Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hater in the House!

An anonymous commenter (I'd give your blog a shout out, but you didn't leave a link!) on our blog alerted me to a glaring error in one AP voter's ballot for this week. While I'm not really all that wrapped up with rankings in general, what pisses me off the most is the fact that there is ZERO excuse for the voters missing this last game. It was a 3:30 Eastern kickoff, televised regionally on abc, but readily available outside the western region, and it featured the only match up on Saturday that had ranked opponents playing each other...not to mention all the national coverage the game got via ESPN. Yet there are clearly some pollsters out there that aren't doing their freaking jobs by any stretch of the imagination. Yeah, the polls are mostly garbage, and they aren't the fairest way of determining a national champion. But Bear fans know all too well the effects of shady pollsters. Hopefully these people learn how to properly do their jobs and this type of post won't have to be a regular thing...but here's a list of voting irregularities that I've found...(As a caveat, I couldn't find the records of the previous week's votes, so I don't know for sure how long these idiots have been undervaluing Cal.)

Incompetent #1:

Congratulations Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso (TX) Times. You're the clear winner of the "most incompetent voter" award. This genius cares so much about the quality of his reporting that he placed Cal @ #13 and Oregon @ #5. Either Mr. Bloomquist can't read a box score or a headline, doesn't know the difference between 13 & 3, or mixed up Cal & oregon's positions on his ballot. While the most likely answer is the last one, putting south florida @ #3 and ohio state above (Cal/Oregon) @ #5 is laughable as well.

Granted south florida pulled two big upsets so far this season, but the win at auburn didn't really shock that many and Friday's win over west virginia took place @ home (and WVU lost their starting QB during the second quarter). Again, I don't know where Mr. Bloomquist had south florida before this weekend, but I highly doubt that it was above where Cal was...even with all the losses in the top 10, I don't see south florida jumping above the #5 spot where it seemed he meant to place Cal.

As far as putting ohio state above Cal, there might be at least some justification for this vote...but that justification is based solely on the program prestige that ohio state enjoys. Based on what's transpired this season, there's absolutely no logical reason for voting ohio state over Cal. To illustrate, ohio state has victories over: Youngstown State(Div IAA...screw the new designation), 2 win Akron Zips, @ 2 win Washington Huskies, 2 win Northwestern, and @ 1 win Minnesota. Cal's victories over tennessee (then ranked # 15) at home, and #11 oregon @ oregon should alone be worth more than all of ohio state's wins combined. Even if you see the victory over Tennessee as a win over an unranked team (even though their only two losses came to Cal and florida), these facts remain unchanged...ohio state hasn't even played a ranked opponent...and the total wins of their BCS conference opponents is 5, whereas Cal's BCS conference opponents total 8 wins.

Incompetent #2 (3 tied):

Rodney McKissic of the Buffalo (NY) News
(GO SEE ABOUT HIM MARSHAWN!) rates Cal as the #5 team in the nation behind wisconsin @ # 3 and ohio state @ #4. Not trying to be flippant, but what in the world is this guy smoking...seriously!? wisconsin has been even more unimpressive than ohio state. Not only have they played absolute nobodies (until this past game when they HOSTED michigan state (and barely won). But along with texas, wisconsin has been the most vastly overrated team in the nation. Their lone blowout (over 2 win washington state) was actually a 7 point game heading into the fourth quarter. Their average margin of victory over the likes of mighty unlv, citadel, iowa, and michigan state (ALL UNRANKED)...Seven lousy points! Cal might have had less than impressive wins over some bad teams, but they still were winning by more than a freakin touchdown, and oh yeah, they've beaten two ranked teams Mr. McKissic! Do your research please.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle and Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Ok, so these two only placed ohio state at #3 above Cal @ #4. But what really draws my ire is that these are west coast guys! Maybe they're just bitter because they work for terrible publications...maybe Ratto's surname comes from the rat and he's just trying uphold his family's reputation. Or maybe Ray "head up my ass" Ratto has a lover amongst the tree dwelers.

In the words of the great Johnny Drama "that's great, zero stars in my own hometown paper!?" What the hell Ratto, West Coast teams have a hard enough time with the rest of the idiots around the nation. Were you too busy wetting your pants in anticipation of the furd's next loss you jackass?!?!

I'm getting carried away here, but you all get the point...the logical arguments against ohio state being ranked above cal are in the section for incompetent #1...so no, I'm not just bashing them for not being homers.

Incompetent Honorable Mention (I've got my eye on you fools):

Chuck Banning of The Day of New London (CT)
Eric Hansen of the South Bend (IN) Tribune
Tom Keegan of the Lawrence (KN) Journal
Glenn Guilbeau of the Gannett Louisiana
Dave Birkett of the Oakland (MI) Press
Jon Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer
Austin Ward of the Capser (WY) Star-Tribune

These voters were only guilty of putting ohio state at #3 and Cal at #4. I know that the list isn't extensive, and they might have always had ohio state above Cal...But I still can't see a logical reason for keeping ohio state above Cal after this weekend. And the fact that there are still 7 (11 total) writers that aren't giving Cal the proper respect is highly annoying (and it makes your betrayal all that more ignominious Ratto).

An Outlier shows Cal some love:

Joseph Hawk of the Las Vegas Review-Journal
ranked Cal at #2 behind only lsu. As outrageous as this might seem to usc fans, based upon the results of the season thus far, Mr. Hawk's rankings are very legitimate.

All that being said, I again reiterate that the Polls are really more for fun than anything else at this point in the season...and the AP poll won't have an effect on the BCS standings or a Rose Bowl berth. But for a poll that deliberately split itself off from the BCS because it found the latter to be far too politically biased and untrustworthy, voters like these need to take a long hard look in the mirror. I think the only reason I'm coming down so hard on these AP guys is that my innermost hope is for a Cal Rose Bowl victory over an undefeated ohio state and an AP National Championship (knock on wood)...so don't screw it up!

On This Team, They Fight For That Inch


Apologies for the delayed game recap, but as I’m sure that many Bear fans are just waking up from a night of well deserved celebration, maybe the delay isn’t so bad. Also, I’m assuming that the only Cal fans that haven’t already heard about yesterday’s thrilling 31-24 victory over then #11 oregon are those students and alumni doing work for the Peace Corps or Greenpeace in some remote corner of the world. During ESPN’s College Gameday pre-game show, venerable co-host Lee Corso made two predictions about the game. First, that the game was destined to become an instant classic, and second that the ducks would overcome the Golden Bears. Well Mr Corso, you were at least half right (and part of me actually believes that Corso secretly picked Oregon in order to jinx them). The hype leading up to this match up of top ranked teams was unbelievable, leading many to speculate that the game would never be able to live up to the expectations. Normally those cynics would have been correct, but on this Saturday, both teams combined to provide college football fans everywhere with a game for the ages. On a weekend where the mighty among the college football pantheon were being humbled, the Sturdy Golden Bears rose up to claim their place amongst the elite with the most significant win in the program’s recent history.

Game Recap

First Quarter

California began the game with the ball, and, as expected, the record setting crowd at Autzen Stadium was incredibly raucous. The Bears were equally determined to show that they could not be phased by the most hostile environment in the pac 10, and tried to go deep on the first play. Unfortunately, QB Nate Longshore threw incomplete to TE Cameron Morrah instead of hitting a wide open WR DeSean Jackson streaking down the middle. Oregon’s defense, energized by the near miss and by the outpouring of emotion from their home crowd, ratcheted up the pressure stopping the next two Cal plays for losses forcing a Cal punt.

The ducks began their first possession with excellent field position and began their drive by converting one third down on a nice scramble by QB Dennis Dixon and getting another third down via a 10 yard pass to RB Jeremiah Johnson. This time it was Cal’s defense that got the stop by the same sort of circumstances that oregon did earlier. A 7 yard tackle for loss and a near miss by Dixon to a wide open receiver ended the drive and the ducks punted.

Cal began their second possession from their own 14 yard line. The duck defense maintained their intensity and seemed determined to stuff the run. Nevertheless, Cal picked up three key first downs, and, although Cal punted, they were able to reverse field position when the punt was downed on the Oregon 8 yard line.

The specter of poor tackling seemed to raise its ugly head again as Jeremiah Johnson seemed stopped in the backfield but managed to break a big 26 yard run, and RB Jonathan Stewart later dragged a few tacklers for an 11 yard gain setting up Oregon on the Cal 16. The Bear defense escaped more close calls when Dixon ignored a wide open WR Cameron Colvin on 2nd down, and threw behind an open TE Ed Dickson near the goal line. The ducks were forced to settle for a 32 yard field goal from PK Matt Evensen to open the scoring. Cal 0 – UO 3.

The first quarter came to an end after RB Justin Forsett was stopped for no gain yet again by a swarming duck defense. End of first quarter Cal 0 – UO 3.

Second Quarter

Cal did little else with the rest of their possession as the oregon defense did an excellent job of tackling and pressuring Longshore.

After giving up a first down on two quick runs by Stewart, the Bear defense stepped up and DL Cody Jones came up with another tackle for loss and good coverage on third down by freshman CB Chris Conte forced a punt.

The Bears put together their first scoring drive of the day on this possession. Cal looked very impressive on this drive, methodically picking up 5 first downs with a good balance of runs and passes. Unfortunately, Cal also bogged down in the redzone and were forced to attempt a 34 yard field goal from the oregon 17 yard line. Jordan Kay converted the attempt and tied the score. Cal 3 – UO 3.

Bad tackling helped the ducks drive to just past midfield, and a bad late hit out of bounds (albeit a borderline call) by DB Marcus Ezeff kept the oregon drive alive after they had failed to convert a 3rd down. The ducks made the Bears pay when they cashed in on the penalty with a 15 yard reverse by WR Derrick Jones and a 5 yard TD run by Stewart. Cal 3 – UO 10.

The Bears last drive of the first half came to a quick end on a dropped pass by TE Craig Stevens, and the Bears were forced to punt. oregon was content to run out the clock to end the half. End of the first half Cal 3 – UO 10.

Third Quarter

The ducks began the second half with the ball but this time it was the Bear defense that came out fired up. Cal got good penetration by DLs Mika Kane and Cody Jones and LB Anthony Felder stopped oregon from converting a 3rd and 1 forcing a punt.

Cal’s offense showed a new level of intensity themselves as they came out with positive plays on their first 7 plays of the drive. This time it was the Bears’ players breaking tackles and making people miss as Cal drove all the way down to the oregon 12 yard line. In what could be described as trying to get too fancy, the Bears lost some of the momentum when they ran a reverse to DeSean Jackson on 2nd and 3 which resulted in a 4 yard loss. A bad no call on 3rd down let the duck defender, who had grabbed DeSean Jackson, off the hook and set up a 33 yard field goal attempt. Jordan Kay seemed to convert, but yet another questionable call by the referees deemed it no good.

The Cal defense maintained its intensity and great tackling forced a quick three and out. The ducks committed a kick catching interference and set the Bears up with excellent field position.

With the momentum provided by the defensive stop and duck penalty, the Bears stormed down the filed on just 6 plays. Longshore connected on 4 of 5 pass attempts including a 25 yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson for the first Cal touchdown of the day. On the play, Jackson ran a beautiful post-corner route which completely turned around the oregon defender; leaving Jackson wide open. Cal 10 – UO 10.

Not to be outdone in their own house, the ducks showed their own big play potential by driving 74 yards on just 7 plays. WR Cameron Colvin streaked 42 yards through the middle of the Cal defense on 3rd and 7, and outran safety Thomas DeCoud to take it to the house. Cal 10 – UO 17.

Past Cal teams might have folded at this point, but this incarnation of the Bears didn’t wilt one bit as they drove all the way down to the oregon 2 yard line by the end of the 3rd quarter. The key plays on the drive were a huge 3rd down conversion from Longshore to WR Lavelle Hawkins, and a 31 yard pass to DeSean Jackson. End of the third quarter Cal 10 – UO 17.

Fourth Quarter

After being stuffed on the QB keeper, RB Justin Forsett powered it in from a yard out for the tying touchdown. Cal 17 – UO 17.

The Bears dodged a huge bullet when QB Dennis Dixon overthrew his TE Ed Dickson who had beaten the coverage. Instead, the defense stuffed a 2nd down run and forced an incompletion on 3rd down bringing up another punt.

Lavelle Hawkins came through with yet another big 3rd down coversion catch, and DeSean Jackson followed it with yet another 31 yard catch, this time for a touchdown. The TD catch was the offensive highlight of the day as Jackson took a 5 yard hitch to the house by paralyzing the duck defender with what he later called his “Hawkins move,” in reference to his fellow WR’s stutter step juke. Cal 24 – UO 17.

Cal got a chance to put the game away when freshman RB Jahvid Best came up with a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff. In a scene out of the Three Stooges, the two duck returners knocked each other away from the ball and Best’s blazing speed allowed him to be in perfect position to fly onto the loose ball. Unfortunately, Longshore overthrew Jackson on what would could have been a dagger of a TD. A holding penalty and a sack moved the Bears out of field goal range, and the ducks survived their first big gaffe.

On their next possession, the ducks showed that they are indeed an extremely resilient team. Starting deep inside their own territory, Dennis Dixon methodically moved the ducks down the field. The 10 play drive netted 91 yards was highlighted by a big 36 yard pass to WR J. Williams, and was capped off by a 1 yard run by Dixon for the tying score. Cal 24 – UO 24.

Momentum seemed to be shifting entirely towards the duck side after a low hit on QB Nate Longshore knocked him from the game. Not surprisingly, the Bears ran on the next two plays and were stuffed by a defense fully aware that the run was coming.

Oregon began from deep inside their own territory after another great special teams play by Jahvid Best. Luckily for the Bear defense, Dennis Dixon picked the worst time possible for his first interception of the season. On the very first play, Dixon found a wide open LB Anthony Felder across the middle giving the Bears the ball back at the oregon 21 yard line.

Nate Longshore, hobbled by an ankle injury, limped back into the starting lineup and the Bears rode the legs of Justin Forsett into the endzone for the go ahead touchdown. Cal 31 – UO 24.

The remaining 3 minutes and 11 seconds of the game felt more like 3 days and 11 hours. The Bear defense, depleted of depth by injuries coming into the game and exhausted by the relentless attack of the duck offense, began to give up big chunks of yardage. In fact, the ducks drove all the way from their own 33 to the Cal 17 on just 3 plays. But the Bear defense came up huge again when Mika Kane tipped a Dixon pass into the waiting arms of Tyson Alualu forcing yet another turnover.

To the credit of the ducks, they became the first defense to stop the Cal running game in crunch time. In every game prior to this one, the Bears were able to come up with punishing runs in order to finish out games. The duck defenders came up huge by forcing a three and out giving their potent offense one last chance with just under two minutes remaining. (Yes I’m aware that they probably were more able to load up on the run b/c they knew Longshore was lame…but still credit goes to their defense).

On the ducks’ final drive, Dixon proved that he has indeed matured and become a deadly quarterback compared to the collapse he displayed last year. Luckily, the Bears showed that they matured as well. The ducks drove all the way to the Cal 5 yard line, and seemed destined to at least tie the game. But first half goat Marcus Ezeff changed all that when he became the hero of the game by forcing a fumble from Cameron Colvin that fortuitously bounced into the endzone resulting in a touchback.

Cal ended the game in the victory formation for the kneel down, and that knee sealed one for the history books. Final Score Cal 31 – UO 24.

First things First

Ok before I get into my thoughts on the game, I’m going to give a very perfunctory overview of all the things that the cynics/realists will point out about this game. Yes, they’re all true…but I just can’t justify focusing on them until at least next week.

1) This is only a big win if followed up by more victories

2) The Bears suffered injuries to some very key players (ie Longshore and Hawkins came up a little lame)

3) USC’s still out there

4) Most of the remaining road games are in very difficult venues(asu, fucla, uw)

5) The Bears still don’t have a defense to sustain a National Championship run (let alone win a championship game).

It’s a Celebration Bitches! Enjoy Yourselves!

Just to be clear, I’m not calling anyone a bitch, just using a funny line from the Chappelle show. But seriously, let’s all put our Cal fan paranoia aside and soak in how momentous this victory was. All the shortcomings of the Cal program, pointed out both by haters and by legitimately concerned fans, were put to bed on Saturday. Let’s see…

1) Tedford can’t win the big in-conference game…DONE!

2) Tedford can’t win on the road against a ranked opponent…DONE!

3) The Bears are too inconsistent to win in a hostile environment…DONE!

4) The Bears always collapse late in big games and can’t come from behind…DONE!

5) The Bears haven’t had a complete game this year…DONE!

6) Longshore can’t throw worth a damn away from the comfortable confines of Strawberry Canyon…DONE!

7) DeSean isn’t the same play maker at WR this year…DONE!

8) Our kick coverage can’t contain good returners…DONE!

9) Our defense is suspect and incapable of coming up with game saving plays…DONE!

The Offense

If I were doing grades for each part of the offense, I don’t know how I could give anything other than A’s all around. Granted, it’s because we won…but still, after re-watching the game on TV, I think that nearly every player on offense came up huge. The oregon defense might not have been that highly rated coming into this contest, but they were definitely playing like champions, especially early in the game. Energized by the largest crowd ever in the State of Oregon, the ducks were flying around in the first half and tackling everything in sight. They even managed to put more pressure on Longshore than he’s had in any other game this year.

(Longshore, the O-Line, & the Recievers)

Thankfully, our big O-line managed to make sure that the pressure was still relatively limited. More importantly, Longshore never got rattled by the pressure or by the crowd(even after he got hurt), and his leadership showed up big time Saturday. The Bears managed to weather the early onslaught of the supercharged ducks, and in the second half they started to assert themselves. Longshore’s role in this cannot be overstated. All throughout the game, he made great reads, and didn’t force very many throws. The O-line, as I mentioned above, gave Longshore time to repeatedly look deep and then check down to safer options. Most importantly, he connected on the home run balls to Jackson.

Seven different receivers came up with receptions on the day, and, even though DeSean Jackson rightfully will get the most credit, you can’t overlook how many big drive sustaining catches the other receivers had. The most notable non-DeSean catches were the two big third down conversions by Hawkins, and the 12 yard catch and run by backup full back Zack Smith. The Hawkins catches were huge because they came later in the game, were on scoring drives, and were both immediately followed by 31 yard catches by DeSean Jackson. I highlighted the fullback reception mostly b/c I love how Tedford makes use of our fullbacks, and it was great to know that we have a reliable backup at that position (For those that still doubt the usefulness of fullbacks, please review old 49ers footage, or how usc uses its fullbacks).

I don’t know exactly how to describe DeSean Jackson’s performance. It seemed like literally every time that we needed a big catch, Jackson came through for the Bears. It’s hard to tell from TV angles whether or not the ducks were defending him differently than previous teams, if it was simply the healed thumb, or if it was just a special performance by a special player. My guess is that it’s a little bit of all three, and whatever the reason, thank God we have a game changing receiver like Jackson. Just as impressive as the highlight reel 31 yard stutter step/accelerate touchdown grab was the fact that DeSean was active as a blocker in the run game. Bottom line, the superstar Junior had his finest and most complete game as a receiver to date, and he did it when the Bears needed it most.

(The O-Line & The RB’s)

Like I said above, the crowd in oregon was crazy as usual, and they definitely fired up their defense. The first half wasn’t pretty for the ground game, and the ducks successfully limited the Bears to just 31 yards in the first half. The second half was an entirely different story as the Bears gained 84 yards and two touchdowns as the Justin Forsett and the O-Line continued to pound away. You’ve got to give credit to Tedford for sticking to the run despite the lack of success in the first half. Especially considering the fact that the passing game was clicking so much also in the second half. It would have been very tempting to keep chucking it on every play, but, offensive mastermind that he is, Tedford maintained a great level of balance and it paid off big time.

As overrated as time of possession is as an indicator or success, it is a very telling stat when it comes to the effectiveness of the ground game. Without the success of the ground game in the second half, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that Oregon wins that game. Our defense was running on fumes in the last half of the fourth quarter, and I’m positive that the few extra minutes of rest that they got via the ground game were the difference between Ezeff making the play at the last possible moment and making it one step too late.

While this game was undoubtedly the Forsett show, the two freshmen phenoms and the backup fullback still got into the mix. Jahvid Best’s best performances came on special teams today, but he showed that he can be a good change of pace back for Forsett. Montgomery made his first baby steps in getting out of Tedford’s dog house with a tough 6 yard gain on his only carry. Again, props go to backup fullback Zack Smith for his solid performance.

The Defense

The old bend but don’t break was tested to its limits this game, but it came through nonetheless. There are still some issues with tackling, but when you consider how explosive the oregon ducks are, the effort of the defense was really a very remarkable thing. Granted, the Bear defense benefited from some bad throws in the first half by Dennis Dixon, but to hold that team to just 10 points at home was incredible. What makes that first half performance even better is that the offense was sputtering for most of the first half which put a ton of pressure on our D to keep the game close. Even when they were almost completely gassed late in the game, our defense managed to come up with the biggest plays of the game. These guys had been killing themselves for more than three quarters when our starting QB got injured. The Felder interception gave the offense a short field and set up the game winning touchdown. And Longshore’s injury again placed the pressure squarely on our defense to preserve a lead that looked unlikely to grow. They responded beautifully by intercepting another pass and forcing a fumble on the last meaningful play of the game. The trojans might have a more talented offense on paper, but as of right now, the duck offense is the best in the conference, maybe the country (behind only our Bears) and our defense held them to just 24 points at home. Awesome awesome effort.

(The Front Seven)

From looking at the box score, the first thing that jumped out at me was the high number of total tackles shared by the three starting LB’s (9,9, and 8). Although none of them notched a large number of solo’s, the assisted tackles tells me that there was a lot of swarming to the ball going on, which is a good thing. (Granted, some of the assists were because the first defender wasn’t able to take down the ball carrier alone). Williams continued his excellent play in the middle, Felder had that monstrously huge interception, and Mohamed did a more than adequate job considering he’s really a third option behind Follett and Moye.

As usual in Gregory’s scheme, the D-Line was tasked with playing the run and containing the outside rather than pass rushing, and, despite having limited depth, they performed very well. Dixon did manage to scramble out of some tight situations, but he wasn’t ever able to break huge gainers. On one occasion when he did escape, D-Lineman Mika Kane, who provided the initial pressure, showed great determination in tracking down the elusive QB. Backup Cody Jones had 3 big tackles for loss, and my favorite D-lineman Tyson Alualu came up with a huge interception off of a tipped pass by Kane.

We’ve been telling everyone all season that this D-Line has the potential to be something special despite the loss of three starters (including All-American Brandon Mebane, who notched his first NFL Sack last week against Caron Palmer). They’ve shown flashes against some inferior opponents thus far, and received little credit because of the way Gregory asks them to play (ie. not huge sack numbers). But the job that they did against this offense should be enough to show that they are for real, and, more importantly, continuing to improve.

(The Secondary)

Off the top of my head, I can only think of two really bad plays by the secondary all game. The first being the late hit out of bounds by Ezeff, and the second is the 42 yard TD catch by Cameron Colvin. Two bad plays against an offense as explosive as the ducks is not bad at all. Again, the secondary gave up big yardage and a big number of completions, but they managed to make plays when it counted for the most part. Marcus Ezeff is turning into a great player, and that was my assessment a few weeks ago. He led the team this week with 8 solo tackles (tied with two others for the lead with 9 total tackles), and of course he had the game saving play with the forced fumble at the end. Thomas DeCoud had a relatively quiet game, but as the leader of the defense he still gets a lot of credit. Bernard Hicks had a couple of very nice plays and finished with 6 tackles (5 solo) and a tackle for loss. The only bad performance by the DB’s can easily be turned into a positive (especially by someone like me with a penchant for clinging to the bright side). Freshman Chris Conte got somewhat of a baptism by fire when he saw some action. He gave up one big pass completion and also got completely bowled over by an oregon running back. But the bright side is that he didn’t give up any scoring plays, and the experience he gained from playing in a game of this magnitude is going to pay off later on down the road.

Special Teams

As I think that the refs blew the call on Kay’s second field goal attempt, I’m going to say that Kay had another great game for the Bears. This was a pressure packed game, and the backup walk-on kicker came through. Honestly, when it comes to kickers, especially backup kickers, I’m just praying that the guy makes the PAT. Kay has done a whole lot more than that so far this season, and he was big for us again this week.

Andrew Larson got a lot more work than I would have liked, but he also came through big for the Bears. Great punt coverage provided by Jahvid Best helped to make Larson’s average come out to a net of 38 yards, and he put 4 of his 7 punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks. Larson also did a good job on kickoffs this week, again with help from great coverage from our special teamers and terrible communication by the oregon side.

Final Thoughts

Looking back at this game, and also at this post, I realize that there’s really nothing I can say that sums up how incredible a win it was. It was an insane weekend for college football in general, and some will cite one of the upsets as more remarkable…but that’s bull. Yes maybe if you weigh all the upsets together versus our one game, that’s more crazy, but on a game by game basis, nothing tops Cal @ oregon. All the hype and pressure leading up to the game…all that was on the line for both teams…the frenzied record breaking crowd in football savy oregon…the implications of the game on the BCS…And then how the game unfolded…defensive struggle, offensive shootout, a big injury to the starting QB and his heroic return, defenders that are dead on their feet making huge plays…how do you top that?

While Kirk Herbstreit was covering the usc @ uw game, he commented that despite the loss he would still rank oregon at #5 in the nation. According to him, oregon would beat any other team that he matched them up against other than the four teams he ranked above them…and where was Cal? He had them sitting pretty at number 3 BEFORE the florida game went final. I know that’s only one analyst’s take on it, but I’m offering it as corroboration of what might be seen as a Pac-10/Cal biased view (mine).

Cal didn’t get lucky, they made the plays that were there to be made when they had the opportunity. The ducks weren’t overrated or just have a subpar performance. To paraphrase Dennis Green…they are who we thought they were, and we forced that subpar performance. Autzen is rightly regarded as one of the hardest places to win in the country and they had set a record for attendance on Saturday…Cal had only ONE false start. The Bears had earned themselves the dubious reputation of not being able to close out tough games on the road…well now they’ve earned a classic victory, and the #3 ranking in the nation to boot.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give enormous props to the Cal faithful who made it to the game up in Eugene. Great job being there to support our guys, and the rest of us will forever be jealous that you guys will be the only ones able to say that you witnessed the win in person. As great as the action in the game was to see, it was almost as gratifying to hear, “you know it, you tell the story, you tell the whole damn world this is Bear territory,” wafting up from the stands after the game. It was also great to see the faithful rallying behind the Game Day stage during the post-game wrap up…mad props to you guys. Go Bears!!!

Damn, it still feels good

Crazy game yesterday. I was at a bar in NYC with a ton of Cal fans and the entire place was going crazy. Celebrated the big win all night. Woke up this morning and thought, damn, it still feels good. A little shout out to the Cal fans that made it to Eugene (can't imagine what the roller coaster ride was like live.)

video

Recap later today. #3 California Golden Bears. Wow.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oregon's offense vs Cal's defense

Continuation from previous post. We are taking the Cal vs Oregon preview by Addicted to Quack, a Oregon Duck's blog and responding to Dave's analysis.

Oregon's Offense vs. Cal's Defense

"We all know what Cal's gameplan was last year. Stack the box, shut down the running game, and force Dixon to beat you. And we all know what the result was. Many Cal fans seem to think that the same thing will happen with the same result. There is a lot of reason to believe that won't happen. We all know that Dixon and Stewart are better and Stewart is much healthier. Plus, the dynamics of shutting down our running game are different than they were a year ago."

The Stewart is much healthier statement confuses me. The week before last year's game against Cal, Stewart rushed for 142 yards on 14 carries. The week after last year's game, he rushed for 121 yards on 20 carries. Was the injury only for the Cal game?

Seriously, Stewart is a fantastic running back. He leads the conference in rushing and the key to stopping the Duck's offense is to stop Stewart. Easier said than done but it is possible. Focus on stopping Stewart and force Dixon to beat the defense. If he can do that, than Oregon deserves to win the game.

But Cal's personnel has as much to do with it as anything. They lost three all-conference players from last year--Hughes, Mebane, and Bishop. They lost seven starters overall, so there really is a lot of newer players on this defesnse. Only Matthew Malele returns on the line (he will play this week), and Rulon Davis won't play. And while Cal has great linebackers, their depth is severely limited due to the fact that their best defensive player, Zack Follett, probably won't play. At the pace Oregon plays, the lack of depth on the line and at linebacker are one of the biggest advantages that Oregon has over the California defense.

One thing I do like about Dave is that he knows his stuff. He looks at injury reports and really looks at how that can affect a team. At times this year, Cal's defense has been better than last year's. Even with the big names, last year's defense was not dominating. This year, the squad seems to be playing better together. The injuries worry me but I think Cal can step it up.

In the secondary, Mike Decoud is a very good safety. But Brandon Hampton should not be able to hang with our receivers, and Syd'Quan Thompson is prone to giving up the big play. Cal's secondary gives up a lot of yards, and opponents complete 66% against the Bears. A lot of it is nickel and dime stuff as Cal has the same "bend but don't break mentality." The biggest difference is that our pace will really exploit the injuries in their defense, and cause them to tire. They also have to worry about Dixon's legs as well as his feet. Oregon's offense should get stronger as the game goes on and the Cal defense tires.

The secondary is inexperienced but they keep everything in front of them so big plays are rare. But this Oregon offense is explosive and will severely challenge a new Cal defense with some injury problems.

There is a section on Special Teams but it is laughable.
[Update: Addicted to Quack gives this as partial reasoning for Oregon's advantage in special teams.
"Cal ranks 98th in the nation in covering kickoff returns. Oregon ranks eighth in the country in kickoff returns. This means that the Ducks should be able to start their drives in excellent field position."
He fails to mention that Oregon ranks 96th in covering kicks while Cal ranks 11th in kickoff returns. I guess you can call that an advantage however minor it might be.]

Before last year's game, Addicted To Quack had this post: Oregon's Offense: Simply Amazing

The best part, in reference to Jeremiah Johnson and Jonathan Stewart:
"Has ever a team had not one, but two running backs who have been this dominant? Auburn had Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown a few years back, but their number weren't this insane. And they are only sophomores? Let me wipe the drool from my mouth."
Yes, last year has no bearing on this year. But I think you see why Cal fans are less inclined to be swayed by your pre game "analysis".

Cal offense vs Oregon defense - Response

Addicted to Quack, a Oregon Duck's blog, is actually a very good blog and Dave does a good job of analyzing the Cal vs Oregon game. (Though he does call us arrogant. I guess that is why we are all fans of our own schools.) Let's take a look at Dave's analysis and add our take to it. (Part 1)

Cal offense vs Oregon defense
"We all know that Oregon has trouble stopping the run, and I expect a steady dose of Justin Forsett this game. However, Forsett has been a bit banged up himself this year, as has his offensive line. And his fullback, Will Ta'ufo'ou has a torn PCL. He probably will play, but a torn knee ligament has to limit your effectiveness. Try to limit the big plays in the run game, but I would attack the weakness of their offense, and that's the passing game."
I think most people will agree that Cal will get rushing yards in this game. I guess when you can't stop the run you gotta try to stop the pass. But to call the passing game the weakness of the Cal offense is absurd.
"While our offensive line doesn't do great against the run, they have a great pass rush. Longshore isn't the most mobile guy out there, so I would throw a variety of blitzes at him and try to get him to pass under pressure. Our defensive backs are the strength of the defense, and I like their chances against the Cal receivers, especially with DeSean Jackson not at 100%."
My response:



Yeah, I like the chances of Oregon's DB's on Cal's receivers. I hope the Ducks "attack" the passing game with blitzes and go one on one on the corners.
"Cal's depth behind Forsett at RB is limited, as Best and Montgomery have both seen very limited action (13 and 19 carries, respectively). And I don't think that Forsett can do a Mike Hart and run the ball 45 times. That means Cal is going to have to pass, and when they do, I'd try and make Longshore's life a living hell."
I agree that Forsett is not a 45 carry guy. But he can handle 25 carries a game and the depth is solid. Best has limited carries because everytime he touches the ball he takes it to the house. These freshmen need to learn how to kill the clock and not break off a long run everytime.


"Another thing that we have going for us is that the game is at Autzen. Despite the fact that many Cal fans want to downplay the home field advantage, they're only fooling themselves. Longshore has a history of not playing well in hostile venues. And Cal had 14 penalties last week. While most of those were on defense, we know Autzen is always good for a couple of false starts a game."
Definitely agree with this point. Autzen is a difficult place to play and Longshore has struggle on the road. (Although Cal did just start showing the Wildcat formation where Forsett is taking direct snaps, so even this might not be a problem. That is a joke.)
"Forsett will get a ton of yards, no doubt about that. But Cal hasn't yet faced a team that combines a good pass rush and really good secondary. As long as our secondary can keep Lavelle Hawkins from getting open over the middle, we should be able to limit their passing game and put a lot of pressure on their running game to keep up with our offense. Its Aliotti defense. We might bend with the running game, but our secondary should prevent us from breaking. Basically, see the Michigan game."
Dave's makes some good analysis overall and it is true that this is the only hope for the Duck's to slow down the Cal offense. But one of two scenarios is more likely.
- Either Oregon bulks up their weak run defense by stacking the box with safeties and leave their corners in man coverage alone. This will result in Nate and Co having a field day.
- Or, Oregon rolls their safeties over to help in the passing game and get hit by the big running plays. (Forsett and Best both over 100 yards with a couple TD's each)

(The next post is Part II, Oregon's Offense vs Cal's Defense)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Keys to beating Oregon

Some keys to beating Oregon and why Cal will be able to do it, easily.

- Control the clock by running the ball
Cal has a fantastic trio of running backs led by Justin Forsett. Cal will definitely be able to run the ball against a porous Oregon run defense. Oregon let Houston RB Anthony Alridge run for 205 yards on 22 carries. The guy had almost 300 total yards. Expect more of the same from Cal's running backs with 2 of them breaking the 100 yard yard mark.

- Bend but don't break defense
It seems like most Cal fans hate the bend but don't break defense. But it works well against a spread offense like Oregon's. Keep the ball in front of you and make tackles. Oregon is all about big plays (just take a look at their play logs from previous games) and those need to be minimized.
Cal needs to make Dixon uncomfortable and force him to dink and dunk down the field. Eventually, Dixon will try to force something and that is when turnovers occur. Dixon throw his first two interception of the season against Cal.

- Kill the crowd with a big play
Autzen is a very tough place to play. Oregon fans understand how their voices can really affect the game. So, they need to be neutralized early.
Cal's offense can produce big plays that really deflate a crowd. Whether that is a DeSean Jackson punt return, a Lavelle Hawkins kick off return or an electrifying run by Jahvid Best, these plays can really take a crowd out of the game.

- Limit Jonathon Stewart to under 100 yards and force Dixon to win the game
Honestly, Dixon has yet to prove to me that he is a new player. He got off to a fast start last season and then nothing.
Cal needs to limit Stewart to short runs like they did in 2006. The Bear's run defense, contrary to what people may think, is actually solid. Now that Malele is back, the Bear's should be able to control the trenches. Tackling machines Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder will fill the gaps and stop the run game. Also, Cal has two of the best tackling safeties in the conference in Ezeff and Decoud.

To those that think I am too optimistic, I get it. Cal has yet to play a complete game, the defense gives up too many yards, and so on.
But, this is a great Cal team and rather than looking for reasons why Cal will not win the game, look for reason why Cal will win the game. It is refreshing. Go Bears!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Excellent Cal vs Oregon Analysis

From Todd McShay at ESPN. It is an Insider article so I am posting the whole thing for those without. It is interesting to read about the growth of Dennis Dixon, but more importantly, there are some great insights into Coach Gregory's defensive schemes against Oregon last year. Enjoy.

Dixon looking to rebound from '06 loss to Cal

Life was good in Eugene, Ore., at this very same point last year. The Ducks entered their Oct. 7, 2006, date at Cal with an unblemished record through four games and the future looking bright for junior quarterback Dennis Dixon, who had completed 65 percent of his attempts with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of six-to-two. But it took a short 45 seconds -- on the Ducks' first offensive play from scrimmage -- for the entire climate to change. It took just 45 seconds for that feeling of promise to turn to panic.

What went wrong
On the Ducks' first offensive play from scrimmage, Dixon was intercepted by Cal's Brandon Hampton and returned to the Oregon 7-yard line. It was all downhill from that point on. It didn't take long to realize Cal's defensive game plan. Instead of sitting back and reacting to Dixon's moves, the Bears dictated the tempo. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory was aggressive and gave Dixon a lot of complex reads to make as a passer. It took too long for Dixon to process the information, which led to most of his problems. In addition to sacking Dixon twice, Cal's defense was consistently in the quarterback's face when he went to throw and made him pay for holding onto the ball too long by repeatedly knocking him to the turf. Cal's defensive line got good penetration on its own, especially up the middle. Also, the Ducks couldn't seem to find an answer for LB Zack Follett, who made a huge impact -- both against the run and as a pass rusher -- as seemingly a designated blitzer throughout the game. Instead of becoming conservative with the lead, Cal simply turned up the heat. In fact, during five second-quarter possessions that I charted, Cal rushed at least five defenders on nine of Oregon's 11 designed passing plays (10 passes, one sack). The two times the Bears didn't blitz, they crowded the line with eight defenders to give Dixon the impression they were coming, only to back off into a Cover 2 zone with four rushing and seven dropping. One common counter to an overaggressive defense is to use a screen pass to catch it out of position. I credit Oregon for trying, but I give more credit to Cal's defenders for instinctively sniffing it out and swallowing up the receiver immediately. By loading up the line of scrimmage, Cal's mind-set was to stuff the run on its way to pressuring the quarterback. Once Oregon got behind it was much harder to maintain the type of run-pass balance it wanted. The end result was RB Jonathan Stewart, who entered that game as the Pac-10's leading rusher, mustering only 25 yards on 18 carries.

The fallout
Dixon threw three interceptions in the 45-24 loss at Cal. Adding to the embarrassment was the fact that Dixon, who grew up 15 miles from Berkeley, had 60 friends and family members in attendance to witness the debacle.

Oregon melted down in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams. The Ducks offensive line did a poor job of communicating versus the blitz, Stewart lost a fumble early in the second quarter and one of Dixon's three picks bounced directly off the hands of Dante Rosario. The defensive secondary had multiple breakdowns, including a first-quarter 36-yard yard touchdown connection from QB Nate Longshore to WR/RS DeSean Jackson. The punt cover team was also burned by Jackson for a 65-yard score. As is typically the case, though, Oregon's quarterback shouldered most of the blame -- and Dixon would never regain his confidence in 2006. Finally, after tossing 11 interceptions during a seven-game stretch -- four of those contests were losses -- coach Mike Bellotti benched Dixon in favor of backup QB Brady Leaf for the final two games.

Repeat or rebound

Dixon already has thrown for 932 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 291 yards and four scores. More impressive than any of those numbers is the zero that currently resides in Dixon's interception column. Sure, an argument can be made that Dixon hasn't faced top-notch competition and that he's just as vulnerable to a collapse versus Cal this time around as he was a year ago. After breaking down last year's game tape against Cal and comparing it to tape of Dixon so far this season, here's my argument against it.

• Decisive … So far this season, Dixon has shown no signs of the indecisiveness that plagued him in last year's loss to Cal. Dixon seems to be much more comfortable with the reads new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly is asking him to make and he doesn't lock on to his primary target like before. Completion distribution is typically a good indicator of whether or not a quarterback is seeing the entire field. So far this season, Dixon is acing that test with 10 different teammates getting in on the pass-catching action, including six players with six or more receptions through four games.

• … yet patient. Although Dixon is clearly making quicker decision, he's doing so without panicking. There's a big difference. A year ago if Dixon's primary target didn't break open, his first instinct was to tuck the ball and run. Now that he is seeing the entire field and understands his progressions, Dixon isn't afraid to hang in the pocket while checking down to his second and third reads.

• Better balance. Kelly is doing a better job of balancing out the attack by focusing more on the run this season. He's also playing to Dixon's strengths by incorporating even more shotgun read-option into the equation than the team ran a year ago under Gary Crowton. Stewart is a home run threat at the running back position (as seen on his long of 88 yards) and he's also big and strong enough to wear a defense down during the course of a game. Stewart's backup, Jeremiah Johnson, is also a talented runner who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. With Stewart, Dixon and Johnson handling most of the 38.8 carries per game thus far, Oregon's offense has become more of a physical, ball-control unit.

• Maturity. Instead of sticking around to work out with the football team, Dixon spent most of his summer playing minor league baseball in Orlando. When things didn't go as well on the baseball diamond as planned, it seemed to refocus Dixon on football. It seems this experience provided a much-needed wake-up call for Dixon. Since his return to Eugene, coaches and teammates have noticed significant improvements in Dixon's work ethic and confidence. Now when things go wrong during the course of a game, Dixon not only displays the mental toughness and maturity to shrug it off, but also the leadership skills to keep his teammates positive.

• Better situation. Playing in the familiar confines of Autzen Stadium will make presnap audibles and overall communication that much easier for Dixon and Oregon's offense. Furthermore, Cal's defense could be undermanned on Saturday. Defensive linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis both were sidelined with foot injuries in last week's win over Louisiana Tech, and Follett missed the first game of his career with a stinger. Malele, Davis and Follett combined for 26 tackles in Cal's first three games this season -- and, as mentioned, Follett played a big role as a pass-rusher in last year's contest. Cal's defense was able to stay fast by keeping fresh. With questions regarding the health of three key contributors, keeping the pass-rush heat on Dixon won't be nearly as easy this time around.

• Bottom line: Oregon might not come out on top of Saturday's Pac-10 showdown, but I would be shocked if Dixon is the reason.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cal vs Oregon

An excerpt from the pre game notes...
A Look at the Ducks
Oregon continues to assert itself as one of the top programs in the Pac-10. The Ducks have posted a 4-0 record this season, using a high-powered offensive attack which leads the conference in scoring (40.2), total offense (497.0) and rushing (227.5). However, they also have shown defensive prowess, holding opponents to just 145.2 passing yards per game (tops in the Pac-10). Oregon's running back combo of sophomores Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson have been very effective, combining for 174.7 yards per game and eight touchdowns. At quarterback, junior Dennis Dixon has completed 89-of-137 passes for 1,032 yards (Pac-10 best 258.0 yards per game) and six touchdowns with just two interceptions. Sophomore receiver Jaison Williams has 28 catches for 462 yards to lead the Pac-10 with 115.5 receiving yards per outing. Defensively, senior linebacker Blair Phillips leads the Pac-10 with 10.0 tackles per game. Sophomore rover Patrick Chung has 27 tackles on the year. The Ducks have allowed just one sack all season while tallying 12 of their own. They have outscored opponents by 81 points in four games.
Damn, actually that was from last year, 2006. But it looks and sounds mighty similar to this year. Wait... how did that game turn out? Oh yeah, 45-24, Cal over Oregon.

The point is that we have seen this from Oregon before...
- 4-0 start
- Unstoppable offense
- Dennis Dixon has finally turned the corner and will not lose his job to Ryan Leaf's brother.
- Jonathon Stewart is establishing himself as the premier back in the Pac 10
- Blah, blah, blah

Oregon will be tough, especially at home, but let's just say I am not sold on them yet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cal vs Arizona

Why Cal will win?
- Cal is looking to redeem itself from last season's loss to Arizona
- Cal is playing at home.
- Arizona lost to New Mexico (at home)
- Mike Stoops is becoming Karl Dorrell-ish in his coaching abilities

Why Cal might lose?
- Cal decides to play 9 on 11 to save players for the Oregon game (seriously I think Cal could win playing 10 on 11).
- Nate Longshore attempts passes only with his left arm.
- Coach Tedford decides to call only one play all game, the QB kneel down.

What to watch for?
- DeSean Jackson WR Cal vs Antoine Cason DB Arizona
Both grew up in LBC and know each other socially. Both are rated #1 at their respective positions. Both had big games last year.

- Willie Tuitama QB Arizona vs Anthony Felder LB Cal
Arizona is now running a spread offense and passes a lot. The DB's will be tested but the linebackers will be forced to cover shallow crossing patterns and RB's out in the flat. Felder needs to continue his great play especially if Follett sit out the game.

- Lavelle Hawkins WR Cal vs 1 yard line
Hawkins tripped over himself at the 1 yard line in last years game costing the Bear's a TD. He is looking to redeem himself this year. Also, he wants Cal fans to join him in his Hawk dance.

- Conservative game plan
Again, why open up the playbook too much before the Oregon game? But expect some big gain from Cal's playmakers off some of these "unimaginative" plays.

Go Bears!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This was interesting...

In another attempt to rank the conferences and focus on the SEC vs Pac 10 conference battle, SI writer Bill Trocchi did an interesting experiment. (Click here for full article)

For this particular exercise, I forwarded Ken White, the senior oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, 10 hypothetical matchups. Keep in mind that White's company sets the odds for 90 percent of the casinos in Nevada. These matchups were created by the following: The teams in the SEC and Pac-10 were ranked 1-12 and 1-10 based on SI.com's current 119. In an effort to be as balanced as possible, the SEC's sixth and seventh teams (Arkansas, Kentucky) were thrown out. So the top five teams in the SEC were matched up against the top five teams in the Pac-10, and the bottom five teams in the SEC were matched up against the bottom five teams in the Pac-10. Seems fair, right?

White then provided his line for each game, should the teams meet this Saturday on a neutral field. Here are the results:

USC over LSU by 3.
Florida over Cal by 3½.
Oregon over Alabama by 3.
South Carolina over Washington by 8½.
Arizona State over Georgia by 1.
Tennessee over Washington State by 7.
UCLA over Vanderbilt by 7.
Oregon State over Mississippi State by 7.
Auburn over Arizona by 4.
Ole Miss, Stanford is a pick-'em.

- I am surprised that he picked Florida to beat Cal by only 3.5 points. The way the Florida has been playing I would have thought that would be closer to 5 or 6 points.
- Utah over Vandy by 45
- Would anyone even want to watch Ole Miss play Stanfurd?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

So many weapon...

But only one ball. We wrote last week about wanting to see DeSean Jackson get the ball more. There have also been quite a few comments from Cal fans about getting Jahvid Best the ball more. So we broke down last week's game to see how Cal distributes the ball. (Note: I did this pretty quickly using Yahoo's game log so the numbers could be off. I also omitted the Kevin Riley sequence at the end of the game.)

Totals
Number of plays = 66
Rushing plays = 33
Passing plays = 33

Comment: You have to love the balance of Tedford's offense.

Rushing Plays
Forsett 23
Best 3
Montgomery 2
Ta'ufo'ou 2
Jackson 1
Z Smith 1
Longshore 1


Comment:
Forsett should average 20-25 carries/game as the featured back. This game, he was right in that range. Best only had 3 carries but with his skills everyone wants to see him get more touches. But to get Jahvid more touches it requires taking away opportunities from other players.
Do you take carries away from Forsett? Best coming on a reverse means that Jackson is not. Also, there will always be a couple hand offs to the fullback for the tough yards and to keep the defense honest. (Check out this post on California Golden Blogs to understand that last statement better.)

Passing Plays
(Incompletions) 10
Hawkins 6
Jordan 6
Jackson 5
Stevens 2
(Sack) 1
Best 1
Young 1
Ta'ufo'ou 1

Comment:
The big 3 WR's got an equal number of catches. I think the expectation is 15-20 catches between the big 3.
The TE combo had 2 catches (both to Stevens). I think the TE's should get about 2-5 catches per game.
Best had 1 catch, that went for a touchdown. (He makes the most out of his opportunities)

Conclusion:
There is a lot of balance in this offense and with the playmakers Cal has it is important to spread the ball around. For every additional touch Best receives, that is one less for Jackson, Hawkins or Forsett.
I think we as fans have to look at things more situationally. For instance, DJax is going up against Arizona's Antoine Cason (possibly the best corner in the nation) this week. This could lead to less touches for DJax but the other weapons will be utilized more. Against a stout run defense, Cal might air it out more.
In the end, this is a good problem to have. There was a time when the punter was the most dynamic player on the team.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Huge Sigh of Relief

Though the reports are mixed, there are some updates on the injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

Zack Follett is day to day with a neck stinger

Matt Malele has strain muscle in his foot and is day to day. (There are some reports on Bear Insider that Malele is out for the Arizona game.) But a muscle strain is much better than a torn ligament as initially feared.

Rulon Davis is a sprained foot and is also day to day. Also, great news because initial rumors were of a stress fracture.

Though Derek Hill, Tad Smith and Cody Jones filled in admirably in their absence, Davis and Malele are really the heart of the line, along with Mika Kane. Cal needs those big guys in there to control the line of scrimmage.

Follett is a real impact player and make a lot of game changing plays (see the hit on Ainge in the Tennessee game). While his backups also filled in well, it could also be the result of playing next to LB studs Anthony Felder and Worrell Williams.

Cal does not want to let its guard down against Arizona this coming weekend but it is more important to make sure these guys are healthy for the Oregon game in 2 weeks.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Keep Karl Dorrell

Those that saw UCLA's face plant against Utah on Saturday know that the end is near for UCLA coach Karl Dorrell. It will take an even bigger miracle than beating USC at season end for him to keep him job. Already the bruin fans are sending emails to the UCLA AD and Chancellor calling for the immediate removal of Karl Dorrell.

So Cal fans, we must take action. Please send letters SUPPORTING Coach Dorrell to the following.

Mr. Daniel G. Guerrero, Director of Athletics
UCLA Intcol Ath
BOX 951639, Morgan Cntr
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1639
Telephone: 310-206-6382
Fax: 310-206-7047
dguerrero@athletics.ucla.edu

While you are at it, drop a line to the new Chancellor:

Chancellor Gene Block
Box 951405
Murphy Hall 2147
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405
email: chancellor@conet.ucla.edu

Also, at the Cal-UCLA game please show your support for Coach Dorrell with signs like "Dorrell 4 Life" or "Anyone can lose to Utah with 20 returning starters". Afterall, we can not rely on UCLA to continue its streak of inept football hirings, forever. That distinction belongs to Stanfurd.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

She's a Monet....

Beautiful from afar, but far from beautiful. That little bit of pop culture perfectly sums up the Bear's thirty point win over louisiana tech last Saturday. Luckily for the Bears, most of the country will only look at the win from afar (as evidenced by the jump in the AP polls to 6th). Because the game was televised on such a bootleg channel, hardly anyone got to see how disconcerting this "blow out" really was.

(The game recap that I wrote up got deleted by mistake...and honestly, the game wasn't interesting enough to do a re-write of the full game recap, sorry...on w/ my thoughts on the game & the Bears...)

Defense

The honor of getting mentioned first goes to the defense this week. It looks like the D is continuing to come together, and despite the rash of injuries, the defense did a good job this weekend. However, tackling still remains a major concern for the defense. The old bend but don't break came through again, but continually letting guys break tackles is the best way to ensure that bend leads to break in the future.

Anthony Felder led the team in tackles again this week, but there were also good performances across the board. Ezeff was a tackling machine, DeCoud had 6 solo's and was robbed of a forced fumble, Hampton and Peele had big int's, and the defense tallied 4 sacks on the day. The only downside of the defense's effort (aside from the tackling issues) are the injuries that we sustained on the D Line. Starters Matt Malele and Rulon Davis both went out with foot injuries; at this time Davis's injury looks to be the most serious. Luckily the backups did a pretty good job, but the last thing that the defense can afford right now is a hit to its depth and continuity. As far as I know, LB Zack Follet's injury was just a stinger and shouldn't cause him to miss any time.

I know that la tech isn't exactly a prolific passing team, and yes, we have given up a ton of passing yards in the previous two games...but I'm really starting to like the identity that our secondary is forming. Ezeff seems to be everywhere on the field. Syd'Quan Thompson continues to improve, and by the time he graduates I wouldn't be surprised to hear his name mentioned in the same breath with other Cal corners like Powell, Hughes, and Asomugha. Thomas DeCoud's big hitting reminds me of Donnie McCleskey (yes, I'm aware that they play different safety positions, but big hits are big hits). And Hampton's experience gives me (and obviously the coaches) confidence in his ability to hold down the other corner.

Special Teams

I missed the opening kickoff by one stinking red light, but I did catch it on the radio and on the replays. It seems like it's just been a matter of time before Hawkins finally took one to the house, and hopefully it's just the first of many. Superman backup kicker finally stumbled, but hey, he came through huge against tennessee and colorado state so he deserves a pass. DeSean definitely looks like he's pressing, and it nearly cost the Bears when he coughed one up on a punt return. I know that the guy is banged up and that he probably doesn't have another year to make a heisman run (since he'll probably leave after this year) but I'm worried that DeSean's need to make College Football Final is going to screw us badly in an important game. That being said, I trust that Tedford knows how to manage his players, and that he won't let things get out of hand.

Offense

Well, I hate to say I told you so...but, yeah, you know. Run Forsett Run. I am a big believer in the running game, and I would be even if we had a defense like the baltimore ravens or a quarterback playing like Tom Brady is right now. But the fact of the matter is, we don't have either of those things, so let's just run run run our opponents off the field (see usc's performance against the cornheads). I've been hearing/reading some disturbing things about fans wanting Jahvid to be the starter...thank goodness Tedford's making the choices and not the fans. Jahvid's got incredible talent...I'm excited as hell every time I see number 4 line up on offense...but this team is a legitimate contender for the Rose Bowl and an outside contender for a freakin national championship. There's no way that the burden of those expectations should be placed on the shoulders of a true freshman; especially not when there's a seasoned veteran who had almost a 1000 yards as a backup in 2005, and averages just under 7 yards a carry for his career. Calm down people!

As far as the passing game goes, I've still got faith that Nate will get it together. Hawkins has come a loooooooong way since his first year where he was continually in Tedford's doghouse. He's clearly the most complete reciever we've got, and he's shown it on the field every game. Big TE Craig Stevens finally got in the mix this year with his first TD catch, Cameron Morrah has shown that he's also a threat in the passing game, and Robert Jordan is an excellent third receiver.

DeSean is the man. Anyone who's ever read this blog knows how much we think of this guy's talent. But for the second week in a row he had some drops, looked like he was having trouble holding onto the balls he did catch, and he fumbled again. The drops partly get put on Longshore, but the real #1 brings in those balls. DeSean, to me, is kind of like Barry Sanders in that I don't mind when he tries to make plays that other people shouldn't make because I know he can break one at any time...but unlike Barry, DeSean's starting to develop a habit of fumbling. I can't believe that I'm saying it, but I think the time has come for Tedford to give tha chosen 1 a little time on the bench. First, it'll send a good message to the rest of the team, just like when Tedford benched Arrington and Lynch in the past. Second, and this is the most important point, I think DeSean's thumb is too gimpy for him to play the way he's capable of playing. It's great that he's playing through the pain, but best case, he costs himself the heisman, worst case, he costs us our shot at a BCS game. I say, sit him against Arizona and let his thumb heal up. Oh wow, I can't believe I really think that...

Bottom line for the passing game is that we're beyond freaking loaded at the receiver positions, and our O-line is real real solid as usual. Our running backs are consistently gaining 200+ yards per game, so there's no need for the passing game to feel any pressure. All that remains to be seen is whether or not Tedford can work his magic on the inconsistent Longshore...smart money says he can and will.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cal game on TV in South OC

Been pretty rough trying to find a bar that televises the game this weekend. Just wanted to let any readers who are in Orange County (or any LA people who don't mind an hour+ drive) that Oggi's Pizza in Mission Viejo has confirmed that they are televising the game tomorrow. Assuming that there are any readers in the vicinity of Mission Viejo, I'd urge you all to go out & become regular patrons of Oggi's. I've only tried their food once, and that was in SD before the last Holiday Bowl...but the pizza was really good & they've got a good selection of beers.

But the real reason that I'm telling you guys to go out to this place is that the owner/manager/or whoever I spoke to today on the phone was incredibly helpful. When I originally called, they told me that they didn't carry the channel for the game, but instead of just saying sorry...this guy actually called up DirecTV and ordered the expanded package! Granted, I think this is the only game we have on Comcast Sports.net this year, but I was blown away by this guy. Now THAT is what you call customer service. So yeah, go out and support Oggi's Pizza in Mission Viejo (the Orange and Tustin branches were not so accommodating).

Random Notes

Some general notes and thoughts since we did not have time to post much this week but still had things we wanted to say.
  • Nate Longshore has a blog. Not much up there but you can stalk him from class to class on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Official Blog of Nate Longshore)
  • Some of you may already know about this blog but I stumbled onto another great one, Oski Talk.
  • La Tech head coach Vince Dooley coached Lavelle Hawkins when he was a freshman at LSU. He also recruited DeSean for LSU. Wow, LSU could have been the Cal of the South.
  • The Daily Cal thinks that Coach Tedford needs to be more tricky. Like us, they want to see DeSean get the rock more. Unlike us, they recommend flea flickers and half back options as possible ways to get DJax the ball. (Daily Cal)
  • "Coach Tedford be more tricky" continues the proud tradition of Daily Cal excellence. (Daily Cal)
  • Any thoughts on how dominating our LB unit is? Follett was huge against Tennessee, Felder was even better against Colorado St. and Williams was a rock in both. Even Moye came off the bench last week for a great pick. I am a big Follett fan but Felder is catching up quick.
  • Who will be the starters on the DL when Pac 10 play starts?
    • Rulon Davis, Tyson Alualu, Matt Malele, Cameron Jordan?
    • Rulon Davis, Mika Kane, Matt Malele, Cameron Jordan?
    • Rulon Davis, Mika Kane, Matt Malele, Tyson Alualu?
  • Is Notre Dame vs Michigan the biggest hyped game between two winless teams in the history of sports?
  • Go Vols, beat Florida on Saturday.
  • Anyone think that Cal's RB trio will be more well regarded than Cal's WR trio by the end of the season?

Cal vs La Tech

Most non-Cal fans expect this game to be a blow out. Cal fans, as we are apt to do, are worried about another let down or a possible trap. Afterall, Louisiana Tech took Hawaii to overtime and Cal struggled against Colorado St.

But, there are some good reasons why this game will be a blow out.

1) Cal is playing at home - Coach Tedford is great at home, Longshore is even better. Expect big numbers from the passing game
2) Louisiana Tech is traveling a lot and generally has not played well on the West Coast.
3) Cal is coming off a near letdown and Coach Tedford has been on the team all week.

Lastly, I know less about La Tech than Colorado St. So, I can not provide much insight this week. But I will give my detailed prediction of the game scoring summary (Cal only).

Final Score: Cal 59 - La Tech 28

Scoring by Cal
1st Quarter
- DeSean Jackson, 53 yard reception on a go route down the sideline.
- Justin Forsett, 18 yard TD run
- Anthony Felder, fumble return for a TD

2nd Quarter
- Lavelle Hawkins, 4 yards TD pass on a slant, set up by a long run by Forsett

3rd Quarter
- DeSean Jackson, 62 yard punt return for a TD (though I can see Hawkins taking a kick off to the house this game)
- Jahvid Best, 26 yard TD reception on a screen pass
- James Montgomery, 4 yard TD run

4th Quarter
- James Montgomery, 22 yard TD run on a swing pass from Kevin Riley.

Looking back at the previous game predictions, I was actually close on some plays. Then again, a broken watch is right twice a day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

For NYC Cal Fans

Sorry for the specific post, but trying to watch a Cal game out here in New York can be a nightmare.

For some reason, the Cal NY alumni group has decided to not hold a viewing party this week for the La Tech game. So I called around trying to find a place to watch (having the game on Comcast really does not help) and I found a place.

Pacific Standard
82 Fourth Avenue
Brooklyn, New York
www.pacificstandardbrooklyn.com

Yeah, I don't really like to leave Manhattan but the owners are Cal Alums and according to their blog (Pacific Standard Blog) they are trying to set up a Cal Football viewing party for the game.

So, NYC Cal fans, support the team and support some local alums. Apologies to most of our readers who don't live anywhere near NYC, we will return with more general Cal Football postings.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

DeSean Jackson: Get him the damn ball

Everyone wants to see DJax get more touches per game. Cal fans, Cal coaches, Cal players, ESPN Sportscenter annoucers, etc. Let's look at the numbers for DeSean Jackson after 2 games.

- 9 receptions, 84 yards
- 3 rushes, 99 yards, 1 TD
- 3 punt returns, 101 yards, 1 TD

15 touches over 2 games (that is including punt returns) for a Heisman candidate is too low. Of course there are reasons for this...

1) DeSean Jackson is to blame - 70+ yards plays do not make for long drives and eliminate touches for everyone.
2) Too much talent - Jahvid Best had his own 60+ yard play and once Cal gets up, Forsett and Montgomery, grind out yards, move the chains and eat up clock.
3) Too many options - The attention paid to Jackson leaves other receivers open. Sometimes, wide open. It is hard to complain when a QB checks down to the man with no one standing around him.

Notice I did not put "He is being double teamed" as one of the reasons. Tha1, regardless of the defense, has the skills, speed and experience to get open. The only number that really needs to go up are his receptions. Here is what I think would be ideal.
  • 8 receptions per game based on getting thrown to 10-12 times per game
    • at least 3 attempts downfield
    • a couple screen
    • a couple outs, comebacks
    • a couple posts
  • 2 carries per game
    • reverses
    • pass thrown behind the line of scrimmage
  • 2 punt returns per game
    • team will not punt to him but some might end up returnable
    • Cal defense has not YET shown the ability to make teams punt a lot
As a WR it is harder to guarantee touches, but 10 per game is a reasonable expectation for a player of his caliber. Or next time he busts a long run he should stop and kneel at the 5 yard line. Then Coach Tedford can call a play for him so he can get the 5 yard TD reception.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stadium Update

Looks like the University is done playing nice with the fools playing new millennium hippie.
Here's the link to the SF Chronicle article

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nate Longshore, show me more...

This post might get some of our readers slightly twisted so I will start off by saying that I am a big Nate Longshore fan, both as a player and a person. He has all the skills to be the next great Tedford QB and people who have met him all speak highly of him. He shows great touch on the deep ball, can make the tough throws (deep out to the far hash) and generally calls a good game.

But, seriously, you got to show me more. Longshore is the first QB at Cal to start for 2 years under Tedford. So, I think it is fair to say that fans should expect more from him. Longshore is ridiculously good at Memorial Stadium. When he is comfortable and in his home environment he puts up big, often huge numbers. Let's look at those numbers:












- Games where Longshore put up big numbers:
Home: Minnesota, Portland St, Arizona St, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Tennessee
Away: Oregon St. (outlier???)

- Poor games and what we heard afterwards:
Tennessee (last season) - new offense, hostile environment, whole team was unprepared
Washington St - Cal never plays well in Pullman, the wind is crazy up there
Arizona - classic trap game, looking ahead to USC, sun and shadows were affecting play
USC - dominating defense, we tried to establish the run, blah, blah, blah
Colorado St - letdown game, the thin air causes overthrows

So what to make of this? Longshore is right now on the scale between Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers. Both Boller and Rodgers were physically gifted QB (Boller more so that Rodgers).
With Boller you expected some great games and some bad games. You never felt confident that he was always going to lead the team to victory. (I think Raven fans would agree on this.)
With Rodgers there was something else. You never thought there would be a bad game and you always thought he would lead the team to victory, no matter the conditions.

This year's Oregon game at Oregon will be a defining moment for Longshore. This is a big game (esp after Oregon trounched Michigan in the Big House), in a hostile environment. Longshore has to step up in that game and carry the team to victory to truly establish himself. I am confident he can and will, because there will be no "excuses" after that game.