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Roundtables: UNC Analysis Pt.1

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Lets talk offense and defense.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Too many things happened on Saturday against the Tar heels, that we need to split up our Roundtables into two posts. So let’s talk about the offense and defense first.

3 QB System? Who caught your eye? Could this actually work?

Piotr Le: When you have two QBs, you got none. When you have three QBs and the starter gets 0 snaps in the 2nd half, you don’t have an offense. This means that often times than not each QB has packages, but it looks like only Garbers is willing to run the ball on zone reads and throw the ball past the sticks. Despite the reports on Bowers’ growth there were a lot of bad throws and mis reads on his end. It didn’t help that the o-line was bad at pass-pro and didn’t leave him with space to breathe. Cal has 1 week to figure itself out before facing BYU and it’s 35 year old QB.

Joshua Morgan: NOOOO!!!!! This is exactly what I didn’t want. No one separated themselves in this game. Why couldn’t we have just picked someone? Anyway, I honestly don’t think any of them played well at all this game. The O-line wasn’t fantastic by any means, but none of them looked comfortable in the pocket... and I think a lot of that can be contributed to not having any confidence due to the 3-QB system. This shouldn’t stay for long (hopefully), but it definitely won’t work as is.

Nick Kranz: I can’t say that anybody caught my eye as a passer, but Chase Garbers caught my eye in terms of mobility and pocket awareness, particularly considering his inexperience. Cal’s offense is badly in need of wrinkles, options, and a mobile quarterback would certainly qualify.

Attila LS Gero: I thought that Chase Garbers looked better in the pocket than Ross Bowers did. Normally I oppose teams using multiple quarterbacks during games as a strategy but I think Cal can actually make it work to their favor.

Nicole Lee: It was honestly so strange. I could see why the coaches would want to try this considering that Garbers, Mcllwain, and Bowers each have their own strengths, but I feel like this just takes away from fully investing in a starter and getting the rest of the players on the field adjusted to that specific QB. Garbers definitely stood out though.

boomtho: Man, that was a rough one to watch. As previous people have mentioned, the QB’s have unique strengths (esp Garbers vs Bowers) so I understand why they wanted to try it, especially with Bowers and the pass protection really struggling in the first half. That being said, there was really no consistent flow at all to the offense, and I think the coaches can’t look at this as any kind of long term solution. Also as previous people have mentioned, Garbers stood out the most, but I think largely due to the struggles that Bowers and McIlwain had, not necessarily through any amazing plays that Garbers made. I think expectations have to be significantly revised downward for the passing game this year.

HydroTech: Coach Wilcox explained in his post-game interview that the three QB system was to add another dimension to the Cal offense -- specifically the QB run threat. If his explanation is to be believed, then Cal does not have a quarterback controversy and Bowers is firmly entrenched as the starter. Nevertheless, could this 3 QB system work? If the question is whether Cal’s offense can function with three QBs rotating in, then I think the answer is yes. I don’t know if this rotation is efficient or will hamper the pace or consistency of the offense, but it at least gives defensive coordinators more to plan for, in turn making their lives harder.

Ragnarok: Was that a “system”? I couldn’t really discern anything systematic about the deployment of the three quarterbacks; they may have been trying to deploy them in different situations, but it honestly seemed more like extended fall camp tryouts to me.

One of the problems with deploying a multi-QB system is that, whenever you try to exploit the unique abilities of multiple quarterbacks, the shifting of personnel in the game gives a “tell” to the defense regarding what abilities you’re trying to exploit, and thus what you’re likely to be running. You can disguise this, but then you end up playing against your strengths. That’s why the greatest threats are always going to be athletes who can execute multiple plans successfully, allowing you to disguise your intentions without sacrificing the ability to execute those plans.

So no, long-term, a 3-QB system won’t work, and I’ll look to the staff to try and settle on one (maaayyyybe two) QBs at BYU, or at least by the time we get into conference play.

One thing I will say for the offense that hasn’t been noted before is the lack of turnovers. No fumbles, lost or otherwise, and despite more than a couple throws going well wide of the target, nothing that I saw was close to being picked off. While the offense lacked explosiveness, they at least took care of the ball, with the result that the average starting position for the UNC offense was their own 26, with just one drive beginning beyond their own 35. If you’re going to rely on your defense to win games, your offense at least has to help you out with field position.

Rick Chen: The 3 QB system is disappointing. The offense likely never got into a groove because of a lack of on-field leadership. I was surprised Ross Bowers didn’t play in the second half (have we forgot how well he did last year against North Carolina?) and there would often be different quarterbacks playing on the same drive. The offense never got the chance to develop some consistency. I hope Coach Wilcox puts these gimmicks to rest in conference play.

Mike Foiles: Not a fan at all and do not think it should continue in the fashion displayed vs North Carolina. I 100% think Ross Bowers should be the every down QB. Even in a poor showing, Bowers still looked the best with his reads and was the most accurate in the intermediate/downfield passing game. I think the reason we did not see Bowers in the second half is because the coaching staff believed the defense could finish out this game with a 17 point lead and wanted the offense to work the clock by running the ball more and play conservatively to lower the probability of turning it over. Garbers and McIlwain are much better runners than Bowers and they give the run game more versatility. Given the Tar Heels were able to make it interesting at the end, I do not think we will see this again, at least not at this level of extremity.

Ruey Yen: The 3 QB thing has got to be a temporary situation ahead of Pac-12 play. None of the three guys really stood out against UNC, but one solid week of practice and game performance can change everything. If Cal IS indeed going to play multiple QB, they really should be rotating them with each series rather than let one guy play a half, give another guy some plays, and let the third guy finish the game (all with first team offense, for the most part, in other positions). Regardless, I will bet that the QB situation is clear by week 5 (I can see all 3 play against both BYU and Idaho State, then Cal has a bye before the Oregon game).

Alex Ghenis: I don’t think we will have a “three QB system” going forward, but rather will have a starting QB that is either Bowers or Garbers, and McIlwain in for certain running packages. Bowers started out okay but was getting awful protection from the line and clearly got phased after getting hit a couple of times in the backfield. He isn’t especially mobile, and just given how much the UNC D was dominating the line of scrimmage, it did make more sense to put in a QB that could run if need be (thus, Garbers coming in in the second quarter and playing through the second half). Many of us also expected that the coaches would play some backups – including potentially Garbers – if the game somehow turned into a blowout (Garbers was probably playing against the 2nd/3rd-team in camp, so going against a legit defense could help the coaches get film and see how he did in the real world)… Our defense was doing well and we were up 17-0 at the half, so giving Garbers some experience also kind of made sense, until the offense really shut down and UNC almost pulled the comeback, at which point it seems like a bad decision. Hindsight is 20/20.

I think that Bowers overall made better throws, and the receivers had drops that impacted his stat line, but Garbers has a strong arm (but overthrew a good amount of receivers) and has positive mobility as a factor. Hopefully the coaches will figure things out this coming week before BYU… But if not, at least after the trip to Provo, we have a game against a cupcake and then a bye week to get the QBs in order, before we go into the meat of our schedule.

Rob Hwang: Give me 4 QBs or give me... a burrito? Could this be so crazy that it works? Highly doubt it. The biggest question I have is the inner workings of so many staff members with HC experience and yet we gave our QB’s such inconsistent snaps in terms of their rhythm (Other than Garbers in the second half). If you really want all QB’s to be a threat you need all QB’s running plays on a somewhat level playing field. Let Ross and Chase run and play RPO. Let McIlwain throw deep and not just on RPOs. If they are really trying to determine the best QB through on field play, you can’t limit the opportunity to showcase their ability and step up to the challenge.

On the other hand, the defense played outstanding. What part of the defense were you most surprised with?

Piotr Le: I think it would be the run defense. It was the weakness for Cal last year but the combination of Weaver and Kunaszyk provided a lot of umph to killing any runs on the inside with OLBs/DEs providing much needed force and contain.

Joshua Morgan: LOVED THE FIRST THREE QUARTERS. We looked completely dominant. Yes, I believe a lot of it was due to bad offense by UNC. For that reason, the biggest surprise for me was the fourth quarter blow-up. That wasn’t a good look at all, and let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. I mean seriously, how do you go from domination to Sonny Dykes level bad?

Nick Kranz: I’d say how the defensive line held up at the point of attack. Linemen only collected a total of 8 tackles (led by 4 from Zeandae Johnson) but they didn’t let the UNC offensive line push them back, and they successfully occupied blockers so that linebackers could make plays at the line of scrimmage. For at least one game, the problem of Cal’s front 7 getting pushed back multiple yards on most plays was not an issue.

Attila LS Gero: I was really impressed with Ashtyn Davis the whole time on Defense. I though the safeties closed in on ball carriers quickly to minimize any extra yards.

Nicole Lee: I have to agree with Joshua. Our defense was great, but I guess we’ll have to see how much it’ll hold up further down the line. BUT REGARDLESS, it was a great first game and an improvement from last year. The second half is always when the real game starts: whether we hold up our own or not.

boomtho: I think the part I was most surprised by was how stout the defensive line was. Excluding the QB, UNC averaged 3.7 YPC, and Cal did generate some pressure throughout, even though it didn’t directly lead to any sacks. I’ll also mention how awesome our secondary was - this was not a surprise (which is why I didn’t mention it in the first part of the question), but it was really exciting to see athletic PBU’s and interceptions.

Ragnarok: 4 picks, but no sacks? Only 2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage? I guess UNC made a concerted effort to get rid of the ball, often to their detriment. I really thought the stats would look better when I looked them up, but they don’t tell the whole story. UNC may not have often gone backwards (except via penalty -- 13 for 124 yards), but they often had trouble going very far forward either.

And yes, the defense gave up two late, long touchdown drives, though it’s worth noting that the first one was aided by desperation, as the Tar Heels had to pick up a couple of fourth downs on that drive, either of which would have ended the drive earlier in the game.

Rick Chen: In past seasons, we could not make a tackle to save our lives, leading to painful games. I’m surprised by the solid tackling and pass defense. I’m looking forward to some sacks in the future.

Mike Foiles: I was most surprised with the toughness of the DL. Really love the improvement of Luc Bequette and Tevin Paul. The problem is that there may only be four guys to be confident in stopping the run with (Zeandae Johnson and Chris Palmer are the other two). Rusty Becker had his hand taped up so perhaps he can add another option when he is healthier because Chinedu Udeogu had a rough series in the final drive.

Ruey Yen: I’ve got to give the credit to the Cal defensive line. Despite the outstanding first quarter defensively, Golden Bears actually missed multiple first tackle for losses opportunities early in the game. Against better teams, Cal Bears will need to capitalize on those chances.

Rob Hwang: I’ve been saying the DL is much improved. So I’m going to ask for a drink from all my fellow writers above that called the DL. Surprise for me? Thats the DBs. We knew they were good and expected to take that next step, but man was it even more thrilling seeing that development on the field and how good they were.