Thearon W. Henderson
Cal's offense can't keep up with the Ducks.
(1) For About a Quarter and a Half... I was actually fairly pleased with how the game was going. Sure, I still wasn't sure that we were going to pull it out, but the game wasn't blown open and Cal only trailed by 7 points.
(2) Pick Your Poison. Oregon's offense can be tough to defend. You sell out to stop X, and they'll do Y. Basically, Cal sold out to stop the run and actually did a good job stopping it. Barner only had 3.3 yards per rush and a longest rush of 10 yards. That is some pretty good rush defense right there. But, unfortunately, selling out to stop the run can also leave you a little more vulnerable down the field. Oregon tried to hit down the field on occasion and didn't connect, but they kept trying and eventually they began to connect. By the end of the game, Cal had given up nearly 400 yards in the air. No bueno. But what can you do when the offense can't score and is turning the ball over. The defense is bound to give up yardage and points if you give Oregon extra chances.
(3) Once Again, Turnovers Turn the Game. It's the third quarter, Cal trails 17-24. Bridgford throws an interception and the Ducks score on a shot play on the very next play. From there on out, it was all downhill. It seems like Cal was barely hanging in the game until that interception, at which time Cal just completely lost control of the game. The next Cal drives: turnover on downs, 3 and out, interception, 3 and out, and then fumble.
If you just don't turn the ball over, and score a touchdown once, and perhaps a field goal another time, this is still a close game. Nope.
It was sort of a running joke between me and my friends when our mandatory two fumbles and an interception would occur during the game. We went half a game without seeing a turnover, but then we hit our quota in the second half.
(4) While Oregon May Have Won, Cal Showed that Oregon is a Beatable Team. If you look at the final score, Cal clearly got crushed. However if you look past the box score, you see a pretty good Cal defense which -- ONCE AGAIN -- did a fairly good job containing Oregon's offense... until it got let down by the offense. If Cal actually had an offense this year, I think this is a game where Cal really gives Oregon a run for its money. Oregon didn't look spectacularly special this game. Am I crazy for saying that despite them scoring 59 points? I mean, think about it. Cal goes three-and-out five times this game. Cal's offense turns the ball over three times this game. Kudos to Oregon for playing good defense blah blah blah whatever. But that's eight score-less drives. If Cal avoids turnovers, and can score a touchdown on half of those drives, that's an additional 28 points. Then, this game is looking more like an upset.
I came into this game very impressed by Oregon and its team. I left this game actually ... UNIMPRESSED ... by their performance today. It was just another "one team beats down on another because the weaker team's offense sucks." It's not like this was a Cal team with a top-10 offense which got shut down and Oregon scored 59 points. I guess my point here was that this game ended up so lopsided not because Oregon's offense was doing so great this game, but because Cal's offense was so bad. If Cal had an offense this year this would have been a game.
(5) Bridgford. The guy seems to have better pocket presence and awareness than Maynard. He doesn't seem to get so rattled and panicked in the pocket like Maynard would. He reads the field -- that was very evident. He helps out the offensive line by stepping up into the pocket. He just missed a few throws here and there. Maybe he was nervous, maybe he wasn't throwing quite as confidently as he could be. I don't know. He seemed to do just "okay" out there.
I think he really does change the dynamic of the offense a bit though. The shotgun zone reads become less effective since Bridgford isn't a run threat. So instead, Cal runs the ball with the QB under center. And actually, that seemed to be working quite well. Cal ran the ball for an average of 5.9 yards per rush attempt. That is REALLY good!
If the game hadn't gotten out of hand in the second quarter, and perhaps Cal didn't three-and-out itself a few times in the first half, that kind of run game would be something to rely on to win the game. In fact, did you notice Cal run the same outside zone rushing play three times in a row in the south endzone for a rushing touchdown? Cal just needed a better passing attack to go with the offense.
Also, interesting playcalling thing to note. Cal's first passing touchdown was on a corner route from a slot WR. The next time Cal was in the red zone Arroyo called the same play. (Notice a theme here? Just keep running those plays that work.) Cal was facing a third and goal from the Oregon 5 yard line. Unfortunately, there was a false start on that play but it looked like the slot WR would have gotten open again for the very same throw and perhaps a touchdown. That's a pretty common goal line receiver wrote combination there: slot WR runs a corner route, and the outside WR to the same side runs a slant underneath. This gives the QB two good options to throw to.
Overall, I'm pretty interested to see Bridgford again next week. I hope he rebounds and has a good performance to perhaps boost him into next season.
(6) Obnoxious Oregon Fans in Front of Me. Man, there was some obnoxious Oregon fans in front of me this game. One in particular would celebrate every touchdown like they never saw one before. The pitiful creature would raise his arms, stick his index fingers in the air, and swivel around back and forth looking at all the Cal fans around him and trying to make eye contact with us like "did you see that? I'm so awesome because I'm here cheering on my team amongst a bunch of opposing fans! I'm so cool." My friends and I were all just rolling our eyes. It's like the dude was trying to rub it in, but he was too much of a wuss to actually say anything or do anything more than stand up, put his index fingers in the air, and swivel around back and forth in silence.
Maybe I'm different, but when I travel to an away game I don't act like a moron. I could care less that there are fans from the opposing team around me and that they're there witnessing my team beat their team. On the other hand, this guy seemed to think it was the most novel and cool thing in the world. Definitely seemed pretty amateur status.
(7) On the Other Hand... It was nice that Oregon's fan base no longer boos when players of the opposing team gets injured because that was idiotic and classless. I'm glad someone finally told them that... you know... some players (whether they be on Cal's team or another team) actually DO get GENUINELY injured, and that booing the player for being injured under the automatic assumption that he's faking it is pretty low. So, I have to commend Oregon's fan base for taking a step in the right direction to becoming a classier fan base. Good job. (Although, one of my friends also noted that perhaps they weren't booing because the game wasn't in doubt too much whereas in 2010 it was and Oregon fans were practically shitting in their pants. This is a good point.)
(8) Glad It's Over (sort of). One more game. It's strange how we spend 9 months of a year looking forward to football season, and in a matter of a few weeks when things go south, some of us can't wait until it's over and are dying for basketball season to start. I for one am going to miss the new Memorial Stadium. I think it looks great at night time when viewing it from the east side of the stadium. I'm thankful we finally have a newer stadium after like six years of delays. Even despite the team not being good, I sort of wish there was another home game so I had an excuse to go see the stadium again.
Anyway, one more game. Let's try to win it. I think Oregon State is a very beatable team. Perhaps the most beatable team in the top 20. Did you know the biggest margin of victory they've won by is 18 points? And excluding that game they've only won by 3, 7, 3, 13, 14, and 10 points? If Cal's offense can just show up for one game and the defense does its job like it has been doing most of the year, this could be a win. One can hope. But we'd still have to worry about foregoing the usual 3 turnovers a game... Hmm...