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Post-Arizona Game Thoughts: "All the Little Things"

Alright.  I know this was a tough loss but let's not kill each other.  Things were getting a little tense in the live-blogs regarding Longshore and Riley but let's be honest with ourselves here.  This was a solid team loss.  Longshore had his share of mistakes, but so did many other players. 

elbarto83 had a good question in the live blogs:

So who is to blame for the flat offense so far?

offensive coordinator? (there’s gotta be a reason why he can’t keep his job anywhere?)
defensive coordinator? (we can’t hold their 3rd string running back to less than 3 touchdowns?)
injuries? (guyton starting? best out by 3rd quarter? michael calvin suffering?)
LONGSHORE? (huge pick 6? overthrowing open receivers?… although his 2 tds were pretty brilliant)
receivers? (dropping SEVERAL passes? Boateng connecting with Longshore but making Riley look bad?)
… even Tedford? (for sticking with Longshore? bad game plan? not shooting the treesitters out himself?

Let's take a look at what went wrong on offense first of all.

(1) Offense Coordinator at fault? 

This is the first game this year where I truly truly disagreed with the way Cignetti was adapting to what the defense was giving him.  It appeared as if Cignetti wanted to establish the run early on - which is understandable considering Arizona got beat by teams who ran the ball on them.  But as the game progressed, you could clearly see that Arizona was dropping a safety into the strong side of the box (8 men in the box) to play the run. Arizona dropped the safety down to the strong side because Cal does have a large tendency to run strong side.

Cal countered by running plays weak-side.  The results were sub-par. 

I really would have liked to see more passing plays called up by Cignetti instead of those run plays.  Arizona was daring us to pass with 8 men in the box.  We took our shots down the field but I wanted to take more mid-range shots around the field.  As crazy as it might sound, I really would have preferred somewhere from a 66% to 75% pass play percentage for the playcalling.   It was fairly clear that our running game wasn't effective.

While Cal did average 4.8 yards a rush which is okay, if you take away Best's one long TD run, Cal averaged about 2 yards a run which is downright horrible. 

So I feel like Cignetti failed to adjust to Arizona's gameplan.  Arizona was playing to stop the run and daring us to pass.  I feel we should have passed more and started passing more earlier on.

(2) Defensive Coordinator at fault for not being able to hold Arizona's 3rd string RB under 100 yards and letting him get 3 TDs?

Well, I don't think the problem this game was Gregory so much as it was our players.  We missed tackles left and right.  We'd hit the Arizona RB, and he'd squeeze out 3 to 4 more yards after the initial contact, and getting stopped.  Defensively, we missed tackles left and right. 

The fact that the person doing the gashing of us was Arizona's 3rd RB is meaningless.  It doesn't matter that he was their 3rd RB.  The holes that he found were from great Arizona run blocking and our defensive players not getting to the holes fast enough.  Today wasn't about some crappy 3rd string RB killing us.  Today was about defensive players not making tackles and filling gaps (along with some good Arizona run blocking).

(3) Injuries?  (guyton starting? best out by 3rd quarter? michael calvin suffering?)

Sure, not having Rulon probably hurt.  Guyton is a freshman.  Not having Best hurts.  Sure, not having Calvin hurts.  These are all factors but I think they aren't as big of factors for today's loss than many other reasons (such as offensive playcalling, and defensive player performance). 

(4) LONGSHORE? (huge pick 6? overthrowing open receivers?… although his 2 tds were pretty brilliant)

Somebody asked me in the live-blog what I would give Longshore for his first half performance.  I said a "B" was probably a fair grade.

Unfortunately, things went south after Longshore's pick-6.

About the pick-6.  Here's what happened.  Arizona was playing run with 8 men in the box.  Longshore changed the play to a pass play (short comebacks).  The defender was playing the WR tight, jammed the WR, and the WR was not open.  At that moment, Longshore should have thrown the ball nice and high - like 50 ft high - and into the stands (thrown the ball away).  Instead, Longshore failed to check his other options, and then threw an extremely late pass which was pick-6ed.  This was a horrible decision. 

After that, Longshore didn't quite appear the same.  He did appear to be second guessing himself and like he had lost some confidence. 

Arizona wasn't helping things.  They immediately began blitzing Longshore's backside (Cal offense's left side) to pressure him and get in his brain.  Longshore threw two good passes after his INT.  The sideline completion to Morrah and the almost-TD pass to the WR in the endzone.  But after that he appeared mentally shaken, and his passes were slightly off. 

I think we can all agree that Longshore did alright up until the pick-6.  After that though, he just wasn't the same. 

So sure, Longshore had a hand in today's loss but he was only a contributing factor and not the sole factor.

(5) receivers? (dropping SEVERAL passes? Boateng connecting with Longshore but making Riley look bad?)

Yes, the WRs had a pretty bad day.  Drops left and right like the ball was on fire or something.  A few of the passes to the WRs (from both Longshore and Riley) were off-target.  Nevertheless, the WRs were able to get two hands on the ball but still dropped them.  If the WRs can get two hands on the ball, they HAVE to catch those balls. 

Today, the WRs weren't catching the balls regardless of how well or slightly off-target they were thrown.

(6) … even Tedford? for sticking with Longshore? bad game plan? not shooting the treesitters out himself?

Well, any loss is Tedford's fault to an extent for not getting the team prepared - but then of course Tedford can only do so much.  Then it's up to the players to actually perform on the field. 

But was Tedford at fault for sticking with Longshore so long?  No.  I don't think so.  Longshore was fine up until the pick-6.  Longshore got one last series to prove he could shake it off but his results were average.  He did have a few good throws, but he also had some off-target easy throws. 

So I think Tedford was fair on his timing to pull Longshore. 

Now the next question.  Who starts against UCLA? 

I think Tedford, just like last week, sees who shows they have a better grasp of the UCLA gameplan and can execute the gameplan better.  Longshore showed that tonight, he could be a serviceable QB, but also that he's still capable of making that one horrible play.  Riley, to be fair to him, did come into the game cold, but he also didn't look great.  Riley threw a late and high pass to Morrah which led to an INT.  Riley threw a pass beyond the LOS.  Riley wasn't checking down to his short options when the deep WRs were covered.  On the positive side, just like Longshore, he did have some nice throws too.  Riley had good footwork to help his throwing motion. 

Overall, I'd give Longshore a "C-".  I arrive at Longshore's grade by giving him a "B" for the first half, and a "D" for the second half.   Riley would get a "C."

(7) Final Thoughts

The title of this post is "All the Little Things." 

The announcers said it all night long, and they were right.  Cal made lots of little errors, and a few big ones, and the game slipped away.

To wit: (i) 6 penalties for 49 yards; (ii) 2 INTs; (iii) dropped balls by the receivers; (iv) poor run blocking; (v) missed tackles; (vi) blown coverages; (vii) slightly off-target passes by both QBs leading to tougher catches and incompletion; (viii) non-existent pass rush on Tuitama; (ix) Conte dropping a gift INT; (x) missed FG.

All these little things added up. 

This was truly a very great example of a team loss. 

Offensively, we needed to pass more early on when Arizona was stacking the box.  Both QBs needed to make better throws.  All the receivers needed to make catches.  The OL's run blocking was pretty poor. 

Defensively, we needed a much better pass rush from our DL and what LBs were also rushing Tuitama.  The defensive players needed to do a better job making tackles.  Defensive players weren't filling gaps at the point of attack and allowed cutback lanes to form.  I would have liked Gregory to stick with more zone coverages (he did use mostly zone coverage, but when he didn't Arizona took advantage of our man coverage). 

So many things went wrong in this game.  A true "team loss" in my opinion.

I know this was a tough loss for many of us, but let's stay cool and not kill each other on the blogs or message boards.  We were beating ourselves today out there (UA played a good game too but we were hardly helping ourselves). 

Let's not give up on the season. 

Most of us expected an 8 or 9 win season.  We're 4-2 right now.  We still have a very good chance at meeting "par" for the 2008 season. 

Don't give up on the 2008 Bears.  Stay positive.  Let's not kill each other.

Go Bears!