But for the first time since 2006, your sturdy Golden Bears found just enough silver bullets to bring down the Beavers in their lair.
Feels good, man.
Yes, game management and special teams coaching get a well-deserved raise of the eyebrow. But could any of us have imagined during the ashes of last season that our guys would be able to pull it together and overcome adversity on the road? That our Bear Raid commander could be less than his best, yet find himself carried by the War Pigs and a resurgent run game? That the biggest defensive plays of the night would be made by a frosh WR-turned-DB?
Forget the lions and tigers. This night was all about your Bears growing up before our very eyes.
Last week, Tony Franklin broke out a heavy formation featuring 7 OL. He must have had a spirit vision during that morning walk of his because this week he decided that if 7 OL is good, then 8 OL must be grrrrreat!
Farley(#59) is in on the left of the line, both Cochran brothers (#74, #75) are on the right of the line, and Rigs is in the backfield as a fullback. I shall dub this look the Great Wall of Cochran.
At the snap, Goff looks to hand off to Lasco. Matt Cochran pulls and Rigs heads around the edge. All of the Oregon defenders flood the box to contain what looks like a power run towards the top.
...But it's play-action. Goff pulls the ball back and looks to pass.
The formation has created single coverage on Harper with no safety help. He has his man beat by several steps on the skinny post. Yet somehow, Goff...misses? Unfortunately, we tried this look a few more times and the Beavers quickly adjusted by keeping double-coverage on Harper. Still, it's another outside-the-box look from our resident mad scientist/evil genius, Tony Franklin.
So why did Goff struggle throughout the game? Well besides the fact that he started off so cold that Olaf's warmest hug wouldn't cut it, OSU skewed their defense to stop him. They used a light box, press man on our receivers, and kept a safety over the top of Treggs/Harper. Rumor has it that to practice their press man technique, the OSU corners took a weekend seminar on body cavity searches from TSA.
At the snap, you can see that all of the Beaver defenders are practically wearing the Cal receiver's jerseys. In real-time, you can see Treggs get held and practically dragged down.
If that's not enough, Treggs gets shoved again while the ball is in the air. Add in safety help and this play has no chance.
But the downside of press man is that the defensive backs turn their heads early and completely take themselves out of the play for run support. Here Cal comes out in 2x2 right after moving into the red zone. OSU is in their base 4-3 with tight coverage on the outside, probably Cover One.
Immediately after the snap, you can already see the Oregon defenders focusing exclusively on Cal's wideouts. With their backs turned, they can't see Lasco slashing through a huge hole opened by Rigs, Crosthwaite and Adcock.
Lasco bursts into the second level and has only one linebacker to beat. The remaining OSU defenders, including their safety, are their focused on Cal's receivers.
OSU's safety finally realizes that this is a run and tries to recover...
...spoiler alert. He fails. Touchdown Bears! Once Cal/Franklin noticed that OSU was playing almost exclusive Cover One, we adapted by running the ball. In particular, attacking the edges with sweeps was effective because we'd run off their defenders with our receivers.
With OSU doing their best to take away the deep ball, Cal countered by going with more man-beating patterns such as quick outs and slants. Now we're at the most critical 3rd down of the game; a do or die drive right after OSU has re-claimed the lead.
Cal's Oline blocks inside zone towards the top and Goff looks to hand it off to Enwere. In the slot, Anderson starts on a quick slant pattern...
...but Goff holds the ball. The play-fake leaves solo coverage on Anderson. And he's not running a slant; it's a whip route that fakes the slant before heading back outside. (HT: Hydrotech)
The OSU linebacker closes but not in time to stop the sure-handed Mr. Anderson from converting a vital first down.
Under siege all night, you'd think that Jared Goff would get rattled. Not so fast, my friend.
Besides moving the pocket, Franklin also dials up a pulling guard to help with pass protection. Notice on the animation how OSU's Dylan Wynn is momentarily confused by seeing Crosthwaite pull to stop his rush.
Goff makes his first read towards the bottom. Anderson is covered. Too cold.
Read #2 goes up top towards Treggs on the corner. Covered. Too hot.
But read #3 is just right. There goes Harper coming free on the post route...
...and Goff rifles it in between the defense for a MadBum-esque strike.
Time to give the D some love. Oregon looks to counter-punch and comes out with 21 personnel, both tight ends on the line. Cal is in a 4-2-5 nickel, possible Cover 3.
At the snap, OSU's bottom guard pulls and Mannion looks to hand off. Cal's LBs rush to fill the hole.
It's a fake. Mannion pulls it down, but is immediately under pressure from Jalil(#90). Johnson(#11) eludes their TE, but gets doubled by their T.
...but Johnson refuses to quit. He pushes past the double team to bear down on Mannion. He locks eyes with his tight end...and they share a tender moment.
Which comes to a jarring end as Caleb Coleman (#10) sprints up from his nickel position to intercept Mannion's duck. You'd think that the All-Pac-12 Yardage Leader would be smarter than to throw that ball...except, you know, it's Oregon State. Bet he can communicate with sheep like a boss, though.
With Cal's offense unable to deliver the coup de grace, Oregon State is threatening again. They go 3 wide, 1 TE and Cal counters with a 4-2-5, possible quarters.
But General Kaufman decides to roll the hard six. It's a Cover 0 double dog blitz. Because Nickerson(#47) attacks the lower B gap, the OSU tackle has to pick up the inside rusher. By rule, you always protect inside-out because the inside rusher has a shorter path to the QB.
This leaves Johnson(#11) unblocked and with a free run at Mannion. This is not a tender moment...even if Cal fans everywhere hear angels singing while unicorns dance with leprachauns bearing endless pitchers of beer and do lines with Tony Franklin. I'm sorry. It's been a while (sniff) since our last sack.
OSU is down to their last desperate chance. They have 3 wideouts and 1 TE. Cal shows the same double LB blitz look. Pre-snap, the Beaver TB goes in motion towards the bottom.
Cal's safety, McClure, follows him. This suggests man coverage.
At the snap, Oregon State's tight end illegally picks off McClure. It's great technique for CPR or mouth-to-mouth, but completely disrupts McClure's ability to cover the Beaver tailback. But, Coleman had given a subtle hand signal to McClure before the snap...
..."I got this." Although it was another Cover 0 blitz, Coleman switched coverage onto the tailback and left McClure with the tight end. Instead of an (illegal) pick play for a first down, the Beaver tailback is stopped short for a huge turnover on downs.
I went on record predicting 4 wins +/-1 and even Head Football writer Nam Le said, "A LOT has to break right for 5." Yet here we are. My friend Scootie has already grudgingly conceded defeat and ceded a big bottle of Hendricks towards the Kodiak Happy-Happy Fund. Congrats to my buddy atoms, for fleecing the normally sound-minded boomtho out of a nice bottle of whisky:
CAL WINS 3 OR FEWER GAMES = BOOMTHO WINS NICE BOTTLE OF BOOZE OF HIS CHOICE (~$40-60)
CAL WINS 4 GAMES = PUSH. ATOMS AND BOOMTHO EXCHANGE BOTTLES OF BOOZE
CAL WINS 5+ GAMES = ATOMS WINS NICE BOTTLE OF BOOZE OF HIS CHOICE (~$40-60)
I can guarantee we won't lose this week. Let's get healthy, get focused, and get ready. Sure, the most likely route to a bowl lies through the reeling BYU Cougars. But taking down 'sc or Furd? Pure bliss.