If you missed last week's posts, you missed great discussions about Jamal Boykin's Barack Obama art at the Alphonse Berber Art Gallery (Part I and then Part II), the Spring 2009 depth chart, Alex Mack, and our 1 year anniversary on SBN.
We continue our slow countdown on the Top 10 Football moments in 2008. Today, we discuss:
3. Stanford goal-line stand
TwistNHook: What was interesting about the Big Game this year was that even though it was, ostensibly, a Cal blowout, the outcome could have easily been very different. In the first half, Stanford was moving the ball at will. They had something like 280 yards of offense in the first half. But only scored 3 points. One drive ended in a fumble, another in a missed field. And another ended in a field goal after a rather staunch goal line stand.
Bend but don't break4life!
HydroTech: I'm pretty sure Gregory hates it when Cal fans use the whole "bend but don't break" line to describe the defense. I remember some interview of him where he thought that phrase was inaccurate. In a sense, that line is inaccurate to describe our defense because that line implies that other defenses aren't "bend but don't break," however every defense is a "bend but don't break" defense in that every defense would much rather give up yards and a field goal rather than a touchdown.
Defenses are all the same. They share the ultimate goal: stop the offense.
What differs in defenses is how they accomplish that goal. Some prefer to be very aggressive. Others prefer to be less aggressive. Cal fans tend to associate "bend but don't break" with less aggressive defensive play, but to only associate that line with less aggressive defense is to ignore the fact that more aggressive defenses are also "bend but don't break." Whether a defense is more aggressive or less aggressive, they both want to minimize the amount of yards the offense gains. They do that via different methods. A more aggressive defense will blitz more often hoping to get sacks, and putting the majority of the defensive duties on their secondary to lock down the WRs to prevent completions. A less aggressive defense will drop more men into coverage hoping to get more incompletions and interceptions while putting the majority of the defensive duties on their defensive line to get a good pass rush on their own. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. As of lately, due to the 2007 collapse, many Cal fans have become adverse to less aggressive defense, and have begun to inappropriately use the phrase "bend but don't break."
Avinash: Our defense was most certainly NOT bend but don't break in 2008, but you could make a good case that it was the previous two years based on the lack of depth we had at those positions. But that's a different discussion.
That goal-line stand was similar to the one in the Tennessee game the year before; neither team could create much distance between each other, and this changed the momentum. When teams are playing on the road they need every momentum shift they can get, and Cal's defense shifted it back in our direction.
HydroTech: Well, the point I was making was that people should either: (1) stop using the phrase "bend but don't break" because it's inaccurate to call one defense that name and not another; or (2) to recognize that every defense is a "bend but don't break" defense as since every defense's goal is to not break.
Calling Cal's 2007 defense BBDB, and the 2008 defense not-BBDB is inaccurate. Both defenses are BBDB.
As I explained earlier, there are two main strategies for minimizing opponent scoring: (1) be aggressive; (2) be less aggressive. Both can be equally as effective at stopping the offense. Cal fans have associated the phrase "bend but don't break" with the strategy of being less aggressive on defense. However, the phrase "bend but don't break" also describes the same goal of an aggressive defense, but most Cal fans will not associate the phrase "bend but don't break" with an aggressive defense. Cal fans should associate the phrase "bend but don't break" with an aggressive defense because an aggressive defense (such as the Cal defense in 2008) hopes to not break just as much a less aggressive defense.
So in short, just because a defense is less aggressive does not make it "bend but don't break." Likewise, it would be inaccurate to say that the opposite of a less aggressive defense --meaning an aggressive non-BBDB defense-- is not a BBDB defense.
Cal's defense in 2007 and 2008 were both "bend but don't break." However, Cal's defense 2007 was much less aggressive than Cal's defense in 2008.
Cal fans should recognize the difference between the 2007 and 2008 defenses by their aggressiveness, not the phrase "bend but don't break."
"Minute 2:35 of this video"
Ragnarok: Well, Hydro is technically right, as usual. From a playcalling, style-of-defense point of view, bend-but-don't-break doesn't make a whole lot of sense, or at least isn't a very useful term for differentiating one defense from another.
However, from a fan's results-oriented point-of-view, bend-but-don't-break pretty accurately describes a defensive series whereby defense gives up lots of moderately successful plays but denies them the big play, ultimately keeping the offense out of the end zone. From that layman's perspective, this drive was the very definition of 'bend but don't break. Stanford moved down from its own 25 to the Cal 1-yard line in 9 plays, 7 of those for at least 5 yards but none longer than 16, while Cal's defense didn't force a single first down. Cal seemed to be waiting for Stanford to make a mistake, like they had their last two drives (missed a 25-yard field goal, fumbled on the Cal 10 yard line), but the Cardinal were pretty much doing what they liked on the field. Until they got to the Cal 1-yard line, when the Cal defense FINALLY stiffened.
2nd-and-Goal? Toby Gerhart is stuffed for no gain.
3rd-and-Goal? Toby Gerhart is thrown back for a two-yard loss.
Stanford would eventually kick a field goal, but on a drive like this, where even forcing a third down seemed elusive, the Cal defense stepped up when it mattered most to keep Gerhart from sniffing six.
"She was at the Big Game" via imgs.sfgate.com
TwistNHook: I feel like I was the one who brought up Bend, But Don't Break, setting off this disastrous chain reaction in Hydro. How can I make it up to you, Hydro? What can I do?
HydroTech: You can make it up by understanding that the phrase is pretty inaccurate in describing only the 2007 defense. Cal fans really should stop using the phrase altogether in my opinion. It is similar to "power run" in that Cal fans like to think they know what it means but most really don't and they mis-use the phrase.
TwistNHook: Well, OK, I'll never use the phrase "Bend, But Don't Break" again!
Now, if you can excuse me, I have to find new ways to describe my goal during yoga, my #1 reason to buy trash bags, and my love for those crazy straws. PS NAILED IT!
TwistNHook (seemingly responding to himself): Lets look at the context of this moment. It is 10-0 Cal in the 2nd quarter. Cal has just scored a TD on a 60 yard pass to Vereen (which was awesome!). There is about 4 minutes left in the half. The following drive occurs:
|Stanford at 4:10||STAN||CAL|
|1st and 10 at STAN 25||Toby Gerhart rush for 2 yards to the Stanf 27.||0||10|
|2nd and 8 at STAN 27||Tavita Pritchard pass complete to Toby Gerhart for 11 yards to the Stanf 38 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at STAN 38||Toby Gerhart rush for 7 yards to the Stanf 45.|
|2nd and 3 at STAN 45||Anthony Kimble rush for 9 yards to the Cal 46 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 46||Tavita Pritchard rush for 5 yards to the Cal 41.|
|2nd and 5 at CAL 41||Tavita Pritchard pass complete to Warren Reuland for 6 yards to the Cal 35 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 35||Tavita Pritchard pass incomplete.|
|2nd and 10 at CAL 35||Tavita Pritchard pass complete to Austin Gunder for 16 yards to the Cal 19 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CAL 19||California penalty 10 yard holding on Darian Hagan accepted, no play.|
|1st and Goal at CAL 9||Timeout CALIFORNIA, clock 01:00.|
|1st and Goal at CAL 9||Tavita Pritchard pass complete to Anthony Kimble for 8 yards to the Cal 1.|
|2nd and Goal at CAL 1||Toby Gerhart rush for no gain to the Cal 1.|
|3rd and Goal at CAL 1||Timeout STANFORD, clock 00:12.|
|3rd and Goal at CAL 1||Toby Gerhart rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Cal 3.|
|4th and Goal at CAL 3||Timeout STANFORD, clock 00:08.|
|4th and Goal at CAL 3||Timeout CALIFORNIA, clock 00:08.|
|4th and Goal at CAL 3||Aaron Zagory 20 yard field goal GOOD.||3||10|
|Aaron Zagory kickoff for 39 yards, downed at the Cal 31.|
|DRIVE TOTALS: Stanf drive: 12 plays 72 yards, 04:03 Stanf FG|
So, Stanford quickly marches from the Stanford 25 to the Cal 9 in a handful of plays. There is 1 minute left in the half. Stanford's offense has been cutting up Cal all afternoon to date. They score here, they are right back in it.
They get a quick pass to the 1. Not good. But then, it all changes:
Gerhart rushes twice for -2 total yards. Those are the key plays there. Gerhart rushed for over 100 yards and averaged 5.4 yards a carry. But those 2 rushes were perhaps the two most important of the game and Cal was able to hold him.
Had Stanford made it 10-7, they would have had the momentum going into the second half. The goal line stand helped Cal stuff that momentum and gain the upper half in the second half, leading to the blowout.
Avinash: They certainly have the momentum. I'm wondering. Does Tedford let the bag of tricks loose in that third quarter if the game is so close? Or does he play the game more conventionally? Does he handoff to Best, handoff to Best, short go route to wide receiver? Or does he go for the kill? Very interesting how he would've played it if the game was tighter.
TwistNHook: Well, unfortunately for our hypothetical, the first play of the 3rd quarter was this:
|Stanford at 15:00||STAN||CAL|
|1st and 10 at STAN 40||Tavita Pritchard pass intercepted by Eddie Young at the Stanf 45, returned for 17 yards to the Stanf 28.||3||10|
|DRIVE TOTALS: Stanf drive: 1 play 0 yards, 00:10 Stanf INT|
So, that puts Cal right back in the driver's seat and gives all the momentum back to Cal, independent of what happened at the end of the second half. Sure, the difference between 17-10 and 17-3 is big. But still.
Avinash: If it was 10-7, the playcalls are probably different. I don't think we can say with certainty that Pritchard goes out and throws that pick in a 3 point game. The Furd's offense would've played different, Cal's D would've played different.
TwistNHook: No, I can say with certainty that Pritchard throws a pick in there. It's Stanford, for Tedford's sake!
Yellow Fever: Is there really any difference between a 10-3 game or a 10-7 game at halftime? There's still a lot of time, and it's only one possession. I don't think it makes a difference - at least that early.
TwistNHook: Are you objecting to the very concept of this goal line stand being a significant Cal moment?
HydroTech: I agree with Fever. There isn't much difference at all between a 10-3 game and 10-7 game coming out of half time. Both situations are 1 possession games and the game is so close, with still 30 minutes of football, that I don't think the coaches would have changed different strategies for the two situations.
TwistNHook: What I like is when the choice is between one Marshawnthusiast or the other, HydroTech phrases it "I agree with Yellow Fever." Always so positive!
But when the choice is between one Marshawnthusiast and me, it's always "TwistNHook is completely and totally wrong here and there is absolutely nothing he can say to make it up to me. I am disappointed in you, TwistNHook, and hope you do a lot of soul searching after providing that answer. It's disgusting. Just disgusting."
HydroTech: Isn't it obvious, Twist? I don't like you and want to punch you in the face.