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Cal football film room: A Golden Spotlight on Goff's late play action touchdown pass to Anderson

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Pace and execution lead to key fourth quarter touchdown.

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

While Cal's offense sputtered for much of the afternoon against USC, they finished on a high note.  Their final offensive play showed what the pace and execution of their offense can do, though, as well all know, it was too little too late.

On the play, Cal had just completed a long, game extending fourth down pass on a great catch by Darius Powe to get to the nine yard line.  USC had trouble aligning fast enough, and Cal took advantage.  This shows the potential of Cal's offense, which is also the frustration for Cal fans - big plays lead to big plays with the pace that Cal can play at, but Cal has struggled to hit such big plays during their three game losing streak, and the Bear Raid has thus not been able to fly in the fashion that most envisioned.

GS USC 1

Pre-snap, we see Cal aligned with trips to the short side of the field and a lone receiver (Chad Hansen) to the wide side. This alignment takes advantage of college's wide hashes in that the wide side receiver will have significant space to work with (Cal has many times isolated Kenny Lawler in such alignments in the red zone) - if he does not, the offense has a likely advantage to the overloaded short side of the field. Here USC is almost definitely in man coverage. The location of the field (red zone = blitz/man coverage territory) and lack of free safety are hints, as well as one defender lining up over each skill player. Note that Stephen Anderson's defender has not yet made it to Anderson. This is the positive impact of pace after a big play - the defense must make whatever adjustments they want to make fast enough to react to how the offense aligns. Here, Cal lines up in the same formation as on the previous play, but USC changes their defense, and Anderson's defender does not make it in time. If you watch the gif (below) carefully, the defender does not square his shoulders to the line until Anderson beats him to the inside. His shoulders facing the sideline make it very difficult for him to react to any inside move, as is the case here.

GS USC 2

We see the play action fake. Note that this fake has two major elements - the actual ball fake to Daniel Lasco, and the pull from right to left by guard Jordan Rigsbee. Cal ran many power schemes on the day (where the guard pulled and kicked out the end man on the line of scrimmage). While Lasco's fake to the right and Rigsbee's pull to the left do not match up with each other (i.e., Lasco would not run right while Rigsbee pulls left on a run play [unless Cal starts false pulling]), they each can disrupt the reads of a particular defender. More importantly, they maintain good pass protection integrity. Lasco and Rigsbee essentially take each other's places. Each gets a potentially good inside out angle on a defender (does not happen on this play, but will often enable the blocker to get a solid "ear hole" block on a rusher). Under pressure, Cal's six man protection does well enough on this play.

GS USC 3

The defender covering Anderson is flat footed, and his shoulders still are not square.  Jared Goff sees it, and Anderson has planted to cut inside. The defender is beat and the touchdown is scored right now. Also note the USC linebacker in front of Anderson. This is most likely a "green dog" or "check engage" blitz - the same type that Stefan McClure executed so well here. Note that in this case, Goff releases the ball far too quickly for the linebacker to pressure him. I point this out for two reasons: (1) to once again emphasize how impressive McClure's sack was on that play, and (2) show the downside to such a scheme (because fans often only see the positive with blitzes). Here, this linebacker becomes useless for USC on the play. He doesn't create pressure and he doesn't add anything in coverage. If he had been instructed to drop into a zone instead of rushing if his man (Lasco) blocked, he likely would have been in good position to disrupt Goff's passing lane. That is not to say that a "green dog" or "check engage" blitz is a bad thing - it is to say that every scheme has its positives and negatives, and we shouldn't judge a scheme only based on highlights.

GS USC 4

Goff releases; Anderson has the inside step. Money in the bank.

GS USC 5

Nice adjustment by Anderson to secure the touchdown.

Football is a process. While the ultimate judgment is wins and losses, improvement comes from focusing on that process. As a team, Cal continues to play hard and give themselves chances to win against top competition. While nothing guarantees the eventual success that fans crave, there is still much reason for optimism that Cal will continue to improve as a program.  The drive that this touchdown capped featured several big plays in high pressure situations, displaying an offense capable of bigger things than they achieved against USC.

Keegan Dresow spent four seasons as the head coach of the Avedøre Monarchs of the Danish American Football Federation, is the author of Offensive Football Systems and Gridiron Cup, 1982, and is the operator of totalamericanfootball.com.