Here are the week's highlights from the Athletic Department.
For better or for worse, they've refrained from showing the final four plays. Just watch everything else and pretend the Bears won in overtime! Hurrah!
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Here are the week's highlights from the Athletic Department.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
(Photo by Harry How)
In the world of college football fandom, the line between perspective and emotion is often blurred. One’s emotions often get the best of fans, and often cause us to make more of certain wins than we should, and conversely make more of losses than warranted.
For the sake of some clarity, let’s discuss both my emotion and perspective from Cal’s 23-31 loss to the Huskies on Saturday separately.
From an emotional standpoint, the loss yesterday was obviously a tough one. Here’s the distinction between the brand that is Cal football and any other football team in the nation. Normal teams find themselves down 23-31 late in the fourth quarter and convert maybe one first down before eventually falling short on fourth down at their own 40 yard line or so. They put the game out of reach without raising any hope. But no, not Cal.
We lose with style.
No, the Cal Bears will find a way to put together one of the most harrowing, exciting 86-yard drives possible (complete with three third down conversions) with the chance to do what Washington did to the Bears the previous year--punch it in for a score at the goal line. But the Bears, facing a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line, would find a way to come up empty-handed once again while Washington’s defense celebrated madly over their “accomplishment.”
If that isn’t a cosmic injustice specific to Cal football, I don’t know what is.
After the loss, I sat silently while I finished my beer, and watched with the disgust as the douches in the table next to me pathetically tried to get my female friends inebriated enough to appear charming.
But afterwards, I forced myself to forget about the game, and enjoyed a nice steak dinner out on the town with my wife and friends and woke up this morning having rid myself of most of the terrible emotions from yesterday’s game. Instead, while I still find myself annoyed and frustrated with the loss, I believe I have a sense of perspective mostly unaffected by such anger.
At the end of the day, the game is what it was. The Bears absolutely had the chance to pull one out in Seattle, but fell short due to critical mistakes in the redzone, and the inability to stop the Huskies from making some clutch plays down the stretch. They showed promise in some exhilarating moments, but their youth and inexperience at certain positions also reared their ugly heads in others. Questionable playcalls and coaching decisions will undoubtedly leave blogs and forums abuzz for the next few weeks in what will be the unending second-guessing in the game of “should haves” and “what ifs.”
It was a game that the Bears could have won, but failed to make the plays down the stretch to do so. It’s a game. It happens. Does it bode well for the future? Probably not. But then again, we knew this team was going to take some lumps this year. Is it frustrating? Hell yes it is. But let’s continue to balance our levels of emotion and perspective.
Now let’s break down some of the details.
Red Zone Woes
Overall, I was pleased with the offense’s ability to move the ball. The Bears outgained the Huskies 457 yards to 409 in total offense, and didn’t commit a single turnover.
However, the offense that was so proficient in moving the ball down the field sputtered in the red zone. Of Cal’s five trips to the red zone, they settled for field goals in three of them, before being blanked in their last and most critical red zone visit to finish the game.
The reasons for such ineptitude in the redzone can be attributed to many things, but it appeared to mainly fall on playcalling and passing inaccuracies. The playcalling simply tightened up in the redzone, and the Bears found themselves in far too many third and long situations. And when Zach Maynard did have a chance to step back and pass, he was simply off in his passes, putting the ball just out of the reach of his intended receivers.
If the Bears score touchdowns on three of their five red zone visits, instead of just one, they win the game (even though the score would have been effectively tied). I think the strategy on both sides of the ball change, if the Bears are able to better capitalize in the first half.
More Clear with Maynard
It’s becoming increasingly clear what the Bears have with Zach Maynard. Statistically, he’s going to rank on the lower end of the conference standings in terms of passing efficiency. And it’s true. Maynard isn’t an efficient quarterback.
But the guy is a gamer. Maynard passed for a career high (with Cal) 23-43 for 349 yards and one score. His missed opportunity to pass for 350 is what is most painful though.
His ability to stand tall in the pocket and zip some passes in some crucial situations have been impressive. He’s shaken off some bad mistakes and has bounced back with some terrible looking drives with better ones.
He’s still inaccurate, and his receivers still have to adjust to the ball a few times too often for my taste. But he isn’t missing on too many routine throws, but still needs to work on his touch with his deeper balls and fade routes (see Cal’s last play Saturday).
I still don’t think the coaching staff has effectively utilized his running ability just yet, but I think both them and Maynard are ok with that. At this point, Maynard is too valuable to consistently risk getting injured, and you can tell Maynard is trying hard not to take off and run when he sees his receivers have blanketed. His best throws this season have come when he’s been able to buy more time and allow his receivers to get open.
All in all, while I don’t think Maynard is the second coming of anyone or anything, I have more confidence in this passing offense than I’ve had in some time. While I don’t necessarily believe that the Bears have the capability to drive down the field on any team in any situation, you have to admit that you at least allow yourself to believe Maynard behind center. I’m liking it so far.
So might as well talk about it. Facing first and goal from the Washington 2 yard line, the Bears had an opportunity to score a TD and go for two to put the game into over time.
The above situation was by no means a gimme, but you had to think that the Bears could find a way to at least score.
Here’s what transpired.
V 1-G W02 Pass incomplete to 80-Miller, Anthony.
V 2-G W02 20-Sofele, Isi rush for 1 yard to the WASH1.
V 3-G W01 20-Sofele, Isi rush for loss of 1 yard to the WASH2.
V 4-G W02 Pass incomplete to 21-Allen, Keenan.
Most are likely going bananas over the playcalling as well as the decision to go with Sofele in that situation as opposed to CJ Anderson.
In regards to the RB decision, I think you have to put in CJA there. Let me state that Isi Sofele had been the better back all day, no question. Sofele had his best game of the season in my opinion and had rushed 15 times for 98 yards. CJ Anderson on the other hand, had rushed 7 times for just 9 yards. Sofele was more consistent and was showing more burst.
With that said, CJA has shown the ability to grind out tough yards this season. The Bears weren’t looking Sofele’s 5.8 ypa there, or a big play like Sofele had shown. They needed just two. And I think the CJA was the better option to do that with four downs.
Also, Cal’s inability to gain two yards in critical speaks a volume about their runblocking in critical situations as well.
As for the playcalling, I’m just going to say I didn’t like it. It’s one of those situations that if Cal had scored on any one of those plays that no fan would be complaining. But Cal didn’t, so now everyone’s a critic. While I’m not going to get into too much of what Cal should have done, I do think the Bears needed to have committed to either pounding it up the middle for 4 consecutive plays (if necessary) to score, or have tried instead to get Maynard into space to either get his receivers open or score with his legs. But again, I’m not going to play armchair offensive coordinator and just state that I wasn’t a huge fan of the philosophy.
Keenan Makes His Case
Keenan Allen had a career day, catching 10 passes for a ridiculous 197 yards and a touchdown. It was obvious to everyone watching that Maynard was locking onto his brother, yet no one could do anything about it, even when Allen was double covered. Absolutely ridiculous stuff.
His first catch, a 90 yard scamper into the endzone in which he eluded and shook off defender is one of legends and the longest in Cal history.
Keenan Allen is doing things that few Cal receivers have been able to do in their sophomore season and he’s doing it with style. Through four games, Keenan Allen currently leads the nation for receiving yards with 498 and 3 TDs.
While such production will be difficult to sustain throughout the season, I wouldn’t doubt it if he did.
Marvin Jones also continued his solid senior season, with 6 catches for 79 yards. While I thought that Cal might boast one of the best receiving duos in the conference this season, I’m wondering if they might in fact be one of the best in the nation. I’m eager to find out.
Saturday’s performance will be marked as an up and down day that ended on a sour note due to Washington’s final TD and the game’s outcome.
Schematically, I felt the Bears were able to get decent pressure on Washington quarterback Keith Price. Credit Price for his ability to elude defenders and buy extra time for his receivers to get open. But the Bears really missed some key sacks in the game when Cal’s rushers were unable to wrap Price up for the sack.
Overall, the Bears did a very good job with Chris Polk, who I think is the most complete runningback in conference. The Bears held him to just 60 yards on 20 carries, but were burned when the Huskies found a mismatch with him against linebacker DJ Holt on the game deciding 70 yard touchdown reception.
Speaking of big passing plays, the Bears again surrendered big yardage through the airs, with Keith Price passing for 292 yards and 3 TDs. While I was pleased with the play of Cal’s corners, I’m getting increasingly concerned with the coverage abilities of Cal’s linebackers and safeties. Most of Washington’s big passing plays were on them, and they were often out of position and unable to blanket Washington’s receivers like Steve Williams and Anthony. While that’s to be somewhat expected, you can tell where opposing offenses will attack us in the future.
Linebackers Chris McCain and Cecil Whiteside showed great athleticism in penetrating the line, but took bad angles and went for KO hits instead of wrapping up and allowed Price to make some critical passes. It’s one of those things that happens when you have two freshmen playing at both OLB positions.
Still, I like what I see out of McCain and Whiteside, and I think their play will settle dwn as the season progresses. McCain caused constant pressure in the backfield, and Whiteside’s forced fumble was a real momentum changer in the second quarter. Fans just have to be used to take all their explosive plays with the missed ones.
The loss also masks a fantastic performance from Mychal Kendricks who turned in 14 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Other noteworthy individual performances include defensive end Trevor Guyton’s. I thought he had his best game of the season with two sacks and four total tackles. Guyton has quietly emerged as the most consisted defensive lineman and will need to continue to be the anchor for the D-line.
Special Teams Episode IV
The special teams was “oooo-kay” on Saturday. Bryan Anger averaged a respectable 49.7 yards per punt, and Giorgio Tavecchio averaged 63 yards on his kickoffs. Tavecchio was also good on all his extra point attempts as well as nailing three field goals.
Still, Cal lost the field position battle with poor coverage on some returns, including a 53 yarder that set up a Husky score. Tavecchio should not be the leading tackler on special teams.
Brendon Bigelow, fresh off being named “Pac-12 special teams player of the week” struggled in his limited roll on kickoffs, averaging just 18 yards per return. Bigelow looked hesitant and indecisive in his returns, often failing to even get to the 20 yard line.
All this having been said, I realized on Saturday that I have absolutely no confidence in our Special Teams. Sounds ridiculous right? Especially given that they weren’t that bad this game. Surely after all Cal’s special teams have put me through over the years, it’d be ridiculous to say that the Washington game was the one that broke my back.
No. It occurred to me that as I watched the special teams unit, that whenever they stepped on the field I found myself always expecting the worst. Every extra point attempt, every kickoff, I just felt like the worst could happen. And I don’t think I’m unwarranted in this.
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again. This was a critical game. The Bears really needed that one to establish themselves in the Pac-12 pecking order and it would have been an important divisional win.
On the bright side, the Bears have 8 other conference games to redeem themselves. Furthermore, I still continue to think that this team is still a bit different. There were plenty of opportunities for the Bears to completely face plant at certain points of the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’m content with Cal not being blown out, but I’m happy with the Bears’ resiliency to battle it out to the very end.
Fans need to face the possibility that the next 3 game stretch of Oregon, USC, and Utah has the chance to be pretty brutal. But I think the Bears have shown me enough to think they’ve got a chance to still make it a decent season and build for next year.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Thursday, September 22, 2011
"Buyer Beware: Watch this Price."
During my preseason preview of the Bears for College Football Zealouts I wrote that Cal's game against Washington might be one of their most significant conference games of the season.
"Speaking of Washington, they provide one of the more important barometers of how the Bears will fare in conference play this year, along with Utah. Neither teams are expected to win the conference, but wins over both may help distinguish the Bears over others in the middle of the conference pecking order."
In short, neither the Bears nor the Huskies are Pac-12 North favorites, but many will look at this game as a strong indicator as to who will be 3rd in the Pac-12 North. While that may be too early of a statement, Saturday's game will be huge in revealing a bit more about the quality of this Cal team.
Right now, few are sold about Cal as a contender, and rightly so. However, if the Bears can knock off Washington in Seattle, you have to chalk that up as a quality win, and would have to seriously consider the strong possibility the Bears could end up going at worst, 8-4 this season.
Lose however, and the Bears find themselves at 3-1 with Oregon, USC, and Utah lined up immediately afterwards. It'd then be difficult to convince anyone that this season wouldn't be much of the same from last season.
This is a huge game. Let's break it down.
The biggest factor in my mind, is the Bears' ability to slow down Washington's offense. I've watched parts of all three of UDubb's games, and their offense can move the ball. While the Huskies are only averaging 378.7 yards per game, they have been efficient, averaging 36 points per game and scoring on close to 86% of their trips to the endzone. They've also been fairly balanced, averaging 148.3 yards per game on the ground, and 230.3 yards per game through the air.
Runningback Chris Polk is currently 2nd in the conference in rushing yards per game, with an average of 120.7. The guy has really emerged as a balanced and dangerous runner, capable of making defenders miss and grinding out solid yardage in tight situations. The Bears have seen firsthand what he can do in goal line situations, though he only has 2 rushing touchdowns this season.
However, if Polk is the cog that gets Washington running, Keith Price is the reason the Huskies are soaring. The young redshirt sophomore is touting a nice 165.9 qb efficiency rating, and has completed 64.4 percent of his passes. While he isn't quite the rushing threat Locker was (due to his shoddy knees and thinner frame), he's far more accurate and has just as good pocket presence to buy his receivers extra time to get open.
Price is currently running on two bum knees however, and has already been sacked seven times, which is fairly typical for a more mobile quarterback.
If Price has time to sit back and let his larger receivers in Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins get open, he'll rip the Bears a new one. The Bears will have to dial up different types of blitz packages to disrupt Price. Again, disrupt. Slants, stunts, zone blitzes, anything to mess up Washington's protection and get Price out of rhythm and increase the difficulty of him progressing through his reads.
And while you're at it, the Bears need to get as much contact as possible, without seriously hurting the guy. I'm not looking for the Bears to injure Price, but I am looking for them to get in his head and wear Price down mentally and physically. Even if the Bears give up a moderate gain on a screen or short pass, they need to be finding ways to knock Price down over and over again.
Oh, and keep him in the pocket. The more times he has to roll out, the more time time Washington's talented receivers have to get open and give Price some passing lanes.
If the Bears can rattle Price, I trust that their usually solid rushing defense will contain Polk enough from beating the Bears all on his own.
Passing Game Steps Up
Much has been made about Washington's defense, and frankly, how terrible it has been. And the numbers don't look promising.
Through three games, the Huskies have given up on average, 36.7 points (107th out 120 teams nationally), 452 yards (108th), 320.3 passing yards per game (112th).
While Washington still has played poorly defensively, they were gashed playing Hawaii and Eastern Washington, who both run more unconventional offenses. Their lack of preparation for such attacks may have contributed to such gaudy numbers. Though with Nebraska, the Huskies were plain up beaten at the line of scrimmage against a more traditional Nebraska offense.
The shining light for the Huskies though, is that I still believe they have the talent to become a respectable defense once they get their act sorted out.
Unfortunately for the Bears, such breakthroughs have usually come at Cal's expense.
Don't let it happen this weekend. Please. Don't make Washington suddenly look like the fastest, most physical defense in the conference. Because you know it's happened before.
I can't shake the feeling that Maynard and the passing offense will be the difference in the game. Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen will be the best receivers that Washington has faced thus far, and in every game Cal has played, they've shown the ability to move the ball through the air. Washington's secondary has talent, but the lack of pass rush in previous games have led to the Huskies getting burned by the pass. The Bears need to attack Washington's secondary.
I would hope the Bears really take advantage of spreading out Huskies a bit more than usual. This will only be effective however if Maynard can cope with the notion of checking down and hitting his underneath receivers if Jones or Allen are double covered, where the Huskies will capitalize. If he can find single coverage on either of one his stars receivers, then forget about it.
As many ways as I look at it, I think the Bears are fairly even. I think both offenses can move the ball, and both defenses are prone to lapses.
If that's the case, the home team should be favored, but it will really come down to which team commits fewer errors.
So far, the Bears have been sloppy, committing 26 penalties (111th out of 120 in the nation) and are even on the year in their turnover margin.
Cal has also had 3 extra points and a punt blocked, revealing their propensity for brain farts on special teams.
Moreover, Maynard has thrown an interception in each game, with one being returned for a touchdown, and another thrown in Cal territory.
Sloppy, sloppy. The Bears can't win with anything close to these types of errors. Period. It doesn't matter how well they execute in every other facet of the game. If they're flagged again more than five times, fall asleep on special teams blocking assignments, or if Maynard continues to force passes, the Bears will lose. Plain and simple.
On paper, you would like to favor the Bears, as both offenses are about even, though Cal has flashed better potential defensively.
Yet, intangibly, there's so much to be afraid of. Cal, especially their defense, has face planted so many times before on the road, and Washington has also been behind much of that heartache in the Bears' last two trips there. The Bears have also shown enough sloppiness in all three of their wins to make one feel it's only a matter of time before such play comes to bit them in rear.
While I can't help shake a bad feeling about this game, the sunshine pumper in me feels that the Bears squeak out a close one, on the last play of the game. How sweet would that be?
Cal 34 Washington 31
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A tough week for the Pac-12. Other than the spankings laid to the FCS schools and a few other non-conference wins, some teams fell flat in their marquee non-conference matchups. Here’s the breakdown.
Colorado 28 Colorado St. 14
Lowdown: The Buffaloes bounced back their loss to California and earned their first win under new coach Jon Embree. It was a close contest throughout, with Colorado putting it away on a long drive late in the game. The CSU Rams held Colorado’s star receiver to just 40+ yards on 2 catches (CSU Secondary > Cal secondary I guess) and bottled up most of the Buffalo attack. Fortunately, the Buffaloes finally got something out of their running game, with Rodney Stewart gaining 98 yards on the ground.
Up Next: The Buffaloes visit the Horseshoe to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes who are out of the Top 25 polls for the first time in forever after falling to Miami over the weekend. The Buckeyes still aren’t anywhere close to their dominant selves, but are going to be pissed and looking to take it out on Colorado. As much as I think CU is improved this year, it’ll be tough sledding against the Buckeyes. I think they make it a game at some point, before their offensive line gets worn down by Ohio State’s front 7. Colorado goes 1-3 to start the year before a critical Pac-12 showdown against Washington State.
UCLA 20 Texas 49
Lowdown: Things are likely scorching for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel at this point. The Bruins have fallen to 1-2 on the season after being taken to the woodshed by Texas at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Bruins were unable to bounce back from Kevin Prince’s 3 first-quarter interceptions which led to UCLA being put in a 21-0 hole. While the Bruins offense continues to show some life with Richard Brehaut as the QB, the Bruins defense surrendered 448 yards to the Longhorns. UCLA has kept just lowly San Jose State to under 400 yards of offense this season. With fan support fading, you have to think Neuheisel’s time is done in Westwood. I just can’t see UCLA beating five teams in order to get the necessary bowl eligibility.
Up Next: UCLA faces off against winless Oregon State, with the loser taking the new crown as the official basement licker of the Pac-12 conference. This is a critical matchup for all the wrong reasons. OSU’s Mike Riley has far more job security than Neuheisel at this point, but both teams will be equally desperate for the win. You have to think that Oregon State will be favored playing in front of a home crowd, and a bit more rested and healthier after coming off a bye.
Arizona St. 14 Illinois 17
Lowdown: After a signature win over Missouri, the Sun Devils stumbled on the road against Illinois. Both teams turned out a surprisingly defensive slugfest, but ASU again shot themselves in Sun Devil style with penalties and turnovers. While the loss doesn't do much in their quest to win the Pac-12 south, it certainly hurts their national reputation a bit.
Up Next: The Sun Devils kick off conference play with a bang, facing what would have been Pac-12 favorite USC next week. The game will do a lot in revealing more about who the Sun Devils really are: a decent but inconsistent team, or a solid squad that is working out their kinks for a breakout season. Personally, I think the Sun Devils will certainly be bowl eligible, and good for about 8 wins, though I'm not sold yet that they look like the outright Pac-12 South favorites. USC may be starting to gain their mojo, and I expect the Trojans to pull this one out in Tempe.
Utah 54 BYU 10
Lowdown: Utah won big their annual rivalry game over BYU. The Utes dominated all phases of the game, but were helped tremendously by BYU's 5 (FIVE!) fumbles. It's hard not to dominate a team when that happens. Utah has been solid defensively all year, and should be one of the better Pac-12 defenses. The offense has still yet to gain any momentum going through the air, but Utah runningback is quietly putting together a very strong season and is currently 8th in the country in rushing yards per game (126 ypg).
Up Next: By the way, I don't know why some think Utah is an at-worst toss up game for us. The Utes look dangerous and could be the Pac-12 favorites this year. Utah has a bye this week, before facing Washington the following week.
Washington 38 Nebraska 5
Lowdown: The Huskies were undone in a critical fourth quarter with incredibly questionable referee calls and some defensive breakdowns. The game was close up until that point, though after their collapse, trailed the Cornhuskers 44-17 in the fourth. It would have been a tough game for Washington to pull out regardless, though giving up 51 points to any team has to be disheartening.
Up Next: The Bears! Conference play starts for both teams and I'll break this one down further in my Keys to the Game feature.
Oregon 56 Missouri St. 7
Lowdown: Things are really getting back to normal for the Ducks. Huge yards and points against inferior squads. The Ducks rolled the FCS squad and did it in entertaining fashion, breaking off huge plays and padding stats. Believe it or not though, the Ducks actually trailed in the game, after giving up 7 points on MSU's opening drive. Good thing for them, they never panicked. What resiliency from Kelly's squad.
Up Next: Official investigations! The Ducks received their official notice of investigation from the NCAA, and the likely consequence will either be Kelly's dismissal as head coach and sanctions, or a light slap on the wrist. I'm leaning with the latter. Oh and Oregon starts conference play against Arizona, a team that will be lucky to survive September in any sense. I think Arizona keeps it close through a half again, before the Ducks break away in ridiculous fashion in the 3rd quarter.
Washington St. 24 San Diego St. 42
Lowdown: Just when the Cougars were on the verge of breaking through with a ridiculous 3-0 start including a win over a San Diego State squad, they saw their 10 point lead dwindle in the fourth quarter, and ended up losing 42-24. Key turnovers and an inability to make clutch plays down the stretch undid a team that had been dreaming of a hypothetical 5-0 start. Still, all is not lost for the Cougars. Although they've shown that they're still far from being a contender in the Pac-12 North, they've affirmed how much they're vastly improved and still very much a threat to knock off some conference teams this year. And this without Jeff Tuel.
Up Next: Wazzu gets a bye this week before facing Colorado the week after to open conference play. That will be an interesting one to watch, as both teams will be eager to prove that they don't belong in the basements of their respective divisions, and looking to make statements. I want to see what Colorado does at Ohio State this weekend before making any predictions, but I have a feeling it'll be competitive.
USC 38 Syracuse 17
Lowdown: The Trojans finally proved they could put the pedal to the metal and put teams away, though Syracuse wasn't exactly a world beater heading into the contest. Matt Barkley continued to put up solid numbers, throwing for 5 TDs with no interceptions. The Trojans still allowed 258 yards through the air, but that was on 37 attempts from Syracuse. Either way you slice it, the Trojans are 3-0.
Up Next: USC gets a nice gutcheck game with a trip to Arizona State. USC's secondary will have to get its act together for a very potent Sun Devil passing offense, and the Trojans have been shaky defending the pass for a while now. Still, they're favored talent wise, and have a fairly dangerous passing attack of their own. A good matchup will be to watch ASU's pass rush against a talented line that may not have the depth down the stretch to protect Barkley. Still, I like USC here.
Stanford 37 Arizona 10
Lowdown: Eeesh, I continue to shake my head at Arizona's front schedule The Wildcats kept it close against Stanford, and were a Cardinal pass interference call from taking a 17-16 lead at halftime. Instead, they were shut out in the second half with Andrew Luck heating up and scorching Arizona's secondary 325 yards. Stanford's Stepfan Taylor finally got it going for 150+ yards on the ground as well.
Up Next: For Stanford, they're hurt by injuries including losing star linebacker Shane Skov for the season to a knee injury. Though, the coaches claim they like their depth at the middle linebacker position. I can't imagine you can really get over the loss of your leader on defense that quickly though. Still, I think it'd be a shock not to have the Cardinal be 7-0 heading into their match against USC. Much to my chagrin.
As for Arizona, their focus at this point has got to be to survive with the Ducks coming into town, and a trip to the Coliseum to face USC the week after. Yes, the Wildcats are likely looking at a 1-4 start, though if they keep their confidence through that rough stretch, will see an easier patch of games against some more manageable opponents. If they can pull off an upset at the end of the season against rival ASU, a nice stretch of games could still lead the Wildcats to bowl eligibility at 6-6 in my mind.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Wow, TouchedtheAxein82, has really outdone himself this time. He has filmed and edited every play from the game from his seat from last Saturday. I've included the clips below, as well as his comments on CaliforniaGoldenBlogs.
"The Cal - Presbyterian game from my perspective. Every play. Total viewing time: 46 minutes. Make sure to watch in 720p.
Since the whole game is on YouTube I don't know if there would be interest in a torrent of the game file (one file, 2 GB). The quality is about the same."
He's even included the radio commentary from Starkey! Quarters 3 and 4 are after the bump.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Sunday, September 18, 2011
This was a rare, rare game to behold. Your only shot for watching this game live was either at ATT Park, or on Cal's All-Access stream.
Fortunately for those of you who missed it, TouchedtheAxein82 continues to be his awesome self and has posted the highlight's from KGO's After the Game show.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Saturday, September 17, 2011
(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!
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Follow me on Twitter today for some updates throughout the day as I sit my beautiful ass on the couch and watch some football.
Things really heat up once the game starts. Yee Haw!
Follow me at #BearswithFangs.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Carrot Top bringeth the fury.
This week the Bears face off against Presbyterian Blue Hose. To pull off the win, the Bears will need to--
Sorry guys, I can't do it. I really tried to take the "Keys to the Game" feature for this game. I really did. Hell, I did a Keys to the Game for UC Davis for crying out loud.
But, c'mon. It's Presbyterian Blue Hose. The Bears face FCS school Presbyterian at ATT Park--there I go again.
The fact is I know nothing about this team. I know they're from South Carolina and have been beaten up bad by FBS schools. I also know they're playing Cal because we pretty much couldn't find anyone else to play and that they could use a paycheck.
So instead of a doing your typical preview and keys to the game, I'm going to just share my wishlist of things I'd like to see out of this game.
Please, no injuries...for either team. Seriously, what could be worse than losing a player for a few weeks or a season in a throw away game that will be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage? And I'd hate to see a Blue Hose player go down in a game in which their team is trying not to embarrass themselves too bad and get a paycheck for their school.
So please, football gods, no injuries for anyone.
On this note, I'd love to see the Bears build a healthy enough of a lead that the first team units aren't playing for most of the second half. In fact, I would absolutely love to see the second team units play all the second half, because it may be the last real chance for them to get semi-meaningful snaps before the Bears start conference play.
Get Bridgford Reps
Specifically, I want to see backup quarterback Allan Bridgford lead a few drives of his own. Part of it is curiosity on my part obviously, but a lot of it is the necessity for Bridgford to see his first live game reps now, before it comes in the middle of a critical 4th quarter of a conference game. And given some of the shots Maynard took at Colorado (CU for God sakes), this becomes all the more critical.
Obviously the coaches know this, and I'm sure it's part of their plan. Although Maynard is by no means a proven product yet with the offense, this time will be as good as any to get Bridgford in there.
Brendon (insert future nickname here) Bigelow Debuts
Tedford has already stated that heralded true frosh runningback Brendon Bigelow will play this season after turning a corner physically. Brendon had been getting back into the swing of things after missing his junior and senior seasons due to torn ACLs. There's been some debate as to whether he'll play this Saturday, but if there were ever a game for Bigelow to get his feet wet, this would be it.
I've long stated that I've had a "watch out for this guy" conversation with a friend during certain individual past Bears' debuts, only to be proven right a play later. It happened moments before Desean's first TD catch, a play before Jahvid's 34 yard run against Tennessee, and pretty much all pregame before Keenan Allen's debut against UC Davis.
I get that same type of inkling about Bigelow. He may not do it on his first carry, but if Tedford is serious about getting Bigelow some touches this game, he's going to make a "O-face" play.
Sofele to top 100
I can't decide if I'd rather have Isi Sofele take it easy with an 8-10 carry type of day, to rest his body for conference play, or take advantage of the opponent so that Sofele could have at least one 100 yard performance this season. Ideally, it'd be both, two 40+ yard runs to go with a few grinders, but now we're talking crazy.
It's a strange feeling to not have a Cal rusher top the century mark. It'd be nice to have again.
Silly right? But the Bears have just one interception this season, and have had difficulty snagging picks for a while now. The Bears had just 9 interceptions last year, one of the worst marks in the conference. This is a pretty far fall from when the Bears led the conference with 24 picks in 2008. If you can't get some picks here, when? I can't think of a worse QB we'll see all year.
No Blocked Extra Point Attempts
Seriously, the buck stops here. Is that even the catch phrase? Whatever. C'mon. If the special teams gets this down, think about how improved we'll think Tavecchio will be, even if all the previous gaffes weren't solely on him. Tavecchio has been nailing his kickoffs, and he's 2-2 on the year on field goals. Huzzah!
A Splash Hit by Anger
Kidding, but how awesome would that be during a game? Yeah I know it wouldn't even be in the field of play, but if the Bears are on their own 50, just have Anger turn 90 degrees to McCovey's cove and nail a kayaker in the head. Only we're getting on ESPN until the Oregon game.
A Big Return
The biggest return this season has been a 27 yarder by Coleman Edmond. For what it's worth, I think Edmond has been decent on kick off returns, but neither him nor Jones have really been able to break off any big returns. I don't need Cal's return to be consistently explosive, though it'd be nice. I'd just like to see a big return here and there. And at least one against Blue Hose for gawd sakes.
A Focus on "Us"
It's easy for the Bears to dismiss Presbyterian and sleep walk through the game. You can't blame them. But I'm hoping the staff and the team relishes an opportunity to real look inside and focus on their individual efforts. You can't gameplan too much for a team like Blue Hose, but you can make sure you know your assignments inside and out, are taking care of your body, and play each play like your last, regardless of what color uniform is lined up on the opposite side.
I'd like to see an effort that shows the team remembers that full well.
Edit: Score Prediction
California 66 Blue Hose 10
(Tavecchio nails another field goal, and the first team defense surrenders a field goal, while the second team defense surrenders a late score on Presby's final drive.)
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Doug Pensinger / Getty Images
I had a suspicion while watching the Colorado game, that despite Maynard’s 50% completion percentage, I thought Cal was doing well on 3rd downs. Specifically, I thought Maynard and the passing offense did quite well for itself.
I then looked up the 3rd down conversions for the Bears, and saw 7 for 13 (53.8%). That’s pretty darn good. In fact, it would put them in the Top 10 in the nation in any given year. It’s most certainly better than the 34.9% the Bears averaged last year.
Naturally, you can’t compare one game’s performance, and compare it to an average over the course of a season.
But I did want to take a closer look, specifically how Maynard and the passing offense performed on passing downs. So I’ve taken out the instances in which the Bears rushed on 3rd downs (once to Sofele and once to CJA which went for a TD).
The results were surprising.
[Edit: It's like TouchedtheAxein82 is a brotha from anotha motha. He was thinking the same thing and just happened to prepare a video with all of Cal's third down attempts. You can see the good, bad, and comical.]
Check out the breakdown of each attempt after the jump.
Here’s the breakdown by quarter.
3rd-4 (Cal 36 yardline) Pass incomplete to Marvin Jones, dropped pass.
This would have been an easy first down, and Jones took his eyes off the ball as he was already contemplating spin moving his defender. You can't place this one on Maynard at all.
3rd-9 (Cal 23 yardline) Pass complete to Keenan Allen for 20 yards to the CAL43, 1ST DOWN CAL
Nice strike with plenty of zip. Put it nice and high where only Allen could get it.
3rd-5 (Cal 24 yardline) Pass incomplete to Keenan Allen, PENALTY CU pass interference 10 yards to the CAL34, 1ST DOWN CAL
Allen was double covered, but unbelievably enough I think Allen has a decent chance to catch that. Either way the Bears roll on.
3rd-3 (CU 49 yardline) Pass incomplete to 1-Jones, Marvin PENALTY CU pass interference 15 yards to the CU34, 1ST DOWN CAL
Marvin Jones - not a great pass, but got it into space enough to draw pass interference. But again, Jones was tightly covered and I’m not sure that pass should have been thrown.
3rd-Goal (CU 2 yardline) Pass complete to Nico Dumont for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Just a perfect pass out to the flat to the fullback. It is worth noting that Spencer Hagan was wide the hell open on top, but a score is a score is a score.
3rd-17 (CU 22 yardline) Pass incomplete to Marvin Jones.
Marvin Jones - Incomplete - Galas was late snapping the ball and Maynard was seen clapping for the snap frantically, which may have thrown off his rhythm. Either way, Maynard missed Jones badly on an overthrown post route in the endzone.
3rd-7 (Cal 41 yardline) Pass complete to Keenan Allen for 37 yards to the CU22, 1ST DOWN CAL
Maynard found himself rolling to his left to avoid heavy pressure and found Allen curling across the field. Absolutely zips it in there and shows his ability throwing on the run.
3rd-12 ( (Cal 24 yardline) Pass incomplete to Anthony Miller, dropped pass.
Although this was a drop, Miller likely would have not have converted for a 1st down, had he caught the ball. He was still about 6 yards away from a 1st. So even though it was a dropped pass, I’m counting it as an incompletion for the purpose of analyzing 3rd down efficiency.
3rd-10 (Cal 40 yardline) Sacked for loss of 8 yards to the CAL32, sack.
The pocket collapsed within three seconds so although you could argue a coverage sack, that was mainly due to Maynard's futile ability to buy time. Galas got bullrushed on the delayed blitz by the linebacker which nearly toppled Maynard over.
3rd-3 (Cal 40 yardline) Pass complete to Michael Calvin for 5 yards to the CAL45, 1ST DOWN CAL
Nice safe route and the pass was on the money.
3rd-10 (Cal 45 yardline) Pass complete to Michael Calvin for 27 yards to the CU28, 1ST DOWN CAL
Huge, huge gain and huge conversion. What the stat sheet won't tell you is that Maynard took an absolute shot the play prior. He just got KTFO. And looking at his face the following before the snap, he looked pissed. Pissed enough to throw the ball on a line right into Calvin's hands on a deep out. One of the most impressive throws of the day.
3rd-10 (Cal 29 yardline) Pass incomplete to Michael Calvin, incomplete
Maynard was flushed out of the pocket and threw it 3 feet in front of the feet of the closest defender. Nothing available, and just threw it really within a general vicinity.
Of the 12 third down attempts, 7 were converted successfully. Two were completed by pass interference penalties and one was a touchdown.
Of the 5 unsuccessful attempts, two were dropped passes, though only would have been a surefire conversion had it been caught.
Of the other three unsuccessful attempts, one was a sack, and two were inaccurate passes on hurried attempts, with no real chance of being converted.
If you include the penalties, and factor the drops appropriately (you give Maynard the Jones’ drop, but still count Miller’s drop against him), you see that Maynard and the passing offense would have been 8 of 12 on third down.
Discount the penalties altogether, and that number is still a respectable 6 for 10 on third.
In fact, if Jones had caught the ball on Cal’s first drive, the Bears would have converted their first 5 third downs in passing situations.
Also, discounting the first drive (Jones’ drop), all of Cal’s failed third down conversions occurred no shorter than 3rd and 7, with the longest being 3rd and 17.
So what does this all say? Cal had a fantastic day on third down, and a lot of it depended on Cal receivers ability to get open as well as the Bears’ protection in those downs.
However, no matter how you swing it, you can’t deny Maynard’s coolness under pressure in those passing situations. Also, you can't disregard the coaching staff's faith in putting the ball in Maynard's hands in 3rd and long situations. We're seeing far few draw plays, and bubble screens. They're letting him go out and fling it, and more often than not, the team is converting. Bottom line, Maynard converted some huge 3rd downs in some absolutely critical situations.
What this bodes for the future I can’t say. There are far too many factors to make any overarching conclusions, but I did think Maynard’s performance on 3rd down was worth noting given his unimpressive final stat sheet of 18 for 35 passing. Again, nothing is ever that straightforward.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Oregon 69 Nevada 20
Lowdown: Eesh. The Ducks were pretty peeved about dropping their first game to LSU and took it out against the Nevada Wolfpack in a "Hey guys, look what we can still do" type of performance. The Ducks absolutely dismantled Nevada, a team not nearly good as the ones the Bears faced last year, and were even leading 34-0 with 5 minutes left to go in the second quarter. The knock on the Ducks? They surrendered 283 yards to Nevada's rushing attack.
Up Next: If you thought the above score was bad, wait until you see what the Ducks do to lowly Missouri State. The Ducks could hit the hyper drive button and roll up 100 before starting conference play. Eesh.
Oregon State 0 Wisconsin 35
Lowdown:Oregon State followed up last week's shocking loss to Sacramento State with a 35-0 shutout to the Wisconsin Badgers. A upset was highly unlikely, but the lack of offensive cohesion from the Beavs has to be maddening for the coaching staff. What was just as perplexing was the QB rotation, with incumbent starter Ryan Katz starting off the game, and redshirt sophomore Sean Mannion playing most of it really, with Katz subbing for a few runs. This must speak volumes about the staff's lack of faith in Katz right now. I thought the defense played relatively well for most of the game, but couldn't do much with the offense unable to string together long drives.
We all know the Beavers start off slow, but if the Beavers lose next week to UCLA, this season could be flat out disastrous, with a bowl eligibility unlikely just three games into the season. The Beavers need to get into mid-October with at least two wins for a fighting chance to salvage their season.
Stanford 44 Duke 14
Lowdown: I didn't catch the game, but I caught highlights and have read reports that have described Stanford's performance as both "workman like" and "not great." I don't know what to make of that. Like a crappy job from a plumber? In any sense, the 'Furd did what they were supposed to do against a crappy team (Duke is really bad), but at least they did it on the road. Oh, and Andrew Luck threw a pick six on a tipped pass. That's not going to happen often.
Up Next: Stanford gets a much stiffer test going to Tucson to face Arizona. Still not that stiff though (that's what she said). I just don't see Arizona shaking out to be a super competitive team, though the Cardinal will have their hands full with Arizona's wide receiver corps and Nick Foles. But my thought is that Stanford's front seven will get enough pressure on Foles to disrupt Arizona's rhythm and and the offense pulls out another crappy carpenter job to dispatch the Wildcats with too much trouble.
Washington 40 Hawaii 32
Lowdown: Hawaii's another one of those road head case teams. As a team, you'd never want to face the Warriors in Hawaii, despite the pretty surroundings, and you'd feel a bit better about facing them on your own turf. Washington got off to a fast start, and quarterback Keith Price put up much better numbers this week, passing for 315 yards and 4 TDs, with one pick. Chris Polk (wasn't he supposed to be injured!?) again topped the century mark on 22 carries with 107 yards and a score. The one gripe for Huskies fans are the 333 yards surrendered through the air, but it was against the run and gun offense of Hawaii.
Up Next: The Huskies face Nebraska in the very interesting rubber match in the best of three series. I'm not sold on Nebraska this year and think they'll barely be a Top 25 team by the end of the season, but they're good enough to give the Huskies a decent push, especially at Nebraska. While I've had my questions about Washington, a road win over Nebraska will get me even more worried about the Bears upcoming game with them on 9/24.
Washington State 59 UNLV 7
Lowdown: Don't look now but the Cougars are decent. I jumped on their bandwagon last year, only to realize they were still a year away from winning the close ones. Well, a year later, and they're routing bad teams (something decent teams do), and they're doing it without their starting quarterback. Marshall Lobbestael threw for 361 yards and 5 TDs. The Cougars are officially not the worst team in the conference right now (see Oregon State).
Up Next: If WSU beats a pretty solid San Diego State team, then shoot, look out for riots in Pullman. It's been nearly a decade since they started off 3-0 and bowl eligibility could look absolutely feasible if they go 2-1 during this road game stretch of SDSU, Colorado, and UCLA.
Arizona 14 Oklahoma State 37
Lowdown I didn't think Arizona had the stuff this year to make this one too competitive, and I was right as the Wildcats were dominated on both sides of the ball. While Foles did put up plenty of yards, the Wildcats struggled to finish in the redzone. They also continued to reveal the youth and inexperience at both lines. I will say that Oklahoma State looked like a pretty good team, and could be in the Top 10 by the time the season is done.
That 1-4 start I predicted for Arizona is looking more and more likely with games against Stanford, Oregon, and a road game at USC right up next. I'm hoping everyone knows this was a rebuilding year for the Wildcats with virtually no returning starters at the offensive line, and a youthful defensive line, or things could get start getting hot for Mike Stoops down in Tucson.
Arizona State 37 Missouri 30
Lowdown Arizona's rivals fared much better on Friday night. The Sun Devils beat #21 ranked Missouri in overtime after allowing two fourth quarter touchdowns to push the game into overtime. Actually, the Sun Devils could have lost the game had Missouri's kicker not missed a 48 yard field goal in the final minute. ASU were counting on this game as being a "coming out" party of sorts, hoping to affirm many of the preseason expectations as a Pac-12 South favorite.
I thought ASU's passing game was really sharp, and was impressed with Osweiler's ability to make all the throws on the field. I also thought the Sun Devil's offensive line was pretty solid in pass protection, though Mizzou sent little pressure all night long. More than anything, the Sun Devils showed they could win the type of game they lost plenty of times last season.
Up Next: The Sun Devils face off against Illinois, in another game I think they'll win. That should set things up nicely for a huge Pac-12 South showdown against USC. We'll get a much better sense of Arizona State's quality then.
USC 23 (17?) Utah 14
Lowdown: I was too busy celebrating the Bears' win and going on with other aspects of life to catch this game, but it was a real whacky one as I hear. The Trojans blocked what would have been the tying 40 yard field goal, and returned the ball for a touchdown. Then the points were taken off. And put back on again. In any sense, I still don't know how strong both teams are just yet. The Trojans will out-talent any team in the conference, but lack depth and have had difficulty closing games out. The Utes are well coached and sound, but have been sloppy and inconsistent in their first two weeks. Either team though is an absolute contender in the South Division.
Up Next: The Trojans face off against a much improved Syracuse team before a critical South division showdown against ASU. USC has struggled blowing anyone out, but I have a feeling that things begin clicking for them this week.
The Utes have a classic rivalry game at BYU. The BYU Cougars are looking quite decent, but who knows which teams will show up on both sides after heartbreaking losses.
I think Utah is a better squad, but they could easily fall to the Cougars.
UCLA 27 San Jose State 17
Lowdown: I expected the Bruins to put the Spartans away handily at home, but there they were, tied 17-17 to start the fourth quarter. The Bruins have a decent amount of talent, but you really have to start wondering whether Neuheisel has lost this team already. There's no other reason this team should have made it this close against SJSU, especially at the Rose Bowl.
Up Next: The Bruins better get their sh*t together, because they face an angry Texas team that isn't going to take UCLA lightly again after last year's debacle. The Bruins can show some fight and instill some faith back in each other, as well as a fanbase that is already beginning to flock away from the Rose Bowl.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Cheers to the Athletic Department for continuing to get these pumped out. Enjoy just the highs from the highs and lows of this weekend's game!
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Saturday, September 10, 2011
"It's MR. 21 to you!"(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Saturday's game had the makings of a story all too familiar for the Bears. The combination of a number of defensive breakdowns and bad calls would assuredly lead to another collapse on the road. Here we went again.
But Saturday was different. Despite a historic effort from Colorado's Tyler Hansen and Paul Richardson, the Bears held on 36-33 when Zach Maynard hit his brother Keenan Allen on a fade route in the endzone for the final dagger in the Buffalo heart.
And boy it felt good.
Look, there's going to be plenty of b*tching tonight about the defensive inadequacies and the number of huge mistakes that nearly led to the Bears falling to Colorado. And I'm not saying it isn't warranted. People are absolutely correct in thinking that if the Bears play the way they did today, they won't win too many conference games this year.
But it's all about how they held on today, and right now, I'm loving it. The Bears rarely, if ever win these types of games. Seriously. 90% of the time, the Bears either a) win big b) lose big, or c) lose heartbreakers. That's about it.
Cal winning close games happens once in a blue moon, so excuse me if I relish this one with a Blue Moon. The Bears are now 2-0 (3-0).
Now let's get to the nitty gritty.
Keenan Freaking Allen
There are a lot of stories coming out of today’s game, but let’s start off with the one that feels the best to tell.
Allen continued his amazing sophomore campaign with his most clutch performance so far. Maynard hooked up with Allen five times for 97 yards and a touchdown, but the final two were the real gems.
Facing a 1st and bloody 30, Maynard hit Allen on a crossing route for a 32 yard reception to the Colorado 3 yard line. Two plays later, and the game on the line, Maynard calming drops the ball into Allen’s hands on a fade route for the game winning score.
You have to think that Maynard and Allen dreamed of making such plays together as kids. What an incredible thing to watch.
Allen also got in on the passing action by hitting Maynard 27 yard catch and run on a wide receiver screen. He was also seen performing a triple bypass surgery on a brain surgeon with a broken spork and a swiffer wipe on the sidelines.
The other, yet more disheartening story coming out of today’s game is the defensive breakdown by the Bears today. The Bears’ continued their proud tradition of giving Bears giving opposing quarterbacks historical performances as Tyler Hansen tore up the Bears for 474 yards on 28/49 passing and 3 touchdowns.
Much of it had to do with Paul Richardson’s eye popping 11 catch 284 yard 2 TD day. Richardson abused Cal’s secondary, particularly cornerback Marc Anthony, showing off his wheels for two long scores.
The Bears also failed to get pressure on Hansen, often rushing just four linemen and allowing Hansen plenty of time to connect with his receivers.
So what can we glean from this?
First off, Pendergast’s propensity to leave his corners in one-on-one coverage got the Bears killed in the secondary today. I do believe the Bears have a very athletic secondary, so I can see the trust in believing they have the matchups. However, against some of the more explosive and more importantly speedier wide receivers, those one-on-one matchups are going to get the Bears destroyed like they were today.
Also, Marc Anthony’s lack of top end speed was exposed a bit. Anthony is quick and has very good coverage skills, but is going to get burned by speedy receivers who have quarterbacks who can throw some accurate deep balls.
There was some also blown coverage on Colorado’s TD pass to Ryan Deehan between DJ Holt and Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks released the tight end, and Holt was out of the coverage zone. Those types of breakdowns can’t happen.
Also, in my Keys to the Game last week, I talked about the screen passes being some of Colorado’s most productive plays, and they again racked up nice yardage against the Bears’ overzealous pass rush. Rodney Stewart caught seven balls for 86 yards. Ouch Charlie.
Finally, today’s game may have confirmed the Bears’ defensive line is solid, but short of spectacular. I was really hoping the Bears could apply some pressure on Hansen rushing only the linemen and outside backers, but Hansen was barely touched today. I think there is still some quality depth that can be developed, but they were nowhere to be seen today.
Oh an before I forget, Steve Williams really came through in the clutch in overtime. He broke up two big passes to Paul Richardson, with the second nearly intercepted. I thought Williams was a better matchup against Richardson from the getgo because of Williams speed, and I wonder how the game would have gone had he switched sides of the field with Anthony.
Nothing pretty about it, but Zach Maynard continues to go from making you want to pull your hair out one play, and throwing on a #15 jersey the next.
Maynard again completed just about half of his passes today, showing off some inaccuracy, when going 18 for 35 for 243 yards, and again threw an early interception. But again, Maynard played composed and came through in the clutch time and time again.
It’s just two games in, but we continue to get a more clear glimpse of what we have with Maynard. He continues to get a bit antsy at times when feeling pressure in the pocket, and gets sloppy with his footwork which leads to his inaccuracy. On his interception, he felt pressure from his left side, and instead of stepping into the pocket, he retreated backwards and proceed to yes, again jump pass off his back foot to lob the ball right into the hands of Colorado’s Jon Major.
Maynard also needs to get faster about finding his hot routes and and often locks onto his primary options. He has to get faster in checking down and going through his progressions, learning to settle for some of the open receivers underneath instead of always going for the deep pass.
Yet, despite all the “bleh”s, Maynard continues to show his resiliency. He bounced back from the early interception, and proceeded to throw four touchdowns. Despite often missing passes on 1st and 2nd down, made some really clutch throws on third down. The pass to Calvin to extend a drive was critical, and who can forget the multiple deep balls to Allen to get the Bears in scoring range?
For now, the Bears can say they have a quarterback. Sure, he might make you sweat, but isn’t it comforting to know that when things get tough, he isn’t?
Grumbling Rumbling Running Game
I’ve been quietly confident with Sofele for a while now, thinking for a while that Sofele would prove critics wrong.
Two games into the season, and I’m beginning to think that I may not fully buy into the Isi real estate.
It’s not that Sofele was bad. He wasn’t. He was pretty decent, rushing for 84 yards on 20 carries for a 4.2 YPC. That's ok. He looked really good in space on those halfback tosses (which I’m loving blocking on by the way). He also was productive, falling forward for positive yardage out of very little in some small running lanes.
However, he has yet to really impress me, and continues to go down upon first contact once hitting the hole.
CJ Anderson looked good and has established himself as the unquestioned backup runningback. I’m hoping for Anderson’s workload to continue to increase, as he shows a refreshing level of power and balance when running the ball. He broke tackles and stayed on his feet for a huge 19 yard tumble into the endzone, and kept his balance in reaching across to convert on third down.
The running game is looking to be productive but unspectacular this year. I continue to have faith that the coaches know exactly what they are doing in managing the carries. As CJA continues to learn the playbook, the Bears should hopefully develop an effective one-two punch, and allow Sofele to really shine in space.
Miscellaneous Offensive Bits
A few other notes on the offense.
I liked Anthony Miller’s game today. He had two uncharacteristic drops, but was clutch in both his TD grabs. The first was a nice one hander in the endzone, and in the second, he dragged the CU defender seven or eight yards into the endzone. Miller is already having a much better year, and I’m hoping it continues.
Cal’s offensive line had a much better day today than last week. It’s still not perfect by any means, but you could see some improvement. They cut down on their penalties, were a tad better in pass protection and a bit better in run blocking. There were at least some holes to be found today.
They still struggled a bit in picking up blitzes, and Sofele also didn’t have his sharpest day as I usually think he’s very solid in blitz pickups.
Again, it wasn’t a great performance by any means, but it was encouraging to see it improve ever so slightly against a more stout defensive front seven in Colorado.
Finally, it was good to see Michael Calvin get more involved in the passing game. He caught 3 balls for 42 yards including the aforementioned 27 yard grab on third down. It’s going to be really important for the Bears to find that 3rd and 4th receiver. Calvin and Edmond (who got hosed) look like those players.
Let me start off with the good. Tavecchio destroyed a number of kickoffs into the endzone. In fact, every single one landed in the endzone. Even without the altitude, a number of those would have still been touchbacks. He also nailed a nice 39 yard field goal.
Now. *Deep Breath*
It’s just beyond unbelievable to me that the Bears have had three extra points blocked so far in two games. Has that ever happened?
This week, the interior part of the line on the PAT just collapsed. Who are we putting there to block the most critical part of the line? Selena Gomez?
Look the kick still didn’t reach the ideal height, but with adequate blocking, there’s no question that’s an easy point after. You can’t pin it completely on Tavecchio here.
Moreover, why the hell am I talking about this anymore? We’re talking about PATs. Who blogs about PATs?
Simple solution. 3 straight delay of game penalties, to backup Tavecchio into his ideal range of 40 yards. 40 yard PATs. That’s the way to go.
It was good to see the Bears go back to a more traditional pro-style punt formation. Though he had difficulty finding the right level of “boom” with his first two punts, the rest were some beauts. He finished averaging 51 yards per punt.
Not related to the Bears really, but what terrible work by the cameramen today. Jeez. I've never seen such poor use of the zoom feature on a camera ever. Bleh.
Here's hoping that if last week's game was the sloppiest the Bears have all year, that this week's game is the worst defensive game we have all year.
But for all the mistakes the Bears made today, and for all the inadequacies that might have been exposed, take a step back and think about this: I don't think many Bears teams of years past win today's game. The fact is that when it mattered most, the Bears buckled down and made the necessary plays to pull off the win.
It wasn't pretty, but the fact that you could even make an argument that it was a clutch win has to count for something.
Let's have the Bears starters play two quarters next week to work out some kinks, and continue to develop their depth. Now if you'll excuse me, that Blue Moon is still calling my name.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The Bears hope to upend Colorado.
(Kyle Terada/US PRESSWIRE)
Opening game has come and gone, and the Bears hope to keep things rolling along against Colorado this week. The Buffaloes are coming off a loss to Hawaii, but have been known to play significantly differently at home.
The Bears may have some critical advantages over Colorado, but given the Bears' road woes, few should write up the game as an automatic W.
Let's jump to a few quick keys.
Get Maynard into space
Normally, Tedford is a huge proponent for being able to establish a downhill running game. It's just such a critical part of setting up the play action for large offensive gains, and prevents 8+ man fronts.
Unfortunately for the Bears, for all of Colorado's faults, they actually defend pretty well against most downhill rushing attacks. Last week against Hawaii, runningback Joey Iosefa managed just 31 yards on 14 carries (2.2 ypc). That's pretty stout.
However, mobile QB Bryant Moniz shredded the Buffaloes for 121 yards and 3 scores on the same number of carries. It isn't just that Moniz is fast or elusive, but his strength which had him breaking numerous arm tackles for larger gains.
Maynard doesn't have the same level of strength, but may be a tad faster. I like what the Bears were able to do in some of the designed runs for Maynard, and a few zone read plays where Maynard saw the defensive end crashing only to bounce it outside for some larger gains. Continuing to run those plays will help Maynard get positive yardage to extend drives, but also provide enough of a threat to open up some running lanes for Cal's backs as well.
Not what you think perverts.
Rather, another way to open up the running lanes and prevent some of the run blitzing we saw last week in the second half against Fresno State is to continue to attack Colorado's defensive backfield through the air.
I may end up really regret saying this, but I don't think too highly of Colorado's defensive backfield. The Buffaloes lost both of their starting cornerbacks last year, and even then the Buffaloes gave up 259.8 passing yards.
Cal should have plenty of opportunities to pressure Colorado's secondary from finding some nice mismatches to getting some of their playmakers into space by spreading the field. The focus will be on the Bears to be precise and play mistake free football. If the Bears can spread out Colorado's secondary and linebackers, they can open up the running lanes for the rushing game and maintain balance.
Dominate the line
First off, Colorado's runningback Rodney Stewart is a good one. Despite being small, he's shifty, strong, and has pretty good balance.
However, Colorado's offensive line is a mess right now, and there's only so much Stewart can do with clogged running lanes. Despite that, Colorado has been pretty adept at running the halfback screen pass as well as the wide receiver screen to counter the stronger pass rushes they've faced.
That could potentially set up a nightmarish situation for the Bears, but defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast likely has some things cooked up to address that. It can be as simple as different zone blitz packages or even assigning a spy on Stewart in some man defenses.
Otherwise, if the Bears can pressure the backfield, they dominate on defense. Plain and simple.
I've gone through a wave of different emotions and feelings on this one.
Before the season started, I didn't blink twice in circling Colorado as a win. Then leading up to the opener against Fresno State, I went through my preseason jitters and didn't put it past the Bears to possibly start the season 1-3.
Then once I saw Cal's performance in the opener, as sloppy as it was, I felt pretty good that the Bears had the game in the bag. This feeling was even more affirmed once I saw Coloardo's lackluster performance against Hawaii.
Now that we're late in the week, I feel myself settling down a bit and coping with the reality that the Bears have not proven themselves on the road on a consistent basis. As much as the Bears are a different squad on the road, the Buffaloes are a different team at Boulder.
Still I think the Bears outmatch the Buffaloes in nearly every facet.
I also think the Bears have some of the depth defensively they have had in years, particularly at the critical defensive line position to keep the starters fresh and prevent late game weardown.
A loss would fall largely on the coaches or occur as a result of a huge number of turnovers or special teams breakdowns. If the offense can play turnover free football, I expect the Bears to pull one out.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Let's knock out some quick hits around the conference, last bits about the team against Fresno State, and Cal's game against Colorado.
The Keys to the Game will be out later today. Hopefully.
WSU QB Jeff Tuel will be out 6-8 weeks, which on the longer end, should have him ready to go right in time to face...let's see...Cal.
Can I get a kicker?
Funny to read some of the forum chatter about replacing kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. "Giorgio needs to go!"
"He (Tavecchio) is the worst place kicker in the history of Cal football."
And who, might I ask would replace him at this point in the season?
Look, this isn't the NFL where you can simply cut a kicker, and pick one up off the waiver wire.
If the Bears had a more consistent kicker than Tavecchio in practice, they'd be playing. End of discussion. We have who we have. And no, I don't believe we have anyone waiting in the wings (which is another problem in itself).
With that said, I still think Tavecchio will be better this year. Fantastic? Probably not. But better. Check with me at the end of the season.
DJ Holt's on the receiver to end the game, or Justin Cheadle's on an FSU defender to give Maynard more time to scramble for the hail mary?
Cheadle's by a longshot. Dude got KTFO.
By the way, hope Mike Manuel is ok after getting knocked out in the opening kickoff return.
A little boost
On Steve Williams' interception last Saturday, is it just me, or did it look like the FSU receiver gave him a little boost in the back? Like a "there ya go buddy" type of pat?
On Fresno State's first touchdown last week, I missed the blatant hold on nose tackle Kendrick Payne. It was pretty ridiculous. Go back and watch it. I don't know if the Bulldogs score without it. One of the many missed holding calls on Fresno State's oline.
As good as a loss to Nevada?
Speaking of Fresno State, how good will this win look if Fresno State has another 8-4 season? On second thought, probably not that great.
Anyone care to guess the over/under on the passing yards for tonight's Oklahoma State v. Arizona game? I think Ted Miller has it right with the 800 mark.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Stanford 57 San Jose State 3
Lowdown: Stanford took care of business against lowly San Jose State. The Spartans should be much improved over last year’s 1-11 debacle of a season, but not enough to really challenge the Cardinal. Andrew Luck was as efficient as usual, but most will likely make more of his 17/26 for 171 yard (2 TD) performance than necessary. “Great quarterbacks don’t need to put up 300+ yards!” they’ll say. A bigger story might be Stanford’s continued struggles on the ground, managing just 141 yards with starting RB Stepfan Taylor racking up just 61 yards on 18 carries.
Up Next: Fortunately for the Cardinal, their schedule continues to shake itself out nicely. They get another cupcake with a trip out to face Duke, another loser to an FCS team last weekend, and ease right into conference play against some of the weaker Pac-12 south teams in Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, and later Pac-12 North opponent Washington State. I think there’s a pretty solid chance the ‘Furd are 7-0 before taking on USC. Their strength will be measured by the second half of their season.
Oregon 27 LSU 40
Lowdown: A lot has been made of this loss, specifically proclaiming that Oregon isn’t quite ready to be in that annual national championship discussion tier. That might be true, but I still think LSU is a good enough of a team that Oregon still looks like the favorite in the Pac-12 North in my book. Despite being a bit of a prick, Chip Kelly can coach football and will get the Ducks rolling once conference play starts.
Up Next: Oregon hosts a Nevada team that won’t be nearly as good as the team Cal faced last year, but will be challenged enough to continue to gel as a team. They should certainly roll however, and will likely be 3-1 before the Bears come into town on October 6th.
Oregon State 28 Sacramento State 29
Lowdown: I did not mix up those two scores. Yes, it happened. The Beavers fell to FCS Sac State 29-28 in overtime, even after rallying back from being down 15 points going into the 4th quarter. Thank goodness the game wasn’t televised. The Beavers have always started slow, but they’ve usually done so when facing some stronger teams. Losing to Sac State speaks to the job Mike Riley has ahead of him in terms of filling in for the many injury gaps and personnel decisions. And does he suddenly have an unexpected quarterback controversy?
Up Next: The Beavers are going to start 0-2. They travel to Madison to face a Wisconsin team that looks like a potential Top 5 team this season with the addition of Russell Wilson. The Beavers will likely struggle for a while before turning it on right in time for their game with Cal. Sigh.
Washington 30 Eastern Washington 27
Lowdown: First off, EWU is a very good FCS team. In fact, they’re last year’s FCS national champs. So Washington knew they weren’t facing a typical patsy. Still, you’d think that Washington has brought in enough talent on both sides of the ball since Sarkisian came in, that they should do better than needing an endzone interception to hold off the Eagles. The Huskies were dominated statistically, managing just 250 total yards but surrendering 504. New quarterback Keith Price threw 3 TDs and went 17/25, but managed just 102 yards. Fortunately, the Huskies still had Chris Polk, went over the century mark with 125 yards.
Up Next: Things certainly don’t get easier, as the Huskies host Hawaii who rolled Colorado over the weekend. I do expect the Huskies to hold off the Warriors, but based on last week’s performance, I’d think the game will again be much closer than some initially expected. I certainly thought Washington hadn’t yet arrived as a top tier PAC-12 team as some had ridiculous suggested heading into this season, and nothing has changed my mind so far.
Washington State 64 Idaho State 21
Lowdown: Poor, poor Washington State. You just...man. Any chance that Washington State had in being a respectable team this year lied in their star quarterback Jeff Tuel. Sure enough, Tuel ends up breaking his clavicle and should be out for a month minimum. The Cougars rolled Idaho State (not Idaho) and had to be encouraged by the 289 yards they rolled up on the ground. But Cougar fans who are well aware that Wazzu’s defense was one of the worst in the country last year, are probably concerned with the 430 yards they gave up through the air.
Up Next: If Tuel can get healthy by the middle of October, the Cougars have a chance to salvage the season. They face off against UNLV next Saturday, which isn’t a cupcake by any means, but certainly a winnable game. They then go on the road to San Diego State, Colorado, and UCLA. These were all possible wins before Tuel’s injury, and now they’ll have to hope for the best with backup Mark Lobbestael, who was solid filling in for Tuel on Saturday.
Arizona 41 Northern Arizona 10
Lowdown: Arizona continued their annual beatdown of NAU, with Nick Foles his usual efficient self, 34-42 for a gaudy 412 yards and 5 TDs. Foles is going to put up some eye-popping numbers this season with the talent at the wideout position this year. Despite the inexperience on both lines, Arizona’s defense played solid.
Up Next: Arizona has a short rest, and takes on Oklahoma State Thursday night. They’ve got their work cut out for them, as I expect OSU to be a real contender in the Big-12 this year. Arizona may not have the stuff at both lines to make this one too competitive. With Stanford, Oregon, and USC immediately following afterwards, things could get ugly in Tucson early on.
Arizona State 48 UC Davis 14
Lowdown: The Sun Devils did what they were supposed to do, pounding the Aggies 48-0 until two late scores by UC Davis. ASU’s offense looks solid, and their defense played as well as its billings, getting constant pressure on Aggies QB Randy Wright. Star linebacker Vontaze Burfict notched 3 sacks and more importantly for the Sun Devils, no flags. But again, let’s not crown the Sun Devils too much for something they’re supposed to do: beat down an FCS team.
Up Next:ASU plays a Friday night game against the ranked Missouri Tigers. Missouri is transitioning to having a more mobile quarterback in James Franklin, and looked sloppy in a 17-6 win over Miami (OH). The Tigers still return a veteran offensive line and one of the best tight ends in the nation in Michael Egnew. With the Sun Devils playing at Tempe on a Friday night, with a veteran defense facing off against a transitioning offense, I expect the Sun Devils to pull off the win.
Colorado 17 Hawaii 34
Lowdown: The Buffaloes’ road woes continue, losing for the 18th straight time on the road at Hawaii. Colorado was blasted by Hawaii’s mobile QB Bryant Moniz (did you say mobile QB? Hmmm...) who ran for 121 yards and threw for 178 more for 4 total scores. Those of you who have followed the coaching changes this offseason will know why I was unsurprised that Colorado’s offensive line struggled to protect their QB Tyler Hansen (allowing him to get sacked 7 times) and why Rodney Stewart managed just 52 yards on 12 carries.
Up Next: Colorado is a different team at home, which may not bode well for a visiting Cal team that isn’t as strong on the road. But you have to think Cal’s defense will be licking its chops at the idea of an uneven offensive line, and the offensive unit is looking closely at how the spread was able to tear up CU at times for 343 yards.
UCLA 34 Houston 38
Lowdown: Many expected UCLA to make Houston its statement game, but little part of me was surprised as I watched the Bruins go down to the Cougs. I was a bit surprised by how the game unfolded though. UCLA’s offense rolled, despite quarterback Kevin Prince getting knocked out. Richard Brehaut filled in and had a pretty nice game going 17 for 27 for 264 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs, and also rushing for 87 yards and a score. Conversely, UCLA defense looked lost, giving up 38 points to Houston, and 469 yards. UCLA showed some fire to rally back late in the game, but they put themselves in too big of a hole to pull this one out.
Up Next: The Bruins get a much easier opportunity to gather themselves, as they face off against San Jose State next Saturday. Hopefully they stay healthy, because their matchup against a likely seething Texas awaits the week after.
USC 19 Minnesota 17
Lowdown: The big stories in this game are Robert Woods’ dominance (17 catches and 3 TDs) and Lane Kiffin’s smugness (2 failed two-point conversions on their first two touchdowns). Early on in the game, I was incredibly impressed with the Trojans. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods appeared unstoppable, and the Trojan defense looked incredibly fast. But the Trojans were kept scoreless in the second half, and needed a late interception to keep the Golden Gophers from pulling off the upset. We all knew the biggest issue for the Trojans was depth this season, and I wonder if USC’s lack of it this season may lead to a few late game collapses this year.
Up Next: The Trojans face off against Utah which was also shaky in its first game. As long as the Trojans start fast again, and I fully expect them to, they should be able to hold off the Utes by the sheer talent differential.
Utah 27 Montana State 10
Lowdown: Utah comes out surprisingly flat against Montana State. Although they were helped by a strong rushing game in which RB John White rushed for 150 yards and a fast start, the Utes managed just 10 points after the first quarter against the FCS foe. Starting QB Jordan Wynn was efficient, but unspectacular going 15 for 23, and a 101 yards with two scores. Unless the Utes correct these mistakes, I’d be hardpressed to put them in the top two of the Pac-12 South like I initially anticipated.
Up Next: Things don’t get easier as the Utes start off their Pac-12 schedule against USC. They’re going to need to grind out a game and hope Jordan Wynn torches USC’s Tampa 2 defense if they’re going to pull this one off.
Read the rest of the post and comments here >>