Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
Cal Lets A Winnable Game Slip Away in the First Half
(1) What a Tough Game to Watch. I almost turned it off. Almost. Okay, I did sneak a few peeks at the World Series every now and then but I watched the whole game through. What make this game so tough to watch?
(2) Turnover, Turnover, Turnover. I mean, you want to know how we lost the game? It was because of the three turnovers. Harper fumble leads to a Utah defensive touchdown. Maynard fumble leads to another Utah offensive touchdown. Interception off of Allen's hands leads to another Utah touchdown. Granted, the pass to Allen was a little behind him, but he got two hands on it. Allen has to catch those balls -- especially if he thinks himself worthy of Sunday football. Utah had 21 points off of Cal turnovers. But it wasn't just the turnovers...
(3) Two Kickoff Returns for Touchdowns. Wow. 200+ yards allowed on kickoff returns. I don't know if I can fully blame the kick coverage on the first kickoff return. The returner went up field drawing the coverage in, and then the returner broke outside to where there was no coverage. That's all it takes. Of course, yeah, the coverage should try not to let him outside but the returner did a great job cutting to get outside and had the speed to keep running. Great effort on his part.
As for the second kickoff return though, that seemed like a big mix of poor tackling and diffused responsibility. Guys seemed to let up a bit on the play when they saw the returner hit some traffic, hit a defender, and slow down. But the guy was never down, and then he just broke out for another huge gain.
(4) Offense is Craptacular in the First Half. Holy hell. I can understand the game getting out of hand so early when your offense is so bad in the first half. Geez. I practically threw my phone through the wall in frustration. Why is it so frustrating to watch?
(5) Pass Blocking Isn't Great. Maynard didn't have tons of time in the pocket. It wasn't as bad as the Arizona State game, but it wasn't great either. But what's worse, is that even when he did have time...
(6) Seemingly, Nobody was Getting Open. Can somebody get open? It's hard to see what the heck is happening down the field since all that stuff is going on off the TV screen. But holy hell, can somebody beat their coverage?
Specifically, I'm talking about Harper or Treggs. Treggs, after a nice breakout game against Nevada (with one touchdown reception) has gone really really really quiet for the past... eight games. He's the one guy who sees the most playing time opposite of Keenan Allen. Allen is drawing double coverage all the time. Treggs is single covered. Treggs has to start beating his man to catch some passes.
You wonder why Marquis Lee of USC is having such monster games? It's not just that he's a good player, it's also that he's paired with Robert Woods. If Woods draws a double coverage, Lee gets open. Same concept applies here. Allen draws a double coverage, SOMEBODY else has to get open. To an extent Harper is sort of becoming that guy for us but not as much as I would like right now. He's more of our possession/screen guy. We need him to be more of a Wes Welker kind of guy who can get open all across the short and middle ranges of the field. And Treggs, he has to get open down the field using his good size and speed.
(7) I Feel Sorry for the Defense. Man, those guys were 37-plus minutes. That's what happens when your offense is off the field so quickly. I can't blame the defense for giving up 344 yards of offense, of which 188 came on the ground. Those guys need some rest and they need some emotional motivation from the offense (the offense has to score points!). The defense got neither against Utah.
(8) I Feel Sorry for Maynard Too. I still don't think he's a horrible QB. If he's given good protection and utilized properly, I think he can be a serviceable QB. But if nobody can get open down the field, forcing him to hold on to the ball... bad things seem to happen. His ball security isn't great. We all knew that before this game. How many times has he fumbled the ball in the past two years? Like 12 times?
I think all those sacks and offensive penalties also really get Maynard out of his groove too. There was a big difference between Cal's passing offense in the first three quarters compared to the fourth quarter. The ball was coming out of Maynard's hands on time. Cal was pass blocking a little better. It also helped that Utah wasn't blitzing as much. Maynard seemed more in the zone. He seemed to be thinking less and just out there doing his thang. And you know what? Cal had ZERO offensive penalties in the second half of the game. And you know what? That's when Cal started scoring touchdowns and Maynard started getting into a rhythm. In the second half of the game, Maynard went 16/22 on pass attempts, which is a 72% completion rate -- which is REALLY good! Coincidence? No. Definitely not. Look...
(9) Offensive Success is So Easy. It really is. Run your plays. Avoid turnovers. Get yardage. Avoid penalties. Stay out of 3rd and longs. Easier said than done, right? Yes. But if you can avoid the penalties and just consistently gain small chunks of 3-4 yards every play, you'll convert 3rd downs. You'll get first downs. You'll score touchdowns. Cal FINALLY did that in the second half of the game.
Of Cal's five drives in the second half of the game, three of them were scoring drives. Why were they successful? Because on those three scoring drives there were NO turnovers, NO offensive penalties, and only 1 out of 21 plays was a 3rd and long.
Of the two other drives which didn't score, one was because of a turnover, and the other was just a failure to convert on fourth down.
So of those five drives in the second half, four of them met the criteria I set forth above (avoid 3rd and longs; avoid turnovers; avoid penatlies), and three of the drives resulted in touchdowns. That's a 75% touchdown rate on drives. See? It. Ain't. That. Hard.
Successful football isn't about fancy schemes. It isn't about trickeration. It isn't about voodoo. It's about execution. Just execute. Win your positional battle. Or at least just don't flat out lose it. In the first three quarters of the game Cal's offense didn't execute well. In the fourth quarter they did.
(10) I Am Happy to See Maynard Pissed About Things. Because it shows he cares. Regardless of whether you hate the guy or you think he sucks, if Cal wants to win games, we need a QB who still cares. Clearly, Maynard still cares. He was pissed. Pissed at himself for the pass which was intercepted. Pissed at other passes he missed. I'm glad he's pissed. Stay pissed.
(11) Sebastian Is the Fire and the Energy the Team Needs. This team needs some playmakers. Dudes who can freakin' step up to the plate, break off that big play, and hype up this team. On offense that was Allen. Bigelow is that guy too. Sometimes, if CJ Anderson gets the reps, he can be that guy too.
But on defense, that guy is clearly Avery Sebastian. When the defense was tired, demoralized, and getting worn down from being out on the field so long, the one dude who was out there giving his 100% play after play was Sebastian. Not to say that other guys on defense had quit, but Sebastian was playing like it was his last day to live. He was making big big big bone crushing hits. And I think it sort of fired up the team -- or at least the defense -- a bit.
If you think about it, the defense has really been lacking that one guy who can step up to the plate and just crush that home run. We haven't had a sack specialist. We haven't had a big hitter (until Sebastian started playing more). We didn't have that SWAG guy. Remember the old days when we had Zach Follett? Ryan Riddle? Or Desmond Bishop, Worrell Williams, and Anthony Felder delivering huge crushing hits all across the field? Can you remember having guys like that on defense over the past three years? Not really. I can't. I mean, Mychal Kendricks and Mike Mohammad were good players, but they didn't really have those highlight reel, wham bam type of plays that Sebastian has already shown to have. Kendricks and Mohammad were around the ball a lot making tackles. But Sebastian is around the ball a lot AND laying the lumber. (Steve Williams is a GREAT player too with Sunday potential, but he's not exactly a big hitter since he plays cornerback.)
(12) Watching that Game Sucked but I'm Kinda Over Feeling Mad and Shitty about This Season. I'm over it. If you're not, you should get over it. Stop being pissy. Stop fighting with each other. Just watch the games for fun. Watch to support the players. Watch to see if Cal can go a whole offensive drive without a penalty rather to see if we'll win the game. Sad to say it, but lowered expectations will help you survive the rest of the season if you dare watch the games. I'll still watch the rest of the games because I know that as soon as I don't we'll probably pull off some epic upset over UW, Oregon or Oregon State. And of course, since I'll be watching the games we probably won't.... but you never know. I'll still watch anyways and subject myself to more torture.