Having presumably recovered from holiday revelry and with shiny-resolutions bolstering our collective spirit, what better way to kick off the new year than by reliving the wonderful Holiday Bowl? (Please don't throw things at your monitor. I tried to fake an injury to get out of reviewing the game film, but Twist is a cruel taskmaster.)
Cal cleverly lulled the Texas defense into a false sense of security by running for little to no gain throughout the first half. After a series of clutch 3rd down completions from Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen, the Bears are in business with first and goal. They come out with 12 personnel, one running back and two tight ends. Miller is on the line while Hagan is split out wide. Texas looks to be in Cover-One, man-free on the outside.
Before the snap, Hagan goes in motion back towards the line. Texas reveals that they're in man coverage when the cornerback (Diggs) follows Hagan.
Jones moves inside and draws his defender with him. Hagan cracks down on the defensive end allowing MSG to pull outside. The Texas DB with responsibility for Hagan has been moved out of position away from the perimeter and stays focused on Hagan. Miller takes their other DE. Schwartz pulls to take out one DT. Galas and Cheadle combo-block their other DT.
Schwartz cuts their DT and puts him on the ground. But, the play is made by two key blocks: Hagan is able to hold the edge against their much larger DE. Meanwhile, Cheadle blocks two men and prevents both their DT and LB from getting outside. Their DB realizes this is a run, and takes off to cover the sideline. Sofele is heading towards the cone with MSG out in front.
MSG dives to take out the Texas corner...
...but misses. Sofele finds himself trying to out-run the Texas corner and safety. He puts his foot in the ground and cuts back hard...
The Texas corner is faked out and slips to the ground. Sofele gets his pads low...
...and dives between the two Longhorn defenders. Touchdown Bears!
For this particular play, score one for the Cal coaching staff. Normally, they split the TE out wide to scheme defenders out of the box. Because Texas likes to play man on the outside, this was a clever way to draw defenders away from the edge. Why didn't the outside sweep play work for the rest of the game? Texas switched coverages and did a nice job of disguising them. They started their corner following Cal's TE in motion, but really left him outside in zone instead of man. When the Cal tailbacks tried to get outside, they had two defenders already waiting for them. Normally, this would set up Cal's play-action, but the Oline wasn't able to give Maynard enough time.
There were many good defensive sequences throughout the game. But this one was particularly noteworthy.
Texas comes out with 23 personnel, two backs and _three_ tight ends. This formation practically screams, "We're gonna run it down your throat!" Cal counters with Cover One. Five men on the line, Campbell up close in run support, and Cattouse playing back as a center field.
At the snap, the Bears rush five. It looks like a hand-off...
...but it's a fake! It's a play-action pass to the tight-end or flat. At this point, Cal fans everywhere are getting flashbacks to the Big Game where this play killed us repeatedly. But, Anthony isn't fooled and picks up their TE going vertical.
Guyton is double-teamed, but McCain runs free and charges towards the backfield.
Campbell quickly moves up and out to cover the fullback in the flat. McCain gets cut by their tailback and goes to the ground. But, Guyton uses great hand technique to disengage from their tackle and moves past him.
It's a two man route, but Cal has inexplicably covered both their tight end and their fullback. Do we do that? Can we do that? This is where a more experienced QB would throw it away. The Longhorns tackle tries to hold Guyton, but can't get a good enough grip. (He clearly needs to take some lessons from Nike U.)
But, David Ash holds the ball too long. He realizes his mistake when he sees Guyton put on a tremendous closing burst.
BOOM. Guyton plants Ash for a near-safety. While the rest of the Longhorn Oline looks back accusingly, the tackle beaten on the play can't bring himself to make eye contact with his semi-mangled QB.
This one hurt and we're all disappointed. But now that the gaping wounds have started to scab over, I'm ready to look forward to The Return to Memorial.
1) Most predicted a 7-win season, +/- (1) because of uncertainties surrounding our Oline, tailback, offense in general and because we were breaking in a new QB. Those were reasonable expectations for what was slated as a rebuilding year.
2) If you add up recruiting points(via Rivals) over the past four years, there's a significant talent gap.
USC scored approximately 10k points and Texas had 9+k. By comparison, Cal had about 5+k.
We simply made too many mistakes to give ourselves a chance at upsetting a bigger, faster, and more athletic team.
3) Can we get better? Pappy Waldorf ain't walking through that door. Aaron Rodgers ain't walking through that door.
But, the tree-sitters are just stinky memories in the wind. We no longer have the worst facilities in the conference. The latest recruiting classes have been highly-rated. It's another year of proven offensive coaches; Coach M, Coach Gould, Coach Kiseau, and Coach Tedford. We know that Coach Blasquez is an incredible upgrade at S & C. No matter what, we're not allowed to cover the tight-end, so our defense doesn't need to do anything differently. (I'm kidding. Someone cover that guy already.)
With no more excuses remaining, next year will be critical year for Tedford & Co. They'll either get it done, or it'll be time to ask the hard questions. In this case, I'm glad that the decisions are made well above the influence of the online sports community.