Well, that was exciting and nerve-wracking.
(1) Longshore. Let's go there one last final time. In case you missed my last post, Riley is injured. Thus, it was highly unlikely that Riley would start or even play at all. So Longshore was our only option whether you like him or not. Did Longshore play well? Not really. Did he play horribly? Not really. He was very much "eh." He had a few great throws (Tucker's catch, a crossing route to Boateng, and his TD pass to Miller), and he also had some really bad passes (missing Ross for a big gain, 4th down pass short of the sticks). A few of his passes were clearly due to the receivers losing their footing on the very soft grass which provided no traction and easily gave away.
I think it's unfortunate how Longshore will probably go down as the most hated Cal QB in the past 10 years - yes, even more than Ayoob. While he certainly didn't have a great game, I don't think he should have been booed. Many Cal fans, unfortunately, did not know that Riley was injured and thus the chants for Riley to come in were mostly due to ignorance but still... it sucks for Longshore. I feel bad for the guy. I'm glad he threw the last touchdown. And to those who believe he didn't actually intend the ball for Miller but instead was throwing to Morrah, this YouTube clip clearly confirms that he was intending the pass to Miller since Longshore clearly didn't throw the ball at Morrah.
If I had to give Longshore a grade, I guess it'd be a "C." He was 10/21 which isn't good. If you take away a throw-away or two, and one or two incompletions due to poor grass conditions, he was around 10/17 or so which is better. But he just missed a few too many fairly easy throws (two incompletions to Ross come to mind), made a few bad reads (the 4th down pass short of the first down markers), and didn't see some open receivers to really push himself into the "B" range for a grade. So as much as I would love to say Longshore had a "good" or "great" final game, I think he only had a mediocre game.
I do wish him the best of luck with his NFL dreams. Unlike most Cal fans, I will remember his glory days of 2006 and pre-injury 2007 instead of only post-injury 2007. I hope we can remember him for the good he brought us instead of the bad. I am somewhat glad to see him graduate, not because I dislike him but because I am tired of the Longshore vs. Riley debate. I am tired of Cal fans calling for Riley when Longshore throws even one incomplete pass or when a rushing play doesn't go for 20+ yards.
(2) Best. Heisman candidate in 2009. But, we all knew that in 2007. Just like the Washington game, today's game solidified that notion. Best is talented. He's a first round pick prospect. We're lucky to have him.
Best played very well. What more to say? He almost always does well.
I guess I wish he wouldn't get injured so often. Although I didn't see from my seats that he got injured, I did notice he didn't play for a long time after a long run and that Vereen came in for the rest of the drive or so. Hopefully Best has a healthy season next year.
(3) Defense. Played well early on, but then things started going south. Miami seemed to start moving the ball fairly easily. Miami's playaction bootlegs were just KILLING us.
However, the defense came through in the clutch towards the end. It seemed like they wanted to be on the field when the game was on the line. They were getting pumped up during the timeout just prior to Miami's second to last, and last drive. They were motioning to the crowd to get loud. Those guys just seemed to thrive off of the fact that the game was on their shoulders to win.
I really am going to miss the swagger of this defense. You could tell that these guys had the confidence to want to be out there.
One thing that I did wonder, was why Hagan came out for a while. Does anyone know? Speaking of Hagan, he just seemed to overestimate the TD pass on him. It looked like he was expecting the ball to be higher, but it was actually pretty badly underthrown. It also looked like that because it was underthrown he didn't have the right footing to react on it.
As for the defensive gameplan, well, Zack Follett was right when he said at the pre-game luncheon that he was going to play containment this entire game. For about 3 quarters he did. He did nothing but play the flats and watch for the QB to run to his side. Then, once Miami's playaction bootlegs started killing us, Gregory sent Follett in on blitzes to disrupt things and disrupt things he did (forced fumble which lead to the game winning touchdown!). That sort of makes you wonder why Gregory didn't do that earlier but I think Gregory didn't want Harris to run. Gregory would much rather have the true freshman QB pass - as would I. And pass Miami did. They had 41 pass attempts. Most of those passes were short passes (4.7 yards per attempt which is very very low than the target yards per attempt a team wants which is around 6.5 yards). So I guess in the grand scheme of things, Gregory executed his gameplan and it worked okay. It did win the game although Miami got more yards than I think we all would have liked.
(4) OL blocking. Judging from the fact that Best had a 9.3 yard average, they did pretty well run blocking. Best continuously had fairly big holes to run through. Cal did a pretty good job hitting the perimeter too. It was obvious from the playcalling that Cal really wanted to use their speed to the outside and it worked almost every time.
As for the OL pass blocking, I don't really recall. It seemed okay, but I'm going to have to see the game again to really say for certain. Judging from the comments in the live-blogs though, it appears as if most people thought they didn't do so well with pass blocking.
(5) Substitution problems. Perhaps this wasn't obvious on TV, but both teams had big time substitution problems this game because of the half-sidelines setup. Teams constantly had guys coming in and out and having either 10 or 12 men on the field. You could tell the coaches were telling the players to count their men because after every play where there was a substitution, you could see the players counting and pointing as they counted.
Miami specifically had a problem with only 10 men on the field when Cal was going for a field goal on a 4th and 1. So then Miami called a timeout. Then Cal went for it and Best ran the ball down to the 5 yardline or so.
Another time Miami had 12 men on offense which resulted in a penalty.
Cal almost had 10 people on a punt return but they luckily caught it and got an 11th man on the field and over the LOS before the snap. Another time, during a substitution, the 3-3-5 defense was called, and as one of the linebackers was going out, not enough subs came in to replace the players going out. Thus, the Cal linebacker going out, paused 10 yards off the sidelines and looked down to the Cal bench (because the LOS was by the Miami bench) to see if his sub was coming in. You could tell that the player knew that a substitution mistake had happened and that if it wasn't caught, that he would go back out to play even though he supposedly isn't supposed to be out there. But then the Cal staff caught the mistake, sent out the right player, and the linebacker saw that, and got off the field on time.
Anyways, in case it wasn't obvious on TV, the whole half-sidelines thing wrecked havoc with both teams' substitution efforts.
(6) Kickoffs. I was high in the endzone so it was hard to see the height of kicks, but in terms of distance they were all short. Some were clearly short although they were intended to go long. One was really really short and I was wondering if perhaps that one was intended to be short. I'm not sure though.
I hope somebody can kickoff down to the goalline next year.
(7) Miami's offensive failures. Miami's offense looked more or less like what I had expected based on viewing only two YouTube highlight reels. What did surprise me was the insane amount of playaction bootlegs that they ran. We had little response for that until we started sending Syd on corner blitzes and also blitzing Follett.
But what really surprised me the most, is how Miami didn't run a single playaction bootleg on their second to last possession when the game was tied up.
Their first play was a fade pass which was incomplete. Their second down play was a run which got minimal yardage. And then their third pass was a pass play which Follett forced the fumble which lead to Cal's game winning touchdown.
Their playaction bootleg just KILLED our defense for a whole two series, and then they don't run that play once in three plays when the game is on the line??? Epic phail? I think so.
I just don't get it. Even though that play may have been getting predictable, it was working like a charm. I would have ran that play on either 1st or 2nd down.
Furthermore, another Miami offensive surprise was their lack of clock management in the final moments of the game. Their guys were allowing themselves to get tackled in bounds. They burned their last timeout when they should have really tried to save it. Epic phail? I think so.
Those two mistakes (not calling playaction bootleg in the end, and the clock mismanagement) were two really huge surprises which I wasn't expecting.
(8) Miami's tendencies and how Cal might respond. In my Know Thy Enemy post, I mentioned a few tendencies of Miami and offered a few thoughts on how Cal might respond.
Miami will possibly use WR size mis-matches against our CBs? Yup. See the Miami TD pass on Hagan.
Miami's RB Graig Cooper will rush only about 13 times a game? Yup. He rushed the ball 12 times.
Gregory to play lots of typical zone defenses to counter Harris' speed? Yup.
Beware of Miami's double pass? Yup. See Miami's reverse pitch pass which is essentially the same thing.
Beware of Miami attempting to take advantage of aggressive safeties? Yup. See above and the Harris pass to Hankerson.
Cal should avoid playaction bootlegs? Yup. Cal only ran playaction and not bootleg playactions. I think the one time when Cal did run a playaction bootleg was the TD pass to Miller. Running playaction bootlegs at the goalline is safer than when not at the goalline because the defense has to respect the run more since the field is so much shorter. Thus, since they have to respect the run more, the defenders are less aggressive to stay with the QB. So despite the fact that I suggested the playaction bootleg should be avoided, running it at goalline is more acceptable despite Miami's defensive discipline.
Cal has INT opportunities over the middle by intercepting passes to slot WRs on dig routes? Yup, see Mohamed's INT.
(9) Attacking the outside. Coincidentally, this was both teams' gameplans. Cal ran the outside toss sweep a lot to get Best on the perimeter (YouTube video of such a run) . Miami also ran a lot of runs off tackle.
(10) Undefeated in the mustards/gold tops. The magik of the gold tops continues. Yes, I do believe that the color of our jerseys has an impact on the game. I do. I truly truly do! I believe!!!
(11) Baseball grass sucks. It looked to be short grass that was very soft and gave away easily. The players had no traction and weren't used to the fact that they had no traction. Best couldn't cut that well and the grass tackled him around 3 times. The WRs couldn't cut that sharply and often slipped from the grass easily giving away. Baseball grass is not the same as football grass and baseball grass just isn't meant to be used for football.