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Rating the Bears: Cal at Wazzu

We’ve settled into a familiar routine.

NCAA Football: California at Washington State
I’ll use a McMorris TD picture any time I can.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Rating the Bears

The Bears seem to have a theme in losses this year (except that unforgivable UCLA debacle): the defense puts in a stellar performance while the offense fails to capitalize on red zone appearances and has a costly turnover or two. Saturday’s game was no different. While it’s encouraging to be in a tie game with the #8 team into the final minutes, it’s disappointing to see that the offense hasn’t really made much improvement over the course of the season. It looks unlikely that we’ll have a late-season surge like we had last year. But the toughest defenses are now in the rear-view mirror, so perhaps I’ll be surprised in these last few games.

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 36.0 24.8
Rush Offense 41.1 24.5
Pass Defense 74.4 21.8
Rush Defense 77.2 19.9
Special Teams 60.7 21.0
Coaching 41.3 29.7
Overall 59.5 22.7
Win Probability vs. USC 47.7% (+16.6) 21.8 (+4.5)

As usual, the defense earns some strong scores while the offense is punished for another mediocre outing. Special teams and overall scores are middling, but coaching earned an unusually low score. I bet that is heavily based on the coaches’ insistence on putting Brandon McIlwain in the game despite a mountain of evidence that he is turnover-prone. Wilcox defended that decision by saying that McIlwain is the most explosive player on the team; unfortunately, most of that explosiveness is the this-just-blew-up-in-my-face variety.

Ratings Comparison

We have had some weird games against Wazzu this decade and Saturday’s matchup did not deviate too far from past games. Alas, we do not have a category for weirdness, so Garbers’ pick-six-turned-touchback and our innumerable first downs off Wazzu penalties will be lost in time, like tears in a light Pullman rain.

Comparing Saturday’s performance (gold) to recent games against Washington State (blue)

As expected, the offensive categories were pretty lousy compared to recent games against Wazzu. I guess we can’t have Jared out there slinging 5 TDs and 500 yards every week. Mercifully, this wasn’t the worst pass offense we’ve seen against Wazzu. I’m not enough of a masochist to check, but I’m pretty sure that worse one was the Brock Mansion game in 2010. That was agonizing. The defense fared decently well compared to other recent games against Wazzu. Special teams, coaching, and overall were merely average.

Comparing Saturday’s performance (gold) to other games from the Wilcox Era (blue)

Compared to other games in the Wilcox era, this was slightly worse than average. I’m going to have to update these graphs in the offseason to improve their legibility by adding transparency to the points. Unless Cal inexplicably fires Wilcox in the offseason, in which my plots will be the least of our concerns.


We lost, so let’s recognized the lowest scores first.

Old Blues

Name Rating
1. MadcalDiseaz 0 (0.0%)
1. m 0 (0.0%)
3. Bearacious 47 (6.7%)
4. mhsa 235 (28.6%)
5. mvargus 270 (33.6%)

4 of the 5 Old Blues have names starting with the letter m. Coincidence? I think not.

Sunshine Pumpers

Name Rating
1. RememberTheCalamo 700 (100.0%)
2. Bear Necessities 83 591 (84.4%)
3. Bowlesman80 580 (82.9%)
4. coolhan 573 (81.9%)
5. Herzon 564 (80.6%)

As usual we have our two perfect ballots from Remember the Calamo and David Shaw...hey, wait a minute...where is David Shaw [is/does some terrible or embarassing thing]?

The Voice of Reason

Finally, we have those whose ratings were closest to the community average.

Name Deviation
1. goldenone 5.87
2. sacman701 6.34
3. 1988goldenbear 7.72
4. hardtobecalfan 8.98
5. goldenbears02 9.03

I’ve noticed that the VoR winners have consistently featured new faces each week, but this week features several familiar names who have been consistently earning VoR awards for years. Welcome back!

Any comments on the gameday experience?

diasfordays - Late start, plenty of coffee to keep up with Cardiac Cal.

Willis Chong - TV announcers that weren’t completely stupid about our team? That wasn’t on the Pac-12 network? That was nice.

Bear Necessities 83 - It appeared to be an evenly matched game of good offense vs good defense and struggling offense vs. struggling defense. I knew it would come down to who made a good play or a bad mistake. Guess who???

Bearonamo - Cold and wet. Horrible replay capabilities/execution. Nice beanie give-away

What are your thoughts on Cal’s passing game?

TopDog - it sucks.

RememberTheCalamo - The telecast was saying that Brandon McIlwain was the more talented of our two quarterbacks.... His good plays are really good, I guess, but he turns the ball over at crucial moments. Garbers doesn’t turn it over as much ... Can we put some spray glue on their gloves?

Don’t have one - I didn’t like the QB change towards the end of the game. Garbers was running well, he was making good decisions, and bringing in McIlwain for first, those two downs, and then the disastrous pick was awful. I think Cal would have won had they simply stuck with Garbers.

sup_doe_library - I’m not sure why throwing the ball to the other team is such a central part of it.Â

What are your thoughts on Cal’s running game?

CoBears - WSU was able to stack the box because we couldn’t get receivers open downfield, and the lack of run game production in such a scenario is to be expected to a degree. That isn’t to say it was in any way satisfying. The lack of run production didn’t help us on Saturday.

Bearonamo - Almost impossible to have a running game when there is no passing game. OK under the circumstances.

Bear Necessities 83 - While it looked great at times, the fake delay handoff look just allowed the defense to get closer while we tried to figure out what to do with the ball. The more direct action handoffs were more productive

coolhan - solid but no speed threat

sacman701 - Mostly slim pickings. Laird couldn’t get going.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s pass defense?

m4ld - Mostly great besides Wazzu’s last drive. Fell apart there when we needed them most.

NinjaNed - I’m proud of our boys as Wazzu’s O-Line was legit, but there was absolutely no pressure all day. I’m really amazed we kept it that close.

Rugbear - Against Minshew? Good job.

Lucky1715 - Stellar. Considering that is one of the top QBs in the country, I thought they played exceptionally well...again.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s run defense?

diasfordays - A few explosive plays and missed tackles, but overall WSU couldn’t rely on the run to beat us. Decent performance here.Â

FrmrG8r - Unbelievably solid all night

SuperEQ - So good at staying in their lanes and knowing their responsibilities.

Bear Necessities 83 - This too was pretty damn good with an occasional missed tackle but nothing game breaking. Bend but dont break is well executed

What are your thoughts on Cal’s special teams?

Torreys Tacos - Thomas made up for a bad miss with a good kick. Returns were meh.

gumibears - Why couldnt we kick into the endzone again? I called the WSU FG miss when I saw how wobbly the kick of the last WSU FG that made it in. Cal did nothing. It was all rain helping Cal out.

justbear - Thomas might be better than I expected. I was asking for change after his missed FG. Was pleasantly surprised to see him make two long FGs after that.

What are your thoughts on the coaching staff’s performance?

Torreys Tacos- I loved the overall gameplan. Let’s appreciate that Cal took the #8 team in the country out of their comfort zone and had a shot to win in a tough environment. Unfortunately, the stupid decisions to keep throwing with McIlwain loomed large and provided the final margin.

Still, that’s back-to-back weeks of absolutely controlling the pace and flow against superior teams. That’s awesome! Gives me hope for what this team could do with serious offensive weapons.

gumibears - Poor. Playcalling is fine if you use Garbers. Don’t use Mcillwain when you can use Garbers for the same play. Garbers at least had good QB runs. WSU just wanted Mcillwain to throw it the whole time he was in, so they just stack the line.

mvargus - They did what they could considering the talent deficits we have especially on offense, but it was still a disappointing game overall.

Lucky1715 - Defense did another great job of keeping us in the game and Offense did another poor job at winning it. Players played their hearts out, but I questions a lot of the coaching. I didn’t have as much of a problem with the actual play calling as I did with letting Bmac throw in the red zone...again. Same with throwing to Hudson down the middle - why?

That said, let’s not forget, we played in tough, away conditions against a top 10 team and we nearly won the game, AND with almost no penalties. So, overall, I though the coaching has continued to improve - though ALL of the offensive staff have some serious explaining to do.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s overall performance?

gumibears - 90% there. Then Beau experiments and now we are 40% back. I think we still have a very good chance against USuC, Stanfurd, CoLOLrado.

jrrad1980 - Another loss that could have been, and should have been, a win. The defense performed well, but the offense was poorly led by its coordinator, and perhaps by the head coach as well. This was not just a close loss to one of the conference’s best teams. Rather, it was a lost opportunity for the Bears to win an upset on the road. Terribly disappointing.

hardtobecalfan - so many breaks went our way and we threw it away in the 4th

FrmrG8r - Really gutsy road performance against the best team in the PAC12 this year.

mvargus - Close is nice, but we need to find ways to win games like this.

SuperEQ - Unbelievable. So good, then so heartbreaking. Now my biggest fear is that there is a hangover and we lose to the most beatable Southern Cal Team we’ve seen since 2002. Saturday is a must win. Go Bears

Clbear - ALL the boys played hard...I can’t say I would have been that unhappy with the lost if the final interception hasn’t occurred...disappointed yes, but not the level of frustration I am feeling now. Right now, I am just wondering why do we keep putting up with at risk behaviors from the offensive side of the ball.

sup_doe_library - We finally catch cosmic breaks and then we decide that we’d rather Wazzu win in spite of them because the offensive coaching enjoys helping the other team win games.