Wednesday, October 17, 2007

For Those With Masochistic Tendencies

You’ll have to forgive me for posting this so late. Honestly, I wasn’t even going to do it at all since it’s already mid-week and we’ve all got some bruin pounding to look forward to. But, I’d be doing a disservice to my beloved Bears by balking at breaking down last Saturday’s game (don’t worry, my ego ain’t that big…just making a joke and I dig alliteration). Is it being overly optimistic to say that the only thing we learned from this loss was that even the best teams can lose on any given weekend? Possibly, but after forcing myself to sit through the game (and having to silence the little voice in my head that kept saying ‘omg, we’re gonna pull of the comeback!’) I really honestly believe that we’re the best team in the Pac 10; just not in the standings right now.

First Quarter

Cal started off with the ball and quickly put to bed all the hype about the oregon state run defense as RB Justin Forsett ran straight up the gut for 45 yards. Redshirt freshman QB Kevin Riley looked very much like a young kid making his first start as he bobbled the first snap and then ran into Forsett on the second play resulting in a sack. On third down, good coverage by the oregon state secondary prevented WR Lavelle Hawkins from completing his route and the long pass attempt by Riley fell incomplete leading to a FG attempt by PK Jordan Kay. Kay failed to convert the attempt and the beavers took over from their own 31 yard line.

The beaver offense performed exactly as expected on their first possession. Meaning that they quickly drove down to the Cal 31 on just three plays, but turned the ball over when DB Brandon Hampton forced a fumble which was recovered by LB Zack Follet.

The Bears’ next possession stalled quickly when Forsett stumbled on second down setting up a third and long. Riley showed good velocity on his pass attempt to WR DeSean Jackson, but couldn’t connect leading to a punt.

Brandon Hampton made another big play on defense as he broke up what would have been a fourteen yard completion on second down, and LB Mike Mohamed stopped RB Yvenson Bernard short of the first down marker setting up a punt.

A short pass to WR Robert Jordan was stopped for a loss, and yet another 3rd down incompletion forced Cal to punt.

osu got 17 yards on first down on an end around by James Rodgers, but were unable to do anything afterwards as the Bear defense continued its good early play.

The first turning point of the game came when the usually reliable Justin Forsett fumbled on first down, giving the beavers the ball right back on the Cal 16 yard line.

A holding call against the beavers seemed to lessen the scoring threat and for a brief moment it looked like osu might only get a field goal attempt. But a pass interference call against safety Thomas DeCoud gave the beavers first and goal from the 5 yard line. The Bear defense nearly came away with yet another goal line stand, but the beavers converted on fourth and goal to open up the scoring. Cal 0 osu 7.

Kevin Riley completed his first pass for positive yardage when he connected with TE Cameron Morrah for 6 yards on first down. Forsett picked up the first down on a nice 5 yard run over right end, and on the ensuing first down Riley connected with Hawkins for 8 yards. FB Will Ta’ufo’ou was stuffed up the middle and the first quarter came to an end with Cal facing a 3rd and one. End of first quarter Cal 0 osu 7.

Second Quarter

Coach Tedford showed his faith in the capabilities of Kevin Riley when on 3rd and one he dialed up a deep pass play which resulted in a 35 yard completion to Hawkins. Another big gain by Forsett set Cal up with first and goal on the osu 10 yard line. Riley showed good anticipation when he hit Hawkins on a slant for his first collegiate TD pass. Cal 7 osu 7.

First quarter defensive standout Brandon Hampton was injured on the ensuing kickoff, but the Bear defense stiffened up, after the beavers crossed midfield, by forcing three straight incompletions and a punt.

Sadly, the Bears failed to build on their momentum when they had another three and out. Punter Andrew Larson made sure that the beavers didn’t get good field position however, by booming a 73 yard punt all the way down to the osu 9.

The Bear defense gave up one first down, but continued to play well. They nearly forced another fumble and eventually forced the beavers to punt from their own 24.

After a twelve yard return by Jackson, Cal started their next possession from their own 41. The Bears managed to get just one first down before a vicious blindside hit on Kevin Riley forced an interception. DE Victor Butler returned the interception 30 yards all the way down to the Cal 17.

Unlike after the first Bear turnover, this time the defense did manage to keep the beavers out of the end zone. On first down James Rodgers ran another reverse for a big gain of 16, but the next three osu plays netted -3 yards forcing a Serna FG. Cal 7 osu 10.

Down by three, the Bear offense put together its best drive of the first half. Starting deep in its own territory, the offense turned to the ground game. Three consecutive rush plays brought the ball all the way out to the 36 yard line. After a 1 yard loss on a pass to DeSean Jackson, Justin Forsett got 10 yards on second down and Riley found Hawkins again to convert another 3rd and short. Three more runs by Forsett set Cal up with first and ten from the osu 32 when Riley threw a pretty 29 yard pass to Robert Jordan. On the ensuing first and goal Riley ran in for a TD on the option keeper. Cal 14 osu 10.

A terrible squib kick gave osu one last chance to score points before the end of the half, and with a little help from a terrible blown call by the refs (QB Sean Canfield threw a pass from 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage…no call, booth somehow ruled it an inconsequential play, thus no review), Alexis Serna was able to convert a 52 yard FG. End of first half Cal 14 osu 13.

Third Quarter

The first possession of the second half was undoubtedly the Yvenson Bernard show as he almost single-handedly drove the beavers all the way down the field. Bernard was involved, either via run or reception, on all but one play on a 76 yard drive that was capped off by his 1 yard TD run. Cal 14 osu 20.

Not to be outdone, the Bear RB’s powered Cal right back down the field on their first possession of the 2nd half. Forsett, Best, and Montgomery drove the ball from the Cal 22 down to the osu 30. There was finally a Craig Stevens sighting when, on 3rd and 4, Riley made a beautiful pass while falling down and Stevens bowled through 5 defenders for a 23 yard gain. Sadly, for the first time all year, the Bear ground game came up short when they failed to punch the ball in on four consecutive tries from the 1 yard line. Turnover on downs.

Luckily for the Bears, their failure to score was not magnified because the defense forced the beavers to go three and out. The first bad punt of the day by Serna set Cal up with excellent field position on the osu 26.

Cal and osu traded penalties on the first two plays of this drive, and the quarter came to an end after a sack on Riley and a false start on Brian De La Puente. End of third Quarter Cal 14 osu 20.

Fourth Quarter

Cal started the fourth by finally cashing in on that touchdown that they failed to get near the end of the third. A quick 18 yard completion to Hawkins set up Forsett’s 7 yard TD run. Cal 21 osu 20.

An excellent return by Gerard Lawson set up the next osu drive nearly at midfield. The beavers gained most of their yards again with Bernard, but perhaps the biggest play of the drive came early on when the Bear defense allowed a 26 yard completion on 3rd on 9. Cal nearly had a heroic goal line stand of its own, but osu was again able to convert a fourth and goal to regain the lead on a TD run by Bernard. On the two point conversion attempt, Canfield did a good job of forcing the defense to react to the threat of his scrambling. This threat resulted in the DB coming off his receiver before the help could cover him, and the result was a successful pass for the two points. Cal 21. osu 28.

Disaster struck for the Bears on the ensuing kickoff return when freshman phenom Jahvid Best accidentally collided with one of his blockers resulting in the third Cal turnover of the game.

A questionable late hit call against DE Tyson Alualu put the beavers on the Cal 23 yard line, but the defense managed to hold them to just a FG. Cal 21 osu 31.

With the Bears down by ten with only 6 mins remaining, the osu defense was free to rush the passer with all they had. The resulting pressure led to three straight incompletions and punt. The decision to punt paid off when the Cal defense forced a three and out of its own by stopping Bernard three straight times.

Cal began its desperation comeback bid from its own 21 with only 3:26 remaining in the game. Unlike the previous possession, Riley was able to elude the pressure and complete balls down the field. Facing a huge 3rd and 6 from the Cal 36 yard line, Riley stood tall in the pocket and threw a dart to Hawkins who did the rest of the work by taking it 65 yards to the house. Cal 28 osu 31.

The Bears were unable to recover the onside kick, but the defense managed to force a punt, and Cal began its last possession from their own 6 yard line with 1:27 remaining.

Riley did a Houdini act when, on first down, he escaped a safety, but was unable to connect with Jackson downfield. On second down, Riley hit Hawkins for an 18 yard gain, but sacked on the next first down. A spike on 2nd down and an incomplete on 3rd had the Bears staring down the barrel of a 4th and 17 from the Cal 17. Riley did a great job of handling a terrible snap and he managed to find Hawkins to pick up the first. After another spike to stop the clock, Riley threw a beautiful 37 yard pass to Robert Jordan bringing the ball all the way to the osu 27. A pass interference call gave the Bears 1st and 10 from the osu 12 yard line. And, well, you guys know what happened after that…oh my God I think it feels worse the second time.

Final Score Cal 28 osu 31.

Thoughts…

Offense

Most of what I think was already covered by Danny in his earlier post-game, um, post. The only thing I feel differently about is that, if anything, I’m even more supportive of Kevin Riley now. Perhaps it’s just because in the last few days I’ve already given about 5 sermons to younger non-football educated Cal fans about how the sins of Riley weren’t what cost us that game. Maybe it’s also because I’ve gotten in 3 near fights with fucla fans who were crowing about Riley’s brain cramp before the words McLeod Bethel-Thompson (and the threat of a foot up the ass) shut them the hell up. Whatever the underlying reason, I don’t think that there’s any denying how talented this kid is, and is going to be someday.

At the risk of sounding overly Mike Gundy-ish, everyone (hopefully there’s nobody left) needs to just back the hell off this kid. Time and time again he made plays to keep Cal in the game, and he very nearly pulled off an incredible comeback. Now I’m not advocating the idea that we should be happy with coming close, but if you look at the flow of the game you realize just how little he had to do with the loss.

First off, ten of osu’s thirteen first half points came off turnovers, and the remaining three points were a gift from the ref who swallowed his flag. And before the dissenters point out that one of the first half turnovers came from Riley, that interception can’t really be put on him as it came off a vicious blind side hit.

Second, it’s impossible to know how the offense might have run with a banged up Longshore in at QB. Maybe he dissects the osu secondary, & Cal is up so much in the first half that the Bernard show in the second half never happens. Just as plausible, however, is that Longshore gets harassed and buried by a very good osu pass rush and the results are the same or even worse. The one thing we know for sure is that, assuming the score was unchanged, Longshore never manages to elude the sick pass rush late in the fourth quarter. Those guys were pinning their ears back and coming for all they were worth, and last I checked Lonshore wasn’t exactly Vince Young.

Third, fans can’t overlook the fact that Riley is a redshirt freshman that was making his first start. If the play he made (or failed to make) at the end of the game came during the first quarter, this isn’t even an issue at all. Bottom line is that we were playing from behind for a significant part of the game, had to rely exclusively on the pass late in the game, and we got a performance that was probably better than anyone was hoping for. We just didn’t get the final result which is a team blemish, not Riley’s.

My final thought on the offense is that, overall, they played a great game against one of the best defenses they’ll face all year. The Bears out gained the beavers 478 to 339, had 184 net yards rushing against a team that came in giving up something like 43, and they got 294 yards passing with 2TD (1Int) and 1TD rushing from a guy making the first start of his career. Like I told a lot of people this week, the way I see it is if Riley was a pro or even an experienced starter…he gets the blame. But he’s a young kid that played his guts out to try to keep his team’s dreams alive. It was his heart that kept the Bears in the game and nearly brought them all the way back. Sadly, he just played with too much heart and not enough head when he desperately tried to make a play instead of throwing the ball away.

Defense

Despite being put behind the eight ball time and time again by turnovers and bad special teams play, the Defense actually played a decent game. Well, they were great in the first half, and bad in the second so I guess that averages out to decent, right? Like I pointed out above, all of the beavers’ first half points were the result of excellent field position given up by a unit other than the defense. In fact, the Bears were lucky to only give up thirteen.

I generally don’t delve into weird hypotheticals about how the game might have gone if things were changed in the first half…but this game’s driven me temporarily insane so…

If, hypothetically, you take away all the first half points, obviously we’re talking about a Cal win (28 – 18) and not about the defense at all. That might be a stretch, but if you take away at least one of the first half scores (not a stretch at all) we’re either still talking about a Cal win or at the very least the game goes into OT.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that osu did get those first half points, and the defense did come out completely flat in the second half. But we here at RBBID are eternal optimists about Cal football, and so I’ll focus on the positive, not the negative (or some phrase that doesn’t evoke Mark McGwire). The biggest positive on the defensive side was actually the secondary for a change. SQT came up with a bunch of great pass break ups, Hampton was playing great before he got hurt, and true freshman Chris Conte filled in adequately after Hampton went out. Another pleasant surprise was that, at least in the first half, the tackling was excellent.

Our D line’s depth has been depleted ever since the La Tech game, and while it showed during the zona & oregon games, those teams weren’t running much late in the game. Basically, that meant that while we still were too gassed to get a pass rush from our line, our LB’s & DB’s were able to pick up the slack and we got the W. This time, the lack of depth hurt us in the second half because our guys were getting worn down by the pounding of the run game. This proved to be more fatal to the Bears because osu’s scoring drives took up more precious time than the ducks’ drives did. Agasint oregon and tennessee, the opponents scored quickly, and we used the run to milk the clock against them. This time, the script was flipped and the beavers killed off just barely enough time to stop our quick strike offense. Needless to say, I’m going to stay positive and say that once our line is back to full strength…we’ll be just fine.

Special Teams

While the turnovers were bad enough, had we gotten the usual production from our special teams then the game would have ended differently. For the first time all year, we were out kicked, out covered, and out returned all game. The only good kickoff return we had ended in Best’s fumble. And Serna was an absolute beast for the beavers as he consistently denied DJax return opportunities, and converted all his FG attempts (including a 52 yarder).

The Bears are a good enough team to win when one side of the ball (offense or defense) has a bad game. And they’re good enough to pull out a win even when they lose the turnover battle. But no team has the right to win when they get spotty play on offense, defense, and on special teams. Instead they come up 12 yards short.

Coach Tedford

I've been hearing some grumbling (mostly on sports talk radio) about how Tedford cost the Bears the game. The general criticisms are that a) he should have started Longshore b) he got too greedy at the end of the game and c) he showed no class by throwing down his play sheet and headset at the end of the game. The reasonable side of me can see how an outside observer would make those arguments, but the fan in me just wants break a bottle on their heads. Instead I'll just settle for tearing apart their arguments on a blog posting (so unsatisfying).

The first two arguments are nothing more than people trying to play monday (sunday?) morning quarterback. There's really no way of knowing how Longshore would have done, and what little evidence there is points more to his being buried by the pass rush. As far as the end game, I have ZERO problem with Tedford calling one play for the end zone. Our defense was gassed, our QB had a hot hand, and, had Riley followed the plan and thrown the ball away, there was plenty of time for a game tying FG. What makes me even sicker, is that these same critics would be ripping Tedford for lack of killer instinct had we gone to OT and lost without taking our shot.

The final criticism might stick if you didn't know beforehand how classy a coach Tedford really is. The body of evidence over the entirety of his career clearly demonstrates that Tedford is all about doing things the right way. Obviously, I think that he was just showing his frustration in the moment. He's a fierce competitor and you can just imagine how much it killed him to have the game end that way. What seals the deal for me is that he didn't run over to Riley to unleash a tirade, and you saw that he immediately tried to regain his composure.

Like I said, I think these arguments against Tedford were made by people who are unfamiliar with his track record. If Cal fans ever get the urge to seriously question Tedford, all they have to do is consider this: before Tedford arrived, we all just prayed for one win per year (over the furd) and we never got that...and in just 5 years, he's made it so that losing one game per year is excruciating. Incredible.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a great article! I had no idea about the OSU QB stepping over the line in the first half. As usual, we got the short end of the stick on the ref's calls, especially the late hit out of bounds, which was ridiculous. Sometimes you can toss tails ten times in a row. That's basically what happened to us in this game. I think if anybody should criticize Tedford, it would be for squibbing at the end of the half (his half-ending strategies have always been a little weird), and the fact that he didn't speak to Riley before that last play. In baseball, even the pros tell people on base to "freeze on a line drive." Players need simple reminders. His teammates should have told him that, too. Finally, regarding defense, I was impressed with the unit as a whole, but not a single blitz? OSU led the nation in turnovers, and we applied almost no pressure to their QB. That was a blown opportunity, and I think the most important reason for the outcome. Hopefully, Gregory will bring a little more pressure on the Teenage Bear QB down at the Rose Bowl. Go Bears!

fairviewbears said...

Thanks for the kind words, glad you liked the post. I read a few quotes from Tedford's press conference that basically echoed your comments. He said his only regret about calling that last play was that he didn't get the chance to remind Riley to throw the ball away. Either way, lesson learned for our Bears. Hopefully that also means bad news for the baby bears this weekend.

David C said...

The comment about "tails ten times in a row" reminds me of the Arizona game last year. I can't even count how many TDs came back for various reasons.

I don't think there was ever time for Tedford to remind Riley about throwing it away. Someone mentioned how the veteran O-line (Mack, et al) really should've reminded their QB about it.

Anonymous said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

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