A Golden Spotlight on Cal vs. Washington

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Week by week, it gets more fun to re-watch the game film. The glass half-empty says that we lack talent and don't have the right staff to make the best of what we have. The glass half-full says that this is a process. Coach Dykes has to enact a widespread systems and cultural change. Let's not delude ourselves; the recent graduation numbers state without question that something was more than rotten in the State of California. If learning to win the right way means taking a hit in the short term, I think that's a deal we'd all be willing to make.

The cliched summary of most film breakdowns can be summarized as "it's not the scheme, it was just bad execution."

For your viewing amusement, here's one that's different.

UW is in 11 personnel with Sankey at tailback and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins lined up as a slot receiver. Cal is in a 4-3, but makes an unusual adjustment to put a DE, Campo(#43) outside in slot coverage. The rest of the Dline are Lopa(#75), Coleman(#91) and Moala(#55). It's essentially a 3-4 front.

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At the snap, one of the linebackers, Nickerson(#47) blitzes, while Fortt shifts over in coverage to take Sankey out of the backfield. UW's receivers at the bottom of the screen run a zone-busting route combination; the inside receiver runs a corner route to draw first Campo and then Cal's outside DB while the outside receiver cuts behind the inside receiver in a the gap between zones.

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Campo does exactly what he's supposed to do. He covers the inside receiver and then passes him off to the DB. He quickly returns to his zone, but it's not in time to stop an easy pitch and catch reception to the outside receiver (Mickens).  Campo squares up on Mickens...

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...and doesn't have a chance in the world to tackle the speedy receiver. Cam Walker has to come over from his safety spot to make the stop. Nickerson(#47) does a great job of backside pursuit, but it's still first and goal.

Sometimes, the defense has a good play called and the offense just has a better one. For instance, the long TD from Price to Mickens over Willis wasn't necessarily bad defense; Cal had a 6 man blitz called with robber coverage by Willis. He was suppose to jump underneath routes because the pass rush would presumably force a hot read check down. Instead, the blitz doesn't get there and Price punished the defense over the top.

In this play, however, the scheme called for a blitz by our slowest linebacker while isolating our slowest DE in zone coverage against two wide receivers. I find myself unable to comprehend how this play design makes any sense.

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But lest you think that Cal always loses the schematic chess match, here's another look where Cal comes out with 3 DL on the line and a DE in slot coverage. Agu #35 is on the line at end with Coleman(#91) and Moala(#55) while Kragen(#13) is in coverage on their slot receiver.

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But unlike last time, Kragen(#13) blitzes instead of dropping into coverage. Another linebacker, Fortt(#11) also blitzes while Nickerson (#47) steps up to cover the tailback.

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Because he was lined up over the slot receiver, Kragen gets a free rush off the edge. Fortt's blitz confuses the UW blocking schemes and frees up Moala to rush inside.

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Pressure from Kragen and Moala force Price out of the pocket. Jefferson(#7), Fortt(#11), and Nickerson(#47) keep contain while Willis(#18) has their WR blanketed. Price has to throw it away. It's a big stop to create a third and long situation.

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Now Cal comes out in an unusual look; all linebackers and no defensive linemen. To add to the confusion, Cal's pass rushers all remain standing instead of taking a three point stance. UW is in 11 personnel, one TE and one tailback.

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At the snap, Jefferson peels off into coverage. The remaining five linebackers rush with Ragin(#4) charging inside while Barton (#8) loops around to the outside.

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UW's Oline is confused and Barton(#8) is unblocked. He gets a free run at the QB...

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...which forces Price to throw early. It's a great diving reception in front of Kam Jackson(#3), but well short of the first down. Nice job by both the Cal coaches and players to come up with a critical 3rd down stop early in the game. Yes, we keep giving up chunks of yards and points. But you can see the coaches still trying different things to compensate. For all the talk about "only knowing a 4-3," we've been able to mix in some 3-4, 2-5, and other looks to use what few pieces we have left in the cupboard. Although the stats are still ugly, there are signs that the defense is slowly improving.

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Now Cal goes on offense. They have 4 WR and 1 TB in a standard 2x2 formation. The back is slightly offset and behind the QB. UW looks to be in a dime Cover-2 defense with two extra defensive backs and two deep safeties.

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At the snap, Borrayo(#66) pulls towards the bottom. He obliterates UW's edge defender. Okafor forces their DE to take a long route to the outside. Meanwhile, Rigsbee(#63), Crosthwaite(#71) and Moore(#64) form a wall up the middle. Although oddly timed, the decision to burn Borrayo's redshirt appears to be a good one. He stood out in his first start as one of Cal's best and most consistent linemen in both run and pass blocking. Unfortunately, it's the right side of the line that still needs shoring up. Perhaps getting Cochran back and shifting Tags from left to right will help.

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Muhammad(#29) darts through the hole. He puts his foot in the ground and cuts outside to take advantage of Powe's(#10) block from inside receiver on their slot defender.

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A UW safety gets a shot at Muhammad...but he breaks the tackle.

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UW's DB comes off of Treggs' block to tackle Muhammad short of the sticks. But Muhammad won't go down...

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...and drags the UW defender until it's a 16 yard gain. This was a great individual effort from a young back.

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Cal is facing its personal kryptonite: the Red Zone. We've got 4 WR and 1 TB, but have a solo WR at the top (Harper, #6), while the remaining three are stacked tight at the bottom of the screen.

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At the snap, it looks like a power run to the left. The whole line surges forward and to the left while Goff fakes the handoff.

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Goff holds on to the ball. It's a pass...but Goff has nowhere to go. Harper is tightly covered with a corner on top and a safety underneath. Meanwhile, UW's DE was unblocked and is in Goff's face.

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Coolly, Goff stands his ground and pump fakes. This makes their DE jump, but also pulls the safety out of position...

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...realizing that Goff still has the ball, the UW DE rushes forward to tackle him. But it's too late, the ball is in the air...

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...and Harper leaps up to snag it in front of the Husky corner. Their safety is completely out of position because he bit on Goff's pump fake. That's some serious poise for a true frosh. Touchdown Bears!

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To mentally process this season, you need to make a few leaps of faith. For starters, you need to assume that the coaching staff knows what they're doing. They want to win, but want to do it the right way. They're re-establishing an emphasis on the _student_ aspect of the student-athlete. In some ways, this may explain why Player X always seems to get snap while Player Y appears to be the superior athlete. Perhaps Player X is the model student and the coaching staff is trying to make a point to the rest of the team. Throw "win now" out the window. We've had an example of immediate success after a coaching turnover (see Tedford, Jeff) and now we find ourselves on the brink of academic probation.

Is it set in stone that we have the right coaches to oversee this rebuild? Sadly no. They haven't shown us anything that would warrant confidence. But they also haven't had the time to demonstrate what they can or cannot do. Maybe the recent widespread changes means that we grossly failed on our personnel evaluations. Or maybe it shows that this is a coaching staff willing to adapt as needed.

Maybe sticking with Goff is stubborn and smacks of favoritism. Or perhaps it's courageous to stick to your guns because you know that a quarterback yo-yo will prevent a young player from developing.

You can't have it both ways, Cal fans. Either we can take pride in being able to field a competitive team that graduates its players and accept that this will be a slower process...or we can sell out on the altar of false victories.

I find it more pleasant to err on the side of hope...even if this raises questions about my sanity.

And who knows? Maybe everything turns around this week when we upset the Wildcats. Go Bears!

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