Not every Cal game is worth a re-watch, but an overtime thriller might be worth a few extra views. But the problem with overtime games is fitting all those extra plays in! The Grid Club solution? Let's fast forward through 113 of Paul Richardson's 5,698 total yards (note: As always, numbers may or may not be 100% accurate) so that we can get to the good stuff: Maynard to Allen baby!
While Presbyterian isn't the highest profile opponent, Cal fans in attendance were buzzing over the news that Brendan Bigelow would likely see action at AT&T park on Saturday. And while there isn't (we hope) likely to be any other intrigue against the Blue Hose, there was plenty of friendly curiosity about our obscure opponent with the unique mascot.
Luckily we had Weston Nunn, Presbyterian graduate and member of bluehosesports.com, to give us a little history lesson and the season outlook for the Blue Hose. In addition we heard from special teams coach Jeff Genyk and the dean of Cal beat writers, Jonathan Okanes (Who is so dedicated to his job that he posted a blog entry Wednesday nightt after driving to Sacramento and back!)
Thanks to the wonderful CalBear81 for her excellent notes, allowing me to better paraphrase our speakers!
On the special teams performance against Colorado
We had a good day with kick offs, punts and coverage units, plus we blocked a punt. Certainly the altitude helped with the distance, but it was still a good performance. We were happy to control Richardson on punt returns because he had such a great day elsewhere.
Are the extra point problems an issue of protection or low kicking?
Two of the three have been protection issues, but one Giorgio missed - he hit the turf and sent the ball low.
Why the rugby style punting?
It's based on what the other team is doing. We only used it once against Colorado when they really tried to put a rush on, and it's good to use because Bryan Anger is pretty athletic. It worked well too to get coverage down against a returner like Richardson.
Which freshmen are playing on special teams?
How many punt returners will we see used this year?
It will be Marvin Jones. He didn't get a chance to return one against Colorado, but he will be great when he gets a chance.
Any concerns about Presbyterian?
They have some sophisticated punt block plays - they blocked one last week - so it's something we'll have to prepare for and watch out for.
What's the deal with the Marvin Jones substitution penalty?
We've always been able to use alternative jerseys, but there was a miscommunications between the Pac-12 head refs and Coach Tedford.
This is my 4th year coming up to Sacramento, and in that time I've learned that Cal fans are both passionate . . . and they always assume the worst! This year is interesting because of all the uncertainties - at starting quarterback, at running back, etc.
Zach Maynard was a wild card, but he has shown plenty of promise, with lots of work still left to do. At running back it's clear the running game isn't at the level Tedford wants, which is why Bigelow will play and will potentially play a lot more.
The offensive line - bringing back Coach M is a big upgrade. And if you throw out the penalties in the FSU game they had a pretty good performance, and were generally OK against Colorado. It might take some time for Coach M to coach them up though.
On the defense
The CU game was a shocker. Before the season, I actually thought the defense would be better despite losing three NFL draft picks. It would be the 2nd year under Coach Pendergast, who runs a relatively sophisticated system, and the defense would be deeper. So I was surprised when Cal was essentially out-schemed against Colorado. They had a great game plan with lots of 3 step drops and screens to avoid pressure, and their quarterback really threw the ball well. Other teams will see what CU did and can use that to try to attack - but Cal can also try to learn from what they did wrong, so we'll see how they respond.
On the upcoming schedule
Cal has what must be the toughest four game stretch in conference play this year - Washington, Oregon, USC and Utah in four straight games, and those four games will tell the story of the season. FSU wasn't as good as I thought, but still the first two wins are really important and Cal should feel good about themselves.
On Zach Maynard
He's shown he can throw the ball. He can sometimes but a little too much air under the ball, but he has a strong arm. I don't think you can compare him to Boller or Rodgers, but I'm impressed with his poise and attitude, which arguably has been lacking from recent Cal QBs. It was very impressive how he handled himself in Boulder with that big crowd on the road.
Any theories on why ticket sales have been poor this year?
I get the sense that lots of fans are thinking that the prices are kinda high, they don't want to deal with the hassle of San Francisco, and they're used to the atmosphere at Memorial, meeting up with their friends and enjoying Berkeley, and decided to sit out a year before coming back when the 'new' Memorial opens.
What's the deal with extra points?
Giorgio has struggled in pressure situations. He's the nicest kid on the team, and he keeps winning the job in practice, but I can't think of a position in which winning in practice is less important. To win close games you need two things: a good QB and a good kicker, and we still don't know if Cal has either, although Maynard has shown promise.
How does the talent of this year's team compare to earlier Tedford years?
It's not as good as it has been - I think the 2007 collapse really hurt recruiting immediately afterwards, and that showed in last year's results. They haven't recruited enough WRs, and production really fell off when Jackson/Hawkins/Jordan all left. That said, there's plenty of recently recruited defensive talent.
On Tedford's job security
Sandy is really behind him. There is a certain kind of guy they want coaching at Cal, and it's not Jim Tressel. JT really does use the Cal degree as his #1 recruiting tool. Why can Cal recruit well even in down years? Because they pitch academics to the moms and dads. And he really cares about that and enforces it. His players graduate and they don't get into trouble.
Now, if Cal goes 5-7 or worse this year than his seat will start getting a little warm, but Memorial would not be getting re-built without him and he deserves to reap the benefits of making it happen.
Cal fans don't know much about Presbyterian's recent history - what can you tell us about the last few years of Blue Hose Football?
In 2006 it was announced we were moving up to D-I. At the time our football coach and Athletic Director had some issues, and the result was a new AD and a new coach, who was brought in as a program builder. Things seemed to be on the right track until that coach abruptly left just a few weeks before signing day in 2009, and we hemorrhaged recruits. The AD ended up hiring the 2nd choice from their previous hire to clean up the mess left behind, and the result was a winless year in 2009. We won two games in 2010 and played 30 freshmen because we didn't have anybody else.
What is the outlook in 2011?
This year is coach Nichol's first real recruiting class and we're very excited. We think we have a good, smart QB with laser aim. We opened against FCS #7 Wofford, a traditional rival and took it to the wire before losing 35-28. It showed vast improvement over prior years.
How many Presbyterian fans will be coming out west?
The school put together a tour package with wine tasting and other activities, but as a grad student it would've been 20% of my salary! We should have somewhere around 250 fans in attendance. This is the furthest our football team has ever traveled for a game, though the basketball team has come out to play Fresno St. and San Diego St. in the past.
What's the origin of the Blue Hose nickname?
There's some connection to Scottish Calvinists in the 1700s. But back in the 1920s the team didn't have a name. Because they were wearing blue socks they got called the Blue stockings, which eventually got changed to Blue Hose.
Which Presbyterian players should we watch out for?
All of them! Interestingly, nearly 1/3 of the student body are athletes - I sat next to our starting tailback in Greek class. We do have a few players getting NFL attention. Cornerback Justin Bethel and defensive end Brian Davis have had scouts out to see them. WR Patrcik McCoy has great hands. #1 running back Lance Byrd is small but he runs over people.