Without a doubt, the enduring positive memory from Cal's 35-28 loss to Ohio State last Saturday was the play of sophomore running back Brendan Bigelow. Bigelow had a coming out party of sorts in front of a national television audience, gaining 160 yards on just four carries and scoring two spectacular touchdowns.
Four carries. One hundred sixty yards. I didn't major in math at Cal, but I know that adds up to a 40 yards-per-carry average. That's pretty good. Bigelow's performance begs the inevitable question: should he have touched the ball more against Ohio State? Did Cal underutilize Bigelow in favor of Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson?
Former Cal Bear and current Green Bay Packer linebacker Desmond Bishop certainly thought that may have been the case. What do your CGB Marshawnthusiasts, Jahvidticians, Folletarians, and Hit Squadders think?
TwistNHook: Well, Bigelow certainly had an amazing game. No doubt about that. 4 attempts for 160 yards. Quite the average! A very explosive game for him, which is great. But can we expect a thrilling TD run on every run? I certainly hope so! The more realistic answer is that Bigelow is a great player who needs to be worked into the rotation more. We still have two really good backs in CJ Anderson and Isi Sofele, who were having pretty good games, too. Sofele was averaging over 4 yards a carry on his 21 carries. Perhaps we could have given a few more of the carries from Sofele to Bigelow, but we also could have easily given them to Anderson and I would have felt comfortable with that, too.
I can certainly see the argument for giving Bigelow more carries, but I don't see it as malpractice to have only given him 4.
(How about that? "TwistNHook" and "malpractice" appear in the same discussion. Imagine that. See more thoughts after the jump.)
unclesam22: I don't think that Bigelow was under-utilized since CJA and Isi were both playing really well. Had they been playing terrible, then yes, I'd say they should have fed Bigelow more, but I think that the current dynamic of Sofele's outside speed and power with CJA's between the tackles force and Bigelow as a home run threat works well and the tOSU game showed that. Obviously Isi and CJA wore down the Ohio State D to the point that their hard work on all of their runs made Bigelow's epic runs possible. I'd like to see him get a few more carries in future weeks, but Isi and CJA still need to be the dual feature backs and carry the load.
Vincent S: I don't know. My guess is Bigelow hasn't fully learned all the pass protection schemes and responsibilities yet. Thus, he can be a liability out there if he isn't given the ball whenever he steps on the field. In fact, this may in fact explain why he pretty much receives the ball whenever he's out there.
I note that in the post-game press conference, Bigelow mentioned his knee not being completely healed. I also wouldn't be surprised if Gould is holding him back just in case. 4-5 carries a game is not bad though.
(In conclusion): Given what I know, I think he's being managed just right. I would have liked to see him as a decoy on one of the game-deciding plays though (e.g. 3rd-and-2, before 4th-and-1). When you have a player that scares the defense shitless, you can get very creative. Maybe we'll pull that out against Stanford or something.
Ohio Bear: I can't say that Bigelow was "underutilized." Let's remember that CJA and Sofele were both playing well during the game. Bigelow was likely intended as yet another "change of pace" back for the Buckeyes' defense to have to deal with. If that was the game plan, it certainly worked perfectly, did it not? If Bigelow were to have gotten the ball more, who knows whether he would have been as effective? The fact is, the Cal running game was effective, as was the offense generally. There was no reason for Cal to depart from the game plan.
atomsareenough: I don't know if he should have touched the ball more. Maybe? CJ and Isi were doing a great job, he did a phenomenal job in his limited carries. I'm sure he earned himself more carries going forward. I trust Coach Gould to know who is ready to play. Hopefully Bigelow learns the blocking schemes well enough for it to not be a clear designed run for him every time he's in the game. Then I'd be happy to see him have more carries. I wouldn't have minded having him try to return a couple kickoffs that he ended up kneeling on.
Ohio Bear: You could tell from his body language on a couple of those kickoffs that Bigelow really want to bring it out. But he listened to his teammate telling him to take the touchback.
Berkelium97: Sofele and Anderson are solid, reliable, experienced seniors. They block well, have great vision, and perform well as receivers. I have no doubt that Bigelow will reach that level, but I am still more comfortable with those two taking a vast majority of the snaps.
How we used Bigelow on Saturday is exactly how I would like to see him used the rest of the season. Give him 5-7 carries and set up plays where we stretch the field and use his speed to our advantage. I thought it was significant that Tedford put the ball in his hands in a crucial third-down in the fourth quarter. If they're willing to put that kind of confidence in him, I'm sure we'll see plenty more of Biggie as the season progresses.
Hydro Tech: Fire Ron Gould.
Avinash: Hire Petrino! For all positions!
(What do you think, CGB readers? Did Bigelow touch the ball enough? How do you think Cal should utilize him for the rest of the season? Fire away in the comments.)