After a disheartening loss up in Eugene, the embattled Bears return to Berkeley to face the other Oregon school, Oregon State, in a game to essentially determine Cal's bowl eligibility. The Beavers haven't exactly looked great this year under first year coach Gary Andersen. It's been a bit of an adjustment. They had to break in a freshman QB in Seth Collins, who got injured, leaving the position to Nick Mitchell. Mitchell is a redshirt freshman, so he hasn't had too much in the way of experience either. There have been quite a few injuries for the Beavers, one big one being offensive lineman Sean Harlow. His loss is a blow to the running game, which already lost its best rusher in Collins.
That being said, Cal has struggled at home against Oregon State, not winning in Memorial against the Beavers since 1997, the first year of the delightfully named Holmoecaust. It's still the best chance Cal has at getting bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.
This one will be shorter than most of the other personnel sections, because Oregon State doesn't have too much nameable talent on offense, I could tell you maybe two or three guys that are standout there without looking. That said, here we go.
The starting quarterback for this week will be Mitchell. To say he had a poor game against UCLA last week is like saying that Ben Carson's grasp of history is below average. Mitchell's stats were as follows:
- 9/19 Passing with 4.4 yards per attempt
- 84 yards passing with a 2.9 QBR (a BS stat, but still)
- 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions
That's not a good game, and through three game where he's had playing time, Mitchell is still under 50% completion percentage and has 1 touchdown thrown to 4 interceptions. That being said, I'm fully prepared for him to go Super Saiyan on us and savage this defense. Mitchell can run a bit, which could be killer. We've been down this road too many times.
The one returning starter I could have named was Storm Barrs-Woods. Barrs-Woods, who changed his name in a Maurice Jones-Drew manner, will be the only real running back on the depth chart for the Beavers. Injuries to Chris Brown and Ryan Nall have thinned the running back herd, and losing Collins hurt their run game even more. Expect lots of Woods, he's a solid downhill runner who is averaging over 5 yards a carry. He does have only one rushing TD on the season, but that can be attributed to a stagnant offense.
Oregon State is 116th in the FBS in passing, so their receivers haven't been world beaters, but Jordan Villamin and Victor Bolden have been responsible for over half of their receiving yards on the season. Bolden is more of a slot/screen receiver, leading the team in receptions, while Villamin is the bigger receiver at 6'5", and leads the team in receiving yards with 486. The third leading receiver for the Beavers, Datrin Guyton, was dismissed from the team this week, thinning out an already thin offense. The two Darius's could have an excellent day against the OSU receivers.
The offensive line for the Ducks has had their sshare of troubles, most notably against the UCLA pass rush last week. Isaac Seumalo is solid at the right guard spot, but he may be the only bright spot on the offensive line.
I don't think Mitchell is the same caliber of athlete as Collins, but they may have him run in the same manner. He did have 12 carries against Utah, so they may use some similar packages for him. This play in particular is one that I saw in several highlights. It starts in a shotgun with twin receivers to one side.There is a tight end and a fullback n the other.
The inside receiver will motion across the formation, and the snap comes at a time where the quarterback can fake the jet sweep. He does just that, and this play turns into a QB counter. The right guard and fullback lead him out into the open, where Collins hurdles a defender, which was definitely drawn up. This is an excellent setup to get a playmaker in space. Stopping these kinds of plays requires staying at home on assignments, and following the pull blocks to where the play goes. Undercutting the guard is the way to do this.
Judging from his relatively successful game at Utah, Mitchell will look to get out of the pocket to make throws. What they've done to protect him is to pull the backside guard out to give him a bit more protection. Getting Seumalo out there in pass protection gives Mitchell a much better opportunity to make a play. It'll look like this:
or like this
(Sorry for the less than desirable angles, nobody makes OSU highlights on youtube)
They'll combine the rollouts with your normal routes on bootlegs. Those consist of a comeback, curl, or smash from the playside receiver, an out or corner or crossing route from the tight end (depending on which side they're on), a flat route from the fullback, and a deep crossing route from the backside receiver. The guard pull also gives the QB a run/pass option, so he can tuck the ball and run from there.
As far as running the ball, it's going to be any number of read option plays. College football is a land of imitators, and Oregon State is no different. Anything that Cal does, Oregon State also does, though with Collins gone, it will be a lot tougher for them to run the ball.
I never know what to expect with Cal football anymore. I think that at this point, Cal is the better team by a longshot, but Oregon State will fight. You never know what will happen, but I think that the Beavers have had too many issues with injuries and lack of depth to come away with their first Pac-12 win of the year.