(1) This is getting depressing. I hate saying it because we're only 1/3rd of the way through the season, and we certainly can turn things around, but it's just hard watching the team lose, and make mistakes. Of course, losing to USC of all teams doesn't help either. Everyone else and their mother has beat USC in the past 8 years. Cal sort of started the upset party back in 2003 (with the triple OT upset) but it's like we've been booted out of our own party since then.
(2) At least it was (fairly) close. Aside from the last USC touchdown which iced the game, this game felt fairly close all the way through. In fact, for the most part it was only a 8 to 11 point game most of the time. All game I kept thinking "if we can only score one touchdown..." One touchdown would have energized the team. One touchdown might have rattled USC a little bit more. But holy crap, one touchdown has never been harder to get. I can't remember the last time we scored a meaningful touchdown against USC. I don't know. I'm not counting the years. It sucks. USC is always tough to run against and this game was no different. USC is tough to pass against, and this game was no different. In fact, this game was the same ol' tune from previous years. Cal's defense plays a tough game keeping the USC offense in check, but the Cal offense sputters and can't do anything to help out the Cal defense.
(3) Just a couple of plays, just a couple of breaks. I said it in previous post-game thoughts, but we're only a couple of plays and breaks from turning these losses into wins. I'm not trying to blindly sunshine pump. I'm serious. If Cal makes a field goal instead of missing it, the game gets tighter. If Maynard makes a few throws here and there (especially those receivers who are wide open on skinny posts, posts, and in the endzone) then we score a touchdown and this game is ... a game! Seriously, despite all the mistakes we're making here and there, we're still only a few plays from upsetting USC. But at the same time...
(4) Victory Never Seemed Further Away. Yeah, we're only a couple of plays away from scoring and perhaps upsetting USC, but then again we also have these moments where we get sacked left and right. Where I guess no receivers are open down the field (hard to see since they're off the screen). Where Maynard overthrows Allen on sure-completions. Where guys make mental errors regarding the formation, the play, their assignments. USC certainly didn't have their best game of the year. We had our opportunity to beat them. But we squandered it.
(5) Playcalls Coming in Late. I don't really have problems with Check-With-Mes. But what I do have problems with are the playcalls coming in slow or late. That's on ... whoever is calling plays (Arroyo is in the box but Michalczik is named as the offensive coordinator). I think at least five times we had plays come in late which caused delay of game penalties, or for us to call a timeout. Why can other teams seemingly run the Check-With-Me offenses without problems? Well, on the NFL level, the QB will be calling his own plays. On the college level, our QB isn't doing that. He has to check with the sideline. This lack of playcalling ability eats up seconds off of the playclock. Another reason for the slowness of the CWMs is the fact that the new playcall has to be signaled in, often taking another few seconds off of the playclock. For comparison, in the NFL, a QB will just yell out the play without having to read signals from the sideline (because he's calling the plays). Why does Oregon run CWMs so easily? Because they run the ball a lot meaning shorter signing, whereas Cal will often pass out of CWMs requiring longer signaling. Anyway, doing CWMs is fine, but the playcalls HAVE to come in quickly -- especially if the play contains pre-snap motion like Cal's plays often do.
(6) Reasons for Cal Losing...
(a) Guys Missing Blocks. Mental errors, missing assignments, and losing their positional battles. I can't remember who it was, but somebody in the first half of the game heard some choice words from Tedford on the sidelines when they came off the field. On the play just prior, there appeared to be a huge mental error in pass protection assignments as a USC DE came free off the edge to pressure Maynard.
(b) Guys Losing Their Positional Battle. It seemed like it happened everywhere along the OL. RG gave up a sack. RT was getting beat most of the game. LT gets beat outside on a speed rush. Safety peeks into the backfield on playaction and lets a receiver get behind him (who drops the ball saving us a touchdown).
(c) Receivers Not Getting Open? This is harder to see because the receivers are often off the screen, but it seemed like when USC wasn't outright beating our OL pass protection, Maynard was still getting coverage sacked. Guys weren't getting open down the field. Maynard has to hold on to the ball longer... and he gets sacked. I do have to give Maynard some credit for sticking it out in the pocket a few times. He did take a few big hits and would step up into the pocket (as he should) to help his OL out, but he'd still get sacked. Unfortunately, all that pressure was making him a bit nervous in the pocket, and (along with him vigorously stepping up into the pocket) he'd over-throw WRs down the field.
(7) Shotgun Snaps Still Low. Just stating the obvious.
(8) Frustration = Trying too Hard = Turnovers. I think a lot of our players (especially Maynard) were trying a bit too hard out there. I'm not saying the guys should be giving less than 100%. But that they're giving 110%, and they want to score and win so bad, that they can sometimes do things with the ball that perhaps they shouldn't. Maynard's INT along the sidelines, for example. I know he's trying to make a play. I know he wants to score and win. But that was such a tight throw to make that it probably shouldn't have been attempted. (Of course had it been completed I probably wouldn't be writing this!) Maynard did complete a across-the-grain pass on a rollout to either Harper/Treggs (can't remember) which is a huge QB-no-no. Yeah, it was complete, but I know Tedford was probably shaking his head after that play.
(9) Enough Negatives, Let's End on Positives. It's too depressing to talk about the bad stuff all the time, even though it's easy to do. So let's try and talk about some good stuff.
(a) Defense Played Fairly Well. For the most part, the Cal Defense kept the USC offense in check. Yeah, there were a few busted coverages, but prevented a ton of huge passes, we got some great run stops, and we even got two INTs. The defense probably would have done even better if it could have been energized by some Cal offensive touchdowns and longer drives, but... oh well. The Cal Defense is keeping games winnable, now it's just up to the Cal Offense to score.
(b) D'Amato Rebounds After First Miss. Yeah, I know we were all probably shaking our head and cursing Tedford when he sent D'Amato out there to attempt that first field goal. And after D'Amata missed we were all probably oh so close to throwing our remote controls at the TV in frustration at Tedford, but D'Amato bounced back by nailing the next three field goals he attempted. Good for him. This will give him some confidence.
(c) We weren't complete embarrassed out there. Like I said, it was decently close most of the game.
(d) We're not USC. Nuff said.
(10) Try to Keep some Faith? Okay, we're 1-3. Most of us probably though we'd be 2-2 at this point. We're only one game away from where we thought we would be (well, we should have won the Ohio State game if it weren't for that complete and utter bullshit holding call which negated our touchdown). We now enter a three game stretch where I think we can win every single game.
We play Arizona State at home. A completely winnable game. Our defense is playing fairly well. In front of a home crowd, hopefully our offense clicks and they can score points.
Next we play UCLA at home. They do seem to be a bit improved over last year, but I'm still not entirely sold on this team. Not saying we're going to steam roll them or that they completely suck, but again, another winnable game.
And then we're at Washington State. We're not great on the road. But holy hell, Colorado just beat WSU. If Colorado can beat WSU, so can we.
If we run these next three games, we're 4-3 with five games to play. Not completely DOOM right?