(1) The Maynard Kneeldown. There is apparently a lot of confusion as to what the heck was going on during this play. First, let me explain why Maynard kneeled. He kneeled because he and the center thought that an ASU defender was offsides. Why kneeldown? Because if the defender is offsides, then the result of the play is an offsides penalty against the defense for five yards. Maynard is coached to do this. Cal has been doing this since at least 2006. I'm sure many of you don't remember, but Longshore did it a lot, and did it well. He would often catch defenders offsides and get an easy five yards. Obviously, it didn't work this time. Why? Because the defender was ruled by the refs to not be offsides. So Cal basically just lost 5 yards on the play since Maynard was in the shotgun when he kneeled.
I'm sure many of you are thinking, why kneel and not just chuck the ball deep if the defender is offsides? Good point. Some teams do this, and some teams don't. As for the reasons why teams don't do that... First, the defender may not be offsides. So then going all crazy and throwing up a I-don't-give-a-flying-F-if-this-pass-is-intercepted kind of pass is a bad idea, because... if the pass is intercepted, then it's an interception. Second, sometimes the play which was called isn't a pass play, but a run play. Running the pre-called run play against an offsides defender... isn't quite as effective as running a pre-called run play against a non-offsides defender.
So anyway, that's the deal behind the kneeldown. No, Maynard isn't an idiot. He knew what he was doing. The center is instructed to not snap the ball unless he is ABSOLUTELY SURE that the defender is offsides. So if this play is anybody's fault, it's really on the center, and not Maynard. After all, it's the center who has the absolutely best view of seeing whether anybody is offsides or not.
(2) The Defense Isn't That Bad. I know they gave up 27 points. But 7 points came on a Sofele fumble. The defense was left with a short field to defend, and what do you expect? When the defense only has 35-40 yards to work with, the offense is probably either getting a field goal if not a touchdown.
So really, the defense gave up 20 points. They probably would have given up less if they weren't on the field as much. And they wouldn't have been on the field as much if our offense was better, and was scoring, and was pumping up the defense.
Well, one of our cornerbacks (no need to really name him) had a particularly bad game. Seems like half of ASU's completions were against him.
(3) Our Offense Was Bad Because Our Pass Protection was Horrible. Holy crap our offensive line was bad at pass blocking. Yeah, ASU was bringing the heat, but still. It wasn't the blitzes that were necessarily getting to us, it was just the bad blocking. Maynard would drop back, and at the top of his drop, he'd already have a defender closing in on him. I mean, it was ridiculous. How many times was he sacked? Seemed like 8 times at least (it was actually six).
No matter how good your QB is, if you can't protect him on pass plays, he's going to have trouble completing passes. Aaron Rodgers was sacked a crap ton of times in the Packers' loss to the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago. What was his QB rating that game? A pedestrian 81.5 -- his lowest of the season. Is that coincidence? No.
What was Maynard's QB rating this game? A horrid 81.7. How many times was he sacked? A whopping six times. How many times was he hurried and/or hit too? ESPN doesn't keep track of those stats but I'm willing to bet the hurried/hit stat was probably about 10.
Yeah, Maynard had a bad game. He had the yips because he was losing faith in the offensive line to protect him. He was aggressively stepping up into the pocket to help out the protection (as a QB should) and was therefore overthrowing balls. Yeah, it was bad. But the real problem -- the bigger problem -- is the offensive line's lack of protection more so than Maynard's poor performance.
(4) Cal is Playing True East Bay Football. Penalties galore. We're just like the Oakland Raiders. Twelve penalties for 119 yards??? That's basically a whole touchdown gifted to ASU based on penalties alone. Our guys seemingly can't execute a play without holding. It's sad. Every time there is a huge play for big yards, I'm not even celebrating. Instead, I'm scanning the field for that little yellow flag indicating a penalty on Cal to negate the big play. For example, on Harper's huge screen play, there was holding. It's maddening.
Another penalty which sort of irked me was 12 men on the field. One of our defensive linemen (I won't name him) was taking his jolly time getting off the field despite coaches on the sidelines urging him to haul ass because the ball was about to be snapped. Come on! The coaches aren't yelling at you for nothing. I mean, is it that hard to hustle the last 15 yards to the sideline to get off the field?
I don't know if that player was truly that gassed or they just didn't give a flying fuck, but it was annoying.
(5) Booing the Kneel-Down Before Halftime. Yeah, it sucks. Yeah, we're losing. It feels like we have nothing to lose so we might as well just try a hail mary. Sure. I get it. You don't have to tell me twice. But let me at least present the reasons for NOT going for it before halftime.
It's a 1st and 20 from your own 13 yard line with 50 seconds left. Perhaps the next play is an incomplete pass. It's now 2nd and 20 from your own 13 yard line with 43 seconds left. Maybe the next play is another incomplete pass. Now it's 3rd and 20 from your own 13 yard line with 37 seconds left. Next play is another incomplete pass. Now you're looking at punting from your own 13 yard line with 30 seconds left. Doomsday scenario: blocked punt and ASU scores, or punt return for a touchdown against a short field, or shanked punt and ASU gets an easy field goal or touchdown.
Or, before any of that happens, perhaps when Maynard drops back to pass on that 1st and 20 from the 13 yard line, he's sacked, fumbles, and ASU scoops and scores.
Look, I get it. I know 99% of people probably reading this wanted Tedford to go for it. I guess I'm that idiot 1% who was okay with him not going for it. Our pass protection sucks. I could totally see Maynard getting sacked, fumbling, and ASU getting an easy 3 or 7 points. And then, that mere 10 point lead just became a 17 or 13 point lead.
Bottom line, I really think it was the right decision. Little was going right for Cal prior to halftime. I know it's frustrating to see the team losing and when they are you want the coach to do EVERY DAMN LITTLE THING IN HIS POWER TO TRY AND WIN THE GAME. Trust me. I know. I've been there. But sometimes you just gotta limit your screw ups instead of trying to pull that rabbit out of the hat.
(6) Maynard Was Having a Rough Day Aside from the Poor Protection. Under-threw Allen for a sure touchdown (might have had a defender in his face on this play,). Then later over-threw Allen for another sure touchdown. much sure touchdowns. Threw pass over the middle to the TE (Rodgers) who was well double-covered and wasn't even looking for the ball (because he knew he was hella covered). Threw a pass along the sidelines which was tipped at the LOS, and thank god it was because it probably would have been intercepted.
32.1% completion rate is downright horrible. 4.5 yards per attempt is downright horrible. I guess he screamed at the offensive line or something? I don't blame the guy, but at the same time I don't think that is going to be good for team cohesion and morale.
I feel for the guy. He's trying his best out there. He clearly has some consistency problems, but I don't think he's quite as bad as his numbers really indicated this game. Like I said earlier, the pass protection was horrible. It was affecting Maynard's confidence. He was stepping up into the pocket big time and would overthrow balls. It happens.
Is it time for a change at QB? Well, I don't know. If Bridgford was better than Maynard, wouldn't he be starting? I mean, putting aside the conspiracy theory stuff (Maynard is only starting because of Allen) and the coach-is-an-idiot stuff. I don't necessarily think we'd be much better off. We saw Bridgford against Nevada. Remember? Most of you all were groaning at his performance.
Wait... I know who you all want. Some old dude behind me screams it every freakin' incompletion. "Put in Kline!"
Is Kline ready? I don't know. I just saw him play in the spring game. I don't know how well he knows the playbook. One thing I do know (or am of the opinion), is that he's got the best arm of all our QBs. Seriously. He's got the accuracy. He's got the RPMs. I think he has the brain. Hopefully he has the ability to put it all together... whether it be this year or in 2014.
(7) Allen is Not a First Round Draft Pick. I don't think he is. And against ASU we saw why. He was caught from behind on what would have otherwise been a sure touchdown. He needs more speed. I've been saying it since the beginning of the season. I don't think he has first round pick speed. If that was any other WR picked in the first round the past few years, I think that play would have been a touchdown. Allen has the hands, the agility, the elusiveness, and the drive... but he just needs more SEC (sarcasm) speed.
(8) Bigelow Not Getting Any Runs. I guess if we're going to fire Tedford we might as well fire Gould too since he's the one who handles RB substitutions. (Sarcasm) Look, I don't know why Bigelow doesn't get more reps. I've thought I"ve heard rumors about his lack of mental game and pass protection abilities. I don't know if that's true or not but if it is, perhaps that is why he's not getting reps. Of course, if the playcall is for Bigelow to run with the football, then he's certainly not being asked to pass protect. So I don't know. The person to really ask is probably Coach Gould since he's the one who knows those guys the best.
But would it have mattered if Bigelow got some carries? Maybe. Maybe not. He certainly has that home run threat. And while our offensive line can't pass block well, they can run block just fine. Maybe Bigelow would have turned one of those other runs that Sofele or Anderson didn't turn into a touchdown, into a touchdown. Or not.
Sofele had 7.0 yards a carry. Anderson had 9.8 yards a carry. When those guys are running that well, I don't really see any other reason to put in anyone else. And besides, when a RB is running that well, what is the main reason for his success??? HIS BLOCKING. Say it with me. HIS BLOCKING.
So, if the Cal OL was blocking just fine and our other two RBs were being completely inept, then sure, put Bigelow in. It's a no-brainer. But that wasn't the situation in the ASU game. Instead, we had good run blocking, and our two co-starting runningbacks weren't being inept.
I think most people who are bitching about the Bigelow situation are just bitching about it because it's what fans do when their teams lose. You find any reason, no matter how small or inconsequential it may be and blame that reason. I don't mean that as an insult, but it's true. Seriously. After Cal loses, we have people blaming the uniforms. Seriously. The uniforms. And those people are being serious. Now people are blaming the RB Coach (Coach Gould) for not putting in Bigelow? Cal had bigger problems on the day (penalties, non-existent pass protection) than just because Bigelow wasn't in the game. I mean, if you really think one of the main reasons why Cal lost the game was because Bigelow wasn't in the game then you're really missing out on the bigger problems going on out there.
Fun stat: Maynard has been sacked 24 times this season so far (in five games). In all of 2011 he was sacked 27 times.
(9) It's DOOM Time. Last week I said the ASU game was completely winnable. It totally was. I was hoping to see an improved team this week which would run the rock well (we did), be efficient in passing (we weren't), and not grossly penalize ourselves (we did). But instead we were pretty much the opposite of anything I hoped I was going to see. We're 1-4. The team's confidence is probably in shambles. I wouldn't be surprised if the team chemistry is pretty sour too. I'm sure the players aren't happy with Coach Tedford. I'm sure Tedford isn't happy with the players. At the beginning of the season I thought that the worst worst worst absolutely freakin' worst case scenario was Cal going 5-7. Whoops. It's now looking like we could be 1-11.
Last week I still had hope in the team. This week I have close to none. The season isn't on the brink any more, it seems like it's already 80% of the way down the toilet. We'd have to win five out of our next seven games to finish 6-6. While I'm not entirely convinced many of the teams we have yet to face are really that good, I'm beginning to think our pass protection and penchant for drawing penalties is so bad that we're going to screw the pooch anyways.
(10) Tedford. I appreciate all he's done. I really do. I've worked for him. I've seen him coach. I've seen how he runs the team. I know he's trying his best. But unless miracles happen and we somehow win out or at least finish with 6 wins this season, then I don't think there's much anyone can say in favor of keeping him around for another year.
It would seem wrong to fire him at the end of this year. He just got this new stadium and facilities. It seems only fair to give him at least three seasons in the new stadium and facilities to turn things around. But if we do finish up with 1, 2, 3, or 4 wins... I'm not sure Sandy Barbour can give him one more year. College football is a business. The school needs wins.
Alas, regardless of just how bad this season ends up, everyone who is in the know of Tedford's buyout keeps saying the school can't afford it. If that's the case, well, let's just sit back, watch some football, and try to enjoy things. I know it's hard. It's especially harder when it's your alma mater (or your favorite team) losing in front of your eyes, but I suppose there are worse fates that watching a Cal Football game.