This is second (hopefully) in a 13 part series, this is my not so quicky summary of a few keys to the game.
So my day started off great. Before the game even started, as I was walking up the metal stairs in the student section, my shoes (with no traction) slipped on the metal seats and my right shin smashed against the metal seat of the higher row as I slipped forward. Within minutes, the whole shin was a bloody mess from a puncture and three inch laceration but the game was about to start so I figured I'd wait until I got home 6 hours later to clean myself up. Like any good Cal fan, my health is secondary to being at Memorial and supporting the team.
(1) First play of the game. Remember the last time Tedford tried a play like the first play of the game? That last time was against Baylor in 2002 for Tedford's first play as a head coach. By calling a halfback pass today, I think Tedford wanted to start the 2008 season with a similar bang and let Cal fans know that this was a new team compared to last year's team. Unfortunately, the pass was wobbly and underthrown and led to an incompletion when it possibly could have been a touchdown or at least a big gain.
(2) Javon Ringer is dead Ringer. I think CBKWit said that he doubted Ringer broke 100 yards. Well, he didn't. Ringer ran for only 81 yards. Of course, the yards per attempt is a much better indicator of a runningback's performance than total yardage. So what was Ringer's average? 3.0 yards per carry which is pretty sad by college football standards. I mean, that's talking like triple bogey in golf terminology. It's pretty ugly for a player of his caliber let alone any player in college football.
(3) No sacks on Hoyer. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we didn't sack Hoyer once. I guess some credit is due to MSU's OL but it also makes me wonder if we're ever going to see some sacks from anyone on defense.
(4) Riley. Kid looked good out there. As Danzig said, he only made one "hero" throw and it was complete. He made a bunch of good throws, some great ones, and a few slightly off-target passes too. He did complete 17/24 of his passes, one of which was a purposeful throw-away so I suppose we can say he was 17/23 which is about a 74% completion percentage - that's VERY good. And as Danzig noted, if you adjust Riley's completion percentage for drops he would have been around the 85% completion rate. Overall, I'd say Riley did darn good. He wasn't perfect - a few passes were slightly off the mark (but still catchable). Nevertheless, I think this was pretty much an A- performance.
(5) Longshore. The first thing I noticed when Longshore took the field, was he seemed to have a sort of swagger. Like a "I'm a 5th year senior, I know what I'm doing, and I've got something to prove." Perhaps I'm making something out of nothing and perhaps I'm drawing upon my personal experiences watching Longshore for a year in in-season practices, but that's the way I felt he carried himself. I say he seemed like that because of the way he walked up under center and because he was very quick to get under center his entire first drive. Overall, I say again, it just seemed like he had something to prove. Indeed, I'm sure he thinks he does. And I think because of that, that's why he threw those two INTs. I haven't reviewed those plays on the tivo, but I just remember thinking, "wow, he really tried to thread the needle on those passes." And of course, if you have to thread the needle that much for a throw, you perhaps maybe shouldn't be quite throwing to that receiver - perhaps somebody else was open. I'm not going to second guess Longshore's decisions now because I haven't seen the replay yet, but upon first impression, I felt like Longshore was forcing things, and was playing like he had something to prove. In the end, I feel that Longshore definitely left a "reckless" impression both on Tedford and the fans.
(6) Booing. Okay, I know not everyone likes Longshore as a QB but I don't think we need to boo the guy. I'm not saying you have to applaud him or even cheer him, but at least not boo him.
(7) Cal's offensive playcalling. Perhaps it's just me, and perhaps I need to review the game film first, but it seemed like the playcalling with Riley was fairly conservative. Lots of easy swing passes, screens, and few straight dropbacks with downfield passing. In contrast, I felt like the playcalling changed with Longshore. I felt like the 6 plays when Longshore was in attacked deep. Was this only me? I'll need to see the tapes again but this is just my initial perception. Of course, the logic behind such playcalling is obvious; Longshore has more experience and Riley doesn't. Perhaps Cignetti was trying to ease Riley into the season with easier (but not necessarily easy themselves) playcalls.
(8) Best. Need I say much? He has good vision. He hits the hole fast. He's fast. He's shifty. We saw him more around the field and decoy a little bit. On kickoffs he was GREAT. I think I need not say much more.
(9) Boateng. First he doesn't make the starting lineup, then in his opening debut he drops two catchable passes. In his defense though, both of those passes could have been better. As the cliche goes though, if you get both your hands on the ball you have to catch it. In the end, the passes could have been better and the catch should have been a catch.
(10) Sean Young. It's hard not to like a guy who is a hard worker and is a 6th year senior seeing his first significant playing time EVER. All I have to say here, is that I'm rooting for Young. I remember working with him on scout team back in my heyday. He was always such a hard worker and gave 100% even though he was on scout. I was always very impressed with his effort. I'm sooo glad he's finally seeing all his hard work pay off into real playing time.
(11) New Cignetti offense. Frankly, I don't think I can say much until I see the game tape but I didn't see much of the "new" stuff that I saw in spring camp. We only saw some slightly new shotgun formations and a few plays of single-movement shifting. Perhaps Cignetti is keeping the fancy stuff for later in the season? I think so.
(12) Cal's 3-4 defense and defense in general. Well, aside from not sacking Hoyer, I'm pleased with how it performed against the run. As I already stated, Ringer was held to 3.0 yards per carry which is fairly poor by college standards. Hoyer only completed 41.6% of his passes which is craptacular. MSU did pick on Hagan instead of going towards Syd's side of the field, and that was to be expected. Nevertheless, Hagan did very well for his first career start.
(13) MSU offense. So MSU's offense was pretty different than from what I scouted in their game against Penn State last year. They didn't use the Maryland-I formation, they used different blocking schemes up front to counter our 3-4 defense. Nevertheless, I think we saw the fairly typical MSU style offense: run a lot then playaction.
(14) Hagan. I really thought Hagan was going to win the starting job over Conte last year. Of course, he didn't but now this year Hagan beat out Conte. Frankly, what I saw from Hagan today didn't surprise me. Even when Hagan was on scout team a few years ago, I was always impressed with his gaminess. Today, aside from giving up outside passes 3-4 times, which I must say is understandable considering our CBs were mostly playing inside leverage (they are playing inside of the WRs forcing the WRs to towards the sidelines), he played very well and better than Conte ever did last year (yes, I truly do think so). This isn't a knock against Conte and saying that Conte is bad, but what I saw from Hagan today was much better than anything I've seen from Conte last year. Hagan has two years under his belt and it showed today with his resilience despite giving up completions and being picked on, his tackling (again, superior than Conte) and having INTs overturned. I think by the end of the game, we were all rooting for Hagan to FINALLY nab that elusive INT. I mean, he had 2 taken away (more or less). He had like 4 deflected balls land within fingertip reach of him. He had an INT go right off his hands in the 4th quarter. It's amazing how many times he almost intercepted Hoyer's balls (Ed Note: HydroTech was totes obsessed with Hoyer's balls throughout the game).
(15) Syd. Well, isn't it ironic that the red-shirt freshman CB who got picked on by Tennessee in 2006 is now the feared CB on the Cal defense? MSU went towards Hagan all day long. I think they threw towards Syd only 4-5 times and perhaps only completed two pass on Syd. Syd also had a handful of GREAT pass breakups. If Hagan and Syd keep getting better, we could have a great pair of corners next year.
(16) Anger. Dude got some kicks. CBKWit has a huge man-crush on him... and I do too now. 48 yard per punt average!!!
(17) Morrah. Prior to this game, most of us here at the CGB were thinking he was going to have a huge year. After this game, I think all of us here at the CGB are still thinking he's going to have a huge year. Morrah had 5 catches for 93 yards and has proved to be a great option in the center of the field. I think things will only get better.
(18) Final thoughts. MSU fans should be concerned. Frankly, Cal kept MSU in the game. Cal had a bunch of crappy plays (roughing the punter, bobbled punt-snap) and turnovers (2 INTs) which kept MSU in the game. If Cal had not committed those errors, this game would have been over in the 3rd quarter with a score along the lines of 35ish to 7 or so. Cal was only a few mistakes, and a few bad calls (PI on Mohammed & perhaps a reverse of a Hagan INT) away from TOTAL domination of MSU.
Cal fans, I think we can be happy with today's game. Yes, it was a bit too close for comfort but we saw positive answers to our two biggest questions:
(a) How is our 3-4 defense going to fair? Answer: pretty good
(b) Is Riley going to continue to play like an all-star? Answer: yes.