Although the final score was an 8 point differential (24-16) at Saturday's Cal-Arizona game, it was really more like a 2 point game. Cal tacked on an extra TD on an exciting Shane Vereen scamper at the tail end of the game. Ironically, that gave Arizona slight hope that they could come back into the game, but that is a different post.
When you have what amounts to a 2 point differential, almost every play seems like it could have changed the balance of the game. Certainly, there were many plays where the game seemed to hang in the balance. But, in my mind, there was one play that completely and totally changed the complexion of the game. One play where the entirety of the momentum shifted from Arizona to Cal. One play that, in my mind, almost decided this game: The Double Pass penalty against Arizona QB Nick Foles on 3rd and short at the tail end of the 4th quarter.
This one stands out to me as being the key game-changing moment. After the fold, follow me through the sequence of events that was the Double Pass.
To see this play in its fullest picture, we need to start before that Arizona drive. Well before. From the ESPN Play by Play.
After a drive starting on their own 20 (touchback from Riley throwing a pick in the end zone), Arizona, aided by 2 Cal PI calls on 3rd and long situations, scores a back breaking TD:
|1st and Goal at CAL 8||Nick Foles pass complete to A.J. Simmons for 8 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.||16||15|
|Two-point conversion attempt, Nick Foles pass FAILED.|
|John Bonano kickoff for 58 yards returned by Jeremy Ross for 11 yards to the Cal 23.|
This put Arizona up 16-15. Thankfully, they missed their 2 point conversion as we had before. That means a field goal puts Cal ahead instead of tying it. Still, plenty of time left. Just gotta put the ball into the hands of our play makers and get a time-killing, long drive. Which is kinda exactly what we did:
|California at 12:26||ARIZ||CAL|
|1st and 10 at CAL 23||Shane Vereen rush for 10 yards to the Cal 33 for a 1ST down.||16||15|
|1st and 10 at CAL 33||Shane Vereen rush for 4 yards to the Cal 37.|
|2nd and 6 at CAL 37||Shane Vereen rush for 3 yards to the Cal 40.|
|3rd and 3 at CAL 40||Kevin Riley pass complete to Shane Vereen for 10 yards to the 50 yard line for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 50||Shane Vereen rush for a loss of 3 yards to the Cal 47.|
|2nd and 13 at CAL 47||Kevin Riley pass complete to Verran Tucker for 20 yards to the Ariz 33 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at ARIZ 33||Shane Vereen rush for no gain to the Ariz 33.|
|2nd and 10 at ARIZ 33||Shane Vereen rush for 10 yards to the Ariz 23 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at ARIZ 23||Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 12 yards to the Ariz 11 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at ARIZ 11||CALIFORNIA penalty 5 yard False Start accepted.|
|1st and 15 at ARIZ 16||Shane Vereen rush for 5 yards to the Ariz 11.|
|2nd and 10 at ARIZ 11||Shane Vereen rush for 2 yards to the Ariz 9.|
|3rd and 8 at ARIZ 9||Shane Vereen rush for 4 yards to the Ariz 5.|
|4th and 4 at ARIZ 5||Giorgio Tavecchio 22 yard field goal GOOD.||16||18|
|Giorgio Tavecchio kickoff for 70 yards returned by Travis Cobb for 38 yards to the Ariz 38.|
|DRIVE TOTALS: CALIFORNIA drive: 13 plays 72 yards, 07:40 CALIFORNIA FG|
Looking at this drive, a few things jump out at me. One is that there is no clear way for the ESPN Play By Play guys to signify the WIldBear position. However, at least 4 of these plays came out of the WildBear. I believe the 1st and 15 at the Arizona 16 and 2nd and 10 at the Arizona 11 came out of the WildBear. I think two of the previous ones also came out of the WildBear, although I cannot remember off the top of my head here.
At the time, I was complaining about over ruse of the WildBear. Especially since we literally ran the exact same play every time. Isi Sofele comes running across the field, doesn't take the ball, Vereen fakes a few ways, then runs up the middle for minimal gain. Considering we did manage to:
a)move the ball
b)take gobbles of time off the clock
c)put Cal in the position for a game-winning field goal
I guess it couldn't have been that bad. Then again, perhaps with a few more passes from Riley, we might have scored a TD. But the coaches seemed incredibly hesitant to call Riley's number on this drive. Especially as we got closer to the goal line. He throws 2 passes, completing both for 30 total yards. Not bad. The Tucker pass was REALLY impressive. He threaded the needle perfectly. Tucker took a huge hit, but managed to hold on.
Perhaps after Riley threw 2 goal line picks, the coaches wanted to avoid a 3rd. Playing it really, really, really, really safe. It worked, so hard to complain. Nonetheless, it is just surprising that they wouldn't call his number once after getting inside the Arizona 33!
But, there we go! Cal scores! Yay! 18-16. Cal is up. We just need a stop and to get the ball and wind down the clock. Just need a stop.
Then, this drive starts:
|Arizona at 4:46||ARIZ||CAL|
|1st and 10 at ARIZ 38||Nick Foles pass incomplete.||16||18|
|2nd and 10 at ARIZ 38||Nick Foles pass complete to Delashaun Dean for 15 yards to the Cal 47 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 47||Timeout CALIFORNIA, clock 4:08.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 47||Keola Antolin rush for 3 yards to the Cal 44.|
|2nd and 7 at CAL 44||Nick Foles pass complete to David Douglas for 12 yards to the Cal 32 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 32||Keola Antolin rush for 3 yards to the Cal 29.|
|2nd and 7 at CAL 29||Keola Antolin rush for 4 yards to the Cal 25.|
Ok, firstly, Delashaun?? We can add that to our Sean/Shaun/Shawn library of names. Marshawn. DeSean. Knowshon. LaShuan. And now Delashaun. Thank you Dean family!
Secondly, this was not exactly the stout defensive stop we were looking for. They never even made it to 3rd down. Cal fans were starting to get nervous. Arizona with that impressive Air-Raid offense. We had held it down for most of the game, but man just when it counted they were gonna hit the go-ahead FG with just a handful of seconds on the clock. This was gonna be a classic Cal stomach punch loss. Ugh.
So, after that 2nd and 7 up there, Arizona had the ball at the Cal 25 on a 3rd and 3. Tack on the 17 yards for a field goal and this is a 42 yarder. This is out of the range of the Arizona kicker, it appears:
FIELD GOALS FGM-FGA Pct 01-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 Lg Blk
Zendejas, A. 13-16 81.2 1-1 7-8 5-6 0-1 0-0 37 1
Alex Zendejas is not a great kicker, but he's still pretty good. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what was going on. Being the Cal fan, I assumed they had the greatest kicker on the other side. We were freaking out, thinking that we had to stop them then, because it was right out of the range. Considering Forza Italia hit a 47 yarder earlier in the game, anything was possible! Zendejas previous stats in the 40s are minimal, just 0-1. His numbers in the 30s look good 5-6 So, if they get a few more yards, hit the kick, we're screwed.
BASICALLY, IT'S THE BIGGEST 3RD DOWN OF THE GAME! GOTTA GET UP, FANS!
And we did. The place was going impressively crazy. Of course, then this happened:
|3rd and 3 at CAL 25||Timeout CALIFORNIA, clock 2:06.|
|3rd and 3 at CAL 25||Timeout ARIZONA, clock 2:06.|
Ok, a bit of a set back. Cal fans had to stay up for like 5 minutes straight. But, they did. GOTTA STOP THE WILDCATS! GOTTA STOP THE WILDCATS! GOTTA STOP THE WILDCATS!
Then, this happened:
Thanks to CalGBear's heady goodness, here is a YouTube video of it. It is of fairly crappy quality, but is viewable sort of:
Ok, let me break this down for those who didn't see it live and are a bit confused. Foles stands there in the pocket having all the time in the world (as he did for much of the game). He throws the ball forward, but it bounces off of a player and back to him. I couldn't tell who it hit in the blur of the game, but I was later informed from the SF Chronicle that Tyson Alualu blocked the pass:
Foles' pass was deflected by defensive lineman Tyson Alualu - and Foles caught the deflection, rolled right and threw another pass (which he completed).
Basically, Foles got Alualued! As it states there, he rolled to his right and threw a pass. The refs immediately threw every flag in their arsenal. There were like 400 flags on the field. I think at one point, the line judge covered himself in yellow paint and dove in the general direction of Foles. In the stands, people started saying "wait, can you can throw a second pass? no..no, you can't throw a second pass!!! YOU CAN'T THROW A SECOND PASS!"
The only question was how many yards and did you lose the down. The down was the key one there and as soon as the refs announced loss of down, my section erupted into a spasm of cheers. But the best was yet to come. Because they started to march the ball back. And back. And back. At the time, we thought it was a 15 yard penalty, because a 3rd and 3 turned into a 4th and 17 and we can't do math. No sir, we can't do math at all. It's not like we went to the #1 public school in America or anything!
Reviewing the play by play, it appears that it is only a 5 yard penalty. However, it is called from the spot of the foul. Which, apparently, was 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That's how 3 turns into 17. 3 plus 9 plus 4. I actually can't crunch that in my head right now, so I am going to trust the refs on this one.
That puts them into a crazy 4th down situation. At this point, the stands just went beyond crazy. Everybody started jumping up and down on the benches and screaming. I think NorCalNick nearly sprained his ankle, landing incorrectly. He is getting a MRI and could be out for 4-6 posts. And then this:
4th and 17 at CAL 39 Nick Foles pass incomplete.
He almost hit this, but a Cal defender managed to step in front of the pass at the last moment. Great defense there.
"GO BEARS!" via imgs.sfgate.com
In the span of a few game seconds, but an interminably long real-time period, Arizona went from moving down the field quickly to score the game winning TD/FG to throwing an incomplete pass on a 4th down to give Cal the ball. Of course, Cal immediately scored and missed the XP, which gave Arizona another chance to potentially tie the game. Vereen woulda been better off running around in circles than scoring that TD! ;)
Anyway, so, again, like my post about the Arizona State WildBear pass attempt, I have no overarching point here. No TEDFORD IS GREAT! or FIRE GREGORY! Just a closer look at a situation that coulda gone either way and how the momentum can shift so drastically in one play. What are your thoughts on this Double Pass penalty play? GO BEARS!