carp’s crazy thoughts for MLK Day: Assessing playing time opportunities for the backup QB’s. Part I

(carp's idea here is an interesting one to consider.  Look for Part II to come up soon!)

This crazy thoughts series includes thoughts on a new OOC rivalry game, Pac10 expansion Part I & 2, a new West Coast BCS bowl game, and the salaries of assistant coaches.

CGB and the Internets in general have a rich history of discussing quarterbacks.  I should note that this post does not advocate a two QB system or for Riley being benched at some point in 2008 in favor of some unproven QB.  I believe the passing game struggles were the responsibilities of the entire offense-related aspects of the program (Oline blocking/coaching, QB play, WR play/coaching, RB pass blocking and, at times, play formation/calling).  About the only guys who really did well this year on offensive were Ron Gould, Matt Summers-Gavin and Anthony Miller and both players were injured at times this year.  I almost put Tedford and Ludwig in this category, but I think they need to share some of the blame, too.  My point is that this is not a rip-the-offense piece where I put 100% of the passing game failures on the QB.  The point of this crazy thought, is to analyze and discuss several games where the backup QB might have played without impacting the outcome of the game at hand.


The casual fan may look at backups playing in garbage time as having no real impact in either the outcome or the future of the program.  However, I believe it is a critical time for learning and growth.  The benefits that I see are the following:


  •  In-game experience.  There are significant short- and long-term benefits to giving the backup quarterback playing time as it comes about in the season.  As we saw in the MNC game, the backup might have to come in and play some real minutes against a very good team (incidentally, that was Gale Gilbert’s son) and it would behoove the team to have the backup QB as prepared as possible should such an unfortunate circumstance occur.  In the long-run, it can be mentally grueling to commit 60-80+ hours a week to a sport that you’ve loved for a long time and never see the field.  Think of the confidence and the sense of reward such a player would feel if he enters the game, completes an 18-yard crossing route, and hears the crowd roar.  He’s now tasted success and it can only help him get through grueling off-season workouts while everyone else chases coeds (for the Matt Barkley fans, that would be girls).
  • Allows coaches to get a better understanding of the talent behind the starter.  Occasionally, you find the diamond in the rough (e.g., Matt Cassell).  Practice can’t replace live experiences against real competition in front of a sea of blue t-shirts or a hostile road atmosphere.  Occasionally, you find players that perform better in games than in practice (Shaun Hill of the 49ers would be an excellent example).  Fans, coaches, and players all feel better about next year’s running game after Vereen’s performances against Arizona and Stanfurd.  The same confidence if Vereen had continued in his ‘1b’ role that he played.  The change in play could be more subtle; a player may mishandle the timing of a screen pass in practice but runs it perfectly in the game; again, this provides more confidence which in turn helps motivation.This will not change the outcome of the game.  Gaining/surrendering the lead was not going to happen.


    The negatives that some fans might bring up (but I do not agree with) are the following:


  • The QB is a leader and can only lead when he’s playing.  If he cannot lead on the sidelines then he’s not a leader.
  • It could create a competition/controversy.  If that were to happen, would that be such a bad thing?  In my experience, it will push the incumbent to work even harder and thus maximize his possible output.  This is a sport after all.  In most instances, one will outshine the other.  Cal fans, of course, have experienced the two QB thing in 2008 and, if you believe in the saying, if you have two QB’s you have zero QB’s.  Unless of course you have Leak and Tebow, but that’s a rare and different example.  Cal currently does not have a Wild Grizzly-type QB, but that would certainly make things interesting.
  • It will cause the starter to lose confidence and/or piss them off.  I remember Steve Young going off on George Siefert during the Niner-Eagles game where the Niners lost badly at home.  Siefert pulled Young when it was like 42-10, and Young let him know his displeasure.  The Niners later won the Super Bowl and Steve Young won the MVP.  It would be hard for me to see how Riley’s confidence could have been any worse in blow out losses where Cal played really poorly.  In baseball, if the starting pitcher is getting shelled he’s usually pulled rather than continue to offer up the same crap he’s been offering.  Why is the quarterback position treated so differently?  Can’t the starting QB say, "You know, I just didn’t have it today but let’s see what Mansion can do out there."

After the fold, take a look at more information about how Tedford played his backup QBs.  GO BEARS!



Riley’s a 50-55% passer who's actually around 47% against good competition (more on that to come in another post).  He may or may not improve next year.  I’m leaning towards 'not improving' as the skill sets that need sharpening appear to be difficult, perhaps impossible, to improve upon.  That leaves the fan to wonder if other quarterbacks on the roster can actually complete a forward pass. As I said in the intro, Riley was pressured and receivers dropped balls.  However, he had some glaring inaccuracies, too.   Unfortunately, due to personnel decisions by the management the 2009 football season has ended without us really being able to understand the talents on the roster behind Riley.  Let’s look at several games where Mansion or Sweeney could have received more playing time and, most importantly, actually attempt passes while they were playing.


Cal 52 - Maryland 13 / 5-Sept


This victory was also known as the game that confirmed the Top 15 preseason ranking.  Riley looked like he had put it together, and Best looked like he’d be in New York in December.


1st Q: 14-3 Cal

Halftime: 31-3 Cal

3rd Q: 45-13 Cal



According to ESPN the Ocho, Riley completes a TD to Vereen with 13:28 to go in the 4th Q (52-13 Cal), Mansion relieves Riley on Cal’s next drive and promptly does the following:

California at 11:26



1st and 10 at CAL 21

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 7 yards to the Cal 28.



2nd and 3 at CAL 28

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 1 yard to the Cal 29.



3rd and 2 at CAL 29

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 7 yards to the Cal 36 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at CAL 36

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 2 yards to the Cal 38.



2nd and 8 at CAL 38

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 2 yards to the Cal 40.



3rd and 6 at CAL 40

Brock Mansion pass incomplete to Michael Calvin.



4th and 6 at CAL 40

Bryan Anger punt for 48 yards, returned by Kenny Tate for 4 yards to the Mary 16.




Cal would get the ball again for an additional 4 minutes and not throw another pass.  The above incompletion was Mansion’s only pass attempt of the season


 I had to use a 2008 photo of Mansion, since his 2009 playing time was o so brief.




On the one hand, it was smart of The Management to play Riley into the 4th quarter to build confidence, continuity, etc.  At the time, it appeared he had a great game against a moderately successful program from an auto-qualifying BCS conference.  Mansion’s job was to run out the clock, and don’t do anything stupid.  I don’t disagree with the general approach, as I think it was a respectful way to end a blowout.  I love Tedford’s class in situations such as this.


However, as the scoreboard indicated, this game was over at halftime.  It was 45-6 with 10 min left in the 3rd quarter.  I’d argue that getting your (now apparently stud) starting QB out of the game at this point avoids an injury possibility, and would have allowed Mansion and/or Sweeney to get some real reps out there without losing the game.  It was an afterthought at the time, and seemed overly critical of a very nice win.  Now, to me at least, it feels like a missed opportunity.


Cal 59 – Eastern Washington 7


Decent FCS team at home…Bears come out a little flat but respond well and cruise the rest of the way.  Hope/optimism is still high.


1st Q: 7-7

Halftime: 24-7

3rd Q: 38-7


This one’s a little harder to look back at…Riley’s still out on the field with 12:30 to go in the 4th quarter 45-7 Cal), and the Bears next possession features DeBo and Sofele running free for a TD.  Let’s give the Bears the benefit of the doubt and say that Sweeney was handing it off to the RBs (I can’t remember and ESPN doesn’t give sufficient details).  Sweeney completes his only pass attempt with less than 3 min to go in the game:


California at 4:34



1st and 10 at CAL 23

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 11 yards to the Cal 34 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at CAL 34

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for a loss of 2 yards, fumbled, recovered by Cal Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson at the Cal 32.



2nd and 12 at CAL 32

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 30 yards to the EWash 38 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at EWU 38

Beau Sweeney pass complete to Jarrett Sparks for 17 yards to the EWash 21 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at EWU 21

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 7 yards to the EWash 14.



2nd and 3 at EWU 14

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 7 yards to the EWash 7 for a 1ST down.



1st and Goal at EWU 7

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for a loss of 3 yards to the EWash 10.



2nd and Goal at EWU 10

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 9 yards to the EWash 1.



3rd and Goal at EWU 1

Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson rush for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.




Vince D'Amato extra point GOOD.




Giorgio Tavecchio kickoff for 62 yards returned by J.T. Leggin for 17 yards to the EWash 25.



DRIVE TOTALS: Cal drive: 9 plays 77 yards, 04:16 Cal TD



No, I am not Aaron Rodgers! 




The game was not out of reach at the half (24-7 Cal), but it became out of reach quickly (31-7 w/ 12:30 to go in 3rdQ; 38-7 w/ 7:45 to go in 3rdQ).  Sweeney would enter the game nearly a full quarter later and only throw one pass.  In two games, Cal had outscored their opponent 111-20 but the backup QB’s have only attempted one pass each.


Oregon 42 – Cal 3


The first no-show game of the year.  Sofele makes a great play on Special Teams, and Cal gets the ball at Oregon’s 22 with 14:56 to go in the 1st Quarter.  Oddly, one could argue that the game was over after Cal was leading 3-0.  (Riley sack when he had a lot of time to throw + two incompletions which lead to a FG).  Anyway, let’s look at this one a little closer:


1st Q: 3-3

Halftime: 25-3

3rd Q: 39-3


Sweeney enters the game with 4:05 remaining in the 4th Quarter (42-3 Oregon)  He gets to throw 5 passes and completes one of them:


California at 4:05



1st and 10 at CAL 13

Shane Vereen rush for 7 yards to the Cal 20.



2nd and 3 at CAL 20

Shane Vereen rush for 6 yards to the Cal 26 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at CAL 26

Beau Sweeney pass incomplete to Shane Vereen.



2nd and 10 at CAL 26

Isi Sofele rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Cal 25.



3rd and 11 at CAL 25

OREGON penalty 15 yard pass interference accepted, no play.



1st and 10 at CAL 40

Beau Sweeney pass incomplete.



2nd and 10 at CAL 40

Isi Sofele rush for 14 yards to the Oregn 46 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at ORE 46

Beau Sweeney pass incomplete to Jeremy Ross.



2nd and 10 at ORE 46

Beau Sweeney rush for 5 yards to the Oregn 41.



3rd and 5 at ORE 41

Beau Sweeney pass complete to Jarrett Sparks for 7 yards to the Oregn 34 for a 1ST down.



1st and 10 at ORE 34

Beau Sweeney pass incomplete to Shane Vereen.



2nd and 10 at ORE 34

Beau Sweeney sacked by Terrell Turner for a loss of 12 yards to the Oregn 46.




End of 4th Quarter







While the scoreboard and Cal’s on-field showing indicated things were done at halftime, the game probably wasn’t officially out of reach until either 9:10 to go in the 3rd Q (32-3 Oregon) or 2:10 to go in the 3rd Q (39-3).  Like the previous two blowouts, The Management doesn’t put in the backup QB until nearly a full quarter later.  Put the backup in too early, and it is 2008 all over again (QB gets yanked quickly when things aren’t going well).  Down 36 on the road with 17 min to go seems to me like a good time to put in the backup without the repercussions of a QB controversy…unless of course the backup throws 3 TD’s.  Would that have been such a bad thing, though?  Taking this a step further, is it fair to say the backup QB had so few of opportunities in order to avoid a potential controversy?  Let’s get back to that later.



USC 30 – Cal 3


Nearly 72,000 fill Memorial Stadium to watch Kevin Riley go 15-40 for 199 yards and Brian Anger punt seven times.  The backup QB’s did not see the field the entire game.


1st Quarter: 10-0

Halftime: 20-0

3rd Quarter: 23-0


Mansion/Sweeney - DNP. 



It was over when Riley found Taylor Mays in the end zone.  I suppose it wasn’t officially over until Riley overthrew Best on the 4th down with 5 min or so left in the third quarter (23-0 USC).  The sullen and mutinous crowd would have likely gone crazy if the backup QB would have had led Cal to even a successful drive.



Cal 45 – UCLA 26


I cite this game, because this was a situation where it appeared Cal might have (but didn’t) run away with the game and allow time for the backup QB to play.


1st Q: 14-7

Halftime: 35-20

3rd Q: 38-26


Mansion/Sweeney - DNP 



First, one should always be pleased with a double-digit road win over a bowl-bound team.  However, the Bears appeared headed towards a blowout win with a 15-point halftime lead and 5 TD’s in the first half.  That unfortunately didn’t happen as the Bears couldn’t put UCLA away until Kendricks’ pick six with 5 min to go in the game (45-26 Cal).  Cal’s D allowed 311 yards in the air, 137 yards rushing, and 17 first downs.  Of course, not playing the backup QB was the right call.  However, if Cal could have put up 10+ points in the 3rd Quarter, this would have been a great opportunity for the backups to play.  What shouldn’t get lost is that this was Riley’s best game ever, in my opinion.  On the road against a defense that featured talents like Price, Carter, and Verner, Riley went 14-23 for 205 yards, 3 TDs, and a key block on Best’s 93-yard scamper.  This is a Riley I could learn to love.




In part II, we'll take a look at the rest of the games and have some final conclusions!  GO BEARS!


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