Seriously, didn't the California Golden Bears know they were playing the mighty Oregon Ducks, the team that was brought on this Earth to do nothing but score touchdowns? Didn't Cal's front-seven know they would get run over by the mighty LaMichael James (who managed a grand total of 91 yards on 29 carries) and Darron Thomas (34 rushing yards on 16 carries)?
Apparently not, since Cal scored as many touchdowns on defense as Oregon did on offense, thanks to a particularly beastly play by Derrick Hill to strip Thomas at the goal-line that nearly tied the game (more on that later). Clearly such performances are unacceptable by the football gods (see Arizona game), and it was up to the special teams and offense to keep Cal from winning a game their defense dominated.
When it comes to our team in big games, the Cal defense appears to be Matt Cain, and the Cal offense are the Giants hitters not giving him any run support. And the Cal special teams are like the opposite of Brian Wilson--no one fears the Giorgio Tavecchio porn-stache. Those who had us losing this one because our field goal kicker false started himself (which I didn't even know was possible) are all dirty liars or Google super computers. It certainly is a new way for our Golden Bears to lose. It's something we've become particularly adept at over the years.
I'm not winning a World Series though. I fucking hate the football gods.
Brock Mansion not playing great was kind of expected--going 10 of 28 for 69 yards isn't very good. Donovan Edwards getting owned on the right side wasn't particularly shocking. But Marvin Jones, Anthony Miller and Keenan Allen all dropping makeable catches? Sort of expected, but Mansion threw some of these balls right in the laps of his receivers and they just couldn't come up with it. Mansion was not burning up anyone tonight, definitely not against Oregon's aggressive coverage schemes, but he did give his wide receivers plenty of makeable first down catches that they should have nailed down.
Other than Edwards, the Cal O-line played pretty well--I don't remember Mansion being pressured more than a handful of times. It makes you wonder why Brian Schwenke and Matt Summers-Gavin haven't been tag-teaming at the guard spots all season. Shane Vereen dominated the first drive that gave Cal a touchdown, picking up 112 rushing yards on 4.3 yards per carry. What was really tragic about this game was Vereen fumbling the ball deep in Cal territory and setting up Oregon's only offensive score of the game on a Thomas throw to Jeff Maehl. After the season and bad line he's had to play with, he didn't deserve to be part of the reason we lost. I can't imagine how bad he must be feeling right now. Dude's a warrior.
The playcalling was strange and didn't really put Mansion in an enviable situation. Cal attempted so many passes on first down as the game wore on when we were running the ball pretty well (4 yards per rushing attempt compared to Oregon's feeble 2.9), and we seemed to always find ourselves in second/third and long situations that we had about as much chance as converting into first downs as a Jehovah's Witness does at converting a Real Housewife from New Jersey. We operated out of shotgun too much and telegraphed the fact that we were going to pass, even on 3rd and medium when run or pass has a good chance of working.
I hated the two point conversion call after the Hill-why on Earth do you make Mansion attempt a play-action fade when he's shown no inclination of completing anything that isn't simple? Where were the rollouts to avoid pressure and the misdirection plays to get Oregon off-balance and help receivers gain separation? Andy Ludwig, this is the second time you've thrown up two-pair when Clancy Pendergast has put up royal flushes. I'm not happy with you, and you know what they say when a partner lets you down in a marriage. You bottle it in until you get the divorce you want.
Still, while the Cal offense didn't do great, I wasn't expecting them to score much in this one against a strong Ducks defense. The Cal special teams regressing into an amorphous blob of suck was exasperating. Cliff Harris returning a punt for a touchdown isn't too surprising if you've been watching him all season, but the punt coverage was nowhere to be found on that play. Not properly defending the Oregon two point conversion was even worse--instead of staying ahead or being tied at halftime, Oregon held the lead, and it changed the outlook of the game for the offense that needs the lead to be comfortable.
And our kicking woes are approaching historically bad levels--despite a pretty good effort on kickoffs, Tavecchio's leg strength seems to have decreased game-by-game when he's asked to put points on the board. It cost us against Arizona, it cost us against Oregon. Think about it. If we have even a Tom Schneider on our team, Cal is 7-3 right now with upsets over two of the top three teams in the conference and still in the hunt for Pasadena. Actually, don't think about it, because you'll end up drowning yourself in alcohol to numb the pain.
Oregon was pretty sloppy all game long. The Ducks committed 8 penalties for 62 yards, and concussed Marc Anthony on a pretty dirty play that should've gotten the receiver (Maehl?) thrown out of the game. I also enjoyed the Ducks fans booing a wobbly Anthony as he got helped off the field. In other news, I've now become a TCU fan, because I think their mascot is funky.
The Oregon right tackle held Mychal Kendricks on a few occasions. There was probably a block in the back on the Harris touchdown, and there was definitely a punt return interference on Jeremy Ross that was overlooked. There were also some questionable spotting by the officials that gave Duck ballcarriers favorable spots. Not going to say it cost us the game, but the Pac-10 officiating was its usually shady self.
For the record, I'm quite comfortable with Cal players "going down with injuries". Oregon's taking advantage of loopholes in the rules--keeping defenders off the field in terms of substitutions, so why can't Cal? Fight one strategy with another, no matter how ugly and horrid it looks. As I noted in the postgame thread, Oregon fans can boo all they want. If our nose tackles had helped us win the game with their cramps (real or fake) slowing down the tempo of the Ducks, I'd have built statues of them with my bare hands. They'd probably have been mini-Lego sets, like the ones you used to build dragons or something.
Speaking of which, the crowd at Memorial Stadium was incredible, perhaps the best since the 2007 Tennessee game. It wasn't as loud as those classic games back in the day, but it was way more intense, especially since Oregon never pulled away and Cal never gave up. There was no denying that the crowd had an impact on how the Ducks offense performed. The only thing that would've made it better is if one Cal student started rushing the field on every play to slow down Oregon's offense even further. If that had happened, I would've written an ode to each and every one of them. Actually, that's probably too hard. Maybe a haiku to each one. Something like "You are a True Bear / Sorry you got tased tonight / Roll On Golden Bear".
Again, the only thing more incredible than our crowd were these guys.
## Player Solo Ast Tot TFL/Yds FF FR-Yd Intc BrUp Blkd Sack/Yds QH
18 Mohamed, Mike 10 4 14 1.0/5 . . . . . 1.0/5 .
30 Kendricks, Mych 5 5 10 1.5/6 . . . . . . .
0C Holt, D.J. 6 3 9 0.5/0 1 . . . . . .
17 Conte, Chris 5 3 8 0.5/1 . . . 1 . . .
92 Guyton, Trevor 3 4 7 2.0/4 . . . . . . .
0A Williams, Steve 4 2 6 . . . . . . . .
23 Hill, Josh 4 2 6 . . . . 3 . . .
97 Jordan, Cameron 4 1 5 . 1 . . 1 . . 1
26 Hagan, Darian 4 . 4 . . . . . . . .
40 Tipoti, Aaron . 4 4 0.5/2 . . . . . . .
2 Anthony, Marc 2 1 3 . . . . . . . .
76 Hill, Derrick 1 2 3 2.0/13 1 1-0 . 1 . 1.0/12 .
11 Cattouse, Sean 1 2 3 . . . . . . . 1
91 Coleman, Deandr 2 . 2 . . . . . . . .
8 Moncrease, C.J. 1 1 2 . . . . . . . .
3D Hurrell, J.P. . 1 1 . . . . . . . .
7 Campbell, D.J. . 1 1 . . . . . . . .
15 Nnabuife, Bryan . 1 1 . . . . . . . .
95 Owusu, Ernest . . . . . . . 1 . . .
Josh Hill and Chris Conte breaking up four passes and adding 14 tackles, Cameron Jordan being a beast (five tackles, forced fumble, quarterback hurry, pass broken up), Mike Mohamed with 14 tackles with a cast on his hand, Kendricks and D.J. Holt combining for 19 more, Trevor Guyton with seven tackles and two tackles for loss, Steve Williams stepping up with six more tackles after being pushed into the premier cornerback slot, D. Hill with his big play...and all they get is a "Certificate of Participation." I hated those certificates when I was a kid. I win at being the best loser is what it means.
The Cal defense deserved the win. But when it comes to Cal football, deserve got nothing to do with it.
Anyway, thank goodness it's Big Game week. Otherwise this one would've stuck with me all year long. Instead it'll dissipate behind the guise. And then it'll resurface this offseason and haunt me until September. Because I am the ghost in the machine.
I'm drunk. I'm a Cal football fan. Such is life.