As the saying goes, "a win is a win," and this one was desperately needed. Fans voiced their low morale and apathy for the Cal football program with row upon row of vacated seats at AT&T park. Or, perhaps there was an Occupy rally that conflicted with the game. Much respect to the students and fans who braved the rainy weather to support our team.
In some ways, it was a little sad to watch this game as a footnote to diminished expectations for this season and for our program in general. But ultimately, it was a relief that we didn't have to spend the rest of the week arguing with fellow fans about whether it was more embarrassing to lose to ucla or Wazzu.
After the jump, let's take a closer look at the game:
(Author's Note: I'm filling in for Hydro this week because he made the poor decision of befriending someone who callously chose to schedule a semi-important event on the same day as a Cal football game. It's clear who is at fault here. Because he recruited Hydro, hired Hydro, trained Hydro, had the perfect excuse called up (fake illness), and Hydro still wasn't able to execute...this is clearly Tedford's fault.)
Bob Gregory Clancy Pendergast called a great game on defense. As expected, it was a hefty dose of our big nickel package featuring OLBs as DEs next to two lineman. We did run a few dog and corner blitzes as well as a few stunts. But for the most part, it looked like relatively straightforward zone defense and our guys did a good job of executing their assignments. Rush just 3 or 4 and drop into coverage? Madness! It seemed like a deliberate effort to keep things simple so that the guys could play fast. It's hard to argue with the results. The Cougars may not be a great team, but their offense has been able to move the ball and put up points on everyone.
2) A big tip of the hat to the Cal secondary for holding Wazzu well below their average passing yardage. In particular, Josh Hill, Sean Cattouse, and DJ Campbell had strong games. Steve Williams and Marc Anthony were solid on the outside, but I had been concerned that WSU would be able to exploit mismatches out of the slot. Instead, Hill and our safeties were more than able to hold their own. Of course, it's always nice when the opposing quarterback has an off day and his receivers have a case of the dropsies.
3) Perhaps the overlooked MVP of the defense yesterday was DJ Holt. He was often left by himself in the middle as the lone LB when the Cougars spread things out with 4-5 receivers. Mychal Kendricks might be our big-play defender, but Holt has been absolutely steady all year. He did a great job in both coverage and in stopping the run. Despite all the great young talent on the team, he might be the guy we miss the most next year.
4) It was distressing to hear that Chris McCain had to be rushed to the hospital via ambulance with a head/neck injury. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris and his family. *Update*: He was discharged and is resting comfortably. Still day to day with concussion symptoms.
5) The Cal Oline did a good job of opening holes on the ground, particularly with sweeps to the outside. Again, the coaches seem to be adjusting to what we've got. We're not overpowering straight ahead, but our guys are mobile and do a good job of pulling and getting out in space. I liked how they've expanded on motioning KA into the backfield by using him to run the zone-read with Maynard.
Walk-on Justin Gates made his first start filling in for Brian Schwenke(illness) and did an admirable job. As an interesting side note, it was Chris Adcock who took over at center when Galas temporarily went out with injury. Adcock was a highly regarded guard as a high school recruit. I wonder if Brazinski is hurt, or has switched positions. (rated the #2 center in the country out of HS)
6) One key in the improvement of the Cal rushing attack is the return of TE Spencer Ladner from injury. He's bigger than Spencer Hagan and faster than Anthony Miller. This lets him get out on the edge and block into the 2nd level. He had a number of big blocks springing Sofele for some of those longer runs. Let's hope he stays healthy.
7) Our pass protection is still a work in progress. We're especially vulnerable to speed rushers off the edge. Some of Maynard's errant throws were caused because he had to let it go early with a pass rusher closing in or because he was flushed from the pocket. Considering that our best tackle (Schwartz) is graduating and our lack of depth at the position, we may not see an improvement in this area any time soon.
8) It was a new wrinkle on special teams to see both KA and Jones back as returners. I'm not sure if this a one-game adjustment because of the weather or because of Wazzu's rugby-style freshman punter. It was not new to see a blocked extra point. Yes, we deliberately leave the backside rusher unblocked in our brilliant kicking scheme. I cannot confirm nor deny that Coach Genyk has been spotted at Kinko's making copies of his resume. (HT golden oso)
9) It was a surprise to see walk-on Mike Manuel getting snaps as the backup tailback before CJ Anderson or Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson. He played well and it's nice to see his hard work being rewarded. But, it's curious that there's been no apparent attempt to work Brendan Bigelow into the offense. He certainly seems to be getting his burst back and would seem an ideal fit for some of pitch plays and sweeps that our Oline executes well.
10) Maynard was okay. Not great. Not bad. Serviceable and sufficient to beat a bad Cougar defense. It was nice not to see any interceptions, although he still had some accuracy issues. I thought the coaching staff did a good job of adjusting the game plan to help keep him in his comfort zone and to avoid asking him to do too much. There was a hefty reliance on the running game combined with a heavy dose of rollouts and sprintouts. It was a sound strategic decision - I'm sure that it had to be tempting to draw up a pass-happy attack against one of the worst pass defenses in the country.
The challenge moving forward will be keeping better defenses from keying in on our WORL (we only roll left) passing game. It's still hard to predict how Maynard will develop. Will he always be that guy who tantalizes with his potential, but never quite puts it all together? Could he make a Boller-like leap in his senior year to become more consistent?
11) Allen Bridgford didn't do anything to stoke the fires of quarterback controversy. Two fumbled snaps, and a third fumble off a bad exchange on the zone-read don't exactly inspire confidence. Even on bread and butter handoffs, the timing or footwork seemed really awkward. On the flip side, I suppose you could argue that this is exactly why he should have seen more snaps earlier in the year. Instead of going into our run-out-the-game offense, I wish that they would have let him keep throwing in the 4th quarter. Three attempts doesn't really give us any idea of what he can do. It was interesting that he lined up almost exclusively under center while Maynard is usually in the shotgun. I would suspect that the coaches have two distinct play lists respectively for the two different quarterbacks.
12) If we were a better team with a more consistent offense, I would be really bothered by how many times we squandered excellent field position. In some ways, it felt like we should have put up more than 30 points. Maybe even 105. Okay. You can throw things at me now. (Try not to hit any 'sc or ucla fans by accident.)