What a game. Initial thoughts?
Alex G: This was just the kind of game I needed as a fan, and the whole fan base needed in general. When I checked up on injuries before the game, I saw that Modster and Saffell were suiting up and I immediately got more optimistic. Then, the optimism went up when I saw that Kekoa Crawford was on the field (and made an amazing long-distance catch). The coaches seemed to game plan well on defense: we used a great mix of man, zone and blitz packages that had plenty of tackles-for-loss or no-gain plays by WSU. The success of the offense was FANTASTIC! If Trevon Clark didn’t miss a couple of catches, Modster’s stat line would have been much higher and the margin of victory could have been greater. Overall, though, I’m pleased and looking forward to the last few games.
Henry Keenan: The offense finally seems to be clicking, and it’s giving the defense something to play for. Washington State is also on a different level than Utah and Oregon; however, this was how the Oregon State and Arizona State games should have gone.
christopher_h: The most points Cal scored all season! I’m happy that Cal got a win to break the losing streak, and to hopefully give the team some confidence entering the final stretch.
thedozen: The Bears have gone from starting Spencer Brasch to having Devon Modster healthy enough to perform very well against the Cougars. Now Chase Garbers looks like he will be available too! That situation alone is reason for excitement.
Beau Baldwin has gotten creative in two consecutive games and got enough plays to get his playmakers in places to succeed. What did you think of what the offense did?
Alex G: I was at Memorial Stadium for the game and haven’t seen a replay yet, so can’t do too much of a film breakdown right now. Still, this was a solid showing of what a good “multiple” offense can be when key players are healthy: it featured conventional runs, QB runs, deep routes, slants, screens, and more. The execution on Makai Polk’s 52-yard touchdown run, with offensive lineman just far enough down field and the WR Polk breaking defenders’ ankles, was spot-on. A big thumbs-up from me.
Henry Keenan: There were two critical factors of the offense’s success: increased creativity from Beau Baldwin and improved offensive line play. Modster was only sacked twice this week, an improvement over the 9 and 6 sacks he took against Oregon State and Oregon respectively. Finally, the skilled players are starting to get the ball in more space, with Brown and Polk putting their abilities on full display.
christopher_h: I mean, let’s not underestimate how bad Wazzu’s defense is. This is a team that gave up about 50 points in a quarter to UCLA. While the Cal skill position players made a number of nice plays, my thoughts were usually along the line of “Oops, [Wazzu player] really messed up there.”
thedozen: It was heartening to see more throws downfield. Michael Saffell made his presence known all game, as evidenced by the relative lack of sacks and amount of time Modster had in the backfield.
Textbook bend not break from the defense. How great/good/normal was this performance by the defense?
Alex G: This performance was perfect for shutting down the WSU Air Raid, by limiting explosive plays and keeping first-level defenders ready to blow up screen passes. Last week, I noted in the Power Rankings that Cal’s defense was going to shine against WSU, because past defense is our strength and the Air Raid is super-pass-happy. This was a great outing by the defense, but not all that unexpected IMO.
Henry Keenan: This defense is as good as any in the nation when it is complemented by an offense that gives it a lead to defend and some time off the field. The defense the past few weeks has not been poor, if anything the level of play has been incredibly consistent. The difference between Cal winning and losing is whether or not the offense can sustain 2-3 drives per half and put up over 20 points.
christopher_h: This was another fantastic performance by the defense. As predicted, Wilcox still has Leach’s number. Leach can blame his players all he wants, but when you struggle to score 2 touchdowns each year when you normally average 5+ touchdowns per game, maybe it’s time to start turning that blame inward.
thedozen: It did not feel like Anthony Gordon threw for 407 yards. Forcing two turnovers helped, and the Cougars basically stopped running effectively after their first play from scrimmage. The Bears also held WSU to a field goal after starting on the Cal 19 yard line following a fumble. All in all, it’s not surprising to read that Cal has held 15 of their last 16 opponents under 25 points.
Feelings heading into next week’s final home game?
Alex G: I’m feeling solidly optimistic heading into this week’s contest against USC. Our defense is shining well and is going up against a team with major injuries at RB that will probably lean on the pass, playing to our strength. If the offense can mostly replicate its performance from this week (or outdo it), then the late-night game should be a win.
Henry Keenan: Cal’s defense should be able to match up well against USC’s offense next week. Thomas’s kicking is starting to become a major concern; however, if the offense can play anything like it did this week USC’s defensive inconsistency could come to haunt them.
christopher_h: There’s a lot of words I could use to describe my feelings towards USC, but I’m told they’re not fit to print.
thedozen: Cal may not be favored, but between beating the Trojans last season and ending the losing skid over the weekend hopefully the entire team feels that a win is attainable.