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Cal vs Washington postgame notebook

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The losses are never nearly as fun to put together. But, here I am, again. Welcome to my brain.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

I. In which there is a defense of #drop50

I should begin by noting that I never asked for the shirts to be made or for the news articles to be written. Those things happened independent of me.

And to follow all that hoopla, we didn't drop 50. We didn't even drop double digits, the week after those seven characters began to blow up.

Sensing that a jinx of some kind has been unleashed (even though the term has been in existence long before we ever hit half a century), there are certain to be cries and demands that we ban all instances of the phrase, erase it from our memories, burn all the shirts, what have you.

So, with all due respect to anyone who would be a part of all that, I think you misunderstand. See, #Drop50 is not a guarantee that we reach that every week.

The way I've grown to see it is as a rallying cry and starting goal; a mindset, to go out there, to score, and then to keep scoring. It does not mean to reach 50 and pack it in right there. Clearly, this is an offensive system that allows for that kind of production, and a personnel group with the talent to do it, too, so why not set the benchmarks high?

Besides, we are 3-0 when Cal scores over 50 points, so it's not like the goal itself is invalidated by this week's game.

In short, I don't apologize, and I certainly don't plan on stopping. A fairly significant amount of people in the Cal Twitter community don't either, so that's plenty good enough for me. There's probably a better and more productive use of your pursuits than to police how we have fun.

Remember, there's certainly worse we could be doing...like the Wave.

II. In which there is an introduction and some perspective

All losses hurt.

Of course they do. You get only a handful of Saturdays a year to enjoy college football, making each win precious and each defeat magnitudes more painful.

Still, this one isn't the worst, and it may have even been the luck gods evening themselves back out after last week. Mike Rollins said that before the season, if you had circled a 31-7 score in against Washington, he wouldn't have batted an eye. And I kind of agree with him. Things may just be correcting themselves a bit, as we figure out how good we are. After a game like this, the verdict probably now reads: Pac-12 competitive, lurking and dangerous, not an easy out. Still not ready for primetime.

With the SHOULD WIN portion of the schedule disappearing quickly, though, this one would have been nice to have, simply because it would have preserved the margin for error. The easiest path to bowl eligibility would have been two out of UW, OSU, and BYU trio. Now, the calculus has changed a bit, and unless we take one of the four games we have low projected odds of winning -- Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, USC -- everything rides on going two for two with the Cougars and the Beavers.

Still doable, but a whole lot less comfortable. Check back next week.

Other quick thoughts:

  • No idea how going from 4-1 to potentially 4-4 would affect the confidence of this team...which I guess makes UCLA a must win for me, because I do not want us to fall back to .500. And also, that whole beating our little brothers thing is a big deal too.
  • We really weren't that far off from making it a competitive one. The score was worse than it looked, and that was after UW already had the chance to scout us some more. You could certainly look at this as an encouraging game, if you wanted to.

II. In which we talk offense

Dreadful+ | Pass blocking: Troll+

  • Mine either, Bryce. Mine either. (Side note: in large part because of his swagger and smoothness on the field, he's actually my favorite player on the team. I joined Twitter around the time that he committed to Cal, and I've been hooked ever since.)
  • If this was addressed in the postgame comments by the coaches, I didn't get to see them, but man, there were some strange decision being made on offense Saturday. Avi really hated the offensive gameplan, and I kind of agree with his sentiments, even though I was only mildly baffled by a couple of individual calls.
  • So...the decision to QB sneak from under center at the 1 yard line...if we polled the entire Cal community, it would be nigh unanimous to have run something else, right? I mean, we never go under center. We even take our victory formation from the shotgun. So why now? Why put Jared in a situation he probably hasn't even experienced since coming to college, if not earlier? Even if you repped it in practice all week, how is that a higher percentage play than simply falling forward with Lasco on inside zone or a dive or what have you?
  • Just personally speaking, I don't mind the gameplan as much as most. How could you take a shot down field without having the time to do so? You saw Jared getting wrecked out there, right? Plus, they ran their safeties deep and forced us to beat them in front, which we couldn't seem to actually bother them into changing. Running the ball was pretty decently effective, though. Wish we had done more of that early.
  • Touchdown drive in the 2nd half took way too long. Part of why the game ended up being lost at that point, actually. Very 2013 UCLA.
  • You have to wonder if Lucus Gingold's injury played a role in forcing the sneak call. That is normally our go to in goal to go situations.
  • Jared didn't play all that well, but he still managed to complete a good amount of his passes and made no real mistakes besides the fumble. I've written in earlier weeks that he looks much more mobile and athletic in the open field after a year of strength and conditioning, and it's true. He's no longer as much of a lumberer when he's forced to take off with the ball.
  • In short: we got a good one, folks. Even when he's off, he's still pretty good.
  • Some very uncharacteristic misses short for Jared, though -- inaccurate throws on the short stuff and the screens, which he never misses. Then I watched the game on replay and finally saw that at least one of them came from when Lasco tripped Goff, forcing him to fall over before he could plant and throw. Just one of those days...
  • Hidden highlight: Washington looped around Danny Shelton on delayed twists or had him rush from the outside edge a few times -- which, okay, wow, since the dude is 340 pounds -- and Daniel Lasco was forced to cut him in pass protection in the middle of the second quarter, a play that I just found absolutely hilarious. Ray Hudson would end up not making the catch. Still, they took him out and went five wide on the next snap, presumably to give him a breather -- I mean, he cut two human beings worth of player.
  • Dang, I love Daniel Lasco.
  • And yes, I think he needed to get more carries...but I always think he needs to get more carries. Hearing Coach Dykes say that on Sunday was only reaffirming, though.
  • Try to get the inch by inch speech from Any Given Sunday out of your mind when you think about these plays: the Goff fumble, Vic Enwere getting stuffed at the 1, Bryce Treggs' touchdown catch ruled out of bounds.
  • Give up four sacks, with the opportunity for several more barely avoided? Automatic troll grade. Pressure came from the left. The right. The middle. Everywhere.
  • On one of them (11:35, 2nd quarter), Hauoli Kikaha was standing up on Steven Moore's left and blew by untouched, while Moore blocked absolutely nobody. THE PAC-12'S SECOND LEADING SACKER IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! COME ON! It came off a really unconventional two down linemen look though, so I'm wondering if this was one of the things Petersen put in during the bye week. Who knows? Moore had a hard time with everyone though, not just Kikaha. Washington's front line is legit.
  • No, seriously. I asked Jesse Kennemer from UW Dawg Pound if my initial read of three NFL guys in their front seven was correct, and he confirmed that he expects each to be a first or second round pick. I bet you can guess which three they are!
  • For evidence that the line remains a year away physically, note that we still got pushed back sometimes even when we only faced three rushers. We used a handful of guys kept in line at scrimmage to help chip, but not nearly often enough, which I thought might have been an adjustment worth making.
  • Second half we did start to roll the pocket away from Kikaha's side, though, so that was one of the tweaks at the half.
  • Alejandro Crosthwaite drew three penalties and was benched for Matt Cochran, which I think was the second time this year that happened. Chris Adcock got physically dominated more often than I'm used to seeing. Borrayo might have been the only guy I didn't see do something bad live, but we all know he's our best linemen anyway mostly based on how they have him pull and lead for Lasco's runs up the right.
  • Did see Rigsbee put a good cut on the toss right for Lasco, allowing him to turn the corner for a first down. This was on the drive that would eventually become a Washington touchdown instead.
  • Got a question in my mentions about Chris Harper being underutilized, so I'll go ahead and put this out there now: let's try not to forget we have SEVEN WIDE RECEIVERS, and that the same question can be asked to almost any of those guys. How many teams can boast that kind of depth? And with that, doesn't it make sense as to why he doesn't get the ball more?
  • I continue to love Stephen Anderson's hustle the most. He saved a fourth fumble by diving on it.

III. In which we talk defense

Exceeds Expectations

  • As I noted earlier on Twitter -- in fact, a lot of my postgame comments become notes for this column, as you may have noticed -- the game was basically lost on 3 plays: the Shaq Thompson fumble recovery for touchdown, the Danny Shelton fumble recovery (for a touchdown on the next play), and then the missed tackle on John Ross. That's at least seven points not on the defense itself, plus ten more when UW began from inside the Cal 25. That is a very, very good defensive effort this week, especially in the yards per play department.
  • With none of the defensive captains available, mind you.
  • We'll open with more on the lack of defensive captains, seeing as we're officially down to no safeties. None. With Piatt out late in the second half -- he once again had a horrible day today tackling wise and just in his reacting to what's happening in front of him -- were down to just Avery Sebastian, David Garner, and...Patrick Worstell.
  • All the credit to Mr. Patrick Worstell, who wouldn't be playing if the secondary were healthy, but came in and gave a great effort. I made him a point of focus live and he made no real mistakes that I could tell, plus came up with a great pass defensed.
  • This is where I openly lament Quentin Tartabull's ACL injury. I was hoping he wouldn't have to see the field and all, but he definitely, definitely would have been playing by this point. A lot of upside to the kid, athletically and in how he diagnoses plays. I do think he'll be a star for us down the line.
  • In any case, you roll with what you have available, and at the very least, getting Michael Lowe back next week would be huge.
  • Scotty is likely to break down both sacks for Tuesday, which came on pressures by Piatt and Darius Allensworth, but before he does that or we applaud Coach Kaufman for sending DBs, let's also remember that this is the 3rd straight game without any production of significance from our ends. Brennan Scarlett, if healthy (and the reports sound like it's a no), will be a boost there. I remain disappointed in his actual statistical productivity, though. Never been a huge fan of him for that reason, just personally.
  • We tried Tony Mekari opposite Barr as one of the looks.
  • The longest gain was 25 yards by either team, if you don't count the broken play by John Ross.
  • No Maximo Espitia in this game. Coincidentally, Jake Kearney had his most effective game in a Cal uniform to date. Based on the way we've handled returning players in the past, I wouldn't expect to see Espitia play a ton for another 3 weeks. Spot snaps here and there until he's all the way up to speed, most likely.
  • The cornerback depth chart/playing rotation has kind of changed a bit. Saw a lot of Caleb Coleman, instead of Allensworth in his usual slot position, then a huge amount of shuffling as to who was where. Usually it's just Cam Walker and Dozier for the whole game, but there was Darius White out at the position too...maybe just keeping guys fresh, though. It definitely wasn't because of them being shredded or anything.
  • This was a great game by the secondary, for the most part. The touchdown toss that put them up 21-0 was just a great throw against White, who was in position to make a play the whole time.
  • One high snap singlehandedly stopped a Washington drive -- the one that opened the 2nd quarter. It caused Miles to freeze and hesitate, then by the time he handed the ball off, the wall of bodies had closed around the back, leading to the punt.
  • Not many high impact plays are being made by the linebackers, but they seem to be in much better position overall, and they definitely played a big role in limited the Washington run game to so little success. Remember what Sankey did last year? Actually, don't.
  • Non game note to close this one off: I had the pleasure of having Joel Willis in my class as a freshman. Keep him in your thoughts this week, at some point or another. Proud to have student athletes like him in our program.

IV. In which we examine some numbers

Raw data is here, take with a grain of salt because I assembled them myself and they may have errors, blahblahblah.

Cal

Washington

Basics

Possessions

13

13

Yards/Play

4.4 [1]

5.7 [1]

3rd Downs

Conversions

6 of 16 (37.5%)

6 of 14 (42.85%)

Avg. Yards to go

5.6875 [1]

7 [1]

Avg. 1st down gain

5.47 [1]

4.42 [1]

Power success rate (% of runs with 2 or fewer yards to go that were successful)

Lasco 3Q YES

Watson 3Q  YES

Enwere 4Q NO

Lasco 4Q YES

3/4

Coleman 2Q 3rd and 1 NO

Coleman 3Q 3rd and 1 YES

Miles 3Q 3rd and 2 YES

Coleman 4Q 3rd and 1 NO

2/4

Field Position

Avg. Starting F.P.

OWN 28.15

MEDIAN: 29 [2]

OWN 32

MEDIAN: 20 [2]

Points per possession inside 40

12:26 1Q (WASH 1): 0

5:23 2Q (WASH 23 -> 42): 0

11:20 3Q (WASH 3): 7

8:39 4Q (WASH 20): 0

1:53 4Q (WASH 1): 0

1.4 [3]

5:33 1Q (CAL 31): 0

1:51 1Q (CAL 25): 7

10:46 2Q (CAL 11): 7

11:30 3Q (CAL 19): 0

14:14 4Q (CAL 34): 3

3.4 [3]

Defense

Havoc (percentage of disruptive plays - TFL, picks, PDs, FFs, sacks - divided by total plays. 15.9% was average in 2013, with Navy at 9.3%.)

10 (5 TFL, 5 PD)

67 plays faced

14.9% [4]

12 (7TFL, 3 FF, 2 PD)

84 plays faced

14.2%

    More from the above table:
  • [1] I don't know how to interpret the yardage data this week, but all of it indicates that we stalled out during the middle downs, due to penalty and pass pressures and incomplete passes and things of that ilk. That would match what we did end up seeing during the game, since we only converted 4 of 12 3rd downs where we passed the ball.
  • [1] Neither offense played particularly well, really. We were just a bit worse, plus we had all the turnovers to do us in. Also, give some props where they are due to Art Kaufman -- as the game continued, we got a better and better handle on what they wanted to do on 1st down, as the Washington first down average dipped from 6.5 to 5.36, to 5, to -2.25. Sure, it might have been them putting it into the tank and all, so just give some, not all props.
  • [1] Also really weird: Vic Enwere failed on a short situation again, which is like the 3rd or 4th time this season.
  • [2] Very surprising field position numbers. Felt like we lost this category by much more than we actually did, but Washington began seven drives inside their own 20, which helped nullify the field position advantage gained by starting three possessions in Cal territory, all three of which, I'll whine bitterly again, were because of turnovers.
  • [3] This was the ugliest, ugliest statistic by far. Five trips inside the 40, and only one touchdown to show for it. Two turnovers on downs. One turnover for a touchdown. One punt after being pushed out of the 40. The game was lost here, and Washington didn't even play that well themselves.
  • [4] The Havoc numbers listed from this week seem (are?) a bit misleading. Certainly, Cal did a much better job forcing big plays as a whole, but Washington would have had a few more themselves if Jared wasn't such a brilliant mover around in the pocket, and seemed to be more dominant in general. Plus, as atoms said on Twitter: "their Havoc was more Havocky." Sums it up kinda nicely. Theirs changed the game far more heavily than ours did.

V. In which we take a quick look at a few other schematic things that weren't already mentioned, before Head Football Writer Scott Chong does his deep dive

On the very first pass from Cyler Miles, I was convinced we weren't dealing with a particularly good quarterback -- he had 1-on-1 against Cameron Walker on the post, with Walker chasing the play from behind and the safety already beaten in the middle of the field. That should be a touchdown every time, but the ball floats up there in the air for a while for what should have been a pick. This was a throw Miles stepped into, by the way.

You may have noticed that Washington loved to run the smoke screen with a receiver blocking out in front, particularly toward Dozier's side. Yes, Dozier needs to fight through the block, but the safety's got to come and give help, too, which is what I meant earlier when I said Piatt wasn't going or getting to the ball all that quickly.

Washington had a couple of plays (1:58 2Q was the other)  where Miles pulled and ran, then still had the choice of running or tossing to a wide receiver, or a play-option-pass. Please see Ian A Boyd's excellent article on this concept. One of the two times, I believe he should have thrown, because we didn't have the receiver covered at all -- this was 2nd and 8 at 1:14 in the 3rd quarter. More on that play below:

There's three actions going on here -- inside zone (orange), quarterback keeper (blue), and then smoke screen on the side (red). After Miles decides to keep it, you can see the receiver (red) is completely and totally uncovered, but with the score and the situation being what it is, there was no need to try a rushed throw at best, and a completely off balance one at worst. He ended up taking the tackle for a short gain.

The Huskieswere also content to sit with both safeties deep and not to let anything get behind them. 11-12 yards depth, never brought into the box for the run. This was part of why there weren't any big plays.

VI. In which we say things about the special teams

Exceeds Expectations

  • Marc Tommerdahl made a couple of tweaks to how the kickoffs were run in this one -- the first was noticing that Washington's formation left a hole in the center, which is why we squib kicked it down there a few times. As CalPaladin/KetamineCal put it aptly from a few rows behind me, this introduced a little chaos into the equation. Loved this, even though it didn't bounce our way. Few things did on this afternoon.
  • The second of these tweaks was to hide Trevor Davis behind Tre Watson, which made it more difficult for the Huskies to kick away from the Hawaii transfer. Unfortunately, the Washington ST unit did a fantastic job of really attacking our ballcarriers before they could get anywhere -- on one play in particular that I can recall, Shaq chased one of our guys down from the opposite side of the field. Ridiculously athletic. He also blew up Trevor Davis on a block on the first kickoff return, so not only is he my mortal enemy, he's a general menace and physical nightmare, as well.
  • Three of Cole Leininger's six punts landed inside the 20, including a 59 yarder, with a fourth inside the 20 becoming a touchback because it was muffed and rolled into the end zone by an accidental kick. Ridiculous.
  • You probably noticed Khalfani Muhammad wasn't out there, which means the thumb is more serious than they're letting on. All week we were told he'll probably play.
  • Still, pretty good field position, even if the return game wasn't all there. Can't hate on Coach T's efforts, or the unit as a whole. They did a great job to keep us in it.
  • Cam Walker's been a special teams asset since his very first camp, actually...so I wasn't too surprised:

[He] could be an asset on special teams, if not this season, then whenever he starts to see the field. The freshman blocked his third punt in nine days - really less than nine - at yesterday's practice.

VII. In which other notes go

  • Felt that Chris Petersen went strangely conservative at points, with a couple of 4th and 1s punted on that shouldn't have been punts, for example. One of the calls that was pretty cool was their 4th and 3 attempt pulling a guard and both backs to arc and block for Miles, even though they didn't convert. Piatt got there just in time, and Kearney might have even had him a yard earlier if it wasn't for him slipping and falling.
  • Also on Petersen: that dude is the goddamn Batman of coaches. I'm too lazy to look up what his record is when given multiple weeks to prepare for a game -- bowls and season openers included -- but I'm confident it sits somewhere in the vicinity of a bazillion and oh. Tough to stop when given a bye. Avi asked a few of us after the game which Pac-12 coach we'd take, and he is mine, for that reason. Had our stuff scouted perfectly, plus the extra week to prepare for it.
  • Also also, I'm not sure that Washington is a huge tempo team -- haven't seen a bunch of them so I can't say for certain -- but on their one extended scoring drive, they completely wrecked us with it.
  • Give the Huskies credit. They did come to hit from kickoff. And hit they did.
  • Really hate UW's ritual of gathering on the visiting logo. I get why, though.
  • Two notes for the press box announcer: that number 11 is Ray Hudson, not Erik Brown. It is Darius POW(e). This was a constant point of complaint in our section.
  • I am wearing my #dropFIFTEE next week. No, I'm not discouraged.
  • I will also be wearing my lucky hat, which I left at bag check on Saturday because I didn't want two items of clothing on me with the Cal script. Big mistake. We are 3-0 THIS SEASON in games I've attended with said piece of cranial attire. Blame it on me. It was my fault.
  • Even the Goons did not have their best day. The energy got sucked out of us early after the fumble, and we were all pretty pissed. Still, much love to everyone who showed up anyway. We ride together, and we are family. Even if we are getting into loud, exaggerated arguments with each other in the stands.
  • Considering inducting Hauoli Kikaha and Nelson Spruce both into the Colin Kaepernick All Stars. Don't worry, Shaq Thompson is already in there.
  • Asked Twitter how many points they thought would be scored. No one said less than 38. Um. Oops.
  • If you're trying to reach/yell at me DURING the game, as Head Football Writer Scott Chong was trying to, I should let you know that I get no internet service and that @Mr_ollins and @sopidaisy do. They were the ones who alerted me to the demands for me to wear a hat, which I did...although there was no effect because the one I eventually put on wasn't even my lucky one. Thanks anyway, Josh.

VIII. In which I cut a promo

I'm going to tone down the hype this week, because I don't need to get excited about this one.

No one needs to reasons to get excited when the Southern inferiors come to town. We know them by heart, so I will say something else, instead.

Months and months ago, I signed down for graduate school at UCLA. It's an open secret that's joked about here, but it's not something I'm ashamed of, nor is it a choice I regret. (Despite all the odd newness Westwood regularly forces me to encounter, I'm actually enjoying it immensely, if you must know.)

Of course, that is where the conflict would appear to come -- this Saturday pits the school I've loved since I was 8 years old, against the one I willingly left it for. And yet, your incoming jokes aside, there isn't one.

There isn't, and hasn't ever been a second thought to which whose colors I'll wear this weekend, because it'll be Yale blue to the death of me, not the babied hue that'll seep from a gashed up Bruin defense. They own my tuition and my letter of intent, but never, never my loyalty, and when they take their next visit up here, it'll end the exact same way as every one before them, since before the dawn of this millenium.

May it be another 2000 years before they take our house, and even longer than that before they even come close to rivaling our greatness.

We're coming. Expect us.