So this was one of those weekends where as soon as the game was over, I shut the TV off, and took a break from all of college football. Seriously, didn't watch any games on Saturday, and read up on some box scores on Sunday evening while check my fantasy football scores.
Why? The game was that depressing, the weather this weekend was that amazing, and my friends and family are too important and fun to not hang out with.
Still, for the sake of tradition and because a few things can be gleaned from Friday night's loss to Washington 21-13, I'll post a few quick thoughts.
The Bears led 13-7 before two late scores gave the Huskies the lead for good. It was a sloppy, mess of a game from both sides, with neither team showing they seemed to want the win with a combined 8 turnovers from both squads. Ultimately, it was Washington's ability to capitalize on their red zone visits that made the difference in the game.
Cal's Red Zone Woes
The Bears continued to struggle inside the red zone, as they have all season now. Of Cal's 5 trips inside Washington's 25 (I know, not quite red zone, but close enough), the Bears managed 1 TD, 1 fumbles, 2 FGs, 1 missed FG. You just can't win games like that. On the season, Cal has scored TDs on just 42.4% of their trips to the redzone, which puts them 121st out of 124 teams in all of FBS college football. That's awful. That's not a blip. That's a reflection of questionable playcalling and poor execution in the redzone.
I'm not sure what's more frustrating. Watching an offense that struggles to move the ball, or watching this Cal team move the ball week in and week out and find ways not to convert inside the red zone. Still thinking about it.
Cal's Run Defense Continues to Struggle
I've harped on this quite a bit this season, so I won't go into that much more, but Cal's defense continued to struggle in their run game. Washington's Bishop Sankey carried the ball 18 times for 124 yards in the first half. The Bears tightened it up a bit until Washington's last two drives, allowing Sankey to finish the game 189 yards and 2 scores on 29 carries.
It's the 3rd consecutive game that the Bears have given up 100 yards to a rusher, and the seventh time out of 10 games the Bears have allowed such a feat. It's never easy to watch an opposing ball carrier run with ease, but it's all the more maddening when you continue to watch defenders try to knock out the ball carrier instead of wrapping up.
Anyone who's followed this blog knows I have a bit of mancrush on Steve Williams. The guy's arguably the best cover corner the Bears have had in years and I'm sure he'll be playing on Sundays.
With that said, I'm a bit curious as to the logic behind placing him on 6'6 Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Again, I understand that Williams is your best corner, but that just has matchup problems written all over it. And it showed in two of ASF's catches, one going for a score when he simply outjumped Williams. And it was real close, but that's a battle a 5'10 corner simply isn't going to win a lot.
Other than Kasen Williams, Washington has no other proven playmakers at receiver, so I'm confused as to why they thought Williams was the best answer. I'd think they'd be better off putting either Brennan Scarlett or Chris McCain on ASF, and floating a safety to help with coverage on top. Again, curious.
Nick Forbes Has Breakout Game
I've been real impressed with ILB Nick Forbes all season, but he had the game of his career against the Huskies. Not only did he lead the team with 11 tackles, but he also had two fumble recoveries and an amazing play in which he tipped a pass to himself for an interception. Just a stud on Friday night.
On the season, Forbes is tied for fourth in the conference with 74 tackles, which is all the more impressive when you consider that he didn't get his first start until the 3rd or 4th game of the season. He's still out of his position at times in pass coverage, and I'd like to see him shed blockers a bit more quickly, but he's a smart player who's continually around the ball. It's the best type of quality you want to see in a linebacker, and the reason why players like Mychal Kendricks and Desmond Bishop are playing on Sundays. Forbes is just a sophomore, but he's got a really bright future based on what we've seen of him in his first year as a starter.
Injuries Pile Up
It's amazing to watch a team as battered as this Bears team is. And some will point to the lack of a bye week, and though that may have something to do with it, the number of injuries sustatined by this squad is simply stunning. You look up and down the roster and you just kind of shake your head.
On defense, the Bears were without their starting cornerback, inside linebacker, and nose tackle. They were also missing a backup linebacker, and two backup defensive linemen. On offense, Cal was missing both their starting WRs, and saw their starting QB and right tackle go down in the middle of the game.
And the players who were on the field were far from 100% health, with McCain limping around, CJA only available in spot duty, and Scarlett playing with a drumstick taped to his hand.
For all the wrong this team has done, you have to admit the number of injuries on this team have been absolutely brutal, especially when you consider the number of players who were out for the season even before the season began.
Maynard Goes Down This particular injury is worth noting particularly because of it's implications for the future. Maynard was injured on a questionable "gator-roll" tackle and had to be carted off the field.
Tests have fortunately come back positive, and it looks like a sprained knee. It's doubtful that Maynard plays on Saturday against Oregon, so it very much looks like both Allan Bridgford and Austin Hinder get a look over the next two weeks.
Clearly, some things can change, but there's a real possibility that the Zach Maynard era at Cal is over. I'm hoping people refrain from snarky comments and have some level of appreciation for Maynard's efforts at Cal. We all know his limitations as a quarterback, but I did feel for him as he had to be carried off the field. He's played for the team, and for that I thank him.
Future is Bright at Receiver
With Keenan Allen likely out for the season and done playing for the Golden Bears, fans got a fantasic preview of the talent at the wide receiver position.
Chris Harper led the Bears with 7 catches for 101 yards including some spectacular "Top 10" type grabs. He also added a 14 yard rush on an end around for a score. If you had told me last spring that Chris Harper would been the breakout receiver out of Cal's vaunted freshman WR class, I would have been more than skeptical. But he's stepped up big time, and has shown more athleticism than I could have predicted to go along with his nice route-running.
Darius Powe also had 3 catches for 32 yards, Maurice Harris finally got in the mix with 2 catches for 13 yards, and showed some tremendous blocking downfield. Richard Rodgers also had a 23 yard reception. Keep in mind that Bryce Treggs wasn't a 100% either.
None of these guys are close to replicating the type of polish or production of Keenan Allen, but I saw something from all of them on Friday that made me nod with approval.
Well, this season is officially a bust, but we knew that long before Friday happened. With the Bears slumped at 3-7, I can just hope that we continue to play for the future and see if we can ignite some, some excitement into this fanbase.
If you dig through all the mess, there's a lot to be intrigued by. Cal's young linebackers are getting some much needed playing time to go with their playmaking abilities, Avery Sebastian provides some much needed aggression in the secondary, and Cal has some young playmakers at the offensive skill positions that have the chance to do some nice things next season.
At this point, let's try not to depress ourselves anymore. It's been a tough, ok, brutal season. Let's support the team, enjoy the rest of the nice fall weather, and see if we can appreciate any few good moments left in this season. In other words, let's see if we can have some...fun with what's left?