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Roundtable: ASU and looking to Oregon

NCAA Football: Arizona State at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts on the game?

Alex G: If anything, this proves that all teams are mortal, and the Bears have flaws that were ripe for exposure. The lack of quality depth at NT meant that a 3-man front was vulnerable to double teams and getting pushed around in the run game – which is especially dangerous against a mobile QB like Daniels. The offense was able to keep rolling with Garbers at QB, even with our leading receiver (Crawford) on the sidelines, but a backup QB throwing to the rest of the receiver crew was too much to handle. Still, there were some bright spots. We lost by 7 after giving up an end zone interception that could have been a TD with either a little more air under the ball or a dump-off pass to the underneath receiver. The running game has improved enough that we pulled off a 12-play, all-run touchdown drive before ASU started biting down on the run. People can blame Modster for the pass game failure in the 2nd half, but I counted at least a few drops by the receivers that would have picked up several yards, if not key first downs. A one-score loss against a now-top-25 team is heartbreaking, but shouldn’t be a reason to claim the sky is falling (as many Bears fans seem to be doing).

Piotr T Le: I am Polish. Hence “Piotr”. In Poland we say that our history can be defined in once sentence “And then it got worse.” This applies to Cal in a way that reaches deeper than the W/L. The fanbase was mobilized, lots of potential die hards were brought into the stands via a mass campaign my bloggers, coaches, and most importantly players. What they witnessed as quintessential heartbreak that comes with having a QB with a hot hand getting knocked out, the defense being exploited via their Achilles heel, and the very worst the Cal offense can look. Like Icarus, the #15 ranking seemed too close to the sun and to earth we now plummet.

Ruey Yen: It was a huge opportunity missed, and I think the team knows that as well. Bears got a lot of local and national attention before the game, only to lose their QB and then the game to a good but not great opponent. Furthermore, without any Pac-12 team being dominant, there was some hope that this Cal team may achieve the seemingly impossible - a Rose Bowl berth. While the Bears still very much control their destiny, it is much harder to imagine Cal winning out without the high level-playing Chase Garbers that we saw for the last 1.5 game. Please prove me wrong, Devon Modster!

Christopher_h: I just had an impending sense of doom the entire second half. I knew the game would be close the whole way through, but the quarterback play in the second half did not inspire confidence whatsoever, and I knew Cal wouldn’t be able to run the ball every single play like they did on that first drive of the second half. Definitely not surprised by the outcome after the injury to Chase Garbers.

thedozen: I’m mostly going to remember the disappointment I felt after the Garbers injury. It was such a one-two punch considering that this ended up being Cal’s first loss. I also recall feeling temporarily hopeful when Greg Thomas kicked that long field goal to give the Bears a 17-14 advantage.

Chase going down was a big turning point in the game. How did you think he performed prior to going down? How did Modster play after entering the game?

Alex G: Garbers was fantastic, especially considering that his favorite target (Crawford) was out with injury. At this point, I’m just expecting that he’ll be out for the season with a clavicle or major dislocation – or, if he’s healthy to play after 6 weeks’ rehab, Modster will be doing well enough that the coaching staff won’t risk aggravating a shoulder injury with only a game or two left. We’ll wait to see what the coaching staff says Monday night (I’m writing this Sunday), but that’s the expectation. For his part, Modster did okay and better than the stats show. I checked out a quick replay and the end zone interception was a mix of not putting enough air under the ball and a really good play by the ASU DB; it also seemed like nearly half of the incompletions were drops by the receivers. This is a guy who was in a reasonable QB competition early in fall camp before missing reps when the eligibility issues came into question, who had damn good numbers in his previous starts and backup duty, and who was a solid recruit coming out of high school. The potential is there, so the reps in practice and live games (combined with what’s hopefully a coalescing running game between a now-healthy Brown and Dancy) could keep the offense at a manageable level… It might take a few games to come together, but hopefully not too many: I’d rather have solid success this year than revert to a rebuilding situation.

Piotr T Le: Chase was 9/12 with two of the drops being on key 3rd down conversions. He kept the confidence in his reads and arm from Ole Miss and seemed to be in the zone. I have no doubts he would’ve been the author of another Cal win if not for the premature injury. Modster... ugh. There is a reason the only TD scoring drive with him featured 12 runs and 0 passes. Unable to hit the side of the barn whilst standing inside he just looked like someone who hasn’t played in years. Hopefully the week of practice will get him into “Serviceable” mode and help him make the leap Chase had this year.

Nick Kranz: Chase was 9-12, and of those 3 incompletions, two were drops and another was a tough sideline shot on 3rd and 17 that gave his receiver a chance to make a play. He managed that stat line despite taking a couple of sacks and facing pressure. In short, Chase was as close to flawless as a player in his position could be. Which makes his season-ending injury all the more depressing.

Modster . . . we just have to hope that his half a game ends up being a complete mulligan, because he was making errant throws on the most basic, short patterns this team runs. In short, unless the run game picks things up we might need Modster to play at or near the level Garbers showed over his last 6 quarters, which is a high bar.

Ruey Yen: Chase Garbers backed up his great play at Ole Miss before going down. Garbers was confident throwing down the field, and equally confident taking hits. Modster certainly did not play up to his ability (Cal fans saw that when he relieved Rosen while still at UCLA) in this one. Modster also complete the one pass in his lone snap inthe Ole Miss game; I don’t know why he was so out of sort against ASU. If anything, Modster played like Garbers against UC Davis/NorthTexas but Cal was facing a stronger opponent on Friday night.

Christopher_h: Chase Garbers looked great, and I doubt two weeks ago that anyone would be saying, “I don’t feel great about our chances with Garbers,” or “We would have won that game if Garbers stayed in.” Devon Modster seemed rusty and just had too many errant throws. Backup quarterbacks often struggle when they’re unexpectedly thrown into the middle of a game, only to completely turn it around once they get reps as the starter (Steven Montez comes to mind), so I am expecting improvement from Modster. We know that he’s capable of playing much better than that, as we saw him carve up Cal just a few years ago.

thedozen: Garbers was sharp and Modster did not look acclimated to game speed, which he admitted afterward. At least Modster will get to fully prepare for a start this week, but I don’t envy him having to go into Autzen Stadium for his first of the season.

The defense continued their trend of holding opponents to 24 points and under. How did they perform on the night?

Alex G: The defense got torn apart by the dual-threat game, especially with our lack of DT and OLB depth. On the bright side, Aaron Maldonado made his first appearance after sitting out the first few games, while Brett Johnson continues to shine for a true freshman… Hopefully that combo will reinforce the D line in future games. The Takers are due for a rebound game, because the talent and coaching are there to make things more like the 2nd half of 2018.

Piotr T Le: Both Evan Weaver and HC Wilcox’s pressers embody the sentiment that it was a terrible game by the defense. The ASU passing game lived via the inability of Cal to stop the inside runs by Eno Benjamin (despite a lackluster 3.4 ypc had key runs to gain needed yards for TDs/1st downs) and scrambles by Jayden Daniels.

Nick Kranz: Well . . . the 24 points or under thing is all well and good, but allowing 24 points on 10 possessions is pretty mediocre, which goes a long way towards explaining why Justin Wilcox and Evan Weaver were so upset during the post-game press conference. Allowing 2.4 points/drive over the course of a season would’ve been below average nationally in 2018. It’s hard to point to one specific area where Cal really struggled, and it was interesting to watch Cal fail to get pressure on one play, then allow a run up the middle on the next play, then lose a guy in zone coverage on the next play, then miss a tackle the next play. ASU’s offense was death by a thousand paper cuts.

Ruey Yen: Cal defense certainly misses guys like Beck. There were way too many plays where there was some pressure on the ASU freshman QB Jayden Daniels only for him to find a wide open guy with a mediocre throw. The Cal defense also has not handled the dual threat ability of the opposing QB that well yet this year, between this game and against the Ole Miss backup QB last week. There are plenty of things to improve upon for the Cal D this week.

Christopher_h: I’m sure most teams would be happy holding their opponent to 24, but not this Cal team. They failed to get critical stops when they needed them, and I think we Cal fans have grown so accustomed to them coming up with clutch defensive stops that it was a bit surprising to see ASU come from behind to win it on the strength of their offense (instead of due to turnovers or something like that).

thedozen: I agree with Evan Weaver that this was a down game, but that goes to show how spoiled Cal fans have gotten watching this defense recently.

What will the team have to work on this week to be ready for the Autzen trip next week?

Alex G: It’s pretty simple. Modster needs to get his rhythm down, and get in sync on timing & touch with the receivers (if he can’t, then maybe it’s time for Spencer Brasch to step up). The defense, especially the Front 7, need to rediscover their scheme and mojo. It looks like DeShawn Collins got a few touches during the game, so it would be nice to develop that depth and dynamism at RB. I really, really hope that Crawford can come back as well: we need as many quality receivers healthy on the roster to help out the backup QBs in a tough environment. Outside of health/practice/scheme, the team needs to channel the anger and frustration they showed in the post-game press conference onto the field, beating the Ducks in the mind game and truly earning the win.

Piotr T Le: Cal comes in 16 point underdogs and per Evan Weaver if the team comes in flat into practice on Monday then they will be run out of the building. The lack of significant pressure and contain on dual threat QBs allowing them to gain yards despite every pass catcher being covered. Herbert isn’t as dynamic of a runner as Daniels etc. but he is a veteran passer who can use his arm to cut through coverage if the Oregon WR/TE/RBs are covered for more than 3 seconds.

On offense, find a way to maximize Modster’s strengths vis-a-vis the way the Baldwin offense has been training for Garbers. The OL needs to get used to Modster’s cadence (and it will be so easy in the friendly... empty... Autzen stadium... oh no).

Nick Kranz: In my mind this is a worrying match-up. As has been noted by others, Cal under Wilcox has always struggled against the Oregon offense, and this year the Oregon defense appears to be bringing in a nationally elite passing defense just in time to greet a brand new quarterback in his first year in the program. Like, Oregon would be a favorite regardless with their top 15 ranking and home field advantage, but I also suspect that the match-up isn’t in our favor in terms of style or strengths vs. weaknesses. We’re basically relying on Modster to take a huge leap forward with one week of first team reps, which is a tall ask regardless of the opposition.

Ruey Yen: Assuming that Garbers is out, Devon Modster has got to have a good week of practice with the first team to give Cal a chance at Oregon. With Oregon QB Justin Herbert being a known commodity, I thinkthe Cal D knows where they need to play better. Despite the adversity of the Garbers’ injury, I suspect Justin Wilcox will have his team ready to try to pull off another major road upset in Prime Time.

Christopher_h: I’m hoping the secondary has done their homework on Justin Herbert, because Herbert will have done his research on them. It seems like opponents have figured them out a bit, as they only have 2 interceptions through 5 games, whereas last year it seemed like they knew what throw the QB was going to make before he did.

thedozen: It would help to receive more consistent production from the running game like we saw against the Huskies.