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Cal vs Stanford postgame thoughts

A merciful[?] end.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

There was a point on Saturday when my friends and I simply sat in silence. 15 minutes of stunned, beaten down silence, starting right around the middle of the third quarter.

What could any of us have said? What words could we have offered for a team that has never, ever seen such deep levels of defensive awfulness in all its history?


So we sat - we did not leave - waiting for the seconds to tick away and end a season that proved nightmares can become reality.

And you know what? In a weird way, I miss it already, 1-11 and all.

Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, Acceptable, Poor, Dreadful, Troll

In which Ty Montgomery Ty Montgomery Ty Montgomery Ty Montgomery Ty Montgomery

Unit grade: Troll-

Yes, I did do my best Booker T impression right there, but in all honesty, there isn't an excuse for Andy Buh being as ill prepared to deal with Montgomery as he clearly was. Even if the plan was to stop the run - and it was, seeing as the Bears began toying with a 3 DT set from the opening snap - there wasn't a whole lot of logic in continuing to stack the box and force the pass, since they were having so much success with it.

It's one thing to pick your poison. It's another to keep ingesting the same one, repeatedly, although we did do a good job with the run. I'd argue that after a while, it might have been worth trusting Moala, Coleman, and Hunter to be disruptive in the run game in order to defend the pass, though.

Let's look further at the Montgomery TDs:

  • 31 yard end around touchdown run - You'll see Dan Camporeale leave outside containment to chase Gaffney, which allows Montgomery to take the ball. If Campo stays at home, that's a loss. If Michael Lowe doesn't bite on the run fake, maybe Montgomery is tackled after 15 yards instead. Neither happens. Instead, he gets the ball with a head of steam and is heading down the field. Kam Jackson then does his job by widening out to force Montgomery back inside, but neither Dozier nor Walker are able to fill in after him, with both guys getting caught up on blockers, running in the same area. They'd score another touchdown again on an end around run as well.
  • 50 yard touchdown catch - It looks like we have quarters coverage called, which is for four deep defenders. What you'll want to see is that they have trips at the top of the screen, and since the traditional numbering system goes from outside to inside, I will call these guys WR #1, #2 (Montgomery), and #3. Stanford appears to have scouted this out, based on how the play unfolds. WR #1 goes deep, which is Kam Jackson's responsibility. But they send WR #2 (Montgomery) and #3 deep downfield at Cam Walker, forcing him to pick between one or the other. Whether Cam doesn't know the coverage, or he's indecisive, I don't know, because I think he chooses the #3 expecting that his linebacker will follow the other receiver up the field. Either It's a no win situation, though. Even if he stuck with Montgomery, WR #3 would have been open. Just not good playcall here, in my opinion.
  • 12 yard touchdown catch - Not 100% sure of this interpretation of events, but like all things I write, I'll mention it anyway. Stanford motions a guy up top, so that becomes Kam Jackson's responsibility. Then it looks like neither King nor Walker is clear on who should be covering Montgomery in the slot, which allows him to runs right in front of Lucas King unimpeded. I do not remember seeing Walker after this, so I assume he was pulled.
  • 72 yard touchdown reception - We have the Nascar package variant in here, with Chad Whitener at stand up/end, Kragen at defensive tackle, Todd Barr at defensive tackle, and Lucas King standing up/end. Other defenders: Lowe, Drew, Willis, Barton, Jefferson, Dozier, Jackson. When the throw goes out to Montgomery at the top, Willis bites too far outside, allowing Montgomery to sneak back in across from him and he's off to the races. Good block by Khalil Wilkes takes care of Drew, and Montgomery is smart enough to widen back out to the corner of the end zone to evade Lowe.
  • 9 yard touchdown reception - Single coverage with Montgomery isolated on the far side of the field, and no one to help Cedric Dozier. Probably should have doubled, I think, playing Dozier with outside leverage to take away the fade specifically, while spotting another defender inside for slants, square-ins, etc.

It's hard to tell if we tried to roll a safety toward Montgomery on any of these plays, because even if a safety is supposed to be over to help (and I can't exactly tell because we don't have All 22 tape), it doesn't make a difference overall. The 72 yard touchdown, for example, wipes out safety help entirely.

And all of this happened in the first half. The first half.

Part of this can be traced to a completely ineffective pass rush didn't bother Hogan or their backup, Evan Crower. Cal recorded one hit, one sack, and although those don't always tell the whole story, Hogan had ample, ample time behind Stanford's forest of hulking, meaty behemoths, and Crower probably could have won the game if he played the entire time as well.

Is there even an effective pass rusher on this roster? I have yet to see one, the occasional blitzing of Jalen Jefferson notwithstanding. Come back healthy, Scarlett. More importantly, come back effective.

It is not fair to call Josh Garnett a tight end. Good lord.

Cam Walker and Cedric Dozier were very, very lost in this one, unable to pick up their receivers down field or follow them deep at all. Both ended up being pulled for Joel Willis and Damariay Drew, respectively. Can't say Dozier didn't deserve his. Two poor, poor weeks in a row for the kid.

Speaking of Jackson, this was probably second worst game of the year, after Oregon State. He doesn't quite break fast enough to make up ground on comeback routes. Whether by the design of the defense or not, it's been a consistent area of attack this season, as has his weakness against larger receivers.

A ton of credit goes to Montgomery and the Stanford receivers who just outplayed our guys in space, when they weren't already busy running past them. I struggled to name any receivers the Cardinal had besides Montgomery, but Michael Rector made me aware of his existence very, very quickly. Yuck.

There was one player who I felt played relatively well on defense, and that was Lucas King, who ended up at the podium afterwards. In his first Big Game start, he had several tackles for loss or no gain, part of a nine tackle afternoon. What few stops we got on the day were usually due in part to him, although he was not perfect -- he was the man who took the wrong gap on the Gaffney touchdown, for example.

Shout out to Michael Barton, too. Viliami Moala had a fumble recovery and a damn nice shot on Kevin Hogan in the first half. Expecting big things from him next season.

Not as many missed tackles as usual this week. Mostly because our guys were never even in the position to make the tackles at all, getting caught up in the mass of bodies or just taking poor angles of approach all game long.

In short, it's going to take a very, very hard sell to convince anyone to keep Andy Buh, even once we factor in all the injuries and the youth. This game was probably pushed me firmly into the fire Buh category, simply because all the data gives us little to believe he can competently do the job once we have a full deck of starters back.

Yes, I waited til the end of the year to say that. Prefer to examine things in the full picture, the complete context. But now that the season's over, that context looks even uglier. Sure, some of the results - a few of the touchdowns I wrote up, for example - were player based and due to the lack of personnel available, but an equal amount, if not more, falls on Buh's clear inability to do anything differently until it is far too late, with Montgomery serving as only the latest and most egregious example. Improvement - if there has been any - has been inconsistent at best.

If it is at all possible to raise the money, then we should cut him loose.

Would like to close this section with acknowledgment of Dan Camporeale and Deandre Coleman, who will be graduating. Thanks guys. Go Bears.

In which we talk Bear Raid

Unit grade: Poor-/Dreadful+

Tony Franklin started the game well enough. I thought he called a fantastic sequence, having the Bears test Stanford out on the edges several times, before calling a playaction off a Speedbone sweep. The result was Cal's first touchdown to Maurice Harris. Goff threw some very sharp passes on that first drive, actually - I felt he was doing decently before leaving with his shoulder injury.

No, at 10 of 19 passing, he wasn't as efficient as we would prefer, and no, he didn't set the world on fire, but against a strong defense like Stanford's, he did just alright. Stanford did seem adjust well to the gameplan as it went along though, never allowing anything close to success we had on the opening drive.

Still, he kept us more competitive than Kline did, in my opinion. Sure, it wasn't a full start for Kline, but it pretty much was, given the extensive action that he had - and with that, I think I've settled on how I feel about all this.

Acknowledging the fact that he hasn't had full first team reps much, if at all, with the sample size we've seen from him, I don't think there's a strong enough case to support him taking the long-term job away from Goff. For a backup to prove they deserve the starting job, they must offer more upside, more something. There were a couple good throws, but I haven't seen much more. And again, I wanted/expected Kline to win the job out of camp.

As it has been true several times this year, quarterback play wasn't the biggest reason why we lost.

Goff did end up breaking the single season record for passing yardage on his final pass of the season, which I predicted would happen. Cool tidbit, even if it doesn't mean anything substantial. Doesn't mean we can't be proud of the accomplishment itself.

Good to see Richard Rodgers come out like that on Saturday. Looking forward to seeing what kind of season he'll have next year, given his unique combination of size, strength and speed. This wide receiver core will be deep in 14. Yes, I wrote that already.

Flip side, the rushing game was exponentially better this year against Stanford than it had been last season! 73 rushes on 31 carries (really, 85 yards on 27 carries) is a vast improvement over 28 carries for -3 yards (really, 13 yards on 20 carries.)

Darius Powe's headbutting penalty probably cost the Bears four points. Does it make a difference in the long haul? No. But it sure as hell didn't help.

Where was Bryce Treggs? Why was there not more of an effort to get the ball into his hands, whether by screen or by sweep? Or even that touchpass we've seen so much against Arizona? Ugh. He had a fine season, but there really is a lot more that we can do with him.

No disagreement on the fake punt call. I'm a huge supporter of trick plays to keep opponents off-guard, and it was worth the chance to try one there. Only issue was that they snuffed it out perfectly, stoning Dan Camporeale cold for a gain of one as soon as he caught it.

In which we explore tempo

@TheAdmiral6 (who isn't actually an Admiral, as I found out), noticed has hypothesized that tempo has been a consistent problem this season, and I decided to do some more digging into that All credit goes to him for the observation and the writing point, although our conclusions differ a bit.

You all can break it down further in the comments, seeing as I've written enough here:


Time of Possession







18.43 seconds per play (1825/99)

Portland State




20.38 seconds per play (1937/95)

Ohio State




17.38 seconds per play






19.58 seconds per play






17.96 seconds per play






22.5 seconds per play


Oregon St




20.67 seconds per play






21.23 seconds per play






19.79 seconds per play






20.65 seconds per play





19:05 seconds per play





25.66 seconds per play

Season average: 1046 plays in 350:41 (21041/1046), 20:11 seconds. 23.0 points per game.

For comparison:

  • 2012 Louisiana Tech ran 1054 plays in 335:59, for an average of 19.12 seconds per play (20159/1054). 51.5 points per game.
  • 2011 Louisiana Tech ran 987 plays in 365:22, for an average of 22.21 seconds per play (21922/987). 30.11 points per game.
  • 2010 Louisiana Tech ran 890 plays in 321:43 for an average of 21.68 seconds per play (19303/890) 26.8 points per game.

The year to year improvement in the scheme leaves me a bit hopeful, to say the least. It is interesting to note that those tempo numbers are closer to 2012 Tech than they are to the two earlier incarnations, so I don't think going slow was the entire issue, especially when you realize these numbers instead:

  • 2013 California converted 33.64 percent of third downs. 42.11 percent of fourth downs.
  • 2012 Louisiana Tech converted 43.31 percent of third downs. 68.97 percent of fourth downs.
  • 2010 Louisiana Tech [remember, first year of Dykes' program] converted 37.57 percent of third downs. 53.85 percent of fourth downs.
  • 2011 Louisiana Tech converted 36.87 percent of third downs, 58.82 percent of fourth downs.

With the similarity in speed between these two teams and the data above, I think the implication is is that the actual act of moving the chains - whether by third or fourth down conversion - is more important than playing fast, that the former is required for the latter. After all, we spent a lot of time going fast and generating offensive plays this season because the defense was so terrible, but the multiplicative effects of tempo were never really felt because we were going three and out all the time.

In short, I do not think that the tempo was the issue this year. Playing fast helps - as you can see, most of our better games occur with a faster plays/sec ratio - but it's not the only factor. I'd argue that consistency is more important.

Do I think the Bear Raid can work? Well, it's going to take another year or two of data before we know for sure, since the trend - and obviously trends are all we have to go off of at this point - signals that there should be dramatic improvement in year two and three.

Even if we don't go significantly faster after another year of S&C, familiarity and offseason practice, then we should at least be more efficient at executing, particularly on third downs. The return of our real center and a little more freedom for Jared to call his own plays might also help, reducing check with me situations. I am also hypothesizing that we even scaled back the speed at times this season, to help out a defense that had no depth -- that eight minute drive against UCLA being a prime example.

Your thoughts?

In which special teams is blah

Unit grade: Poor

D'Amato hit all his kicks, but I'm awarding them a Poor due to the anemic return game in this one, both on the kicking and punting side. Khalfani Muhammad had an immense amount of trouble getting anything going, trotting into the end zone a few times and garnering a season low 15.7 yards per return average. There were a couple of near disastrous moments from him, and at one point, he tried some sort of ill-advised lateral to Bigelow that would eventually get him benched for the final kickoff.

There were also the repeated squib kicks away from Montgomery, one of which ended up being returned for significant yardage anyway.

I don't need to write more about the punt return unit, which has been consistently fruitless all season.

Did agree with the decision to go for the onside immediately after the first touchdown. Unfortunate that we couldn't recover, but really, that kind of stuff always happens to this team.

It's too early to think about doing anything with Tommerdahl. Let's see what he can do with a more physically mature and experienced set of ST players next year. Yes, there were five return TDs given up, but they all happened against Oregon and USC, two teams that far outmatch us physically right now. I'd keep him.

In which we close this season and I share some announcements

It's been a tough year. It's been a hard year, and I imagine that this is the modern equivalent of the end for Holmoe. Might even be worse than that. But we got through it, relatively unscathed.

As I've said before, thanks for following along, for reading, for everything. The support has been encouraging as I continue figuring out what writing has in store for me and how far I am meant to take it. That will take a long time for someone like me. It is not unlike a culture change in itself. Gonna fly around and compete hard so I can get better for next season, I promise.

You guys aren't quite rid of me yet, though - I'm not exactly heading into hibernation or anything, although I certainly wouldn't mind it. I do have some plans for some upcoming pieces for CGB, I think, and I will also be doing a good number of recruiting coverage, just as I did last year, so that's about what you can expect out of me for the next while.

I have no plans as of yet to regularly attend spring/fall camps next year, as they've changed the media rules to disallow livetweeting, formational stuff, injury information, and even innocuous play by play. I'm not blaming anyone in Cal Athletics for that, and do understand why those restrictions are in place - but that, in turn, lessens the incentive for me to continue going regularly, especially when it's not my job.

Best case scenario, I show up to a few - not all - and write those up, though.

Alright, I think that's it. Thanks, y'all. Go Bears. Always.