. The Bears will have an even harder time next week as they face a dangerous Washington offense at hostile Husky Stadium. The Bears need to get it together soon. Averaging just five flags a game is fair.
Offense Has Fun
It had to be a fun day for the Cal offense. Not only did everyone get to play (will talk about that in a second), but many players got to make one highlight play after another.
The Bears dialed up 581 yards of offense, with a fairly even distribution of 285 yards on the ground, and 296 yards through the air.
Isi Sofele had his first career 100 yard rushing day, gaining 105 yards on 17 carries, with two touchdowns. While I’m still not completely sold on Sofele yet as a featured back, I liked how he never lost any yardage today, and was constantly churning positive yardage. He also continues to show nice feet and shifty moves. The guy can do some real damage in space.
The Bears also appear closer to finding a true backup to Sofele, with CJ Anderson gaining 50 yards on 7 carries and a score. It’s strange to say that with today’s team, Anderson is a nice change of pace by providing more power, and shows good balance and leverage on contact. I’d like to continue to see him get more carries.
Marvin Jones had another nice game, catching 7 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Performances like these help to dispel the notion that Maynard shows any sort of favortism to his younger brother Keenan Allen, who also had a nice day with 6 catches for 85 yards. Oh, and Jones seems to have his spin move (circle button on the PS3) down pat by now.
Both Jones and Allen are close to have 300 yards receiving so far on the season, and are both on pace to top the 1000 yard mark on the season.
Michael Calvin also was good for another big catch today, nabbing a pass and shaking off his defender to convert a third down.
Zach Maynard turned in another up and down performance. The gunslinger completed 15 of his 25 passes for 215 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, in just one half.
It’s almost become a common theme with Maynard this season. The following appears to happen during every Maynard performance: overthrown passes, inexplicable receiver drops, really awful interceptions, followed up by clutch throws.
While it was good to see Maynard post his best completion percentage of the year at 60%, he still forced a few passes, some into double coverage, and still was slow in reading defenses at times. In fact, his interception came as a result of him staring down Michael Calvin on an out route. Maynard’s gunslinging mentality made me fairly confident he’d throw a pick-six this year, I just didn’t think it’d happen against the Blue Hose.
At the end of the day, Maynard’s ability to bounce back and make clutch passes (see 9 TD to 3 INT ratio) outweighs the occasional mistake, but here’s hoping he continues to settle down a bit more and force fewer passes. Oh, and a bit more air on some of the deeper passes.
As for the debut of backup QB Allan Bridgford, I liked what I saw. I would have liked to have seen a few more passing opportunities, but 10 is about as good as you get as a backup QB these days without really offending the opposing team.
Bridgford was 4 for 10 for 76 yards. He also hit Marvin Jones on a great 33 yard pass as Jones was streaking down midfield. While the numbers aren't super impressive, what I liked about him was that he didn’t appear too wide-eyed in his first playing time since high school. I know, I know, he was playing at home against Presbyterian Blue Hose.
Still, consider how previous Cal backup QBs have looked in their first live snaps against inferior competition. Just think about it. Now think again about Bridgford. See, why I’m smiling?
The more we can find opportunities for Bridgford live snaps (without Maynard getting injured of course), the better it will be for the long term health of Cal’s offense.
Special Teams Smacked Down
This has become a weekly exercise of weighing the pros and cons of the enigma that is our special teams unit.
Let’s start with the bad this week.
I really hope it comes out this week that Giorgio Tavecchio was intentionally making his kickoffs look as terrible as possible, so as to fool and confuse Presbyterian Blue Hose with our kickoff trickeration specials. However, if those were unintentional squibs, then, sheesh...what a kill joy after the excellent kickoffs last week.
Even worse was Cal’s blocked punt which was returned for Presbyterian’s second score. On that particular play, tight end Anthony Miller who was back to protect, pretty much was asleep and let the cornerback come in nearly unimpeded for the block.
Here’s the thing. The Bears have had three extra points and a punt blocked in three games. That’s unacceptable. Special Teams is all about discipline and “wanting it.” When you fall asleep on your one assignment which is to block a defender from getting to your punter or kicker, you’re either not being disciplined in your assignment, or your defender simply wants it more than you. The team has to find the personnel who is up to the assignment, or coach up their choices. This can’t go on.
Ok, now on to the good. Tavecchio didn’t get a single one of his 9 extra point attempts blocked. Hurray!
On Anger’s two punts, he averaged 50 yards. Double Hurray!
And for your triple hurray, touted true frosh Brendon Bigelow returned his second kickoff return 88 yards for a touchdown to start the second half. I have to confess, I missed the kickoff making a beer run. But I’d imagine it was pretty darn amazing.
Oh, by the way, I’m officially calling number five, Brendon “Bam Bam” Bigelow. I don’t care if he doesn’t like it, or if the name doesn’t catch on. He plays filthy like the wrestler, and every time he jukes a defender, I find myself yelling, “Bam! Bam!” like Barney’s kid.
Reserves Get Playing Time
It was great to see the Bears get everyone some playing time. Seriously, I think everyone played. Kevin “the Rope Guy” Parker would have probably suited up if the Bears had another quarter to play.
You could tell it was a bit of a priority for the Bears to build as healthy of a lead as possible early on to maximize the amount of time the reserves had to play. The Bears even went so far as to call timeouts on Blue Hose’s last drive to end the first half, in hopes of getting the ball back to pad the lead.
Nearly every single of Cal’s active roster runningbacks carried the ball, with four scoring touchdowns. It was particularly nice to see Dasarte Yarnway and CDJ get into the swing of things.
I liked seeing the rotation at defensive line, and I’m developing a bit of a fanbase for Tiny Moala among my friends. The ladies find him particularly endearing.
Conspicuously absent was Gabe King on the stat sheet. I’m not sure I saw him in there. Deandre “Biggy” Coleman most certainly was however, 2.5 tackles for a loss. Mustafa Jalil continues to impress with his playing time, and it’s amazing to see how much he’s contributing as a true freshman. He’s further along in his development than Tiny.
You couldn’t have asked for a much better outcome. The Bears predictably took care of business, and I don’t see any injuries to either team.
They padded some stats, and had the invaluable opportunity to build depth. The starters had an extra half of rest, and won’t need nearly enough time to recover from this game.
That bodes well for the Bears as they face their stiffest challenge of the season, when they open conference play against the Huskies at Seattle, who are coming off a tough loss to Nebraska.
Enjoy the win, and if you were one of the few who got to enjoy it at the stadium, cheers to you as you got to experience warm SF weather (doesn’t always happen) and a historic win.
Until next time, Go Bears!
Saturday, September 17, 2011
(AP Photo/Dino Vournas)