clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cal football fans, were you a fan of the coaching decisions to kick a lot in the Big Game?

New, comments

What would you have done if you were the coach?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

2. What are your thoughts on these particular decisions in the 2015 Big Game?

a) Opting for field goals instead of touchdowns

b) The decisions to punt on 4th and short in the 2nd (when we originally lined up to go for it) and 4th quarter down 19

c) The nonside kick.

A.W Johnston:

A.) I have zero issues going for the three points on multiple occasions. We were down 21-6 at half, that would have been a hell of a lot more demoralizing if we had zero points from a couple of failed fourth down conversions. Take the points early, let your players see some reward for good drives and come after it again in the second half. I have heard the argument about that being conservative play-calling, but I disagree. Our game-plan wasn't conservative, for goodness sakes we ran a Vic Enwere flea flicker! Those decisions to take the points kept the game at a manageable deficit, one that we could take into the locker room and rally the troops around. Sure enough, we came out and got within five in the third quarter. For me personally, that was validation those were the correct calls.

B.) I didn't mind this decision either. I know Stanford has scored 30+ points in Pac-12 play, but their offense didn't look elite to me. It was incredibly one dimensional. It just so happened that we couldn't stop that one dimension whatsoever. I am fine playing conservative and trusting David Shaw to play just as conservative. It didn't work out, but a couple more defensive stops and we have a new ball game with a different ending.

C.) I really didn't like this call. It's the big game, ANYTHING can happen. You have to give your players that chance, especially with how hard they played. Who cares if it doesn't go right, at that point in the game it's all about showing faith to your guys. I know we have a class act group of players, but I bet this hurt a few of them. Part of me thinks maybe he didn't want to 'Furd running up the score to help us secure a better bowl position, but I have a hard time rationalizing that decision.

boomtho: I hated them all, so this is going to be a short answer.

I think he absolutely should have gone for it on those 4th downs instead of kicking the FG's. I think this was ESPECIALLY apparent for the one in the 3rd quarter, when it was clear that Stanford was starting to pick up some steam and had a bit more success running the ball than the first drive.

I also didn't like the punting decision for two reasons. First, I think we should have gone for it... and in this particular instance, the outcome seemed to support that decision, since they made up the 30 net yards of field position change in 3 plays. Second, if we really wanted to punt it, I wish we had done it with Cole Lenninger instead of Adolphus. Dykes, I think, mentioned that it was basically an option play, where if they'd gotten a certain look, they would have used the personnel on the field to go for it. I understand that point of view, but I'd prefer to trust your offense, straight up, on a day that they averaged 6+ yards per play. In addition, this also wasn't a red zone situation where Cal struggled on the day.

Lastly, on the kick - I can't think of a single justification beyond either Sonny somehow wanting to keep the score "respectable" to preserve morale, or Sonny not wanting to get anyone hurt on an onside recovery (which - if true - I am kind of on board with).

atomsareenough:

a) Opting for field goals instead of touchdowns
I would have gone for the touchdown in all 3 instances, and I am pretty convinced that was the right thing to do. That said, I think the first FG was reasonable enough (even if sub-optimal), the second FG was less reasonable, and the 3rd one was bad. First of all, I think 4th and short from around midfield onward is almost always a "go for it" situation, unless A) the score is really close and it's late in the game or B) you're the favored team and you're winning. In the red zone pretty much think we should almost always go for it on 4th and short.

You should ESPECIALLY be more willing to go for it when you're the underdog. If you play conservatively and settle for field goals, that plays right into the hands of the favored team. The better team will happily let the underdog settle for field goals because they can usually score touchdowns. And that's exactly what happened. Stanford got touchdowns and we got field goals. If we wanted the upset, we absolutely needed touchdowns to force them to keep up. And we had to be willing to risk failing in order to get them.

The Axe was at stake. We already had a bowl game secured. That was exactly the time to pull out all the stops for the win, and we just... didn't. We played it safe, and so the better team safely won. Moreover, if we score TDs and turn it into more of a shootout, we put more pressure on Stanford to score TDs, and they likely have to pass the ball more and run less.

As it was, since they had a comfortable lead for most of the game and we were settling for field goals, they were able to run the ball 40 times and only had 12 pass attempts. 12! And it makes sense, why pass the ball if you're already ahead, are not giving up TDs, and you can just hand it to McCaffrey for a decent gain? I am absolutely convinced we needed to force the issue in order to win this game, and we didn't. Which sucks, because our defense was pretty good for most of the game, and our offense was pretty good for most of the game, so if we'd pressed the issue a bit more, it's possible we could have changed the outcome. Clearly the field goals were not a winning strategy. In the entire 4th quarter, we never got closer than being down by 2 scores.

b) The decisions to punt on 4th and short in the 2nd (when we originally lined up to go for it) and 4th quarter down 19

In the 2nd quarter, I can live with it, even if I'd rather go for it on general principle. But the one in the 4th quarter is terrible. That's absolutely a surrender punt. If you are serious about trying to win the game, then you need to try to score there. Punting there is more about having a non-blowout loss that makes the coaching staff look bad than about winning the game. Which I kind of get, considering how antsy everyone is feeling going 1-5 after starting out 5-0, but that doesn't make it any more excusable.

c) The nonside kick.

Same story as the 4th quarter punt. Herm Edwards will tell you, you play to win the game. There's no reason not to do an onside kick, except fear of the final score looking worse if Stanford recovers and has a shorter field to potentially get more points. You absolutely need to do an onside kick if you want to have a chance at winning, but Dykes had thrown in the towel at that point and was in CYA mode, which is a goddamn shame.

As a Cal fan, I want to see us try everything humanly possible to get that Axe. Crazier things have happened in the Big Game, as we all know. If Arizona could go all out to desperately try to come back against us in the 4th quarter last year from 18 points down and win due to a frenzy of onside kicks, frantically paced offense, and a crazy Hail Mary, why can't we make that type of effort against our bitter archrivals? It's pretty deeply maddening and disheartening to say the least.

Nik Jam: There are a lot of situations where I don't mind conservative play calls. Heck, the field goal kicking nearly worked out. We scored a TD to make it 21-16. If we got a stop after that, or answered a Stanford TD with another TD, we were still very much in the game. Obviously there was the "What if we tacked on 4-12 extra points if those 4th down plays worked out?" but you never know. We had first and goal and couldn't get 5 measly yards in 3 tries, it's no guarantee a 4th try would have worked. So maybe I would have went for it down 21-6, but 7-3 and 14-6 are respectable scores and I was fine with them.

However, I absolutely hated the lack of an onside kick at the end, and the late punt (which caused my friends to opt to just leave the game early. I convinced them to stay as we took pictures of the Axe staredown, but once the onside kick didn't happen we were gone) because yeah, odds were horrible that we'd get two touchdowns in a minute. But why not try? Recover the onside and maybe get a TD with 10 seconds left. Recover another onside kick and at least you get a Hail Mary chance. I really don't like the call and I think all the anger at Dykes is very justified there.

Ruey Yen:

a) Opting for field goals instead of touchdowns
The Bears have gone for it on 4th down quite a bit this year. Part of this may be a lack of confidence in kicker Matt Anderson from any distance out. It seems paradoxical to not do that in the Biggest Game of the season. Yes, the first half field goals kept the game within one score (8 points), but the best way for a Cal win would have been Sonny allowed the offense to put up more points and we win this game via a shootout. Being conservative and taking the points appears to be the less than optimal strategy.

Now that 3rd quarter field goal was just a weird decision. The game remains a two score game even after the field goal. That is the one that I don't know what Sonny was thinking. We must have had plays for this particular situations and the Big Game is when a trick play should be used.

b) The decisions to punt on 4th and short in the 2nd (when we originally lined up to go for it) and 4th quarter down 19
The punt in the 2nd quarter, I thought that's another situation where we have the option to not punt if we see something defensively that we like. The fact that Cal rugby player Harry Adolphus was the one who punted that ball back up my sense that it was designed to be a potential trick play.

Now the 4th quarter thing is a different story. I know our D has forced a lot of turnovers early in the season, but the best way to potentially come back in this game is to hold on to the ball and let Goff and the Bear Raid do its thing. This decision was a head scratcher.

c) The nonside kick.

I was totally expecting a trick play at this point. I don't understand what was the harm to try to get the ball back. Yes, the odds of us winning was low regardless of this decision, but it was heartbreaking to see us essentially give up with time left on the clock.