It's becoming clear Cal fans don't trust Isi Sofele the way they've trusted almost every Ron Gould running back. It's understandable. Isi is smaller. He's physical but not elusive. He can break tackles, but he needs his offensive line to make his blocks. However, he does something that no one else really pays attention to, which is pass protects the hell out of blitzers. That's why you see him lined up behind the line of scrimmage on the majority of snaps in lieu of any other running back, regardless of talent or abilities.
And despite having a career game, there's a lot of fury about Sofele handling those last couple of snaps rather than the bulkier power back C.J. Anderson. Even Jeff Tedford admitted Anderson might have been a solid option at the goal-line, although he reiterated his confidence in Sofele.
On the play selection down near the end zone at the end, Tedford said he felt like Isi Sofele could punch it in. When asked if C.J. Anderson could have been taking those snaps, he allowed that is a reasonable question to raise.
Did Jeff Tedford snatch victory away from Cal with his playcalling and personnel decisions in the final four players on Saturday? We revisit this in a special roundtable discussion, and trust me, there were a lot of different opinions here.
Avinash: So why would you trust Sofele in that situation? Experience. When in doubt, trust the guy who knows how to follow his blockers, who knows when to cutback, who can give your quarterback more of a run-pass option and more places to put the ball.
If you put Anderson in the game (who would only be in there to run), Washington shifts immediately to defend the run, or puts the extra man that would have respected Sofele's ability to catch out of the backfield into the box. That decreases the flexibility for this Cal offense, which we can all guess by now isn't much of a power running team.
Does that make the decision right or wrong to put Isi in those goal-line situations? I don't know. We lost, so clearly we didn't achieve the ideal result. But if Isi had punched it in, would we be angry about this? We'd probably be praising Isi for his greatest game in a Cal uniform. Sometimes the defense makes a better play than the offense.
TwistNHook: There appears to be a lot of criticism regarding Isi Sofele v. CJ Anderson here. I really like CJ Anderson. But I don't necessarily think that having Sofele here was all that bad. Let's first look at the numbers on the day:
Rushing No Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg ------------------------------
-------------- Sofele, Isi 17 100 2 98 0 22 5.8 Allen, Keenan 2 20 0 20 0 19 10.0 Anderson, C.J. 7 11 2 9 1 4 1.3
Of course, one will probably argue that CJ is better at powering through contact than Sofele. This is probably true. Nevertheless, if that were the case, then it would seem a little puzzling why a RB who is so good at powering through contact would only have 1.3 yards per carry in a game. This is probably even more puzzling considering that Sofele was averaging 5.8 yards per run against the very same defense. So what is the most likely explanation for these two very different statistics for two RBs? Run blocking and execution. Sofele got better run blocking and execution on average than CJ. So then clearly, it's quite obvious then that a RB's success on any given rush play is based more on the execution and run blocking by his OL rather than the RB's abilities.
This game should be all the evidence we need to silence the Anderson vs Sofele debate. When the O-line creates holes and seals edges, it doesn't matter who is running back there. We're going to get yards. Sure CJ is a little better at powering through contact and Sofele is much better in open space, but there is no obvious reason that Anderson should supplant Sofele as the starter.
Thanks to some solid blocking, Sofele had been averaging nearly 6 yards per carry up to that point. He nearly got the TD on 2nd down, but that 3rd down play was poorly executed and not even Tiny could muscle his way through all those purple jerseys. It's tough to envision CJ as an obviously better option in that situation.
While I don't know if I agree with all the play calls, if we execute we'd be throwing or running for 2 points and possible overtime.
CBKWit: I think this was Isi's best game, by far, as a Cal player. He hit the hole so much harder than I've seen in any previous game, and I don't think it was just the level of competition - he looked so much better this week than he did against Presbyterian last week. He was seeing the field much more effectively and making decisive cuts.
That said, I was wondering what the hell he was doing in there on 1st and goal from the 2. I haven't looked at the play by play, but I recall Isi gaining most, if not all of his yardage outside the red zone. Inside the red zone, UW was able to compress their defense (as all teams can) because they only have to defend 10-30 yards behind them. Cal's passing game certainly left UW vulnerable to the run, especially when the Cal was outside of the red zone.
CJ Anderson had two carries from the two yard line and converted it into a touchdown, Cal's only touchdown within the redzone. Anderson had to go through contact to get into the end zone.
Isi also had two carriers from the two yard line and failed to score. You can entertain hypotheticals all night, but Anderson converted and Isi didn't.
Aside from having Anderson in there, I would have liked to see something utilizing Maynard's mobility. He missed Allen in the end zone twice earlier in the game, so I would have rather seen a bootleg or something with a run option than trying another touch pass to Keenan. I would guess that faking to Anderson, who had scored earlier, would have drawn plenty of defensive attention.