So, I was one of several thousand Cal alums from the East Coast who descended on College Park for today's, um, match-up against Maryland. I love this blog - long time reader, first time poster - and wanted to throw up some thoughts.
1) Kevin Riley is Rex Grossman. This scares me. It wasn't enough that Kevin Riley spent an average of 6-8 seconds before jetting the ball down the field off his back foot- not that that wasn't stressful enough to watch over and over again.
The problem is, and has always been, about his read progression. Watching Riley play live is so incredibly frustrating, particularly against Maryland's fairly abysmal pass defense, because there were a number of flat routes/last-ditch slants/short passes that simply went to waste. At least half of his incomplete passes were accompanied by a TE or FB on the weak side with his arms up in the air, confused why he didn't have the ball. Either he's not doing his checkdowns correctly, or in order, or something, but it's not right.
Cal Football Fans have way too much to worry about already without knowing that any time, Riley is going to say "F*ck it, I'm going deep."
Ironically, the other half of Riley's current problem is his complete hesitance to scramble. It's clear that Riley's being overcoached by Tedford. He's playing mechanically and without the passion we saw in the Armed Forces Bowl that got the fan base so excited.
Simply put, the play calling has to change. More flats, button hooks, and short seams. Please, less streaks and post routes... it's not hard for a defense like Maryland to cover you when 1/2 the receiver routes are intended to get 10 yards or more. Also, more bootlegs! Where are the Rodgers play-actions and organic scramble passes? We've been complaining for the last year that Longshore wasn't mobile enough, and now we're keeping a leash on a guy who can flat out move.
2) Late flight issues - the rumor in the visitor's section today was that the well constructed "orient to east coast time" plan got thrown off when the team's plane got in late. Like WAY late. Anyone confirm or deny this?
(I don't mean to use this as a crutch, but I do a lot of cross-country traveling and, when it gets screwed up, it can take a lot out of you.)
3) Let's talk about Jahvid Best for a second. Yes, the O-Line was off, and it really looked like there were some chemistry issues on the line today. But a lot of the problems starting the running game were on Best, even before he found a new and creative way to run a couple pounds lighter on national television. The guy wasn't hitting his holes - he keeps shuffling, looking for the 50-yard run. Someone needs to sit him down and tell him he isn't Barry Sanders, every Saturday isn't against Washington State, and he needs to take his 4 and 5 yard runs like every other every-down running back.
4) Do not declare the demise of the 3-4 system just yet. These guys turned it on in the second half and owned, only giving up two big plays (the run after the first onside kick, and the clinching pass TD up the middle that was just damn good. Not much to be done about it.). Honestly, I put a lot of the blame of today's game on the OC and the DC - there's no reason what happened in the fourth quarter shouldn't have happened in the first half except we just weren't prepared on the coaching side of things. Likewise, coaching staff deserves some of the blame for not sustaining any momentum in the first half. There were a couple of horrible breaks ("safety", shanked FG) that stalled us, but there wasn't any feeling that there was a flow of play for us until the second half.
5) Notes on College Park.
- Most of the young alumni were struck up in the 300s section, facing the sun. On a hot humid day, it was like getting cooked on a concrete slab. Kudos to the Maryland stadium staff for having complimentary water in abundance because we needed it, badly. The seats weren't great, by any means - highest point in the farthest corner of the stadium - but it was an unobstructed view of the game.
- The Maryland campus reminds me of the Furd's as far as architecture and layout. It did provide Cal fans with some really nice tailgating lots, which were used with zest.
- Speaking of, Cal traveled really well to this game. Not only that, but most fans stuck around to the end of the game, which was kind of a feat given the conditions.
- Leaving wasn't too bad. The Terp fans gloated a bit, but it was surprisingly calm and civil for a semi-Southern football school. It didn't look like there were that many fights or scuffles. It was pretty quiet all in all. I don't even remember hearing an "overrated" chant.
6) I can't underscore this enough - this loss doesn't mean anything yet. We're undefeated in the Pac-10 and 8 games away from the Rose Bowl. Yeah, we won't be ranked, and there may be a recruiting hit, but it's a long season and there's a reason we do cross-country road trips in September, not December. No reason to rush to panic, call for anyone's head, or wonder why Longshore didn't see more time. It's sad, but we're fine. I think we're going to see a little bit more of the 4th Quarter Bears in the future. Keep your heads up, California.