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Cal vs. Oregon State Post-Game Thoughts

(1)  Story of the Game #1:  Offensive Line Dominates.  And I mean, DOMINATES.  The Bear offensive line was just opening up huge, gaping holes in that Beaver defense.  It was just ridiculous how good the run blocking was this game.  Half way through the game I started thinking how the Beaver run defense looked like a high school team the way they were just getting man-handled. 

I know there were some holding penalties in there, but a number of them seemed quite questionable -- especially the holding ones.  Two particular holding calls on Galas (Cal's center #65) seemed like bad calls.  On the first holding call against him, the defender just pancaked himself to the ground, and Galas pretty much sat on his head (okay, not really, he just sort of pushed him some more into the ground).  There's no penalty for throwing yourself and pushing down on a defender who falls to the ground.  That is not holding.  Seemed like a bad call to me.  On the second holding call against him, the defender threw a spin move at Galas.  I think Galas pushed him back, and the defender ended up falling to the ground and in the process also tripped Galas who fell on top of the defender.  Again, I don't think it should have been a penalty.  It was just a matter of a defender falling to the ground, and an offensive linemen also going to the ground too.  That is not holding.  Of course, it LOOKS like holding to most refs, so they'll often (incorrectly) call it as holding, but it's not.  I think Cal was definitely the victim of a few bad hold calls in this game. 

But ironically, despite the penalties against the Cal offensive line (holding, false starts), they pretty much made back all the yardage.  It was kind of ridiculous how they were just getting the yardage back like it ain't no thang.  First and 20?  No problem.  Isi up the middle for a 12 yard gain.  Penalty negated.  Done.  Why can't we do this all the time???

(2)  Story of the Game #2:  Cal's runningbacks Dominate.  And I mean, DOMINATE.  Both Sofele (Cal RB #20) and Anderson (Cal RB #9) were just eating up that Beaver defense.  We haven't seen such a dominant Cal runningback performance like this since... 2009 Big Game (Shane Vereen!).  Sofele averaged a whopping 8.3 yards per carry.  Can we say, "ridiculous"?  Anderson averaged 6.9 yards per carry.  Again, ridiculous. 

A lot of credit has to be given to the offensive line for creating such success for the RBs, but the RBs were also doing a great job with the holes that they were given.  It's not like this was a case of the RBs doing something with nothing.  This was a case of the RBs doing something with something.  When the RBs were hitting the holes, they were juking linebackers.  They were plowing through defenders.  They were using great vision, balance, and strength to gain additional yardarage.  It was a beautifully glorious display of a performance.

(3)  Story of the Game #3:  Maynard Does Nothing.  Okay, not really.  He did help the team win.  He did throw 19 attempts, 13 completions for 128 yards (6.7 yard average), one touchdown and one INT.  But his performance was quite... forgettable with the way the ground game was dominating.  Sure, his INT was bad.   The ball was underthrown.  If it wasn't, then that pass is a huge completion and perhaps even a touchdown.  Maynard did have a couple of nice throws to Calvin (Cal WR #11) and Allen (Cal WR #21), but for the most part, it's almost like Maynard wasn't really even there.  He was a little out of sight and out of mind.  Considering the way he has played in past games this year, I'm betting most Cal fans probably don't really mind.  Nothing against the guy, but I don't really mind either.  If an offense can win a game pretty much by running the ball without really having to attempt too many passes (Maynard only attempted 19 passes), then why take the extra risk with passes?  Just run the ball.  Cal could do this, and so Cal did run the ball.

I think people are probably also noticing how the game plan against Washington State and Oregon State seemingly differed than against other teams.  Against WSU and OSU, Cal seemingly focused more on the run, and took the game out of Maynard's hands.  Whereas, in other games, it seems like Cal seemingly focused more on the pass and put the game in Maynard's hands -- which sometimes worked and sometimes hasn't.  So people are probably wondering, is this because the Cal coaching staff is losing faith in Maynard? 

If I had to guess, I'd say probably not.  Against WSU and OSU, the Cal coaches probably thought they could run the ball against these weaker teams.  They were right, and Cal was able to successfully run the ball.  With that kind of running success, you can afford to become a little one-dimensional on offense.  But against better defenses, balance becomes key and you have to pass the ball more to keep them honest.  So I think the fact that the last two Cal offensive gameplans seemed to be more run-focused has less to do with the coaches losing faith in Maynard, but more to do with the opponents we've faced lately.

(4)  Story of the Game #4:  Cal Run Defense Dominates.  The Beavers averaged 1.3 yards per rush.  That pretty much says it all.  Okay, not quite.  The Beavers suffered a lot of negative yardage from sacks (which is reflected in the above stat), but for the most part Cal's run defense stuffed the Beavers -- absolutely stuffed them like Thanksgiving turkeys.  The Beaver's three runningbacks achieved a total of 24 yards on 13 carries (1.85 yards per rush).  Pitiful.  Absolutely pitiful.  It's like the Beavers gave up on their ground attack too as the game wore on because it was sucking so much.  Hell, even if you count the runs by the Beaver WRs, they still averaged only 2.8 yards per carry. 

Cal's defenders were just playing their gaps well.  They were closing the gaps.  They were tackling well.  It forced Oregon State to become one dimensional and rely on their passing game.  So they did...

(5)  Oregon State's Passing Attack Keeps Them (Somewhat) in the Game.  So the Beavers can't run the ball.  What do you do if you can't run?  You pass.  Duh.  So they passed.  And in fact, they weren't doing half bad either.  Their QB, Mannion, still passed for a completion rate of 64% and a 6.3 yard average per attempt.  Those are respectable stats.  Unfortunately, what killed them were the two INTs. 

One was a flukey INT.  The first INT bounced off the intended WR and into the arms of a very reflexive Campbell (Cal S #7). That's just one of those "bad luck" plays.

The second... well, that was clearly on Mannion.  What happened there is that Kendricks (Cal LB #30) jumped an underneath route.  All game long, Oregon State was hitting those easy drag routes (WR runs a shallow crossing pattern from one side of the field to the other) and curl routes.  The drag routes were there against the Cal defense because we were usually matched up in zone so we didn't have a dedicated defender following that underneath man across the field.  I think at least a quarter of Mannion's (OSU's QB) completions probably came from easy drag route completions.  The problem with drag routes is that they leave the WRs prone to huge hits from linebackers.  We saw that happen this game.  Oregon State was also hitting some easy curl routes (WR runs up field 10-12 yards or so, then pivots inwards and comes back a few steps towards the QB) too.  And I believe Cal's second INT occurred in a curl route.  The problem with those curl routes too is that they can be undercut by the LBs if the LBs are smart enough to see where the QB wants to go with the ball before he throws the ball.  Kendricks was able to see where Mannion wanted to go with the ball and stepped in front of the pass for the easy interception. 

I'm not too surprised that this INT occurred while the Beavers were trying to drive the field.  The clock was ticking down on the Beavers, the game is moving fast, the offense is running play after play very quickly, and the QB (Mannion) doesn't have all the time in the world to take a step back mentally, and remind himself of the pitfalls that certain plays may have against certain defenses.  He's just reacting.  Sometimes just reacting works out well because the QB plays instinctively and with decisiveness, but other times he also gets so caught up in the game that he forgets the dangers of the play or just plain doesn't see a defender. 

That INT reminded me of former Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed's INT in the Emerald Bowl against Miami in 2008.  The intended WR was running an in-breaking route.  The linebackers (Mohamed and Kendricks) were in zone.  They're reading the QB's eyes, and reacting.  Some coaches tell their LBs to "look and lean."  Meaning, they look at the QB's eyes, and lean (begin to move) in the direction that the QB is looking.  Look & Lean, baby!

(6)  Rough Game for Williams (Cal CB #1).  He did have a tough matchup against Rodgers (Oregon State's WR).  Rodgers was getting separation on those curl routes against Williams; Williams was getting flagged for pass interference (although some were definitely debatable calls), and he had that mindless (absolutely mindless!) punt catch interference penalty.  I mean, I just can't believe how mindless that mistake was.  I think it has to be up there with Riley's scramble goof in the 2007 Oregon State game.  In fact, I think it's worse than that.  It's so simple.  It's such a fundamental mistake.  It's something the coaches tell the guys every freakin' day in practice.  Don't hit the punt returner after he waves for fair catch.  Stay a good three yards away from the punt returner (give them that cushion just in case they make a last minute adjustment to the ball).  Don't even touch him.  Don't even TOUCH him.  And that's all Williams did.  He literally just stuck a hand out and touched him as if to protect himself from the punt returner bumping into him.  And of course, it's a penalty.

(7)  Questionable Coaching Decisions By Tedford.  Man, I hate bringing this up, because Tedford takes so much heat for things which he shouldn't (and I feel like I should just let these two gripes I'm bringing up slide), but he definitely made some extremely questionable coaching calls this game. 

First of all, Cal is facing a 4th and 5 at the Oregon State 10 yard line.  Cal is winning 20-6 in the fourth quarter.  Cal takes a delay of game to move the ball back 5 yards.  It's now a 4th and 10 from the Oregon State 15 yard line.  Cal lines up for a field goal.  Cal makes the field goal.  No harm no foul, right? 

I DUNNO.  I mean, I get it.  Moving the ball back five yards gives Tavecchio (Cal kicker) an easier angle to make the field goal since the ball was on the hashmark.  But moving the ball further back also makes the field goal posts a smaller target to hit -- if just barely -- but they do become harder to hit.  But what irked me most of all was that, if you're going to take a delay of game there, why not just bring out the offense, hard count, and try to get the defense to jump offsides to get that free first down??? 

Similarly, Cal faced a 4th and 7 from the Oregon State 36 yard line.  Cal has its punt team out on the field.  I have no problem with that.  But then they just stand there, let the play clock expire, and take a delay of game penalty to move back five yards. WTF?  I mean, I get it.  You move the ball back five yards because you want to give Anger (Cal's punter) more room to punt.  Yeah, I know.  It's basic football strategy.  That is not lost on me.  But why not at least freakin' bring the offense out, hard count, and try and get the defense to jump offsides?  If they do, you're looking at a 4th and 2 from the 31 yard line.  Now you an attempt a long field goal of 48 yards (31+17).  Or you can just straight go for the conversion.  By bringing the punt team out and just having them stand there, you give up that 5% chance (arbitrary number i just made up) a defense jumps offsides if you bring out the offense and hard count. You have to swing the bat to get a hit!

To me, those were two completely WASTED opportunities to get 5 easy penalty yards should the defense jump offsides.  It just boggled my mind that we didn't do that.  I mean, I didn't even really have issue with Tedford centering the ball on third down in the 2009 Big Game for Tavecchio to kick the field goal to give Cal a 6 point lead.  Because in that situation, there IS risk involved (interception, fumble, loss of yards) with running some other legitimate play on 3rd down.  But in these situations against Oregon State, there was A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y no risk involved in sending your offense out, hard counting, trying to draw the defense offsides, and then just taking a delay of game penalty.  At the most, your offensive line false starts and you lose five yards, but that end result is the same as taking a delay of game.  So I mean, seriously?  Just send the punt team out there and have them stand still?   SMH. 

Unless I'm missing something and there was some strategic reason for not doing anything on those plays.  In which case I'm the world's biggest idiot behind TwistNHook.

(8)  Bowling.  Well, I'm glad we're eligible.  The seniors get one more game.  The players get free stuff from the Bowl sponsors.  Cal Football gets more practice time which is really beneficial to giving the young guys reps.  Cal Football can provide more attention to recruiting targets who are visiting during the bowl season.  Cal gets national publicity for making a bowl game (out of sight, out of mind; in sight, in mind).  Tedford can say that Cal has been to a bowl game 8 out of the 9 years it was eligible to go to a bowl game.  There are so many positives to making a bowl game.

I guess the issue is... which bowl are we going to? 

I'm thinking the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl really might be the best bowl for us.  It would kinda suck because it's technically just another home game, but that's exactly why it might be good for us.  It's a home game.  More Cal fans will probably show up for a bowl game in San Francisco rather than New Mexico, El Paso, or Las Vegas (the other most likely destinations for Cal).  Cal will probably sell out its allotment of tickets (hopefully!).  Cal can have the luxury of doing all its bowl game prep pretty much like it's just another home game.  Cal's travel expenses would be minimal.  Seems like a great opportunity to me. 

Of course... if we happen to get bumped up a bowl, such as to the Las Vegas Bowl or the Sun Bowl, because we ... you know, win another game or two this season, I wouldn't be opposed to that either. 

Go Bears!  Beat Stanfurd!!!