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The Cal Running Game Against USC. Was It Used Enough?


Avinash Kunnath: Do you believe Cal should have stuck with the run more and not forced Maynard to do so much?

OhioBear: 5 touches for Bigelow (4 rush, 1 rec) out of 70 offensive plays seems a little low after last week's performance against Ohio State. If the coaches planned to involve him more in the offense, it didn't seem like it today.

Atomsareenough: I do think we should have run the football more in general, yeah.

But there is just so much wrong. We are terrible at executing in pretty much every phase of the game, it feels like. I am okay with passing the football if we can do it, but there were so many plays where guys were wide freaking open and Maynard either didn't see them or couldn't deliver the ball. At least there didn't seem to be a ton of drops (though, I missed most of the first quarter and part of the 3rd quarter and had to listen on the radio), but it's hard to drop a ball that never gets to you in the first place.

As for running it, USC's run defense played really well. Their front 7 moves very well laterally. Isi was never able to get to the edge and only averaged 2.0 yards/carry. Maybe Bigelow would've been able to get there, but that's pretty hard to say. I guess people might think that Bigelow was thisclose to busting a long one, but who knows.

What do you guys think was behind the red zone futility? Were we getting too cutesy, did we suddenly get incompetent, was USC able to just clamp down at will when we got close? All of the above? That was really when I felt like we should have run it more, when we needed to keep moving the ball in the red zone. That's such a huge downer when you should ram it into the end zone and you can't do it.

What else? We finally started making some field goals again. yay. We were competent in not allowing big returns.... I thought our secondary played pretty well, mostly.

Bah, I dunno, I found the whole game really dispiriting. It's hard to even think about, let alone try to rationally break this thing down. Even though it wasn't all that close, it somehow still felt less close than it was. Norcalnick in a game thread likened it to our game against Southern Utah, (with us as Southern Utah, naturally), and that resonated immediately with me. I dunno, going into this game I felt like we were capable of playing so much better and we just didn't look like we had our act together in any way whatsoever and as a result I found myself asking why I was even watching this garbage, which is really just the last thing you ever want to think as a fan. In the 4th quarter, Maynard stepped out for a loss of 3 yards or so on a 3rd and long when he could have just thrown it away or run back to the line of scrimmage at least, because there wasn't really a USC player breathing down his neck or anything, but he just didn't feel like getting hit again probably, it was like, "See, even Maynard's had enough."

I'm just frustrated. The rational part of my mind says it's only 1 game, and it's a game we expected to lose anyway, and it was pretty close for most of the game... but the other part of my mind is saying "So what?? It's not the fact that we lost, it's the endless DERPitude that we keep displaying. We're never going to turn the corner if we can't play 4 quarters of solid, mostly mistake-free football." Sorry, I'm rambling and this is awful writing and I apologize.

Avinash Kunnath: I'm going to borrow Berkelium's stat: "Taking out Maynard’s stats, we had 4.59ypc. I wouldn’t use sacks to discredit the run blocking. You can be good at one without necessarily being good at the other."

I felt like we put too much on Maynard with his arm. Cal was running the ball okay, and particularly with Bigelow and also with C.J. on a few carries. I like Isi, but he just isn't good enough to put up yards on USC.


What do you guys think was behind the red zone futility?

Here's a list of all our plays in/around the red zone:

1st and 10 at USC 21 Zach Maynard pass incomplete to Bryce Treggs.
2nd and 10 at USC 21 USC penalty 5 yard Substitution Infraction accepted.
2nd and 5 at USC 16 CALIFORNIA penalty 5 yard False Start accepted.
2nd and 10 at USC 21 Zach Maynard pass complete to Keenan Allen for 10 yards to the USC 11 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at USC 11 C.J. Anderson pass incomplete.
2nd and 10 at USC 11 Zach Maynard rush for 1 yard to the USC 10.
3rd and 9 at USC 10 Zach Maynard rush for 4 yards to the USC 6.
4th and 5 at USC 6 Vincenzo D'Amato 24 yard field goal GOOD. 3 7

2nd and 6 at USC 20 Brendan Bigelow rush for 8 yards to the USC 12 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at USC 12 Zach Maynard rush for 3 yards to the USC 9.
2nd and 7 at USC 9 Zach Maynard pass incomplete to Spencer Hagan.
3rd and 7 at USC 9 Zach Maynard pass incomplete to Keenan Allen.
4th and 7 at USC 9 Vincenzo D'Amato 26 yard field goal GOOD. 6 17

1st and 10 at USC 17 Isi Sofele rush for 3 yards to the USC 14.
2nd and 7 at USC 14 Zach Maynard sacked by Leonard Williams for a loss of 5 yards to the USC 19.
3rd and 12 at USC 19 Isi Sofele rush for 1 yard to the USC 18.
4th and 11 at USC 18 Vincenzo D'Amato 35 yard field goal GOOD. 9 17

1st and 10 at USC 14 Zach Maynard pass incomplete to Keenan Allen.
2nd and 10 at USC 14 Timeout CALIFORNIA, clock 5:12.
2nd and 10 at USC 14 Zach Maynard pass intercepted by T.J. McDonald at the USC 7, returned for no gain to the USC 7.

Notice anything?

What immediately stands out to me is that 10 of the 14 plays are put in Zack's hands. We had two Sofele runs, a botched CJ Anderson pass, and one Bigelow run.

I don't recall whether the Maynard runs were designed runs or scrambles, but I don't like the idea of putting the ball in his hands in the red zone. We all know he struggles to read the field. I don't know why we're having him read the field in a red zone situation, where the short field is crowded with defenders. That's a disaster waiting to happen.

Rushing         No Gain Loss  Net TD Lg  Avg
Anderson, C.J.   5   35    3   32  0 13  6.4
Bigelow, Brenda  4   31    0   31  0 11  7.8
Sofele, Isi      8   20    4   16  0  9  2.0
Maynard, Zach   19   56   58   -2  0 14 -0.1
Totals...       36  142   65   77  0 14  2.1

Honestly, I would like to see an increase of all the rushing attempts there. Even Isi Sofele, who did not have a great day. That is 17 total rushing attempts by our three combined RBs. Anderson averaged 6.4 yards a carry and Bigelow average 7.8 yards per carry. Obviously, that was in limited action, so the more attempts, the lower that number becomes. But still, that number has a long way to go down! And the passing attack wasn't looking all that amazing. So, while the smaller question might be "Should Bigelow have gotten more action?" the larger question could easily be "Should Bigelow and all the other RBs have gotten more carries?" I think the answer to both would be yes.

What do you think about the red zone futility?

That botched Anderson pass was a great play call. The Cal receiver was open in the end zone. Unfortunately, Anderson wasn't able to make the pass close enough to him to be caught.

One of Berkelium97's play pastings jumped out at me.

3rd and 12 at USC 19 Isi Sofele rush for 1 yard to the USC 18.

This is that classic Tedford move where we have a 3rd and long and he goes for the run. He seems to use it for field positioning. I get that, but here it is 3 and 12 at the USC 19. We're not going to punt. Our field goal kicker has been inconsistent. Let's try for the TD! At this point, it is 17-6. It's USC. We haven't beaten them since sometime in the jurassic period. Don't play for the field positioning. Play for the TD! And we only got 1 yard out of it anyway, so it didn't even work! I would have loved to see the run used more against USC, but this was not the situation for it.