clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cal vs UCLA postgame notebook

New, 75 comments

I really, really wanted to win this one to avoid abuse from my cohort-mates. No such luck.

Jared did a lot of this on Saturday.
Jared did a lot of this on Saturday.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

First off, thoughts and good wishes out to both Chris Harper and especially Trevor Davis, who is, thankfully, resting comfortably and recovering. That's far, far more important than the gigantic structure of text that will follow.

Due to a DVR programming error by yours truly, I was forced to rewatch this game on ESPN3, which limited my ability to fast forward or rewind in slow motion as I would like, and thus the observations section ended up, once again, a bit shorter than I would like it to be. I was on pace to break the record of 6027 this week, and could have --without artificially lengthening things, mind you -- if I had better access to the full tape. Sigh.

I am, however, happy to report a return to form, because despite my coming up short of that record attempt, I have still managed to #drop5000 words. Told y'all I'd be competing hard every week!

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

I. In which we discuss what this game means

One of the reasons why I dread losing so very, very much is because each defeat usually results an intense Twitter referendum on Sonny Dykes' long term capabilities as head coach for this program. I didn't get so much of that on my timeline this time, but I'm sure if you poked around enough at the usual places -- the messageboards, the gamethreads, so on -- you could find some yourself. Bleh.

Truthfully, the scales of the universe are sometimes as cruel as they are maddeningly even, since we've now gone 2-2 in these kinds of last minute, coin flip scenarios this season, a record that could easily read 0-4 as it could 4-0. (I am reminded here of the old Calvin and Hobbes strip about the universe needing to be a little more unfair in [our] favor.)

Calvin

And yet, I can't find myself all that mad.

Or at least, I don't, because of the following:

  • Of course Tony Franklin and Coach Dykes should have [ran more/ran less/gone for the kill shot earlier/ate more clock/passed shorter/insert strategy of your choice] during the last three minutes. That's because our hindsight-aided dream playcalling sequences work out 100 out of 100 times, so while the criticism of their decision to run 4 verts -- and Jared's to throw it -- is more than fair and warranted, it should be tempered a bit in recognition that there wasn't, and isn't a clear, obvious alternative that exists in anything but the ideal. Had it been 4th and 1 at the 8 or something and we ran instead of passed, that's at least a bit more clear cut in what the alternatives were and the debate would be a bit more fruitful. Here, we could have run absolutely anything we wanted, which makes it harder to tell what the correct option was.
  • That being said, I personally would have liked for us to pick up another 10-15 yards, and then maybe try for the end zone, because even with Langford having already hit a game-winner this year, #CollegeKickers are notoriously fickle in these situations. Just ask Michael Hunnicutt. Alas, we'll never find out, either way.
  • If you had told me beforehand that we'd be down 2 with about a minute to play, having rallied back from down 10 and the ball on the UCLA 40, I would have loved those odds and been supremely pleased with our hanging with a superior team for that long. Now that that actually happened, I can safely tell you that I still am.
  • The two point conversion sequence gets a pass from me. It was a horrendous, inexcusable moment coaching-wise to not have a 2-point play ready when we scored to take the lead, and we wouldn't have won the game even with the timeout we lost there, but burning it after the Lawler TD allowed us to get the call we wanted in anyway. That makes it a wash, in my eyes, although noted Goon member Manny Perez (you can follow him at @emanperez14) remains quite frustrated regardless. By the way, the stadium sound operators were horrendous and in case you didn't catch it on the game broadcast, played music before the 2 point attempt. Not going to say it was a factor in our not converting. Certainly didn't help.
  • And yes, the refs...oh, the refs. The more you look at the Marcus Rios interception, the less it looks like one, and that means that we were ultimately robbed by those stripe-wearers we so love to hate. So be it -- we've long known about the absolute, utter incompetency of the Pac-12 refs, and we know damn well we need to work around them, avoiding any situation that they might even come into play. Plus, it's not like UCLA wasn't affected by blown calls, because Noah Westerfield definitely should have gotten thrown out after his scuffle with Caleb Benenoch, only for us we got away with it. Refs sometimes screw up. In this conference, they often screw up. So be it. To complain that the game hinged on that one instance is a bit too reductive for my tastes. I am not advocating that we accept consistently poor officiating -- Larry Scott has yet to satisfactorily address that and may never do so -- only that we recognize the flimsiness of such an excuse, since they are a known commodity that remain just as much in play for all 11 other teams.
  • Because I am a student of the winning school either way. Just kidding.
Granted, there are no moral victories, but there are losses that are easier to swallow than others, if you can maintain the proper perspective about them. In the grand scheme of things -- in year two of a complete rebuild -- a top tier team like UCLA isn't one that we should come in necessarily expecting to beat just a W just yet, and simply taking them down to the wire, a year after being blown out at the half is undeniable evidence that this team is getting better.

It is.

It may not be getting better at the rate you want, and it might not even get better enough for a bowl -- although it absolutely should, with two SHOULD WIN games left -- but it is getting better; this team is clearly on the way toward building something bigger, although it's far, far too soon to know if they'll actually finish constructing it.

On a very, very reasonable timeframe, though, a year from now, this is the kind of game that we should be winning, if not all the time, then at least more goddamn consistently, part of what I personally believe will be a 9+ win campaign. (Missing this may not result in Sonny being on the hot seat, though. That's still TBD. Check this space this time next year and see how I'm feeling.)

For now, I think we should gracefully handle what transpired on Saturday, understanding that these hiccups are quite okay at this point in time...even if they do come against the Southern inferiors. Maybe I say all that just because we already met my win expectation for the year, though.

In any case, a likely loss next week against the Ducks makes Oregon State even more important than it normally would be.

The Schedule Matrix now is as follows, and is unlikely to change any further:

BLOW THIS AND EVERYBODY'S PISSED, ME INCLUDED, AND I NEVER TRY TO HAVE UNNECESSARY FREAKOUTS IN THIS SPACE; LOSING THESE GAMES WOULD LIKELY TRIGGER ONE: BYU, OREGON STATE

STEAL ONE AND THE SEASON CAN BE MARKED AS A HUGE SUCCESS, REGARDLESS: OREGON, STANFORD, USC

A bowl berth remains firmly in sight. Let's see if we can't go get it.

II. In which we discuss the offense

Poor+

  • The fact that we scored 35 points and I still felt the offense did poorly is proof of how far they've come. The Bear Raid is real, and in the words of basically every anime villain ever...THIS ISN'T EVEN ITS FINAL FORM!!!!!
  • Really, though, we had 6 six-and-outs among our 15 drives, plus not a single one that went for over 58 yards. The offense scored a majority of its points on short fields and had a ridiculous amount of trouble moving the ball on the ground or consistently. It was a strugglefest.
  • We will begin with the loss of Chris Borrayo, which ended up being a huge, huge factor in the game. Avi and Eugene both argued that with all other variables remaining the same and Borrayo in for Cochran, that we probably win, and I'm inclined to agree. The numbers without him -- and admittedly, facing a pretty decent UCLA rush defense (35th in run S&P+) -- are just cover your eyes and hide your kids ugly. Linebackers routinely met our backs immediately in the hole, if not in the backfield. My stats sheet notes that we ran 9 times in the second half on 1st down, and gained a total of 12 yards; that in the first quarter we gained -1 yards rushing on 1st down, and...you get the point. Line play is extremely, extremely hard to evaluate, especially with the limited camera angles available, and I often admit as such...but regardless, these figures are pretty damn telling, aren't they?
  • This also doesn't even include the noticeable and constant pressure off the left side that I'm certain wasn't only the fault of Steven Moore, by the way. He did, however, have a second consecutive poor game. The entire line did.
  • Conclusion: get well soon, Chris. Both Chrisses. And Trevor. JUST GET WELL SOON EVERYBODY
  • Projecting forward next year, Scotty and I both think it's likely to be Moore, Borrayo, Matt Cochran, Jordan Rigsbee, and probably Dominic Granado (fresh off redshirting) as the front five. That's three returning starters, a JUCO, and a guy who's had ample experience himself.
  • Jared Goff continues to show remarkable progress and willingness to take off running when nothing's down the field. He'll never be Dak Prescott or anything, but he's approaching a little of what we saw with Kline, at least, in boasting functional mobility. Other than that, we got the usual from him. Calm, cool, in command, despite being under fire from the jump. The Bear Raid Commander isn't taking the brunt of the blame from me.
  • The stats sheet will say Kenny Lawler had a sneaky good game, thanks to a slip and fall by one of the UCLA corners. I'm not disparaging his efforts, I'm just providing full context.
  • One of my issues with Coach Franklin's gameplan was our repeated emphasis early on on testing the UCLA linebackers on out routes and to the sidelines. As good as our guys are -- and Anderson did get a long gain to open our second drive -- the respective advantages they might enjoy over other linebackers become significantly diminished in the face of athletic freaks like Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks.
  • We originally hoped that there were four backs capable of contributing. There may really only be one, at this point in the season. It's a good one, though. (In case you were in the stadium like me, apparently, the ESPN announcers though Lasco would be an NFL back. Way, way too soon for that kind of talk, and even if it's true, I don't think he'd be a high pick as of now.)
  • Off the top of my head, every single play Luke Rubenzer was -- save for the jet sweep to Harper and the eventual reverse to him -- intended as a pass. Two of his scrambles were originally passes as well.

III. In which we discuss the game management

Poor+

The elements in this section will be far ranging, scattershot, and various, but there was no other header to fit a discussion on this topic. I'll pass over the timeout/2-point conversion scenario, since it was mentioned up top, and begin here with Luke Rubenzer.

There's quite a strong body of thought -- one that I subscribe to -- that believes any time Luke is on the field, the defense has gained the upper hand, simply because our biggest offensive threat is off of it; an agreeable notion indeed. This, in turn, leads to the conclusion that we should either minimize #8's snaps, or eliminate them entirely, and it's here that I diverge a bit, because I do think he has some usage, and that it's at least worth bringing him along in some looks. Inside the 10 yard line, when Rubenzer threw the touchdown to Harper, is a logical place to deploy Mr. Skywalker, as are 3rd and 2 or less situations, which he is shifty enough to consistently convert (We would normally be in Bone in the former, but I'm really not sure why we've gone away from that. Gingold was healthy and present for this game, in fact.)

Are those limited handful of plays per game worth burning his redshirt for? Maybe not, but they've already helped us win a game this year...and nearly two.

My bigger frustrations come from our approach to manageable 4th downs. which all resulted in punts by Coach Dykes. Here they are below, with my comments:

  • 4th & 1 own 34 (0-0, 13:06 1Q) - A very, very gettable situation, although I can understand passing this one up, since the three runs that started the game barely managed any traction at all and it was still very early in the game. I still would've considered going for it, but mostly because I'm a hyper-aggressive nut that has played way too much NCAA Football.
  • 4th & 5 own 41 (17-14 UCLA, 1:17 2Q) - Looks worse now because we ended up giving up a touchdown before the half. Defensible decision. The coaches probably figured we'd hold and go into the half down three.
  • 4th & 2 own 47 (27-21 UCLA, 8:37 3Q)
  • 4th & 3 on UCLA 49 (27-21 UCLA, 6:18 3Q) - Grouping this pair together because I figured they were both no-brainers, particularly the latter. You've just been handed two chances to take the lead after halftime, the defense is rolling, and it seems clear to me that you'd try to reward those efforts. Sometimes people argue that going for it on 4th down means you don't trust the defense, but sometimes the inverse interpretation can be gleaned -- you go for it on 4th down because you trust your offense. Which I sure as hell do.

A lot of the time, I love Coach Franklin's adjustments -- I'll break down one in particular at the bottom of this column -- - but several times a game, he does something that I can't understand the rationale for. Clearest example this week: his tendency to call a trick play or to "dial something up" (in announcer parlance) after a turnover is now well noted, and we saw it again after the Cameron Walker interception in the reverse to Harper. If we in the stands know your tendencies, it might be nice to go against them once in a while. The Goons also knew the last touchdown was going to Lawler, since UCLA had matched him one on one.

At least we came out of the half with a sense of urgency, rather than what we saw last week against Washington, when our first -- and ultimately only -- scoring drive left us too little clock to actually catch up. The comeback attempt even ended up with a lead, which, again, demonstrates a level of effort we haven't seen in years past, and UCLA's last sets of possessions: downs, field goal, punt, punt, TD, interception, FG meant Coach K definitely made enough changes at halftime to win.

IV. In which we discuss the defense

Acceptable-

Before Head Football Writer Scott Chong undoubtedly has things to say with how we handled the UCLA screen game, I'm going to offer you my own interpretation first. I am no defensive coordinator, but here what I think some of the solutions are:

  • Ideally, you would have linebackers/ends/safeties that can run from box to sideline with speed, so you don't leave yourself vulnerable to either -- you leave them in for a full run box at the line of scrimmage, and then a guy who can get out to the edge and tackle, too, all at once. Unfortunately, those don't grow on trees, and honestly, are lacking on this roster especially with Scarlett out.
  • Spread a player (linebacker, nickel/dime corner) out from the box and leave them in the slot. Leaves you susceptible to the run with one less body in there, but you'll have a man in position, at least.
  • Assign the screen to the safeties, leaving your less athletic linebackers inside against the run, and hoping your secondary help recognizes quickly and reliably. Not a super attractive prospect, admittedly, since we had to rotate Worstell and Garner out there for a lot of the game. Understandably, Stef was not ready to play all the snaps yet. Ultimately, I think we chose this option most often during the game and had our linebackers chasing a step slow most of the time because Coach Kaufman has said that we stop the run first. Nobody on the edge was winning enough, though.
  • Press with your corners poses a risk in itself, since it demands they get off blocks consistently and leaves them at risk of being beat deep, or victims to a fake screen adjustment.

My point: offensive concepts are supposed to put the defense in a bind, forcing them to choose one way or the other. There's no way to defend all the options and actions on a play all at once, and even when you do, football still comes down to winning matchups with who you have out there. We don't necessarily always have the depth or talent to do that just yet.

Just for fun, I put together a quick look at one instance of the bubble screen to show you what I mean when I say it's not an easy play to defend.

UCLA 5

Hardy (circled) lingers for an extra beat right here to make sure there is no run -- he can't just go chasing Devin Fuller simply because he's motioned out, because the focus is on stopping the run first. He can only give chase after he's sure the ball won't be handed off. As far as the other two defenders on the bottom of the screen (our corner, not in the shot, and Jake Kearney, who is -- I've circled both in blue), they're engaged with blockers, and while they have to defeat the blockers themselves, the best chance here for a stop is for the safety to quickly come up.

UCLA caption 1

BUT WHERE IS HE???

Oh, there he is.

UCLA caption 2

The only problem is that by the time Stefan McClure -- already not the fastest DB out there -- appears on screen, Fuller already has the ball and blocks are set up, making it really damn hard to hold this to little or no gain. At this point, it's almost assuredly a net positive for the offense. Quick diagnosing and triggering would go a long way toward prevention, as would improvement at getting off the blocks, but once the ball's in the receiver's hands, it's hard to stop. Gotta do the bulk of the work before it's in the air.

In any case, he's able to sneak behind both jerseys for the first...which you saw plenty of times. Matt Millen said on broadcast that it was something we were willing to give up, in order to keep bodies in for the run. Makes sense, considering how we kept lining up against it. No way to stop everything at the same time.

Here's Scotty with some quick thoughts before Tuesday, largely in agreement with me:

Other things:

  • The tackling has been slowly getting worse as the season continues, although you didn't need The Novel to tell you that. Caleb Coleman noticeably whiffed a few times, our entire defense got suckered and stiff armed by Myles Jack -- they ran the same play for him consecutively, just flipped -- and gave up at least two touchdowns due to misses, another one when Jordon James dragged Michael Lowe into the end zone, plus a long kickoff return on a squib, to boot. Yiiiiiiiiiiikes.
  • I can excuse some of the struggles with bringing down Hundley, though. Right before the half, Jalen Jefferson hit him twice -- yes, without his arms out -- only to have him wriggle free, all Big Ben like. Right position, right place. Just so happens that Brett Hundley is a strong mother-you-know-what, and Myles Jack actually isn't even a human being -- he's just 230 something pounds of adamantium-infused sinews.
  • Jalen, it must be said again, is way, way improved as a tackler generally, singlehandedly ruining two third down conversions by himself on the afternoon.
  • Trevor Kelly came up with a pair of big stops as well. Probably his most disruptive game I can recall this year. Both he and Kearney are getting better every game, to me. Getting quicker, thinking faster.
  • Sloppy job to give up 4th and 1 in the first quarter. UCLA quick-snapped and we weren't even completely set yet.
  • Saw Jon Johnson do some good things, too. Didn't impact the game a ton, but saw him get a couple of pressures off left tackle, made a couple good tackles.
  • Hundley's yardage came basically off of plays in front of our corners. Wasn't a whole lot of action happening deep, and he wouldn't have been able to hit them anyway. As one of the Goons (I can't remember who) put it snarkily after he missed a fade route: "somebody doesn't do the trash can drill".
  • Maybe one day I'll figure out why we keep rotating our corners so often, but so far, there hasn't been any obvious explanation that I can glean just from observing.
  • I still gave this unit an a passing grade, because they did enough to give us a chance to win. It wasn't great work overall or anything, but they did enough. And maybe that's the standard they'll be graded on in the future -- whether or not they do enough to win, with an offense like ours backing them.

V. In which we take a look at some statistics

Raw data attached here. Excuse any mistakes.

Cal

UCLA

Basics

Possessions

15

15

Yards/Play

5.0 [1]

6.4

3rd Downs

Conversions

5 of 14 (35%)

2 of 13 (15.3%) [2]

Avg. Yards to go

7.28

5

Avg. 1st down gain

4.68

7.07

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

11:41 1Q: Harper 3rd and 2 YES

10:51 3Q: Muhammad 3rd and 2 NO

3:40 4Q: Lasco 3rd and 2 YES

2 of 3

[3]

8:13 1Q: 4th down Hundley YES

15:00 2Q: 4th down Hundley NO

2:33 3Q: 3rd down and 1 Hundley YES

12:18 4Q: 3rd and 1 Starks YES

3 of 4

Field Position

Avg. Starting F.P.

OWN 39.26 AVG

OWN 25 MEDIAN [4]

OWN 24.66 AVG

OWN 20 MED [4]

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%.)

12 (5 TFL, 3 FF, 3 PD, INT)

89 plays faced

13.4% [5]

14 (8 TFL, 1FF, 1INT, 5PD)

73 plays faced

19.1% [5]

Scoring

Points Per Trip Inside 40

3:33 1Q: 0 (PUNT)

13:27 2Q: 7

7:16 2Q: 7

13:34 3Q: 7

4:45 3Q: 7

15:00 4Q: 0 (34->43 PUNT)

7:57 4Q: 6

4.85 [6]

8:13 1Q: 7

12:00 2Q: 3

12:48 3Q: 3

2:33 3Q: 7

6:50 4Q: 3

4.6

Notable from the following table:

  • [1] Second straight week we've been outgained by over a yard in the YPP category, which means that this game shouldn't have been nearly as close as it was, if it weren't for the turnovers, the third down stops, and the field position advantage. I'm actually really surprised at how wide the gap was -- didn't realize it until I was looking at the data after the game. We gave up more on defense than we did against Washington, leading to the second highest YPP mark we've given up this year (8.5 against Washington State).
  • [1] 5.0 YPP on offense is an uptick from how we crapped out against the Huskies, and isn't the worst, considering we were missing our best offensive lineman. Still unacceptable though, and while I initially graded the offense as Acceptable based off live impressions, I had to downgrade them to poor after seeing some of the numbers and the tape. This one, and the rushing yardage in particular.
  • [2] Not much to comment here specifically, I just wanted to note that that was one of the really nice things to take out of the day on defense, and part of why they earned an Acceptable+ from me even after giving up 567 yards. Bend, but don't break...except in a ridiculously bad score given up before halftime, apparently. Sigh.
  • [3] Hated, hated, HATED this call. Muhammad is one of the last guys I want to hand the ball to in short yardage, if even generally. I'm sorry if that's harsh, but it's true. In the interest of being fair, I also didn't love the jet sweeps/reverse to Harper, in this game, either, even though we converted one and scored on the drive for the other. Specifically with the sweep, we ran it to the short side, which always feels too cramped to me spacing wise. A guy like Harper needs the open field to run.
  • [4] We won the average field position battle by nearly 15 yards per possession. 15! That's an absolutely incredible job by the special teams, and even though there's still a whole section to be written on them later, I just had to mention it right now.
  • [5] Good news, bad news with this statistic. Good: this was the first game this year when we were very, very aggressive getting pressure and after the quarterback, including in ways that didn't show on the stats sheet at all. We were also noticeably more disruptive over all in the stats sheet, which you can clearly read out from the higher Havoc rate and the three turnovers -- including an interception from someone not named Grififn Piatt! Great signs, all, although a little less great when I be a downer and point out that against one of the conference's worst lines, we only got one sack.
  • [5] Bad: UCLA killed us in this statistic, which is made worse when you realize that UCLA came into the game with one of the most ineffective pass rushes in the conference...then suddenly appeared as world-beaters against our hampered front five. Aside: the late game pressures by Takkarist McKinley and Jaleel Wadood made me seethe with bitterness, and had I been following recruiting/been a serious fan back when Owa was a recruit, I'm sure I would have been pissed off about him too. SIGHING LOUDER.
  • [6] This category has consistently fallen in our favor this year, and been a key part of us keeping as close as we have to teams -- Washington State and Colorado in particular. A very promising development over 2013 that indicates growing comfort with The System. Can't wait to see what we bring in year 3. NO FIELD GOALS! EVER! On the flip side of this, you also have to give credit to the defense for tightening up to force just enough field goals. Hey, if you're gonna give up points, three is better than seven. Over the long term, that adds up. Hell, it almost led to a win on Saturday.

VI. In which we take note some interesting schematic things

Remember how I noted that Coach Franklin made some pretty cool adjustments that I liked? Well, one of the things you probably remember seeing a lot of during the game is pressure off the left side, particularly with Matt Cochran in for Borrayo. To counteract this a bit, what we did on more than a few plays was run Stephen Anderson and Darius Powe, in line as tight ends on the right, over into the left flat (see yellow motion). Sometimes this means they're blocking the backside end, or linebacker. Here, they fake it...

UCLA 3

And so, when the rushers would come off the edge, like right here, Goff quickly flips it right over their heads, after those Bruins essentially eliminated themselves from the play. Myles Jack has already bailed into coverage and has his back turned, so Stephen Anderson sneaks freely for a first down, as has been his specialty for us.

UCLA 4

Here's where it gets a little more cooler to an amateur tape-watcher like me: they ran a few different plays off the same motion with Anderson/Powe, setting this particular pass play up off of in what is referred to as the split-zone concept.

Scott will have the cutups taking a closer look at this tomorrow, though, since I screwed up my recording, but I thought I'd let you get somewhat familiar.

Other stuff:

  • One of the few remaining #WRINKLES that I had seen in camp but hadn't mentioned yet publically reared its head, in the form of the Speedbone (although I believe Coach Yenser/the team refers to it as Fastbone, a name I like far less), which we used I believe three or four times over the course of the game. What is the Speedbone? You saw it best on our very first touchdown drive, when Luke Rubenzer went in, where three running backs were in the backfield, rather than the normal Ray Hudson/Lucus Gingold combination. Combine that with a running threat in Rubenzer and you have four guys who might carry the ball, stressing the defense from edge to edge. It could be a sweep handoff for either of the upbacks, it could be a sweep or counter run for Lasco in the backfield, it could be a speed option to any of the backs, a triple option...there are a ton of sub-plays you can run out of this formation, which is why I dig it so much. As playcalling would have it, though, none of them touch it on this one, because Luke pulls to pass. Tricky, tricky...
  • Readers with longer memories may recall that we did indeed use the Speedbone last year, as well. This year's version simply has more versatile and talented personnel to go along with it.
  • There's also one more look I was really excited to spot from the open practices this year that hasn't appeared in games yet. If it does, you can expect I'll mention it in this space that following Monday.
  • The strange computer that we call my brain cannot recall accurately if we have used a tight trips formation like this yet, but noted it anyway.
  • Instead of using the Bone, we operated a ton on with Gingold in this formation instead, kind of using him as an H-back, including on consecutive plays on the first drive.
  • 7:10, 1st and 10, 2nd quarter, Cal ball. This happens immediately after the second fumble recovery by the Bears, and Coach Franklin does what we know him to do best after these situations -- he dials up a trick/big play. What happens on this one is that the entire line freezes post-snap, in an attempt to fool the defense, and lets all the rushers through. Jared backs up and tosses a lob to Lasco, with blockers set up, only to have Jaleel Wadood make the stop. Sigh. Not the best play call here, either.

VII. In which we give the game ball to Cole Leininger

Exceeds Expectations+

  • 8 punts. 5 inside the 20, including one at the one yard line. 2 touchbacks, including one that almost landed at the one yardline. The punt coverage was excellent, but the punting was even better, control wise. That boy Leininger's got a leg, and he knows how to use it. Just a tremendous game from him to flip the field so often, and he played a large part in why the game was as close as it was, but I never want to see him punt 8 times ever again.
  • Before leaving with his injury, Trevor Davis made the most of his limited opportunities to return, and nearly housed one, proving that he can be far more than a one night wonder. I was glad to see that, actually. After being somewhat skeptical of his 3rd team selection as kick returner on Phil Steele's Midseason All-Americans -- remember, he had only one really good game before this -- I can certainly get more on board with it now.
  • Really wanted to give this group an O, until I realized we almost allowed a score on a squib kick from Matt Anderson. Shades of Colorado, 2013. Speaking of Anderson, why was he even out there anyway?
  • I actually don't mind the intentional squib kicks, although I didn't see a ton of reason to start switching to them in the first place. It's not like the return team was getting shredded in the last few games.
  • Guessing the kick returners next week will probably be Tre Watson and Bryce Treggs, if Khalfani isn't ready to go. No need to worry about who'll be punt returning, though.

VIII. In which we have other notes

  • Skipping the promo in this space currently due to time constraints, and by now, you've read a ton of words. In any case, that gives me a little time to put it together coming later in the week. Expect it.
  • God, I love the Goons. They are my people, and they understand me. We sat and sulked until the stadium was nearly empty afterwards. Too bad there are only two more Saturdays we get to spend together this year. My eternal apologies to people who have to deal with us, although they do get "treated" (?) to me thinking through a lot of this column live...so there's that. Shouts out to Ness for joining us as a visitor :) Hi Ness, if you're reading this right now.
  • Twist has actually taken to coming up and asking people around me if they identify with that label, which, to my delight, they do. Mike Rollins is, for the record, not a Goon, by his own insistence.
  • Surprisingly light on the UCLA cracks this week. I didn't even have to block anyone, despite my threat to do so.
  • I will be skipping 6 hours of class in order to head to Friday's game at Levi's, stationed with a friend in Section 109, Row 25. Lol, priorities.
  • Oh, and HAHAHAHAHAHA OTHER BASEBALL TEAMS. Go Giants.