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Cal vs Northwestern postgame notebook

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For the first time since I've started holding down this space, thousands of my Monday words are written on a Cal FBS win. It's also a new record long column...because of course it is.

David Banks

When you don't beat an FBS team for almost two years, spending each game getting blown out ad nauseum, college football can become a dark cloud of weekly cynicism and bitterness.

In a way, I think it's kind of nicely poetic I wore my It's Always Sonny in Berkeley shirt in Evanston.

The skies certainly look clearer now.

Announcements

Yes, I skipped a long, sappy emotional introduction -- I've certainly tweeted enough about that over the weekend.

Four quick notes before we get to what you came for:

  • I will actually still be in Chicago enjoying my vacation at the time when this goes live, so everything written below hasn't been double-checked on film, it's only been recalled off the top of my head. That makes this column actually short, all things considered. It also limits the amount of specificity with which I can talk about the defense and some of the new offensive wrinkles. Apologies in advance. Tape will return next week.
  • Also, if you have any suggestions for this column, like how our game-tape posts are labeled Golden Spotlight, please let me know. Otherwise, postgame notebook, they'll stay.
  • Since it's been a long offseason, a quick refresher on the returning Harry Potter O.W.L grades, which go: Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, Acceptable, Poor, Dreadful, Troll. Rather than assigning letters or numbers, I find that these somewhat subjectively applied labels are a bit more effective and informative in regards to how a unit/position played as a whole, which I'll then talk more about in depth. Also, Harry Potter is one of the most influential things that happened to me as a child. So there.
  • I also have some tickets to Sac State to give away, so if you guys figure out a smart way for me to give them out, I'd love to hand them out via Twitter. Leave your suggestions for how I should do that in the comments.

Alright. Let's go get into it.

I. In which we talk quarterbacks

Positional grade: Acceptable+

  • In the spirit of the Windy City, this section will open with GBE...#GoffBeforeEverything. If you actually understood that reference, know that I am applauding you right now.
  • Do you believe in the Bear Raid Commander yet? And if not, what's it going to take?
  • He completed about the same percentage of passes as last year and had less yardage, yes, but if you didn't come away completely impressed with his growth, I have no idea how else to make you a believer.
  • Oh, and he won, for those of you who still believe things like that are the best way to measure results. I don't, since QB wins are not so different from pitcher wins.
  • Here's one incredibly impressive thing among his continual, steadied excellence: his absurd pocket presence, which ended up allowing him to spin out of the pocket on the absurd toss to Darius Powe. Notice that Northwestern rushed three against our five and got pressure by sliding through Crosthwaite. This play's all Jared.
  • Impressive play number two: the veteran, veteran move that has him staring in the flat, pump faking convincingly, then throwing over the top to Trevor Davis. It's not a hard pass, but it is a beautiful one, and one that turns into a gain of 40 instead of 70 if it hangs up even a little. Those are not moments that we have not become accustomed to in...what? God knows how long. Certainly not any of the quarterbacks I've seen behind center in my short time as a serious fan.
  • I also got the sense that in his second year, Jared has now been allowed to do more at the line in reading the defense and choosing how he wanted to proceed...or maybe I'm just better at understanding how packaged plays work in general now. One of the two. In any case, I'm generally happy with how the offense moved all afternoon under his leadership, and how he moved through progressions to constantly find safe, if unsexy gains. This is a key attribute if the offense is to work at all -- remember, first downs set up tempo, not the other way around.
  • Didn't notice too many major mistakes on his part while I was watching live, except for maybe Goff taking a sack early on instead of dumping it out to Khalfani, who was waiting in the left flat and open. This sounds remarkably similar to the last play up top, but it is not.
  • There was also the notable instance of Goff taking a carry -- it looked designed from where I was sitting -- for the first down, looking far more mobile then than he ever did as a true freshman. That's on Coach Damon, right there. He helped #16 add 10 pounds of solid muscle in the offseason, and it's paying dividends for Goff's explosiveness.
  • He did, admittedly, have tremendous trouble throwing into the left flat all afternoon just generally. I couldn't tell you if that was a mechanical issue or not based on what I saw live, but at least three or four open receivers -- almost all of them curling back on some sort of comeback route -- were missed in that area. Plus, as you know, the Daniel Lasco interception...which landed in the hands of Collin Ellis. Again. You won't convince Ellis doesn't have magnets for gloves, by the way.
  • When I mentioned there were some offensive wrinkles and twists toward the end of camp, Rubenzer was one of the things that I was referring to specifically, but held off on actually writing. Judging from Fitzgerald's response, this seemed like a net benefit for Cal, so I did my job :)
  • The coaches had been intentionally evasive when asked about playing Luke, but as soon as Northwestern game prep started, I kind of recognized they were repping the special package with him too often to not intend to be using it. In other words, I guess I've had a good idea about it for a couple of weeks now...but I kept my mouth shut.
  • All Fitz had to do was look around, though, really. Even without any of the beat writers saying anything, he should have known that Rubenzer was working with the twos. He should have known that Coach Dykes was asked if Rubenzer would play, and that Coach Dykes said "maybe" about a week ago. He should have known that Coach Franklin was thoroughly surprised by how good of a runner Rubenzer was, about two weeks ago. All of that should have hinted to him -- had he watched those videos and read even the basic reports -- that Rubenzer might play.
  • And yes, there's more to the Rubenzer package -- which needs a catchy name, submit yours below -- than what they've currently unveiled. A lot of the Saturday things were kind of simple stuff, from what I could tell live: Lead dive up the middle with Lasco, lead dive up the middle with Gingold and Lasco, zone stuff to put him into space with the defender one on one.
  • Rubenzer is a fantastic, hard nosed runner though, size be damned -- even more than he originally showed in any of the practices, obviously. Just tough as all hell.
  • Truthfully, my preference still would be to hold off on playing Rubenzer at all this year, but I understand why the coaches opted to burn his redshirt, and of course, the appeal of having him generate easy yardage. The key's going to be not overexposing our young freshman -- he saw something like 15 or 16 snaps on Saturday, which is a shade too many for my tastes. There's the fact that he lost some effectiveness as the game went on -- last carry that sealed it notwithstanding -- but also, the more we 15 or 16 times we use Rubenzer means 15 or 16 times Jared Goff doesn't touch the ball, and likely, 9, 10, 11 touches less for some of the receivers, too. Could live with the how they're using Benz overall, just want it applied less often.
  • Part of my concern also comes because Rubenzer is still not developed enough as a passer, which he'll have to be if he wants to make full effectiveness out of whenever he plays. There was the interception that, even after seeing the replay several times, still continues to baffle me, and then the decision to throw a pass right into Chi Chi Ariguzo's hands anyway, without an effective pumpfake.
  • That being said, the coaches have clearly have tremendous trust in him as a talent and as a player -- because they put him out there on the game's biggest play -- so it's hard not to see him being a part of the future more and more in years to come. I don't mean to knock what he might one day be with these criticisms -- I just recognize he isn't even close to being there yet. This year, he'll should almost entirely play in mop-up/special package duty, and yes, he's far better than Austin Hinder for both roles.
  • Yes, Coach Dykes once said that if you have two quarterbacks, you really have no quarterbacks. Do not mistake this to mean that we have a controversy. We have one, and at this point, a weapon to augment him.
  • I am more than happy to be wrong on my prediction of Rubenzer not playing a single snap this year, by the way. The win over Northwestern makes me 1 of 2 so far as it is :)
  • REPEAT AFTER ME. WE DO NOT HAVE A QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY.

II. In which we talk the rest of the offense

WR positional grade: Acceptable

OL positional grade: Acceptable- in pass protection, Poor in run blocking

RB positional grade: Poor

  • Some offensive wrinkles that I noticed: the usage of wide receiver motions into the backfield, which accomplishes three different things off the top of my head -- one, it gives them a running head start on any quick pass to the flat, two, it forces the defense to declare its coverage somewhat, and three, it also threaten a run by said wide receiver, who is a matchup nightmare. The Eagles used to do a similar concept with Desean Jackson in the past, and if it appears again, expect to see more written about this later on.
  • They also played around a bit with the placement of the receivers -- guys who were listed at X would then be moved into the inside man (#3) in trips, etc. More on these sets later, when I have a chance to break down film in future weeks.
  • Tempo didn't make a complete appearance, since the team spent a ton of time shuffling in Rubenzer and Goff, slowing things down a bit. 84 plays is essentially kind of a walk in the park for this unit, though, and it actually ends up being at the lower end of the data set we have on Sonny Dykes' time in Berkeley. Only the 2013 UCLA and Arizona games had less plays ran on offense.
  • Two drops by Darius Powe and Bryce Treggs in the late fourth made this a lot more stressful than it should have been. These guys are too talented for that.
  • We know Chris Harper is a quick dude, but seeing him circle backwards around a defender to get extra yards is new. No, I don't know why he's not the other starter. I'm also not particularly concerned, as I do not care which two of the Harper-Davis-Lawler trio are out there at any given moment.
  • There were worries about why relative unknown Trevor Davis -- who no Cal fan had really seen much of, admittedly -- was starting over Harper. After Saturday, I would hope that those worries are quelled somewhat.
  • Ray Hudson functioned as a tight end-ish, at times, and I expect that we'll see more of that going forward. Being our biggest guy at that position, the staff put him and Gingold out there specifically in their attempt to establish the power run late. (Didn't work, but that's another story.)
  • As I noted when the team decided to keep Jordan Rigsbee at tackle earlier this camp, he might be our best right tackle and play just fine there, but it still feels like his best position is guard. He's spent essentially a couple practices in spring and four weeks of camp working outside, and it kind of shows still. One example I can definitely recall from Saturday: the Lasco interception, in which Rigsbee didn't quite get out fast enough to block the defender, allowing him to blow the whole thing up. That being said, the does exist the possibility of moving him back to guard, since Crosthwaite will have graduated, as will Chris Adcock, opening up two spots on the offensive line. [This is also where you would expect Matt Cochran to finally make his move up the depth chart and into the starting string.]
  • The line kept Jared clean, with only two sacks given up all game among his 34 dropbacks, a sack rate of 5.8% and roughly in line with last year's numbers, but they still only grade out as an acceptable-, when you realize -- and I didn't until later -- that he got hit five times, too. Jared gets a ton of credit for being a great feeler and escaper of the rusher to keep these numbers even lower than they could have been.
  • Courtesy of Mike Rollins, the unfortunate soul who has to hear me talk through most of these things at the game, no offensive lineman really stood out to us live, which is always a good thing. Think about how Freddie Tagaloa got beaten a bunch against Portland State, for example. When Coach Yenser told me that he tries to have his guys make only the kinds of mistakes casual fans can't catch, well...we're doing okay on that front right now. Nobody egregiously or eyepoppingly awful.
  • As far as the run game goes, I'll start with the good news, I guess, which is that on the first drive in particular, the packaged inside zone stuff actually cleared out some tremendously large holes, which we weren't used to seeing at all. That was when we were rolling through for 5, 6 yards a pop, on our way to a TD.
  • Unfortunately, that didn't last as the game continued, with our backs regularly getting swallowed -- running hard, definitely, but getting swallowed -- and completely unable to reach the second level at all.
  • The longest run of the day was 11 yards. From Rubenzer.
  • The leading rusher had 48 yards. Rubenzer again.
  • Head Writer Scott Chong made the case that Northwestern's defensive line and front seven were quite experienced, which is indeed true...but they essentially stonewalled the running attack to a halt in the second half, doing it without one of their starting tackles. Think about that. A hampered Northwestern held us to 2.5 YPC.
  • All four of the combined points lead to the poor rating in the run game.
  • Coach Franklin called a largely strong game, I think, even building on some looks he showed early -- in the 3rd or 4th quarter, he even re-used the same motion that scored our first touchdown, but on a play designed to look off that. Think it went to Harper.
  • He also tried to establish the run consistently, and toward the end, he tried his absolute damndest to impose the offense's will on the ground again with some bigger unit looks, even if they weren't consistently successful. That last sentence wouldn't have happened -- save for one 8 minute stretch at UCLA -- last year, although my hope is that the efficacy of the run area improves, because he still looks more comfortable with the offense throwing the ball. The late tosses to Powe and Treggs that were eventually dropped do tell a lot.
  • Also, expect more motion type stuff, if the below is true. Bear Raid got still more tricks. Told ya. [I also think Sonny's bluffing/exaggerating a little here, but after hiding the Rubenzer stuff for a month, it's gotta get in a few opposing heads that hey, they might do anything...]

III. In which we talk D-E-F-E-N-S-E

Unit grade: Exceeds Expectations. DUH.

  • Live, I had no idea Jalen Jefferson recorded 16 tackles. I did, however, notice he and Barton triggering faster, recognizing and reacting what was developing better than they did last season. This was exactly what I would have hoped for from both, and my fingers are crossed that they'll hold down their spots for another year while Tongilava, Downs, and A'noai are brought along. Even without the benefit of film review, it's pretty apparent that both guys were the best defenders on Saturday.
  • The most impressive play from Jalen from me was not the ultimately clinching interception, but the play in which he stripped the ball out of the receiver's hands in the end zone (I think it may have been 2nd and 1 from the 19 with about 7 minutes to go). For a second I had no idea who made the play and assumed it came from one of the DBs. Perfect extension, perfectly played.
  • Our spring look at the defense gave us some idea at this, but it certainly looks legitimate now -- there were almost no missed tackles of value. How magical it is when pretty much all your projected starters make it through camp healthy! Yes, I recognize there were other factors at work here, too, but first and foremost, all the projected starters are healthy.
  • Also, on that last point. LOL, Damon Harrington haters. It was, and still is, a tremendous overreaction on everyone's part to read the Coprich, Broussard, and Tartabull injuries as ineffective S&C -- they only happened to be clustered all together, which gave the appearance of everything being worse than it actually was.
  • Not to be a Negative Nam or anything, but despite their fantastic play through the game's first 30 minutes, it's my opinion that the real Cal defense isn't the stifling unit that held Northwestern to seven first half points -- they're likely more along the lines of what we saw in the third and fourth quarters, which is still plenty, plenty of improvement over a year ago, and certainly enough to keep them competitive.
  • Jake Kearney came on in the second half as the third linebacker rather than Unc Davison. I wasn't sure why when I was at the stadium, but it's worth keeping an eye on as a situation. Maybe it was fatigue.
  • Hardy Nickerson only played the MIKE in obvious run situations, which is likely on account of health still. In the few snaps he was out there, though, I liked what I was seeing from him in some limited pass coverage -- he handled, disrupted, and passed guys off on crossing routes pretty decently.
  • If memory serves, early on, the team tried Cameron Walker at the nickel, and switched more to Darius Allensworth in the second half. File it under keep an eye on for next week, as well.
  • Northwestern tried to attack Cedric Dozier pretty often -- I don't have the numbers charted and might next week, but it certainly felt like he saw more passes thrown his way than anybody else, especially on the slant routes. There was also the memorable sequence with back to back screens late, when Northwestern threw again his way twice, trying to free Dan Vitale through use of a stack formation, and he had some trouble getting off his block both times.
  • Yes, on the long touchdown pass from Semian, Stefan McClure bit too aggressively and didn't make the play. Other than that mistake, though, everything felt fine from him.
  • Wondering if Dozier was instructed to play with outside leverage by design, since taking away the outside forces receivers back into the teeth of the defense -- patrolling LBs and safeties. Regardless, the fact that neither young cornerback was torched for an incredibly long play bodes well, all things considered.
  • Also wondering if the fact that we rotated so many bodies in was a function of weather, or intention, because almost all of the two deep played. Regardless of why, if this continues, it does mean that in future years, "returning starts" won't be a very indicative measure of our defense, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • Admittedly, I didn't think Austin Clark would make an impact or even end up starting against Northwestern, but one of the clearest impressions I got from Saturday was that this dude will hustle through -- and over -- a wall if he has to, pursuing the ball. Gotta respect that.
  • Jalil was completely gassed at the end of the game, hands on hips. Welcome back to college football, big fella. We're glad to have you.
  • On the touchdown throwback, which is the kind of monstrosity we would have faced maybe five times a game last season, you'll see Brennan Scarlett completely get caught and fooled. Jalil, same thing. Austin Clark -- there he is again -- runs back to try to make the play, only to get chopped into oblivion. Walker at least manages to hold him up for a brief second for several other defenders to converge, but the key block by #76 takes out two more guys (Jefferson and McClure) and gives just enough space for Semian to score. Yuck. Barton was also a bit slow to get back and pulled up a bit, too. I don't expect perfection on defense, and I find it incredibly encouraging that we only gave up two really big mistakes. The rest was more than manageable.
  • Todd Barr showed up well in the stats sheet -- Scotty tells me he was a force consistently, which I didn't immediately notice see myself -- and I thought Brennan Scarlett picked up decent pressure. Sack rate wasn't particularly great, but the pressure was certainly there more than last year.
  • Speaking of handling, disrupting, and passing off crossing routes, Devante Downs definitely blew up a receiver doing that at least once. Big, super athletic...really think he could be a player down the line.
  • Noticed that Art Kaufman had some auto blitzes built in, which I don't remember seeing last season under Buh. By this, I mean, at least twice, Cedric Dozier saw some sort of motion coming his way and immediately blitzed Semian by design. Linebacker pressure came too; Barton got a couple of hurries through the A gap that I could remember. Little things that, while not apparent necessarily, help a ton.
  • Yes, Northwestern dropped a bunch of passes, making us look a whole lot better than we were. But isn't it about time someone else screwed up to our benefit? I'm happy to see our guys in the right places consistently, though -- if they're not making the play, at least they're in a position to, you know...stop it. Promising all around, seriously, and I know that we only played a game, but still. It's a young group losing only Lowe next season.

IV. In which there is some fun with numbers

After reading Bill Connelly's Study Hall this offseason, one of the things I'll be trying to incorporate more of going forward is advanced statistical analysis, because I think that this area can add some tremendous insights into the game of football, especially when combined with scouting (which I already do to some extent). I won't ever become too numbers heavy, since it's not my strong point, but I'll begin to consistently refer to on some concepts that I feel pretty comfortable discussing and utilizing -- kind of like WAR or UZR or OPS+ when talking about baseball.

Below, you'll find an abbreviated version of Connelly's modified box score, spotlighting in bold a couple factors against Northwestern that I want to discuss. I've hand-calculated these and attached my work where possible, but there may be mistakes still. As such, take the points in this section as food for thought, more than solid conclusion.:

Cal

Northwestern

Basics

Possessions

14

13

Yards/Play

4.92 - (414 yards/45 runs+39 passes)

4.37 (354 yards/36 runs+ 45 passes)

3rd Downs

Conversions

47% (8 of 17) [1]

40% (8 of 20)

Avg. Yards to go

5.76 (98 yards on 17 attempts)

6.05 (121 yards on 20 attempts)

Avg. 1st down gain

4.55 yards (155 yards on 34 plays) [2]

4.58 yards (142 yards on 31 plays)

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

1st Q: 2/2

100%

2nd Q: 2/2

3rd Q: 2/3

4th Q: 2/3

6/8 - 75%

Field Position

Avg. Starting F.P.

OWN 31.14

OWN 31.76 [3]

Adjusted Yardage margin

Cal outgained NW from scrimmage by +60 yards from scrimmage. However, Northwestern began each drive with .62 yards better of field position, which over the game's 27 possessions, equates to -16.74 FP yards = +43.26 adjusted yardage margin for Cal



I've included adjusted yardage margin, average field position, and yards per play because Connelly's data shows that the team who has the edge in any of these categories (let alone all of them) often has their chances of winning increase significantly. That makes sense, doesn't it? You control the field, you outgain your opponent, you probably win. I'm interested though, in what more I can draw from this game using the stories told by each measure themselves:

  • [1] Last year, the Bears converted 33.64% of 3rd downs, ranking 108th in the country. If this value of 47% holds, it'll fall much more in line with what Dykes did in year three of Louisiana Tech, when the Bulldogs converted 43%. You know what else he did in year three at Louisiana Tech, don't you?
  • [2] Normally, this first down mark would be encouraging -- if you think about it, an average gain of 4.5 yards on first down puts you in good position to continue the drive, since you'll be at a relatively manageable 2nd and 5.5; close to what Connelly calls remaining on Standard Downs, or on pace to convert, essentially. The more often you stay on Standard Downs, the better your offense is at moving consistently, which is a key measure in the Bear Raid. Unfortunately for us, when you take out the Trevor Davis touchdown, which is a clear outlier, what you have is a more realistic gain value of 2.39 yards on first down. In a word, not good. This indicates that the team's offense survived on Saturday by doing strong work on 2nd and 3rd, which isn't ideal going forward.
  • [2] Of the 34 plays Cal ran in this category, 19 of them were rushes, for a total of 55 yards and 2.89 yards per carry average on first down. Also not good, which was reflected in the largely anemic YPC overall. We know we have to be better on first down, and we know we have to be more effective running the ball -- although we did make a concentrated effort to do so; suck on that, lazy armchair analysts and Joe Mixon. Now we just have the data to further support both conclusions.
  • [2] In the third quarter, the Bears managed 13 yards on 9 first down plays, including an interception and two incompletions. Meanwhile, whatever halftime adjustments Northwestern made clearly paid off, as they averaged a little over 7 yards on first down as they started their comeback (65 on 9 plays).
  • [3] The Bears had three of their 14 drives begin in Northwestern territory, compared to just one in 13 for the Wildcats. This would normally indicate a much bigger gap in field position advantage, except that the purple clad folk took over at the Cal 17 following the freak accident Lasco interception.
  • Connelly will give better (and official) Power Run Success Rate stats at the end of the year. For now, I'm keeping an unofficial tally for a general sense of how we're doing in short yardage, now that the Rubenzer package has replaced Boehmcat/some Bone looks. Last year, we were 50% in these situations, which was 121st in the country.

BONUS STATISTICS

  • Cal's 24 points allowed on Saturday is their lowest total points allowed since November 2012 against Washington (aka the Tosh Lupoi Revenge Game).
  • Despite some lulls and fades toward the second half, the 354 yards allowed on Saturday already eclipse any of last season's efforts by far. Last year, the season low was 384 against Oregon, and that one was played in a monsoon.

IV. In which we briefly discuss special teams

Unit grade: Acceptable

  • Langford nailed 50% of kickoffs for touchbacks yesterday, which was great to see. No long returns given up, either -- Northwestern's average return was 20 yards, right about on line with last year's averages so far.
  • In case you're curious, only 35.7% of kickoffs went for touchbacks last year, although I'm told all of Langford's happened with the wind at his back, so I'll keep an eye on this again next week.
  • The two punt returner look shown by Chris Harper and Trevor Davis was another one of those aforementioned wrinkles, and the last time we did something similar was all the way back in 2011 under Jeff Genyk's ST tenure. As to why they do this? I think it, one, makes sure that more balls have the possibility of being returned, and two, also gives the returner a guaranteed extra second of breathing space after catching the ball, which might be all one of those guys needs. This second bit seems like it could fit better given our personnel, to be honest.
  • Punt return, perhaps uncoincidentally, looks massively improved already on this one game sample size, because the average return last year garnered 2.59 yards on average, and the number was 8 on Saturday. Seriously, you have no idea how depressing our punt return stats were last year. 2.59 yards per punt return was actually last in the country in average, and 119th in total yards.
  • Northwestern returned no punts, thankfully, so while we still have no idea what to make of the unit yet, that's all good for now.
  • Unless I'm mistaken, my quick look at the kickoff return unit showed that it was almost entirely offensive players up there. I would say I favor that tactic, since it means everybody knows how to move with the football.

V. In which there are things that didn't fit into the above columns

Additional stories and thoughts.

  • Nobody start saying B-BLANK-BLANK-L yet. DO NOT OVERREACT.
  • Arizona is going to be the measuring stick game this year, much like Washington State was last year.
  • I'm in some real trouble if I continue to cheer this intensely when I become a full time teacher. My voice is often legitimately messed up for days following the game, and my body often has some sort of bruise on it too, from slapping random signs and things. Apologies if you've ever been annoyed by my constant buffoonery, but I think it certainly beats being well behaved and silent. Pretty sure 4 or 5 people moved because of my...shall we say...distinct brand of rooting.
  • In order to continue our good mojo, I will need to follow the same pregame ritual next week: arriving at the stadium just an hour before kickoff rather than as soon as the gates open; eating a plate of mac and cheese and having a sip of Corona with lime; and then abandoning my normal Starbucks in favor of Dunkin. The last one's going to be a challenge from up in California...but they did just open a location in Santa Monica, where I'll be moving...
  • Got recognized four times on Saturday, in some fashion or another. Now, I'm a little shy, so it's not my preference to be approached, but don't let that deter you if you really want to say hello. I really do appreciate it and I'm tremendously humbled to know that there are real faces behind the people who read me, support me, and have otherwise become such a large part of my life.
  • That last part is for mostly the Twitter folks.
  • CORRECTION -- Eight freshmen played: Tre Watson, Vic Enwere, Luke Rubenzer, Matt Rockett, Noah Westerfield, Devante Downs, Hamilton Anoa'i, and Patrick Laird. The first six, I definitely noticed while they were on the field, and I would suspect the last two maybe saw special teams duty or I simply failed to spot them when they subbed in. Lord knows we did a ton of that on Saturday.
  • I'm not ashamed to say that I cried a little at the end of it all. It was a pretty good birthday weekend.
  • A chart comparing my pre-season tiers of opponent and where the tiers stand now, after the first game.

Preseason

After Week One

SHOULD: Colorado, Sacramento State

SHOULD: Colorado, Sacramento State

COULD: Washington State, Arizona, Oregon State, BYU, Northwestern

COULD: Washington State, Arizona, Oregon State, BYU, Washington????

PROBABLY WON'T: Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, USC

PROBABLY WON'T: Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, USC Washington

BEAT: Northwestern

VI. In which I cut another wrestling promo

I am closing the column by once again slipping back into a smack-talking, catch-phrase spouting, and generally ridiculous, cranked-up-to-11 persona -- not unlike a pro wrestler, which is the point, and not really unlike my gameday self either, really, if you happened to see me behaving like a deranged goon in section 135 -- to speak on next week's opponent. Twist asked me to actually do one ahead of each game, and while I haven't committed to doing that just yet, here's another for now.

We are currently 1-0 when I do them, so...

*marching down to the ring to Fight for California*

*music fades*

*climbs around turnbuckles, steps down into the middle of the ring, stares around intensely*

FIIIIIIIIINALLLLLLLLLLLLLY...the Bears, will come back, to Berkeley -- back to the Blue and Gold faithful and the THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS that will be watching Saturday's game from their couches and their tailgates and their local bars.

Last week, we took care of business in Evanston -- like we swore to you we would -- and now, on September 6th, we're going to do the same these roaches from the north that dare step foot into Bear Territory.

It's been too long, friends. Too long since we've heard the roars and cheers and cannon fire that remind us that we are home, and that this 63,000 seat kingdom is ours. Too long since we pulled up on Canyon Road, too long since we took the March to Victory surrounded by Blue and Gold, our fight songs blasting all the while.

AND

DAMMIT, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO WE'RE PLAYING AGAINST

WE ARE GOING TO DROP FIFTY AND RAIN YARDAGE ON THE UNFORTUNATE BASTARDS LINING UP ACROSS FROM US ALL THE SAME

IT'S A NEW YEAR AND A NEW SET OF CHANCES TO DEFEND AGAIN THIS HOUSE WE BUILT AND BLED FOR

AND DAMNED IF WE AREN'T GOING TO DO JUST THAT, FINDING END ZONE AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL THE CANNONS ARE OUT OF POWDER AND THE FANS IN ATTENDANCE ARE WORRIED THEY MIGHT BE DEAF

BELIEVE IT

After last week...would you doubt us?