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Roundtables: Oregon in Review

A look back on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Cal at Oregon Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thoughts on the game?

boomtho: I’m disappointed that our defense played more than well enough to win, yet our offense and special teams (through factors both within and outside of their control) could not even pull a C performance to secure a win. To be clear, the offense (esecially the OL) has been decimated with injury so I’m not saying it’s their fault for a poor game... but the fact remains, we had a chance to win this game.

Ruey Yen: I definitely did not see it coming, but Cal had a realistic chance of winning this game and take charge in Pac-12 North in this game. Unfortunately, I think the OL injuries were just too much to overcome. Modster had a much improved performance, but his inconsistency meant that Cal’s early scoring drive, that included several amazing 3rd down conversions, was simply not sustainable. Nonetheless, kudos to the Cal coaching staff to have the team fired up after last week’s tough loss

christopher_h: I had largely given up hope on the upset after Garbers’ injury, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by the outcome. It does hurt to feel like Cal is wasting the best defense we are going to see for a generation. It always feels like Cal is so close to getting over that hump, but close doesn’t count.

DaneStopper: It’s weird to feel neutral after a loss, but the resiliency shown by the team basically cancelled out any disappointment I normally feel. Really, from a competitive standpoint, that game was absolutely terrible. We (most likely) lost the Rose Bowl chance, lost any chance at the division, have now lost 10 of 11 to Eugene, lost multiple players to unknown injuries, and blew a second-half lead. Yet, a week after many predicted we’d never win again without Garbers, I don’t see a game left we can’t win.

Offense? What happened? Where do we go? How do you think Modster performed?

Piotr T Le: As above, we were serviceable until Saffell went out. After that the offense seemed to stagnate as the complexity of the offense and blocking schemes decreased. In zone-running schemes the center is also the most important blocker. With each run-block the C’s job is to seal the NT/DT in front of him with a reach block, Cindric carries a lot of promise per the staff but he wasn’t even starting in Week 1 for Cal and now has to take up the most important OL position... not optimal.

boomtho: As others have said, I really have no idea what Baldwin and the staff can do. Every position group is suffering key injuries and our depth is not nearly enough to compensate for that, so we’re playing players that started the year as second or third stringers against a ferocious Oregon defense. I think Modster actually played reasonably well all things considered - he made some big throws, often scrambled effectively when the opportunities presented themselves, and was generally careful (though not accurate) with his passing. The only path I can see to more sustained offensive production is a heavier dose of Modster scrambles - I think opposing defense may increase their blitz rate due to our OL struggles, so Modster may have running lanes to use.

Ruey Yen: As expected, Modster played much better in this start than the previous week coming into the ASU game after Garbers’ injury. I don’t know if the offense should be changed a bit to tailor to his strength, but Modster kind of had that similar problem of Chase Garbers pre-Ole Miss where he runs through the progression too slowly and end up holding on to the ball for too long (or looks to be way too tentative). Maybe that will be much better after the bye week. Also, I don’t know if he is just healthier, but Christopher Brown Jr looks to be back to his punishing runs of the early in the season.

christopher_h: There is just not much you can do behind such an inexperienced offensive line. Cal really needs to develop some depth at these positions. I think Cal could survive a backup quarterback-- we’ve gotten along fine without asking too much of Garbers, but a porous offensive line stunts the run game and puts too much pressure on that backup quarterback. Modster has shown flashes that he can play, but he also needs to learn to add a bit more touch on his throws. The wide receivers made fantastic catches to help him out, but a wide receiver shouldn’t need to make a diving catch when he’s wide open on a short throw.

DaneStopper: Trevon Clark is a future star and will only benefit from Kekoa Crawford’s return. We started two walk-ons (Bazakas and Tonges), so I don’t really expect much improvement in the coming weeks. Modster was decent. He should 100% start the rest of the season, but I couldn’t really discern any meaningful difference in ability from Garbers. I’m already expecting a very firm challenge from Spencer Brasch next fall.

Defense bounced back in a big way. This felt very much like the Wazzu game from last year. What worked during the game? What are some concerns? What do they do during the bye week?

boomtho: I can’t really described what worked - but what I noticed was that our secondary played great. There were a number of nice PBU’s, and Ashtyn Davis took some really nice angles to break up passes with hits. In addition, our DL really stiffened against the run in the second half (helped in part due to Verdell and Dye’s fumble issues). The concerns, as the commentators repeatedly (!) pointed out, are the lack of depth on defense - the starters are playing a lot of snaps and appeared fatigued down the stretch.

Ruey Yen: It was great to see the Takers taking the ball away from the Ducks early. Too bad they were not able to continue that in the 2nd half (partly due to being tired from the lack of depth but also the unpredictability of relying on turnovers) to give the Bears a better chance to win that game. Bears’s run defense did improve in the 2nd half, but I think Cal might have lost too much DL and LB depth to injury to be elite there, merely very good.

christopher_h: The secondary finally found a quarterback willing to test them, and they made Herbert pay for it almost immediately. The interior of the defensive line is still a concern, and it looked like CJ Verdell was going to be able to run it for 5+ yards every play. I just want everyone to use the bye week to get healthy.

DaneStopper: Health helped? Traveon Beck was back. Ben Hawk Schrider was back. Chigozie Anusiem stopped wearing a club. Goode, Paul, and Davis seem to have recovered from that nagging stuff. Kuony Deng made a big leap this game, check back in two weeks if it continues. Concerns, as always, lie in the trenches. Did Maldonado even play? But that question is quickly getting resolved by a certain true freshman.

The offensive play calling started off pretty well but tapered off in the second half after not making any adjustments to stay ahead of Oregon. Any changes you would’ve made at the half?

Nick Kranz - In my Monday column, I complained that Cal stopped taking shots downfield in the 3rd quarter, but I saw Trace at Cal Rivals reporting some post-game quotes from Modster indicating that Oregon started playing more guys in coverage as the game wore on, presumably to take away some of the pockets of space that were opening downfield. That’s a plausible explanation for Cal’s struggles to do much of anything positive as the game wore on, though I suppose I’ll still argue in favor of throwing up some jump balls and hoping that the WRs make plays or draw some flags rather than running plays that were destined for failure regardless.

Honestly though . . . I just don’t know how to scheme around Cal’s problems right now. If I’m a Cal offensive coach, I suppose all there is to do is to desperately spend time over the next two weeks to figure out what this makeshift offensive line can successfully execute. Maybe that means throwing out most of the playbook and focusing on executing some of the basic concepts that this team might be able to pull off. Suffice to say that I have a ton of sympathy, because I don’t know how you can wring offensive production when you’re down 80% of an offensive line with a QB in his first year in the program.

Piotr T Le: not much. Can’t install a new plan or just go away from all the plays selected for the game. Note that unless you’ve been with your OC as long as Brady has been with McDaniels or Brees with Payton then most offenses come with a handful of plays they like and can execute into each game. What happens when the pass-protection is unstable and the QB doesn’t have the same chemistry with the C is that lots of plays are off the table either due to lack of experience or simply because it would’ve been blown up.

boomtho: Again, I’m not sure what changes we could have made - the run game wasn’t working and the passing game was inconsistent at best. The one change I hope we see next game is more Modster runs to take advantage of his speed... but that’s the only idea I have.

Ruey Yen: The Cal offensive playcalling got extremely conservative in the 2nd half in the hope of keeping that 7-0 lead. Obviously that did not work. Bears did finally try a trick play with the double reverse and a throw attempt to Modster that they did not execute (but I think it was bailed out by a penalty). I am not expecting any major changes for the rest of the year given the same coaches, but I do think much better executions will result in a very different looking offense. This was the difference between Garbers vs. UC Davis and Northern Texas and Garbers vs. Ole Miss.

christopher_h: Again, it’s hard to gameplan behind a porous offensive line. It’s hard to run the ball when the defense keeps meeting you in the backfield, and it’s hard to throw the ball when pressure forces you to throw the ball before routes develop. I think it wasn’t so much the play-calling but the injuries that hampered Cal. I’m not a coach though, so I don’t really know the right answer to this. Oregon has a lot of talent at the defensive line, and DE Kayvon Thibodeaux is going to be terrorizing quarterbacks for years to come. Hard to ask your backup offensive linemen to handle Oregon on every play.

DaneStopper: Sure, I would have swapped our receivers for some 5*s or given the offensive line some of Popeye’s spinach.

Overall were you hopeful or disappointed from the game? What’s the biggest point of optimism and/or disappointment?

Piotr T Le: I was expecting us to get whipped and run out of the building. However, leading the game deep into the 3rd, with a defense that played its heart out. I just have shoulda’ coulda’s. We could’ve won if one or two things went our way (not that the game didn’t we had a lot going our way). Some say we would’ve with Chase Garbers at QB (not too sure since I think a healthy OL ie. Will Craig/Mike Saffell are more key).

boomtho: I’m disappointed to have lost what felt like a winnable game, but overall I’m SO proud of the players and the program for the resiliency and fight they’ve displayed this year. It’s so heartening to know a Wilcox team will never quit - as Nick noted in his Monday article, it felt like we had no business being in this game at all, yet were in striking distance for most of the second half. I’ll take a program that fights hard and gives us a chance to upset good teams any day of the week. (Though I will point out, having this good a defense and this bad an offense is such a bizarre 180 after the Dykes era... note I’m NOT comparing the two, Wilcox’s teams are way more resilient and give us a fighting chance against the top of the conference. Just that we’ve swung the pendulum in the other direction about as far as humanly possible!)

Ruey Yen: I guess I had given up on Cal making a dark horse run to win the Pac-12 North this year after last week’s ASU loss (mainly the injury to Chase Garbers). I was not crushed that the Bears will likely not be able to overtake Oregon to win the Pac-12 North after this loss. It was good to see the Bears playing yet another competitive game, particularly on the road. Of course, this appears to work also for games that Cal is supposed to dominate. I think the outlook of a 7 win regular season and a mediocre bowl is still very much in play. Not from this game, but Stanford’s win over Washington does make me doubt somewhat whether this will be the year that the Big Game losing streak will end.

christopher_h: How hopeful I am is going to depend on just how healthy Cal can be in a few weeks. If we’re still playing our second string offense, we’re going to struggle. The defensive lines of Utah and USC, for instance, will wreak havoc on Cal’s backup offensive linemen (as they probably would even if we were 100% healthy).

DaneStopper: I’m hopeful since we didn’t fall on our face, but we should win next year at home. Optimism from Trevon Clark, disappointment, as always, in Beau Baldwin.