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Roundtables: Glance back at SC and look forward to Big Game

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in reflection.

USC v California jPhoto by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

So... yeah. That game. Thoughts?

Piotr T Le: Well... it was one hell of a ending for the Takers and seniors. Since the last UCLA game I haven’t seen Cal fall apart so completely on defense (I missed the Utah game). After the injuries to Garbers and CBJ the offense couldn’t keep on schedule. Although the pass catchers weren’t helping with their plethora of drops and poor decisions.

Henry Keenan: Cal as a very talented group of starters. That being said, the team lacks depth at seemingly every position. After a few key injuries in the first half, USC proved to be the dominant team, a reflection of the depth (the result of strong recruiting. Cal is a completely different team when healthy, especially with Chase Garbers under center.

boomtho: Last year’s win vs USC required a bunch of things to break right for Cal. This year felt like the exact opposite. I actually thought we deserved to be up in the first half - our D was playing well, but USC benefited from a couple of “freak” plays (the scramble and jump ball on the sideline, a Cal DB just falling down in the end zone). In contrast, we were significantly hurt by a number of bad drops, including one in the end zone. The second half was a true demolition and so I don’t think that changes whether or not those 50/50 plays happen to break our way.

Nick also hit it in his recap, but this game really highlighted the pretty massive talent and athleticism disparity between our two teams.

christopher_h: Burn the tape.

Rob Hwang: Wait what? I thought this week was SC week? We didn’t play a game last week.

What did you see as the few factors that were deciding factors in our downfall?

Piotr T Le: I think it is the offense being unable to find its way to stay on the field, crucial focus errors caused drives to stall. I think this was the reason for the passing offense to sputter, Modster stopped trusting his reads with the WRs due to not trusting them to make the play, the WRs lost faith in their ability to catch. Only Collins’ consistent run offense kept the yards moving along. On defense... I don’t know. I really don’t know. Was it the sheer athletic gap between the SC WRs and Cal’s DBs. The pass rush wasn’t able to get to Slovis on time letting him feast on the holes in Cal D’s zone.

Henry Keenan: The Garbers and Tattersall injuries really seemed to take the wind out of the team’s sails in the second half. Also, the defensive backs were slipping all over the field, with Kedon Slovis being able to take advantage of the missteps in the secondary.

boomtho: Pretty much everything that could go wrong for Cal did in this game. We were hit (again!) by injuries to key players, including Chase Garbers. USC won a bunch of 50/50 balls, whereas we dropped a bunch of catchable high leverage passes (that would have led to first downs or even a touchdown). USC converted on a bunch of 3rd downs in the 2nd/3rd quarter including a few plays where they were actually behind the sticks.

Rob Hwang: Execution. of. plays.

So it’s clear the WSU offensive explosion was more an outlier than a change in trend. Where do we go from here?

Piotr T Le: I think it wasn’t an outlier as much as a good match-up between the Cal offense personnel and scheme vis a vis Coug’s defense.

Henry Keenan: The WSU offensive explosion is not necessarily an outlier so long as there is consistency at Quarterback throughout the game. While Garbers is clearly the best Quarterback on the team at the moment, Modster would have likely been more effective had he been planning on starting throughout the week.

boomtho: I think it’s clear (like Nick pointed out in his recap) that the WSU game really a referundum on the WSU defense... not really the Cal offense.

Where do we go from here? Honestly, the priorities for the rest of the season are 1) beat Stanford or UCLA and secure a bowl berth (ideally Stanford!) and 2) skill development for our younger players that we need to take a massive step forward this year. If we’re able to beat Stanford next weekend, I would hope we start to mix in a lot more rotations in the UCLA game to start to build depth. In terms of actual play calling: if Garbers is really out for the rest of the year, this becomes a really interesting protracted tryout for Modster. He should be comfortable in the offense and will get first team practice reps, so this is his change to lay claim to the starting job for next year.

christopher_h: I like that we’re at the point now where 33 points on offense is an “explosion.” Gone are the days of 60-59 battles against Wazzu; 33 points is now a blowout. I don’t really feel like it was an outlier, but it definitely feels like it takes too long for the Cal offense to get in rhythm. Garbers eventually figured it out, and I’m sure Modster can too.

That could easily be the worst defensive performance from a Wilcox Defense. How much do you attribute to scheme or how much do you attribute to just a gap in talent or is there a third reason?

Henry Keenan: The game got out of hand mostly due to the secondary. Once the game was out of reach defensive play deteriorated further, as is natural with players that are less motivated as a result. Depth was also a glaring disparity between the two teams. Finally, Kedon Slovis looks like the real deal, with an ability to scramble and deliver the ball down the field accurately.

boomtho: I’ve said this in a few of my answers, but I really do think everything that could have gone wrong essentially did. The reason that this became the worst defensive performance under Wilcox was a few really high leverage / high impact plays all going USC’s way. If the Cal DB doesn’t slip in the end zone at the end of the first half, maybe USC has seven fewer points heading into the locker room. If the USC WR doesn’t catch a jump ball after a nifty scramble in the first/second quarter, USC stalls out on that drive.

Stanfurd up next. Do we get our 6th win here?

Piotr T Le: God I hope we do. Furd in a hard downslide, and Cal hopefully trying their best to prove that what we saw last Saturday is an outlier and not indicative of a possible future.

Henry Keenan: On the bright side, Stanford looked as bad if not worse against WSU this week. This seems like a good opportunity to break a losing streak, although at this point it’s unhealthy to have any optimism going into the Big Game. We’ll see what happens.

boomtho: I’d like to think so, and I REALLY hope so. Thank you based Oski.

Nick Kranz: So much depends on who plays and at what capacity. If Chase Garbers, Chris Brown, and Cal’s host of injured WRs are all somehow ready to go, and Paulson Adebo and K.J. Costello aren’t, then I’m feeling as confident as I could when a 5-5 team plays on the road against an opponent they haven’t beaten in a decade. But if that’s reversed, then Stanford will have a meaningful advantage.

I will say that regardless of health status, Cal’s defense really should limit Stanford’s mostly toothless offense. But injuries are likely to have a massive impact on the other side of the ball, where Cal might only need 20 points to win but may very well struggle to get there.

Ruey Yen: Just because it’s been so long and how much the players, coaches, and fans want it, I would love to believe that this is the year for Cal to snap the streak. As holy (and I don’t mean it in areligious way) as the Cal roster is now, Stanford is even worse. I would happily take a super ugly (even at the Cheez-It Bowl level) Cal win this Saturday.

christopher_h: I don’t want to say anything to jinx it. Stanford’s season has been a lot like ours: injuries, struggling against bad teams, and a surprise upset of Washington. I don’t think Stanford is going to be able to put many points up on the Cal defense. We just need the offense to execute at a semi-decent level. 20 points is all I ask.

Rob Hwang: Just win baby.