Monday, December 03, 2007

Big Game Disappointment

Sorry for the lack of posts, work and real life got in the way. I have been traveling and was unable to find the time to post. (Though based on the teams performance of late, I can understand how some readers thought I abandoned this blog.)

So thoughts on the Big Game...

Heading into the game, I was genuinely excited. While the season was a disappointment to date, a big win in the Big Game was just the thing to pick up the spirits before the holidays. Say what you will about Cal football, but beating Stanfurd always picks up Cal fans. Sadly, my excitement was for naught.

Where to start...

1) Pass Protection
What happened to the O line? This is a unit that was 3rd in the nation in sacks allowed having given up only nine all season. But Longshore was under pressure all game. It was amazing to me how Cal was unable to pick up blitzes off the corner by Stanfurd linebackers. Longshore again did not have a good game, but the pass protection was a bulk of the reason for that.

2) Running Game
Solid first half performance by Forsett. But what happened in the second half. It was as if he did not even exist. Why abandon the run game so quickly? Perhaps it was an effort to make half time adjustments and throw off the Stanfurd defense? I don't really know. But it seems like Cal gave up on the run pretty quickly.

3) Defense
The defense played solid. Not great, not poor. Giving up 20 points should win most games. It was frustrating to see Stanfurd continually convert 3rd and long but the final scoreboard result was nothing to be disappointed about.

4) Coaching
Some may complain about the play calling. Other may wonder like I did about abandoning the run. But, if Cal executes, this game is a lot different. There were a lot of critical dropped ball on what were excellent play calls.

Ok, forget this list. What it comes down to is that the players were not fired up for this game and came out flat. Once they were down, they played scared.
Every shot of the Stanfurd sideline showed players hooting and hollering. They wanted it more and they played their hearts out.
Every shot of the Cal sideline was a stoic scene. Players looking off into space. Very little passion or even urgency.

Things that killed me

- The dropped balls. Hawkins was just off this game. He will be missed next year but he had a poor showing in his final game.

- The pick Longshore threw to Nick Sanchez. It is third down... throw it to the outside. Even if Jordan does not catch it, we still have another down. Protect the ball.

- The deep pass to Jordan when he knocked over the camera man. Jordan had 3 steps on his man and tried to catch the ball 5 yards out of bounds. That is a horrible throw.

- The penalties. Then more penalties. Then a couple more penalties. It seemed like Cal was trying to get called for everything. Holding, block in the back, block below the knees, defensive offsides, defensive holding, pass interference, excessive arrogance (for those at the 1997 Big Game, this joke will make sense.)

- The lack of DeSean Jackson. Say what you will about DJax, but his presence on the field makes a big, BIG, difference. Even if he does not catch one ball, he occupies at least 2 defenders on every play. This opens up things tremendously for Jordan and Hawkins.

- The lack of the tight end. Julian Arthur made some nice catches and I saw Craig Stevens make one great grab. But if the outs and corners are not open, shouldn't the middle be open for a TE to run down the seam. How can Stanfurd's defense blitz and cover every Cal receiver? Seriously, how can they do it?

- The lack of team chemistry. This is pure speculation based on watching the game on TV so who knows if any of this is true. But the offense just seemed like they did not believe in each other. Longshore was yelling at O linemen for missing blocks. Receivers were slow to the huddle. Frustration penalties were aplenty. That 3rd quarter was the worst offensive quarter in the history of Coach Tedford.

- The lack of passion. I am sure the players cared about this game. But the letdown of the entire season showed in their performance. Stanfurd wanted it more and hats off to them for playing to win.

- The lack of confidence in your team. After Follett caused that fumble in the 4th quarter I was jumping up and down. But deep down I felt that Cal was not going to capitalize. Since Coach Tedford came to Cal, I have never felt that way, until that moment.

More to come later on what to look forward to next year. Seriously, there are things to look forward to next year.