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Cal @ Washington State Open Thread - 1st Quarter

Welcome to the first of 4 open threads for today's game at Washington State.  I hope you've all found some place to watch the game, but if you haven't, we'll be liveblogging the game in the comments section, so relax and hang out.

****** Programming Note ********

If you can't see the game, you might be able to see it webcast.  Try this:

Scroll down to find: NCAA Football – Washington State vs Cal 7:30PM EST 9/6

Currently it’s showing some ads and a soccer game. Hopefully by 3:30 we’ll see some Cal ownage.


Before we get to the game, though, I want to empty the notebook from the Michigan State game.  If you've been around this site awhile, you know that I'm a stats guy almost to a fault.  So when I got home from the game and saw that Michigan State had amassed 321 passing yards, I was definitely both disappointed and intrigued.  Sure, we gave up some big plays, but I didn't remember our secondary being that porous.  With the mindset of 'what gives?', I went to review the play-by-play to see what I could find.

Unlike HydroTech or CBKWit, I'm not looking at any game film when I'm writing these things.  They're better at that sort of analysis anyway.  I'm looking for effectiveness; namely, when Brian Hoyer dropped back to pass, how effective was Michigan State's offense?  This means that I will be counting plays like pass interference, sacks, interceptions, and QB scrambles.  I won't differentiate between Darian Hagan almost intercepting the ball and a wide-open MSU receiver simply dropping a pass; I'm concerned with results here -- did our pass defense get the job done, or do those 321 passing yards suggest we have reason to worry up in the Palouse today?

So, here's a drive-by-drive analysis of Michigan State's passing attack vs. our defense:

1st Quarter

Drive 1 : 10 plays, 18 yards, 3 1st downs (2 passing, 1 offsides penalty), punt.
2/6 passing for 7 yards.

In essence, you could call this first Spartan drive a microcosm of their offensive effort on the day.  They were minimally successful running the ball, and when forced to go to the pass, they were only sporadically successful; big plays did happen, but not often enough, and mistakes ultimately doomed MSU to failure.

Hoyer starts out passing well, hitting 2 of his first 3 passes for 11 yards each and a couple first downs.  But good coverage on 1st and 25 causes offensive pass interference, putting MSU into a 1st and 40 situation, and passes on 2nd and 3rd and 30 both fall incomplete.

Drive 2 : 3 plays, -4 yards, 0 1st downs, punt.
0/2 passing for 0 yards.

Here the pass defense holds, as passes on 2nd and 3rd and long both fall incomplete.  The ensuing punt is blocked and returned for a touchdown.

Drive 3 : 5 plays, 18 yards, 1 first down (passing), punt.
Drive 4 : 3 plays, 7 yards, 0 1st downs, punt.
2/3 passing for 15 yards.

The third drive starts out well, as Hoyer hits a 12 yard pass for a first down, but then it's run-run-pass-punt.  Drive 4 is more of the same, as Hoyer can't convert on third and long.

1st Quarter Totals : 4/11 passing, 22 yards, 3 passing 1st downs.

2nd Quarter

Drive 1 : 9 plays, 40 yards, 3 1st downs (1 rushing, 1 passing, 1 face mask penalty), missed field goal.
2/4 passing for 31 yards.

Like their first drive of the game, this one starts out well, with the first two passes being completed for 9 and 22 yards, but once MSU picks up 1st and Goal, a couple incomplete passes kill the drive, and the Spartans settle for a field goal attempt, which they miss.

Drive 2 : 3 plays, -8 yards, 0 1st downs, punt.
0/3 passing for -8 yards.

Hoyer begins the drive by running backwards and fumbling.  He recovers, but throws two more interceptions.  The epitome of ineffectiveness.

Drive 3 : 7 plays, 69 yards, 4 1st downs (3 passing, 1 pass interference), interception.
4/7 passing for 55 yards and an interception.

With time running out in the half, MSU goes almost exclusively to the air, and they have quite a bit of success.  (Note, I counted the pass interference as a 15-yard complete pass.)  Unfortunately for the Spartans, all those yards are for naught as the defense eventually gets to Hoyer, forcing him to throw up a dying quail that Syd'Quan Thompson easily picks off.

2nd Quarter Totals : 6/14 passing, 78 yards, 5 passing 1st downs, 1 interception.

1st Half Totals : 10/25 passing, 100 yards, 8 passing 1st downs, 1 interception.

Really not a very impressive 1st half through the air.  Almost all of Michigan State's 1st downs came via the pass, but the completion percentage was pretty terrible, which ended up killing most of the Spartans' drives.  The interception, some dumb penalties, and a missed field goal helps the defense pitch a shutout in the first half.

3rd Quarter

Drive 1 : 4 plays, 12 yards, 1 1st down (rushing), touchdown.
0/0 passing.

A blocked punt gives Michigan State a short field, and the Spartans simply give it to Javon Ringer, who needs 4 plays to punch it in.

Drive 2 : 5 plays, 21 yards, 1 1st down (pass interference), punt.
2/3 passing for 17 yards.

Again, these passing numbers include a 7-yard pass interference call against the Bears.  Another drive stalls due to an incomplete pass on 1st down and a pass short of the 1st on 3rd down.

3rd Quarter Totals : 2/3 passing, 17 yards, 1 passing 1st down.

4th Quarter

Drive 1 : 14 plays, 97 yards, 4 1st downs (3 passing, 1 roughing the punter penalty), touchdown.
4/8 passing for 67 yards.

Michigan state finally puts together a long touchdown drive, though they can't take all the credit; this drive had already stalled (due to a couple of incomplete passes) when a stupid roughing the punter penalty gave it new life.  The Bears gave up complete passes of 19, 24, 11, and 13 yards, yet they still should have stopped this drive at their own 39 yard line.

Drive 2 : 5 plays, 59 yards, 1 1st down (passing), field goal.
1/3 passing for 52 yards.

This was the drive with the simultaneous catch, accounting for the lion's share of the yardage.  Of course, once in field goal range, MSU's passing game fails again, with a couple of incomplete passes forcing a field goal try.

Drive 3 : 8 plays, 64 yards, 2 1st downs (2 passing), touchdown.
4/8 passing for 64 yards and a touchdown.

With their backs against the wall (down by 14 with less than 5 minutes to play), MSU didn't even bother to run the ball.  Though they still only completed 50% of their passes, this was the first and only long, sustained scoring drive that the Spartans would put together.  Passes complete for 14, 5, 16, and finally 29 yards, this was their best performance of the day, and the Cal pass defense's worst.  More drives like this and Michigan State would have been trouble.

Drive 4 : 5 plays, 21 yards, 1 1st down (passing), turnover on downs.
1/5 passing for 21 yards.

Of course, the results of MSU's next hurry-up drive aren't as good, as Hoyer throws 4 straight incompletions from midfield to ice the game.  Much, much better defense this time.

4th Quarter Totals : 10/24 passing, 211 yards, 7 passing 1st downs, 1 touchdown.

2nd Half Totals : 12/27 passing, 228 yards, 8 passing 1st downs, 1 touchdown.

Game Totals : 22/52 passing, 328 yards, 16 passing 1st downs, 1 touchdown, 1 interception.

Not great numbers overall.  A lot of yards, but over a lot of attempts, and a completion percentage well below 50%, which led to a lot of stalled drives.  With nothing doing on the ground, MSU went to the pass almost exclusively when they needed a 1st (they ran just once of 3rd or 4th down), and if you're completing less than half of your passes, that's not a recipie for success.

Statistically, Cal's pass defense gave up a bunch of yards, but they didn't give up a lot of points.  Whatever you want to say about the yardage, or the number of long completions they gave up (15 of 20 complete passes went for 10 yards or more), they got the job done, and in the end, that's what matter.


Anyway, that's something to take a look at as the Bears try to contain WSU's Brandon Gibson.  Consider this your 1st Quarter Open Thread.

Go Bears!!!!!  Beat the Cougs!!!!