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Inside the Pac-10: A Day Without Defense + Who's Going Bowling?

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Ponder this question in the comments along with your thoughts on the teams and the conference: How many Pac-10 teams will become bowl eligibile, with already nine teams sharing three wins and seven teams with four? Which ones?

Maybe it was because the Oregon schools were off, but it sure seemed a lot like every Pac-10 team was brainwashed into believing they were playing in the Holiday Bowl. Seven Pac-10 teams gave up a combined 3000 yards of total offense to each other and Emu Jimmy Clausen on a ridiculous 6.3 yards per play clip (only 10 teams in the country have given up that much this season). They also gave up 11 offensive touchdowns of 40 yards or more, including TWO OF THE WORST DEFENSIVE PLAYS I'VE EVER SEEN on the game-deciding drives.

And this was with USC playing and Washington State NOT playing! What happened? We look Inside the Pac-10.

California 45, UCLA 26

Cal got the defensive drubbing started on the first drive. I felt the Bears would win if they got to 30 points, and I was ultimately right, but boy did they make things difficult for themselves.

More on this, the rest of Cal-UCLA, plus recaps of the other three games (with video of aforementioned worst defensive plays ever) after the jump.

Let's look at the bright side--outside of one play (like with USC), the run defense remains excellent. The defensive line played great and the linebackers stepped it up in run control after that Franklin TD run, giving up 2.8 rushing yards/carry. If we can keep this up against better backs like Jacquizz, Nance, the Wildcat platoon, and Gerhart, this bodes well when we face better Pac-10 QBs.

The pass defense was, as expected, a struggle. However, despite the whining and bitching about BBDB and all the talk of how Gregory is a Duck saboteur with chainsaws for hands, the Cal pass defense did a lot more in this game than people will give them credit for. There were a lot of periods during the game where they played straight man up (like "men do", as some of the biggest Gregory-detractors have latched onto as their big phrase). It just happened Syd wasn't there for much of the game, it was poor Josh Hill or Bryant Nnabuife (good tacklers, especially HIll, but he still has a bit to learn about covering man). Still, when you go up against Norm Chow, you can expect him to take advantage of the available mismatches, which in this case were those linebackers. He went right at them on several throws, and it was clear they're going to have their growing pains as the year goes along.

Let's also give credit to Prince; he made some GREAT throws even against man coverage! And yes, you'll say those throws wouldn't have been completed against heavy pressure and a youthful Bruin front. But like I said before, Prince still only completed half of his passes against us, Not an overwhelming performance, but efficient enough.



Although the weakness of the pass rush saddens me, we should probably accept that Cal blitzing too much could burn them. We don't have a pass-rushing linebacker, and sending two or three guys in leaves too much of a responsibility for the other linebackers to handle at this point. Send in a corner or safety blitz leaves us vulnerable deep. The Bears don't have fast coverage men who can get to the quarterback, just solid ones, and we should be happy with that for now. And we still got three sacks.

Finally, despite the lack of defense impressiveness at the end, there were individual playmakers leaving big marks on this one. Darian Hagan re-emerged and stepped up big with several critical deflections, especially in the absence of Syd'Quan. Trevor Guyton forced a huge turnover that gave the Bears a cushion they would hold for most of the day. And the mere threat of Tyson Alualu was not something UCLA wanted to deal with. His one tackle on the day wasn't surprising because he was double-teamed and held up much of the game, as the Bruins tried to do anything outside of the Vulcan nerve pinch to hold him at bay.

Scoring-wise, the pass D still held the Bruins to 19 points and 1 touchdown out of five trips to Bear territory. And although I know people want us to pitch shut-outs like the Florida's and USCs of the world, I'll trade touchdowns for our team with field goals for their teamall day long. Although I agree that 10 man defense was horrifying.

Ultimately, Cal's pass defense didn't play its greatest, but that's been the norm all season, so I wasn't terribly bummed about it. What WAS surprising was the total folding of UCLA's defense, giving up a handful of devastating plays. Credit a great gameplan by Andy Ludwig (who out-Chowed Chow), which ruled the start of the game and left the Bruins reeling with 35 first half points.



Alterraun Verner, perhaps the best pro prospect corner in the conference, got burned twice on those Jones touchdown catches, even though Verner did everything right in terms of coverage. Good defense, better offense. Kudos to Ludwig for taking advantage of Marvin's skill, as he seems to be assuming the mantle of #1 receiver.

I do agree with some that say that the Bears did struggle to get any consistency going CBKWit did talk about Brian Price being a major disruptor, and I do agree he should get his dap--he disrupted a good deal of the run plays even when facing constant double teams and totally blew up our inside run. Jahvid Best should be happy this is likely his last encounter with the big 92, because outside of that one run he got nothing on the inside or the outside.

However, some of that goes hand-in-hand with line play. I feel Cal's offensive line is going to be up and down the rest of the season--there was bad run blocking everywhere, something Hydro will get to later in his postgame thoughts. Thankfully, the list of good defenses we face the rest of the season is short--Arizona State, Oregon State and Arizona are the best rush Ds left, but the latter two struggle against the pass, so I'd say the Sun Devils are the stiffest test left for this offense on paper.

UCLA did their job on 80% of their plays. Cal's offense won big-time on the other 20%. The Bruins still have a talented defense that could definitely upset a few Pac-10 squads down the stretch, but they let too much go in this one.

Postgame reactions

Great article from Bruins Nation about the logistics of Neuheisel going for it on 4th and short on three times: "However I do think that we should have gone for at least the first and the last situation, short-yardage deals where the odds of converting are slightly higher (see the gap between 4th-and-1 and 4th-and-everything else on that middle graph). For what it's worth here is their graph of what to do/not do on 4th down, based on these findings. Here is a graph that has all three of the above ones merged, you can clearly see that there were higher expected points at the 6, 28, and 46 yard lines for going for it (colored lines) than kicking (black line). Interesting to note that 4th-and-2 is almost always a better decision than kicking from anywhere on the field, and 4th-and-1 is always a better decision, according to this data."

One commenter seems unhappy with his defense: "The absence of a "team" feeling seems especially apparent on defense. On defense I think we do have some very good players. We have some stars actually. But for all the talent I think we have, I wouldn't put $10 on our ability to stop a decent-to-good team on a consistent basis. It's as if the players can't get past the hype that surrounds them. And unfortunately, this has been going on for years. Walker's defenses were always "the strongest unit" on the team, yet we couldn't expect them to win games for us. And great defenses can win games for teams, even with bad offenses. Sometimes it seems our guys think the UCLA logo on the helmet means they are the real deal. Turns out, its just a logo, and means squat on the field."

Bears With Fangs: "Let’s not fully kid ourselves. Saturday’s win over UCLA has confirmed that this team still has a number of issues preventing it from being an elite team. And it’s clear we still have overestimated talent to a certain extent and have underestimated a number of key deficiencies. And it most certainly doesn’t cover up the fact that this team really for the lack of a better word, faceplanted in their two losses against USC and Oregon. But today’s win sure does feel good."

Bear Insider: There was a lot of apprehension among Cal fans coming into the game about how the team had been affected by the two consecutive decisive losses; this victory did a lot to answer those doubts."We're a lot tighter as a family now after what we went through," said Best. We're doing a lot of team bonding and doing everything together and that's been elevated a lot the next couple weeks.
"Coach Tedford pushed for us, when the defense was on the field for the offense to be engaged, rooting them on and not just sitting on the bench," said Best. "It definitely felt like the whole team was behind us this game."

"It was a team effort," said Tedford. "We made a lot of plays on both sides of the ball and played really well together. That was the main focus coming into this game for the last two weeks -that we need to stick together. "As naysayers and critics step up, the players in the locker room believe in each other. They're playing hard for each other and hung in there and kept battling. When they came back we answered and never panicked."

#6 USC 34, #25 Notre Dame 27


via (Image from Getty)

Didn't see much of this game, as I doubt many Cal fans did, so I can't comment on this much. All I know is USC had a 34-14 lead with about 13 minutes to go into the 4th, and when I switched over, the Trojans were punting up 7. Say what? (It should be noted the Trojans received the good fortune of a missed Irish extra point. Who's to know how much tighter their team would've played on the final drive if Notre Dame had been going for the win rather than the tie?)

People might not realize it, but Pete Carroll, for all the supposed defensive intensity that some Golden Bears yearn for, plays the exact same schemes as Gregory does--BBDB, just with better athletes. And his version gave up 367 yards (not bad, but far from dominant), two touchdowns in the 4th quarter (although one was after a costly Barkley pick) and nearly gave up the game-tying one. There were two or three questionable calls (a Taylor Mays late hit and an extra second put back on the clock for an extra play at the goal-line are the ones that stand out), but USC showed why they are a vulnerable team this year at the end. Oregon better not start looking ahead to Halloween and take care of business next week, because their shot to win the Pac-10 will come down to their tilt in Autzen otherwise.

Anyway, Clausen made a few errant throws and misreads at the end zone, and it was enough for USC. Crisis averted for the Pac-10 and the BCS (11 win Irish team, bleh), and Catholics are sad. Just the way Martin Luther wanted it.

Postgame reactions

Conquest Chronicles: "There is no question that the USC offense has really come together. Barkley once again went into a very hostile stadium and came away with the win. I can probably count 3-5 plays that Barkley made that I could see where he was still a freshman but he managed the game nicely...I cannot get mad at Matt Barkley over that INT. Not after a 370+ yard passing performance with 2 TD's. The O line did a great job for most of the game in giving him pass protection but my concern is the running game...SC had a very difficult time establishing the run. The red zone offense was also a concern. Even though we did get some TD's in the red zone it just did not look crisp. You can tell we miss Stafon..."

Jeff Miller, OC Register: "What was Pete Carroll thinking at that precise moment? After pulling his players off the field in mid-celebration? Having recalled one giant exhale? Knowing victory now would require goal-line stand, the sequel? "Trying to enjoy the heck out of it," Carroll explained, sounding serious and certainly sober. "It was a great moment. Whether we had to go back again or not, that just doubled the fun of trying to get it done...Unfortunately, we made it real dramatic and fun...Stuff happens. Stuff happened.""

USC-Notre Dame highlights, courtesy of Trojan Wire.

I would link to some excellent Notre Dame blogs (Rakes of Mallow and Blue Gray Sky come to mind), but no post-game reactions exist yet...I guess they're either in mourning or do take Catholic Sunday very seriously.

Arizona 43, Furd 38

Welcome to your Defensive Craptacular.

Yeah, that's exactly what it looks like...and it's exactly what these defenses sucked for most of the game.

71% of passes completed, including 78% by Nick Foles. 8 offensive yards per play. Nearly 10 yards per passing play for the teams combined. When the Wildcats keyed to shut down Toby Gerhart (who still rushed for 123 and 2 TDs), Andrew Luck made them pay by nearly throwing 12 yards per attempt. Almost half of the 3rd and 4th downs were converted, and six of those conversions went for touchdowns. 1,137 total yards of offense.

Give credit to Andrew Luck (who led a valiant but failed comeback attempt in the final seconds, and his receivers like Chris Owusu dropped some critical passes that could've sealed the game) and Nick Foles, who do look like the future of Pac-10 quarterbacks right behind Barkley. I don't envy playing them this season and I wholly dread them in the years to come.

Arizona's pass defense, to be frank, sucked. Nine receivers caught a pass for at least ten yards, seven caught one for at least twenty yards, five caught one for at least thirty yards and three caught one for at least forty yards. These receivers included the quarterback, who caught one on a wide receiver pass. Maybe we should run the Wildcat pass, Best to Riley against these guys.

Furd's pass defense wasn't much better, totally helpless against the Airraid attack and Foles dictating it, giving up an unprecedented 78% completion rate.

But nothing the pass coverage gave up on both sides was as galling than the game-deciding scores at 5:15.

1st play: 3rd and 1, Furd up by 12 defending on their own 43, stupidly stack seven on the line against five (can I just rehinge how stupid you have to be to stack seven this far from the end zone--if they decide to run and Nwoko gets to the second level, he is gone), simple draw play to evade the pass rush from the edges for a 43 yard touchdown. Simple play against a dumb defensive scheme.

2nd play: 3rd and 17, Furd up by 5, defending on Arizona's 43, AND THEY STACK SEVEN ON THE LINE AGAIN!!! I was literally dumbfounded watching this on the screen when they did the second stupid thing and all rushed toward Foles again. And then Arizona nearly outstupids them by RUNNING THE BALL instead of taking advantage of single coverage everywhere. But after Grigsby breaks a weak leg tackle from the Furd edge rusher, since everyone rushed, there's no one standing between him and the first down. And because their defenders are slow at the edge, the Cardinal give up ANOTHER DRAW PLAY for a 57 yard game-deciding touchdown. The Furd gave up 100 rushing yards on those two plays after giving up 38 the rest of the game.

Oh well, guess they aren't the Cardinal for nothing.

Postgame reactions

Ted Miller, ESPN: "We're kind of changing the offense to [Foles]," Stoops said. "He's very comfortable with it. He can distribute the football and make the reads and calls. We look a lot more like Texas Tech than we ever have." Foles has progressed from backup best known for his long, 70s rock star hair to perhaps being the frontrunner for first-team All-Conference quarterback. Yes, his coaches are a little surprised by what they suddenly find themselves with at the position. "Nick is not the best practice player," Dykes said. "He's learning to be one, but he's not as good as he should be. We did notice that when he got into games -- even the spring game -- that he's kind of a gamer. He can improvise well and he has a really good feel for making decisions and staying calm."

Ken Roe, Oregonian: "The play call looked disastrous when the Wildcats came to the line, because Stanford was massing for an all-out blitz. Every gap would be filled. Tailback Nic Grigsby, the designated ballcarrier, was going to be swarmed by white jerseys before he ever got out of the backfield. Arizona center Colin Baxter turned to quarterback Nick Foles and begged him to check out of the play. But Foles, as he told the Arizona Daily Star, figured maybe Grigsby could make something happen. Guess what? Grigsby took the handoff, swerved around a blitzing defender and popped through the line of scrimmage and, because of the blitz, found no second level of defense. He went 57 yards for the go-ahead touchdown . "Really honestly," Dykes told the Daily Star, "it was a bad call that just worked.""

Bobby Stover, Daily Wildcat: "Head coach Mike Stoops — normally stoic and business-like following games, win or lose — strolled into the room with a grin on his face as he took his seat in front of the microphone with the Arizona backdrop behind him. As he began detailing the game from his view, he seemed relieved and elated. The reporters’ questions were more casual and Stoops’ responses more light-hearted than usual. After the head coach finished, defensive and offensive coordinators Mark Stoops and Sonny Dykes, respectively, entered and spoke with similar tones. Mark Stoops got the reporters laughing at one point after telling them he gave all the offensive players and coaches a kiss for bailing out his defense that allowed 584 yards of offense from the Cardinal."

Here is the Furd reaction:

Arizona State 24, Washington 17

Don't let that score fool you. This game had 842 yards of offense. Jake Locker struggled with his accuracy and threw a bad red zone pick, but also threw 8 for 10 for 121 yards and a TD on the two second half scoring drives and by sustaining his drives after the first quarter, made sure that Arizona State didn't have great field position for much of the game (well, until the end, but more on that later).

It was a big help to the weak UDub defense, which simply doesn't have the depth yet to stop Pac-10 teams who can both run and pass. That USC game is looking more and more like two coordinators knowing their old coach's tendencies and Aaron Corp being bad bad bad. They gave up 464 yards in all, 169 on the ground to guys like freshman Cameron Marshall and elder statesman Dmitri Nance. Danny Sullivan is not a great quarterback (ASU is 98th in passer rating and 93rd in completion percentage in D-I), but he completed to seven receivers, all with at least one catch of nine yards or more.

All of this production though, was undone because both teams played mind-numbingly stupid football. There were 21 penalties for 223 yards. 223 yards!!! And most of them weren't even of the negative type--there were at least a half-dozen personal fouls, most on that crazy Sun Devil defense. And Washington's coaching staff got penalized again, leading me to wonder if Pete Carroll let Nick Holt go gracefully because he knew that his ex-DC had recently been released from a mental ward.

There was a hilarious drive in the 2nd quarter by the Huskies which went 82 yards, with six penalties in 13 plays, five of those penalties coming in a six play span, giving the Huskies 45 net yards, yet it still ended with a Locker interception. After the turnover, the Sun Devils went 89 yards, only to fumble it twice, recovering it the first time, and losing the second one into the end zone Cameron Colvin style for a touchback.

Vontaze Burfict might be a beast of a defender, but he also might be legitimately insane--he was involved in about half of those penalties, throwing forearms, trash-talked everyone on Washington, and seemed to be trying out for a part in a 50 Cent music video during the middle of the game. The biggest thing I fear about Tempe is the stupidity quotient, where the relative IQ and inebriation of the Sun Devil fanbase and football team infects the Golden Bears as the game goes along, because as some of our commenters noted, Washington sure seemed like they got dragged down to their devilish level. Thank God we're not playing this on Halloween night.

In one of many curious coaching decisions not involving Mike Stoops, with 1:17 left in a tied game, Steve Sarkisian tries to run out the clock (he gets it down to :13), but also does the second dumbest thing by passing on 3rd and 1. If he runs the ball and gets the first down, you go to overtime, and do you trust Sullivan or Locker more to score a touchdown? Rookie coaching mindfuck. Wonder if Tedford had any in 2002.

All of that led to this. Ladies, gentlemen, I present to you, the worst football defense of 2009.

I have no words left.

Postgame reactions

House of Sparky: "Vontaze Burfict is extremely talented, but he needs to check himself before he wrecks himself: He runs around like he is about to kill whoever gets in his way, and I love having him on our side. But at times last night, he was literally out of control. We cannot have him committing so many penalties. It makes us look bad and ruined several good defense stops. In time, he will be considered one of the best. For now, he needs to realize what is important- making plays before the whistle blows."

UW Dawg Pound: "I listened to the past game show and Bob Rondeau asked all the right questions and Coach Sark gave all the right answers. The thing I really like about Sarkisian is he didn't make excuses and took immediate responsibility for the clock management on that last series.

"Hindsight is 20/20, but if I had to do it again, I would've run the ball," Sarkisian said of the third-and-one play. "That's on me. It eats at me because I felt like I could've managed the ballgame better," Sarkisian said. "I try to pride myself in doing that stuff, but I didn't do it tonight."

On the miraculous Arizona State TD play Sark had these comments:

"We jumped a route, a crossing route, and left the middle of the field wide open."

When you look at that final play on film you see a series of broken assignments and a defense that was confused about what it was supposed to do on what should have been the last play before overtime."

Only Bears fans care about these

Penn State 20, Minnesota 0

Reading the gamethread from The Daily Gopher, people were not happy at all with the gameplan and coaching.

Virginia 20, Maryland 9

Testudo Times: "I like Chris Turner a lot, and I can respect what he's done as QB for the better part of three years, but he's been having a rough go of it lately. Yesterday was no exception. First off, his arm was noodle-y and weak, most evidenced by the Torrey Smithunderthrow. Second, he was rarely on target, even with open receivers. And this wasn't just the rain: Jameel Sewell looked better than he did for most of the game. Worst of all, he rarely even looked Torrey Smith's way. Like I said in the recap, Smith was isolated, one on one coverage, with no safety over the top several times, and he was never even glanced at. Turner's gotta get some of that blame."