Monday, October 09, 2006

Golden Bears Keep Rolling On

It was billed as the biggest Pac 10 match up of this young season. It was arguably Cal's most anticipated conference game since they last played at USC in 2004. It was a nationally televised opportunity for both teams to erase some bad memories from earlier this season. What it turned out to be was one of Cal’s most impressive victories of the Tedford era.

Literally from the first play from scrimmage, the Bears seized control of what was supposed to be a clash of offensive titans, and turned it into a completely one sided affair. After their disastrous start against Tennessee, the sturdy Golden Bears have now turned in five such dominating performances in a row; scoring 42, 42, 49, 41, and 45 points in each game, a school record.

What made this victory so impressive was that it came against an Oregon team that was ranked higher, averaging more points and yards than Cal, has always given the Bears fits, and was picked by most “experts” to win. Those same “experts,” when talking about each Cal game, have referred to them as Pac 10 shootouts, although none of them were. What these people, along with the Ducks, failed to recognize is that this year’s Bears play a ferocious brand of defense.

In breaking down the game, I separated it into what Cal did on defense and what they did on offense. While the win was a total team victory, breaking it down this way made it even clearer that this game was totally dominated by Cal. Since the defense arguably turned in the more impressive performance, I’ll give them the place of honor and start with them.

Cal Defense Performance(summary)

While I’m sure that Defensive Coordinator Bob Gregory will take his boys to task for letting up a bit, especially on the fake field goal and at the end of the game, even he would have to admit that this was a very impressive performance. Mobile QB’s have often been able to exploit Gregory’s aggressive schemes, and the run defense has looked a little suspect at times this year. But any questions were laid to rest in this game when the defense gave up only 25 yards on 18 carries to one of the most dominant backs in college football. Not only that, the defensive front harassed one of the most athletic QB’s in the nation all day long. This pressure led to three interceptions, one more than Dixon had thrown in his previous 4 starts this year combined. While the game was still in doubt, the Golden Bear Defense was at its best; forcing either a turnover or a quick punt on 6 of the Duck’s first 7 possessions. Overall, the Bears stars at each level of the defense (DL, LB, DB), were flying around the field making plays everywhere on the way to shutting down one of the top offenses in the entire country. Special recognition has to go to the entire defensive front seven, for blowing up the Oregon OL and stopping most plays in the backfield.

Cal Defense (drive by drive)

1) INT – Hampton intercepted Dixon’s first pass and returned it for 8 yards.
2) FG – Oregon put together a nice drive, aided by a personal foul penalty on LB Bishop. But the Defense came up with an impressive goal line stand and held the Ducks to a chip shot FG
3) PUNT – Oregon picked up two first downs, but quickly bogged down and was forced to punt. Desmond Bishop had a very nice sack on Dixon which forced a fumble that Dixon recovered.
4) INT – Bishop came up with a beautiful one handed interception on just the fourth play of the Oregon Drive. Zack Follett had a sack that was negated by a bad inadvertent whistle by the refs.
5) FUMBLE – DT Abu Ma’afala recovered a Stewart fumble on just the third play of the drive.
6) PUNT – The Defensive line stuffed three straight runs and forced the Ducks to punt.
7) PUNT – Follett came up with a big tackle for a loss, and the Ducks went 3 and out again. DeSean Jackson ran the punt back for a TD.
8) TD – Oregon scored on a 3 yard run by Stewart. The score was set up by a trick play on a fake field goal that went for 25 yards.
9) PUNT – CB Damymeion Hughes came up with impressive plays on back to back downs forcing the Ducks to punt again.
10) TD – Oregon scored its second TD of the day on a 29 yard pass from Dixon to Williams. The Bears Defense showed an uncharacteristic lack of intensity on this drive, mostly due to the fact that the game was well in hand by this point.
11) INT – Hicks broke up a deep pass attempt by Dixon, Follett broke up a shovel pass, and Hicks killed the drive by making an interception on the next play.
12) TD – Oregon scored its final cosmetic touchdown on two quick pass plays.

Cal Offense (summary)

While the Defense was doing its thing, the Offense again cashed in on the great field position set up by turnovers and special teams. The passing attack seems to have a few kinks left to work out, especially in the short passing game, but overall the Offense was pretty money. They continually converted big third and fourth downs, overcame an injury to star RB Marshawn Lynch, and put the game out of reach just after the start of the third quarter. The star of this week was backup Justin Forsett who ran for 163 yards and a TD, mostly in the second half. Longshore did a great job of spreading the ball around to the abundance of talent that Cal enjoys at WR. Hawkins is quickly becoming Mr. Clutch, with 2 of his 3 catches coming on critical 3rd down conversions. And DeSean Jackson remains Mr. Big Play piling up yet another TD along with 77 yards on just 2 catches.

Cal Offense (drive by drive)

1) TD – Set up inside the 10 yard line by Hampton’s interception, the Bears cash the turnover in on Longshore’s pass to TE Stevens.
2) PUNT – Backup TE DeSa dropped what should have been an easy third down conversion, and the Bears are forced to punt.
3) TD – The drive nearly stalled, but Lavelle Hawkins converted a huge 3 & 15 that took the ball into Oregon territory. On the next play, DeSean Jackson put a beautiful double move on the Oregon DB and hauled in a 36 yard TD.
4) INT – Marshawn Lynch converted a 4th down, but Longshore threw a pass into traffic that was tipped and picked off in the end zone.
5) TD – Lynch finally broke a big gainer for 24 yards that set up Longshore’s QB sneak for another Bears TD. Lynch re-aggravated an injury and did not return to the game
6) PUNT – Probably the least impressive drive of the game for the Bears ended in two straight incompletions and a punt.
7) END of Half – Two nice runs by Forsett to run out the first half with the Bears leading 28 – 10
8) FG – Longshore hit Jackson for a big 41 yard gain on the first play of the 2nd half. The drive stalled and Schneider converted a 44 yard FG.
9) TD – Three big third down conversions by Forsett, Stevens, and Hawkins set up a 2 yard TD pass to Robert Jordan. Earlier in the drive, Jordan dropped a sure TD on a really well thrown deep ball by Longshore.
10)PUNT – With the game already decided, Cal began to run down some clock and punted.
11) TD – Cal’s final TD came on a nice 23 yard run by Forsett on a toss play. This drive was impressive because it came when Oregon knew that Cal was going to just run the clock out. 10 straight run plays including two big 3rd downs and one 4th down conversion by Forsett set up the beautiful run for the score.
12) END of game – Cal killed the final 5 mins+ of clock with 9 straight run plays including a nice 48 yard run by Forsett.

Final Thoughts

First off, I agree with my co-writer that props needs to go to the Memorial Stadium faithful who finally showed up and created a home field advantage for the Golden Bears. They were called out a bit lately by the coaches and players for their lack of football knowledge, (i.e. not making enough noise, or making it at the wrong time), but from what I saw on TV, the crowd was really into the game. Good job Cal Fans.

With the debacle of the season opener well behind them, and with this second stomping of a nationally ranked opponent, the Bears are well on their way towards a showdown with USC for top spot in the Pac 10 and a potential Rose Bowl bid. There’s no letting up however, because every game in the conference is a tough one, and teams are going to be gunning for the Bears. The next two opponents for the Bears both nearly humbled the mighty Trojans, and you can be sure that UCLA, Arizona, and even the lowly furds would each love to spoil what is shaping up to be a dream season for the Golden Bears.

Interesting Stats

I hated the idea of ending the post on somewhat of a downer, so here are some pretty interesting stats on two Golden Bear stars:

- DeSean Jackson is tied for 2nd in the nation with 8TD’s receiving. He has only 30 less receiving yards than Calvin Johnson, and 1 less TD than Mario Manningham. He’s out gained Rhema McKnight by 30 yds and 1 TD, Ted Ginn Jr. by 60 yds and 2 TD’s, and Jeff Samardzija by over 150 yds and 3 TD’s. And, oh by the way, he’s housed two punt returns this year.

- Nathan Longshore is 3rd in the nation with 17 TD’s passing. The only two QB’s ahead of him both have 18 TD’s and both play in pass happy run and shoot type offenses.

1 comment:

L33UofA said...

All Arizona dreams of is actually having an offense.