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Post-Oregon State Thoughts

Well, here are some more extensive thoughts.  They are still short and I apologize, but finals are closing in on me and time is becoming less abundant. 

(1) Defense.  Let's get the non-bad out of the way.  Defense played alright but seemed to be getting a bit gassed towards the end of the game because they were on the field so long.  Oregon State had the ball for 34 minutes and change. 

There were a few problems locating Rodgers in the backfield because the dude is so small.  Even though Rodgers broke 100 yards and had a 5.3 yard average, the defense kept the game winnable. I don't think this was the defense's best performance, but nor was it the worst. 

I think Gregory wanted to shut down the run and force Moevao to beat us, but that gameplan wasn't exactly completed since Cal couldn't entirely shut down Rodgers.  That's too bad, because Moevao looked horrible today.  He threw about 3 INTs today, 2 of which were dropped by our defenders.  If we had only shut down Rodgers and forced Moevao to win the game then we might have won.

(2) Offense.  I guess I'll put it all together. 

Receivers - there were some drops although mostly due to big hits, nevertheless those were catchable balls that were dropped.  There were also probably some wrong routes thrown in there too.  It's clear that the coaches wanted to get Tucker involved on offense early on.  They clearly targeted Tucker deep on a few early plays but couldn't connect (remember the looonnnnggg pass that was dropped by Tucker?). 

OL run blocking - not so great.  Pretty inconsistent.  Sort of hit and miss.  Best had a 7.7 yard average today which is BEAST MODE-ish but once you take away Best's one big run of 65 yards, he only had a 3.5 yard average which is sub-par for college football and a player of his caliber.  But I place his poor rush average on the shoulders of the OL because they're the ones that are initially responsible on run plays for making a hole.

OL pass blocking - not so great.  Riley was pressured a lot.  Sacks were given up - and these were non coverage sacks meaning guys were just getting to Riley quickly.  Riley does do his part.  He does step up into the pocket which helps... but he also has to get the ball out quickly which is something he's not great at. 

QB play - eh.  Riley was 11/25 today for a 4.7 yard per attempt average.  His YPA is horrible.  His completion percentage is bad.  But let's think... there were a few drops.  There were a few balls just inches off the hands of WRs.  So I think his completion percentage is making him look a little worse than he performed today, but don't mistake that statement as me saying Riley did well today.  Riley certainly wasn't great today.  His mobility is fairly useless when he doesn't scramble for yardage, or doesn't complete passes on the scramble.  I mean, the whole point for putting Riley in the game was so his mobility can bring something more to the offense.  Today though, Riley's mobility didn't really bring anything to the offense (I think he only scrambled for a gain once).  I dare to say that Longshore would have been a better option today if Riley wasn't going to be productive off the scrambles because Longshore at least gets the ball out prior to the rush getting to him (for better or worse).  Getting the ball out quickly is one area which Riley could improve and would help avoid sacks. 

(3) Special Teams

Anger seemed to be off today which resulted in a punt return TD.  Our kickoff coverage wasn't great.  And the kickoff return blocking wasn't good (aside from Best's long kickoff return). 

The fake punt was a good idea though.  I think we all knew that we were going to go for it.  It's a shame Worrell Williams bobbled the snap though.  The play looked like we would have gotten the first down.  On TV Tedford went right over to Sundberg after that play so perhaps Sundberg erred on that play instead of Williams.  Not really sure though...

Fire Alamar?  THA1 made special teams look pretty good for the past few years - that's for sure.  But now that he's gone, I think our mediocre special teams has been exposed again.  Maybe it is time for him to go.  I don't know.  I've stayed out of this debate because I haven't done extensive studying of special teams philosophy or Xs and Os.  I'm definitely not so quick on the trigger to fire coaches as some of us ... but perhaps he needs to go.  On the other hand, if he was so bad, then why has Tedford kept him on staff?  Perhaps we're all wrong about Alamar?  Perhaps he's a decent coach but he's just sort of had a long bad run of under-performing units despite his best efforts? 

(4) The future.

So Riley is starting against Furd.  Good idea or bad?

Hell, I don't know.  Frankly, Riley has been uninspiring for a while.  Many Riley supporters claimed it was due to Riley/Longshore splitting snaps but Riley got 100% of the snaps for the Oregon State game practices. 

Again, I suppose the whole "Riley's mobility" argument can come into play as to why Riley should start.  But as I said earlier, his mobility hasn't exactly been helpful lately. 

Should Longshore start because he's a senior?  No.  The best players should play and playing time shouldn't be determined by seniority.  Since Riley is starting, I guess Tedford feels that Riley gives Cal the best chance to win.  That or...

Perhaps Tedford is now playing for the future.  Cal's Rose Bowl chances are officially done.  Our Holiday Bowl hopes are there, but we need some definite luck to get there.  We're looking at the Sun at best I think (realistically speaking). So perhaps Tedford is now playing for the future and trying to get Riley more PT. 

I really do think it's peculiar how Tedford named the starter so early - merely hours after the game.  Perhaps Tedford wasn't wholly disappointed with Riley's performance today.  I mean, Riley wasn't great.  But considering the circumstances (drops, tons of QB pressure), Riley can only do so much.  Perhaps Tedford thought Riley did "okay" with what opportunities he had and that Riley didn't do completely horrible enough to re-open the QB competition. 

On second thought, I guess Longshore would get eaten up even worse than Riley with our crappy OL.  I mean, Longshore does get the ball out on time.  That is perhaps his best trait.  But the OL this year is nothing compared to the 2006 and 2007 OL.  So Longshore would have even less time this year to throw than he did in the past.  Perhaps Tedford thinks that that amount of time isn't enough for Longshore, and that despite Longshore's ability to get the ball out quickly that he still wouldn't have enough time. 

Final Thoughts.

Well, we're 6-4.  Like I've said many times before, most of us thought we were going to have an 8 or 9 win season.  The 9 win season is out the window.  We can still pull and 8 win season which would be a decent finish for this team considering how this team has been decimated at its base (the OL) and how bad the offense has become.

Speaking of the offense, it really seems to have gotten worse.  I don't think it's entirely or wholly because of the QB swapping.  There was a lot of QB swapping prior to season and it didn't seem to affect Riley in the Michigan State game.  So why is the offense regressing? 

Well, lack of WR experience for one, but also Injuries... Injuries... injuries.  Guarnero out.  Tepper out.  Teofilo out.  Even Malele has been a bit banged up.  Thank god Mack came back this year.  Imagine how bad our OL would have been without him there.

What we've seen from this offense thus far (post-injuries) is a horrible offense.  It's bad.  It's our worst offense in the Tedford era.  This offense might have been "okay" had we not sustained so many OL injuries.  But now, many injuries later, it's just plain bad.

It's so bad, I'm doubting our chances against the Furd.  I hate to say it because I like to be optimistic, but the way the Furd played against USC tonight, and how bad our OL has been lately... we may not get The Axe back this year. 

And oh what a game Big Game will be.  Cal will need the win to guarantee bowl eligibility (we're already bowl eligible but not guaranteed a spot).  Furd needs the win to become bowl eligible.  This Big Game will mean a lot.  It's sort of scary how much it'll mean.  Praise be to Tedford that the game is at home.

And if Cal loses Big Game... fans will undoubtedly question Tedford's abilities.  The "fire Tedford" folks will come out of the woodwork.  People will say we shouldn't keep him around unless we want to be mid-level Pac-10 team.  People will say that keeping Tedford around will be accepting less than perfection.  Those people will spout many reasons why Tedford should go. 

But will they remember the circumstances of this year and last year?  Will they remember that prior to Longshore's injury last year this team was a BCS Bowl team?  Will they remember that this year we had significant injuries at 3/5ths of the OL which essentially derailed the season?

These people who will call for Tedford's firing want Cal to be as dominant as USC.  They are not alone.  We all want to be as dominant as USC (without the cheating of course).  But the difference between those fans calling for Tedford's head and those who won't is the fact that the latter will understand the circumstances of the situation.  Cal cannot be as dominant as USC until Cal is as stacked with talent as USCInjuries affect Cal more than USC because Cal doesn't have the depth to replace our injured starters.  Cal doesn't have a three-deep filled with blue chip, 5 star, All-Americans like USC.  

Tedford will get us to a BCS bowl (even though he essentially did in 2004), but it takes time, patience, better facilities, better recruits, and a supportive and understanding fanbase who will cut him some slack when a season gets derailed by injuries instead of firing him.