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Cal football coaching critiques: Sonny Dykes still struggling with game management

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It's becoming an issue.

Harry How

Coaching complaints and criticisms! Register them against any coach you'd like, just make sure to justify.

Berkelium97: Sonny Dykes. I like Coach Dykes and am pleased with what he's done so far this season, but every week he makes at least one bizarre, nonsensical decision. Whether it's wasting timeouts or managing the clock poorly with late leads, he always has something that makes you think he's a first-year head coach rather than someone with 59 games of head coaching experience. The blunder of the week this time was the atrocious decision to fake a punt in the second quarter (which Sonny said was his decision). It was horrifically executed, but that wasn't my problem with the play. My problem is that it was an incredible risk for a miniscule reward.

We are down 28-2 and facing 4th and 12 on our own 31-yard line. At the time we have registered a whopping 2 first downs without assistance via a USC penalty. We have also run only one play inside the USC 40. What happens if the fake punt is perfectly executed and we convert the 4th down? Then we're at midfield and probably punt again four plays later. What happens if the punt fails? USC gets the ball around the 30 and they are already 4/5 in scoring TDs inside our 40. So we are risking another highly likely USC touchdown for a chance to punt a few plays later. In what universe does this make sense?

boomtho: Few major criticisms for me. First was for Dykes for calling that horrendous fake punt. I understand the mentality, kind of, but I'd rather have done the Goff for Lenninger switcheroo in that case. I also don't understand his high-stepping - bandos, anyone see any potential in his movements?

Second criticism would be the clock management at the end of the game (big surprise). We burned probably 60s (at least) on our last drive by not pushing the tempo or using timeouts. That 60s would have been pretty damn nice as we would've had some time to receive a USC punt and get one last crack at upsetting the Trojans. My friends and I were pretty incredulous that Goff was going so slow.

Last criticism would be our defensive scheme in the first half. I get their options are really limited, but I think Kaufman should have made sure Coleman wasn't on Agholor so much and done a little more to slow the screen game by moving a second body on top of the two receivers (that second point I recognize could open us up to deep passes, but when Agholor is going 10 yards untouched every play, you have to do SOMETHING).

Nick Kranz: My complaints from this game are more minor in comparison to complaints from some previous games. For the first time all season I've been more bothered by general preparedness, focus, and game-planning issues, which are generally significantly more important that in-game strategy and game theory stuff. I'll leave out the weird fake punt (if we have a fake punt that works, can we please save it for a game like Wazzu/Colorado/UCLA when we really need it?) since others already covered it. But in terms of game theory stuff, I wasn't thrilled with two different late game decisions.

First of all, Cal should have kicked onside when they were down 15 points with around 6:00 minutes left. Giving USC the ball allowed USC to run off a little more than 2 minutes and forced Cal to use a timeout, and that lost time contributed to USC being able to run out the clock on their final possession. Second, Sonny should have gone for 2 when Cal scored late to cut the deficit to 9 points. Why? Because you HAVE to go for 2 eventually. Doing so earlier means you can strategist for the rest of the game, knowing whether or not you succeeded or failed. Plus, if Cal converted the try to go down 7, then somehow got the ball back and scored, they would have the option to go for the conversion for the win, if the coaching staff deemed that a viable option.


Just to be clear: I wasn't outraged by any of these decisions. They were all pretty marginal in terms of their actual impact on the final outcome, because the final outcome was pretty well decided when Cal fell behind 31-2. But they were minor missed opportunities to give Cal the best possible chance to come back and win.

And because I want to praise good decision making so that it doesn't sound like we're impossible-to-please curmudgeons: Sonny elected to go for it on 4th down six different times, and was rewarded for his righteous aggression with five Cal conversions. There weren't any obvious missed opportunities to go for it, either. Granted, Sonny was forced to be aggressive because of the huge deficit, so maybe this new tendency was a one game aberration. But I'm hoping he is learning to trust his offense and soon becomes Oregon-level aggressive.

TwistNHook:  Any coach?  Well, in that case, I feel like I'm not doing a great job coaching Clapdoc on the Golden Nuggets posts.  I see undisciplined posting with some questionable decisions on men's soccer-related news.  I think I need to watch more film of Leland Wong's Golden Nuggets to see a true master at work.  Then, I can hopefully take those lessons and coach Clapdoc up with them!