(Quick reminder: don't forget to fill out the report card! Need those ballots in by midnight!)
As we enter the heart of our season, we still have a bunch of issues to address about our team. Our community raised some of those excellent points in the postgame thread, and I added a few more. Ponder these questions in the comments.
1. Has the secondary regressed? Syd'Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan looked like lockdown corners last season. Yet now on two straight weeks, both the Squid and the Barbarian have been caught staring and given up crucial scores. Hagan was especially brutalized last week.
Although Bob Gregory has always favored zone schemes to stop attacking offenses (and for the most part, it's worked), you have to wonder if it frustrates his talented corners to not be playing more straight man coverage. Other than Thompson, the secondary looked totally discombobulated trying to defend passes, getting called for penalty after penalty. I have to say that of the three areas of defense, pass defense worries me the most.
2. Will Cal again struggle to run the football in Pac-10 season? Now you're probably going "Whaaaaaa? We've gashed everyone we played." Well, Minnesota's front seven pretty much stuffed the run from the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth (why we didn't take advantage of the outside, I don't know). And this is just an appetizer to the real meat of the schedule.
Oregon, USC, UCLA, and Oregon State all have fast and physical defenses that can seal the edges as well as they can contain the middle, which means our blocking will have to drastically improve. We've seen it plenty of times in the last few seasons that if you stop Cal's ability to run the ball, you can take them down. Based on what I saw against Minnesota, they aren't ready to open up the front for a sixty minute game. So color me concerned.
3. How do we cope with the bad kicking? The special teams has reached crisis point. Although Bryan Anger is still doing his thing, and the punt coverage was great (Isi Sofele's hit was legal from the replays I saw), the kicking game has never been in a more wretched state of affairs. We're having such trouble kicking field goals that if the Bears had 4th and 10 on their own 25, I wouldn't hesitate in putting Riley under center and letting it ride.
dballisloose summed it up well.
Seriously, the special teams is sickening…….
why can’t Syd get enough protection to run back the punts?
why can’t we get decent kick-offs? 12 yard line, 15 yard line, 20 yard line, out of bounds…..wtf?! this is a top 10 team and one position (kicker) is fucking this up for us. we can’t let the other team start at their own 40 every time. against the better teams its going to really hurt us.
Minnesota started the first half on average their own 47. Cal was on their own 20.
4. Are we going to unleash Kevin Riley early? TedfordIsGod noted a certain conservatism to the strategy after Cal took the lead.
We really should have been throwing more – guys were open. Riley wasn’t great, but was hitting enough guys down-field to keep the defense on their heels – that is all we need from the passing game. I know some people will get freaked out by a couple of his bad throws, but I feel good about the fact he just doesn’t seem to put his bad throws in places where defenders are going to catch then (except that pass that Tucker had to break up – seemed that was on Tucker though.)
As I said in the pregame preview about our offense versus Minnesota's defense, I was really hoping the Bears would establish the pass to get Best going, but I also didn't expect Ludwig or Tedford to let loose the artillery until they absolutely needed to (which as it turns out was the 4th quarter). Thus we still don't know about his capabilities early on in this game.
Maybe it will happen this week. Maybe.
Anything else you want to ponder about our Golden Bears? Discuss in the comments.