STOP THESE TWO GUYS
And Cal wins the Great Alaska Shootout. What's that worth? Not much against this field, but it beats losing.
Ubaka v Brandon Worthy
; Anderson v Matthew Knight
. Those matchups are probably a push - maybe a slight edge for Loyola Marymount. The important questions: Will DeVon Hardin come to play? Will we set screens and move, or settle for jump shots? Will we play good help defense and resist the lure of the pump fake?
A yes to those questions and Cal beats a team it should beat, and returns to Berkeley with a little bit of momentum to face Huggy Bear. Tune it at 10 (ESPN2) to find out.
SEVEN DAYS TO STANFORD...
...But a full day of football even without our Bears.
The day after the Civil War, Oregon papers are asking tough questions
about Mike Bellotti's decision to ask his backup kicker to win the game. Even before the Duck loss, the same columnist (who may simply hate Bellotti) expressed second thoughts
about Nike U's priorities. UofO spends $500k a year on recruiting goodies? Hmmm
We've got a feeling about SC/Notre Dame. Young teams have trouble getting up for big game after big game. The Fat Man will have a bag full of tricks since ND hasn't played anyone in six weeks, and that may be enough for the upset.
became a possible opponent for Cal in the Holiday Bowl. Wouldn't be hard to get up for that one.
Sadly, it looks as though Dirk Koetter is a dead man walking if ASU loses to UofA. Columnists suggest that ASU won't look at Ron English
, because he has no head coaching experience. That's exactly the type of thinking that makes ASU, well, ASU.
Udub fans are taking a break from deciding who to fire first (Gilbyham? Turner?) to send good karma
to backup QB Johnny Durocher, who's awaiting brain surgery to remove a tumor found after he suffered a concussion in the Stanford game.
CALIFORNIA 72 HAWAII 56
Much better effort tonight from the Bears. Cal was balanced on offense, and only lapsed into a jump-shooting team on two occasions. Omar Wilkes and DeVon Hardin both improved from poor performances Thursday night. Patrick Christopher got me a little excited in the 1st half with some nice offensive sequences. Interestingly, Cal put the game away when it went to zone late in the game and Hawaii couldn't respond.
The Warriors didn't play well at all, but Cal deserves a good deal of credit for raising its level of play in less than 24 hours. On to LMU and star guard Brandon Worthy in the championship game tomorrow at 9 pm.
CALIFORNIA 72 MARSHALL 70
Early season basketball is usually ugly, but Cal's performance against a below-average Marshall team can't solely be blamed on rust. Tonight's performance won't cut it against 7 of Cal's 9 Pac 10 opponents (or Hawai'i tomorrow night).
- What happened to our defensive intensity and fundamentals? We brought neither to Alaska. Cal's guards allowed dribble penetration all night, even in zone. Wilkes hasn't improved his D in the offseason. Jerome Randle, for all his energy, is overmatched as a man defender. Playing zone made sense against a poor shooting team, but it was shocking that Cal couldn't handle Marshall when it did switch to man.
- DeVon Hardin didn't show up tonight. He bit on every pump fake, and showed nothing on the offensive end. He made an OK big man look like an all-conference choice.
- Our offensive flow was poor all night. Too many quick jumpers. Bad spacing allowed their big guy to look much more impressive than he was, and prevented any meaningful interior passing.
- Ubaka had a typical Ubaka game - the great offensive run that kept us in the game in the 2nd half was vintage Ayinde. However, he didn't distribute the ball well when running the point, and he committed some awful turnovers early in the 2nd half.
- Our inbounds execution is embarrassing, and that falls to Ben. He also needed to put a man on the inbounds passer at the end of the game. I also didn't get why Anderson sat 10 minutes after picking up his 2nd foul.
- Thank God we shot fouls well. I'll give Ben a cookie on that one - we've really improved from where we were in 04-05.
- But the story of the game was Jerome Randle, the sparkplug whose four-point play turned things in our favor late in the game. His energy is terrific, even if he makes bad decisions (the pull-up 3 on the break, and his 1 on 4 layup attempt after a great steal). More important, he allows Ayinde to slide to the two, which is his natural position.
On to face the formerly Rainbow Warriors tomorrow night at 9:00 Pacific (ESPN 2). Hopefully Hubert Davis will brush up on his pronunciation guide between now and then.
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to all TH readers!
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #25 - ANDRE CARTER
#25 - ANDRE CARTER - DEFENSIVE END (1997-2000)
The leader of the Hit Squad, one of the best defensive units in California football history, Carter finished his career in Berkeley as the school's all-time sack leader with 29. His play on defense was often the offensive highlight on Cal teams that went 15-29 over his career.
The son of former NFL All-Pro Rubin Carter, Andre surprised many experts by signing with Cal out of Oak Grove High in San Jose. He cracked the starting lineup in the fifth week, and showed immediate promise. As a sophomore Carter was a second-team All-Pac 10 performer, his season highlighted by two fumble recoveries against Oklahoma - one of which led to Cal's winning score in a 13-12 game.
As a junior Carter recorded 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss while Cal continued to struggle on offense. Against Nebraska he had his finest game of the season, with two sacks, six pressures and eight tackles. For his efforts Carter was named 1st team all-Pac 10 and 2nd team All-America by the Football News and CBS.
After much speculation that he would turn pro, Carter returned to Berkeley for his senior year and simply dominated opposing right tackles. Andre logged 13 sacks, 36 quarterback pressures and a career-high 59 tackles. He was Pac-10 Player of the Week in the opening victory over Utah with a sack, a fumble recovery and seven solo tackles (three for loss). In his best performance of the season, Carter had four pressures, 2.5 sacks, and four tackles for loss in a 28-16 upset of USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Carter was a rare unanimous All-America selection, the winner of the Morris Award as the Pac-10's top defensive lineman, and a finalist for the Nagurski Award. Over his career Carter recorded 55 tackles for loss, totaling 279 yards.
Andre was drafted in the 1st round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2001, and is currently playing for the Washington Redskins. Durable throughout his college career, he has been slowed by injury in the NFL, but still occasionally shows the quick burst off the edge that made him a legend in Cal football history.
ALASKA IS COLLEGE BASKETBALL
I've never understood the Great Alaska Shootout. I'm down with the Maui Invitational - makes perfect sense as the weather begins to turn in parts of the mainland. Preseason NIT - logical enough. But Alaska in late November?
Your daily Anchorage forecast - a high of 11 degrees, with an overnight low of 2!
Perhaps others have gotten the hint, because this year's GAS is devoid of big names from big conferences, giving Cal an actual shot to win the thing. Let's look at the opposition:
Cal opens Thursday night with Marshall
. Marshall is a school famous for two things, neither of which have much to do with college basketball: the tragic plane crash that killed its entire football team in 1970 and has been made into a probably awful movie
, and Randy Moss. The Herd are 1-1 on the young season (win v UNC Greensboro in OT and a four-point loss to Robert Morris at home).
They're small - their tallest starter is 6'9" Ivory Coast import Jean Francois Bro Grebe
, who has a great name but not much offensive game. Best player is swingman Travis Aikens
, who has hit for 22 and 18 in the Herd's first two games. They like to run, but they haven't shot well against middling opposition at home. I don't expect Cal will let them sniff 60 points, which should translate into the W (call it 70-58
Should Cal win, they would face the winner of Hofstra-Hawaii. Hofstra
is the fashionable choice to take the Colonial conference, though they've started the season 0-2 (losses to Charlotte and Manhattan). They're a guard-driven team - Loren Stokes
(17.4 ppg), Antoine Agudio
(17.2 ppg) and Carlos Rivera
(11.7 ppg) are the highest-scoring returning backcourt in the nation. They also have the ugliest uniforms
in the Shootout. Hawaii
lost its season opener to a middling UNLV team by 14 points, but then whipped Oregon State by 44 last week. Matt Lojeski
is averaging 18.7 at SG, and Ahmet Guye
is a viable scoring threat inside. The Warriors are guard-driven and would seem to be a good matchup for Cal's style and personnel. However, if they shoot anything like they did against OSU (20-29 from 3) they would be tough for any team in the 8-team field.
In the other bracket, Loyola Marymount is battling the host Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City takes on Pacific. LMU is a consensus preseason #2 pick to Gonzaga in the WCC behind returning point Brandon Worthy and PF Matthew Knight. The UMKC Kangaroos are led by a very good backcourt featuring returning PG Quinton Day (20.3 ppg). UOP lost Christian Maraker and 57.8% of its scoring, but is still well-coached by Bob Thomason. These four teams play Wednesday night.
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #26 - BOB REINHARD
#26 - BOB REINHARD - TACKLE (1939-1941)
Despite an All-America career at Cal, and five fine seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, you could say with no malice that Bob Reinhard might have peaked in high school. His 1937 Glendale High team were CIF champs and one of the great HS teams in state history, led by Reinhard at tackle and Frankie Albert at QB. Albert would go on to Stanford, where he and coach Clark Shaughnessy revolutionized college football and won a national championship in 1940 with the T formation.
Reinhard went to Berkeley, where he played on losing teams in each of his three years on the varsity. It was no fault of his own, though: #96 remains the only true lineman in school history to earn All-American honors (from the Associated Press) in consecutive years. In addition to being a devastating run stuffer, Reinhard was athletic enough to flank out at end on offense and even caught a memorable 41-yard touchdown against Washington during his senior year. He also handled kicking duties for the Bears.
Reinhard lined up against Albert once again in 1941 in one of the most memorable Big Games in history. The Indians needed a win to win a share of the PCC championship, and Cal limped into the game at 3-5. Reinhard and mates shut down the vaunted Indian offense, and Cal carried an improbable 9-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Cal was forced to punt, and Reinhard pinned the Indians deep in their own territory with a 45-yard blast. After three and out, teammate John Herrero blocked Stanford's punt, and Reinhard plucked the ball from the air and whirled into the end zone for the final score in the shocking 16-0 upset.
After serving his country during WWII, Reinhard played for five years with the Los Angeles Rams, earning All-Pro honors as a lineman. In 1969 he was named to the all-time all-Pacific Coast Conference first team, and he was inducted into the Cal athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Bob Reinhard passed away on August 2, 1996 at the age of 76.
SAVE DIRK KOETTER
It appears the only conference coach in real jeopardy of losing his job is...GULP...Dirk Koetter.
This cannot happen. We must save Dirk Koetter.
The ASU program, in slow decline following the 1997 Rose Bowl, is now mired in perpetual mediocrity. 40,000 or so folks show up to home games, they leave sometime in the 3rd quarter, and ASU finishes 7-5. Even more important, Koetter has shown a singular ability to lay down against Cal, losing four games by an average of 25 points.
But this year Koetter has failed spectacularly. It started in the offseason when he reversed himself on the starting QB, eventually naming Rudy Carpenter the starter after his players complained publicly about Sam Keller's work habits.
Carpenter, of course, has looked dreadful. Koetter looks even worse - incapable of managing the hurt feelings of a bunch of nineteen-year olds.
As a result, there are now two websites calling for his ouster. BenchKoetter.com
is the more professional looking of the two, and full of snarky comments about the nightclub habits of Sun Devil players. FireDirkKoetter.com
is more authoritative, and has a list of potential replacements, including former Cal assistant Ron English.
We personally think that Dennis Erickson would be an inspired choice, if the unthinkable should happen. Just think what the man who turned sleepy Corvallis into Sodom & Gomorrah could do in a nightclub and silicone-rich environment like Tempe. But let's try to avoid all that by rooting our hardest for the Sun Devils this weekend against the U of A. Save Dirk!
CALIFORNIA 73 SANTA CLARA 48
we wrote that this could be one of Ben Braun's most interesting teams. Last night the Bears proved us right with a surprisingly easy 73-48 home victory over Santa Clara.
- Ryan Anderson is the real deal, and by real deal we mean our best offensive player: 25 points and 9 boards; 5/7 from 3-point range.
- What a pickup for Ben - we were excited about Randle and Christopher but Anderson seems like the star of a very good class. We are very interested to see what he does against quicker opponents in conference play.
- Cal went on a 23-4 run through the final 7:30 of the first half and yes, they did run.
- SCU was terrible from three-point range (2-19); Cal held the Broncos to 33% shooting overall.
- Cal got out-rebounded again (35-28)
- DeVon Hardin is out of his mini-slump - 12 points, 10 boards and 5 blocked shots.
- Jerome Randle had five assists in 14 minutes.
- The refs let them play - the two teams shot a total of 17 foul shots (6 for SCU, 11 for Cal).
Now on to Alaska, where the Bears play Marshall on Thursday night.
SANTA CLARA @ CALIFORNIA
And here we haven't even graded out Cal's loss to the Aztecs. A quick and dirty on tonight's game:
* Santa Clara is 2-0, including a nine-point home win over Utah.
* The Broncos start two guys above 6'11", and one of them can score (Ryan Denison
, who went for 20 against the Utes.)
* Cal's guards should be able to score against their starting backcourt (both of whom are under 6'0", and not that quick).
* Santa Clara is deep - wouldn't be surprised if 11-12 guys saw the floor.
* Among those backups, Calvin Johnson
is a streaky shooter who hit five 3's against Utah.
* Cal must control the defensive boards. SDSU is a physical team, but a minus 10 rebounding differential won't cut it against anyone.
* Santa Clara hoops has more SI covers (2) than Cal, which blows our mind a little bit.
California 74 Santa Clara 64
NO MO POWE
As noted previously, we're picking the Golden Bears to finish sixth in the Pac 10. That's an NIT finish, and that unfortunately sounds about right for this group. Cal was a 1.5 man band last year, and it will be impossible to replace Leon Powe's scoring and post presence. But while the '06-'07 Bears won't be Ben Braun's best team, they very well might be his most interesting.
: The Bears return two major talents at critical positions. Ayinde Ubaka
re-invented himself last year into a clutch scorer and team leader. Although he had a dreadful night against SDSU, we've no doubt that Ayinde will be in the running for all-conference honors. He is the one and (for now) the only guy on the team who craves the ball at crunch time.
At center is man-child DeVon Hardin
, he of the NBA body and still-evolving offensive game. We haven't seen much evidence of the "new" DeVon on offense this year, but Hardin is an intimidating force on defense regardless of how many hook shots he misses. The unexpected bit of good news is that freshman Ryan Anderson appears to be the real deal, at least on offense. He has hit for 20 points in each of the first two games, and shows excellent range for his size.
is one of our all-time faves and will be enshrined in the Grigsby HoF because he gets more than he should from his talent. He will need to help out quite a bit on the glass, given how thin we are up front. Like any Ben Braun team, Cal will play sound defense.
: Cal is really, really thin up front. Jordan Wilkes'
season-ender has forced Anderson into the starting lineup. Behind him is...not much: Freshman Taylor Harrison is the only other Golden Bear taller than 6'6". Hardin must log lots of minutes and stay out of foul trouble for Cal to be effective against teams with a strong post presence. Even when Hardin plays 30+ minutes, Cal could struggle on the glass - against SDSU the Bears were out-rebounded 34-24.
Cal's success depends in large part on Omar Wilkes
improving his offensive production as the starting SG. Omar looked OK against the Aztecs, but the jury's still out as to whether he can step up and score. It's not clear how effective Nikola Knevecic
will be after off-season knee surgery. He is a steady point guard who takes care of the basketball, though he can struggle against quicker opponents.
: In addition to the bigs, Cal welcomes two guys who will contribute immediately: PG Jerome Randle and SG Patrick Christopher. We're excited about both, but particularly Randle, whose speed changes the game and frees Ayinde to slide to the two, which is better suited for his talents. Christopher is athletic and a good jumper and will be an upgrade from one-dimensional Eric Vierneisel
as a backup wing.
Philosophy: The inside depth problem could be magnified if Ben doesn't loosen the reins on the offense. We've not been among the chorus of Blues calling for Ben's head on style points alone - plodding and efficient was just fine by us when Leon Powe was your first option in the half court. This year, big teams could eat Cal's lunch in the half court, especially if the Bears can't protect Hardin from foul trouble. Put another way, one of Cal's strengths is a pretty deep bench of athletic points and wings who can run and score. Ben needs to use them this year, or Cal could simply be outscored against a number of Pac-10 foes.
Prediction - Sixth place. Some Bears have speculated that this would be a pivotal year for Braun. We don't see it, unless the wheels completely come off this team. It's far more likely that Cal hangs around in the middle of the pack, tries to sneak into postseason play, and prays like hell that DeVon Hardin stays for his senior year. In some ways, though, this could be a pivotal year - not for Braun's job security, but for his potential to finally bring a conference championship to Berkeley. Can Ben be flexible? Given the personnel he's been dealt, will he finally live up to his annual pledge to jump-start the offense? His detractors claim that his offensive 'style' is driven by personality, not personnel. This year, we'll see.
IT WAS 24 YEARS AGO TODAY...
When Kevin Moen taught the Band to play
TEDFORD IN PERSPECTIVE
In late December, Jeff Tedford will conclude his fifth season as the head coach at California with, God willing, a 10-3 season and a Holiday Bowl victory. This would represent Tedford's second 10 win season, and his fourth consecutive appearance in a bowl game (would be five, but Cal was on probation in 2002).
Still, some Bear fans are starting to worry that Tedford has peaked - that he may never be able to push Cal over the top to a conference championship and a New Year's Day bowl game.
Here's an interesting comparison between Tedford and two other very prominent head coaches who won national championships after struggling to get over the hump. I'll give you a hint as to their identities - they both wear orange, they both coach at UT, and they're both fairly repulsive human beings (the only part of this comparison that doesn't match up with JT).Phat Phil Fullmer
Tennessee assistant Fullmer threw Johnny Majors - a much nicer person with an unfortunate drinking problem - under the bus in 1992 and finished the final four games of that season. Major left the cupboard full - in the previous three full seasons the Vols had won 29 games.
Fullmer did well - but he couldn't beat Florida. He lost to the Gators five straight times, and in three of those seasons the loss prevented his Vols from winning the SEC and advancing to a BCS bowl. Fullmer's inability to beat the Gators led Steve Spurrier to memorably quip that "you can't spell Citrus without UT," and indeed Fullmer's teams played in Orlando three out of his first four years. Even when Fullmer won the SEC and made it to a BCS bowl in 1997, he still lost to Florida.
Finally in year 6 of the Fullmer Era the Vols put it all together and went 13-0 with a victory over Florida State in the inaugural BCS championship game. Suddenly Fullmer was a genius. The Vols have generally been good since, but have appeared in only one BCS bowl (9-3/Fiesta, 8-4, 11-2, 8-5, 10-3, 10-3, 5-6). So if you're keeping score, that's three BCS games in 13 years in Knoxville - and the three came in consecutive seasons (1997-99)
1993: 9-2-1 (loss to 11-2 Florida, tie v 9-3-1 Alabama, Citrus Bowl loss to 10-2 Penn St)
1994: 8-4 (losses to 5-6 UCLA, 10-2-1 Florida, 8-4 Miss St, 12-1 Alabama; Gator Bowl win over Va Tech
1995: 11-1 (bad loss to 12-1 Florida; Citrus Bowl win over Ohio St)
1996: 10-2 (losses to 12-1 Florida, 4-7 Memphis; Citrus Bowl win over Northwestern)
1997: 11-2 (losses to 10-2 Florida, 13-0 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl)
1998: 13-0 National ChampionsMack Brown
Mack Brown inherited a 4-7 team that had quit under former coach John Mackovic, but which still possessed tremendous athletic talent. Still, the Longhorns settled for non-BCS bowls (Cotton, Holiday) in the first six years of his tenure. Fullmer had Spurrier, and Mack's white whale was Bob Stoops, whose Sooner teams beat Texas five straight times from 2000 to 2004 (including a 65-13 shellacking that was seen as a referendum on Brown's manhood in Texas).
I remember attending some of those Holiday Bowls, and talking with UT alums who were absolutely convinced that Brown would never beat Stoops, and that Texas would never again win a big game until he left Austin. In addition to the futility with OU, Texas choked away the 2001 Big 12 championship by losing to underdog Colorado 39-37.
We know what happened next. Mack finally got to the BCS in 2004, and his Horns won it all in 2005. Suddenly he's untouchable.
1998: 9-3 (losses to 10-2 UCLA, 11-2 K State, 7-5 Texas Tech; Cotton Bowl win v Miss St)
1999: 9-5 (losses to 6-6 NCSU, 11-1 K State, 8-4 A&M, 12-1 Nebraska, 8-4 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl)
2000: 9-3 (losses to 5-6 Stanford, 13-0 Oklahoma, 10-2 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl)
2001: 11-2 (losses to 11-2 Oklahoma, 10-3 Colorado; Holiday Bowl win v UW)
2002: 11-2 (losses to 12-2 Oklahoma, 9-5 Texas Tech; Cotton Bowl win v LSU)
2003: 10-3 (losses to 9-4 Arkansas, 12-2 Oklahoma, 10-3 Wazzu in the Holiday Bowl)
2004: 11-1 (loss to 12-0 Oklahoma, Rose Bowl win v Michigan)
2005: 13-0 National ChampionsJeff Tedford
While the other two coaches inherited programs loaded with talent, Tedford inherited the CFB equivalent of a Superfund site. His 2002 team was a year removed from 1-10 and had a small handful of guys who would play professional football (none at star level). But somehow he got the team to 7-5 and would have played in a bowl had the Bears been eligible.
In Year 2, he lost what stars he had inherited (Boller, Igber, Banta-Cain) but still went 8-6 with a bowl win. All but one of the six losses came to teams with winning records. He's still playing with Holmoe's recruits at this point. In Year 3, he was one completed pass away from playing for the national championship. From 1-10 to 10-2 in three years - a turnaround without precedent in recent CFB history.
In Year 4, he loses his QB immediately, and then his backup has the football equivalent of a nervous breakdown. He finishes the year with a guy who should play special teams under center, and still wins eight games including a bowl. All but one of Cal's losses came against teams that won at least ten games.
In Year 5, he's poised to win nine or perhaps ten games, with only one bad loss (Arizona).
2002: 7-5 (losses to 8-5 Air Force, 10-3 Wazzu, 11-2 USC, 8-5 Oregon St, 4-8 Arizona)
2003: 8-6 (losses to 11-4 K State, 7-6 Colorado St, 10-2 Utah, 8-5 Oregon St, 6-7 UCLA, 8-5 Oregon; Insight Bowl win v Va Tech)
2004: 10-2 (losses to 13-0 USC, 8-4 Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl)
2005: 8-4 (losses to 10-2 UCLA, 5-6 Oregon St, 10-2 Oregon, 12-1 USC)
Conclusion. There's little question that Tedford has done a better job than either Brown or Fullmer in their first five seasons - the other guys inherited tons of talent and enjoyed built-in recruiting advantages that Tedford lacks.
But that cuts both ways, since the superior talent at Austin and Knoxville made it more likely that those teams would eventually get over the hump and win a conference championship. Cal's margin of error would appear to be smaller, given that it has neither a storied tradition nor a captive recruiting market. Fans legitimately worry that '06 was Tedford's best shot at a Rose Bowl appearance.
I think this is a legitimate concern, though Bear fans take it a bit too far. Old Blues tend to expect the worst in every situation. Yes, it appears that talent will drop a bit next year - but Tedford has shown an uncanny ability to turn ordinary players into strong contributors. And who's to say that things will improve for the rest of the Pac 10? If the conference's schools were stocks, which would you buy? SC's great - but are they really that much more dominant than Spurrier's Gators?
It's premature to assume that '06 was our best shot at the Roses, or that we've somehow peaked at #2 in the conference. College football is played by 19 and 20-year olds - by definition it is unpredictable. Talent comes and goes; recruits don't qualify and players get distracted. The one constant is the head coach. And the gap between Tedford and Carroll would seem to be a hell of a lot smaller than the one between Fullmer and Spurrier, or the one between Brown and Stoops.
REPORT CARD - USC 23 CALIFORNIA 9
I'm doing this for the sake of continuity, and will try to hold my dinner down. As always C is a truly average performance.Quarterback Play: C-
Longshore did a pretty good job recognizing the blitz, and his reads were miles
better than last week against Arizona. His efficiency in the 1st half was quite good, but he tailed off after halftime. Of course, there weren't many open receivers either. He's downgraded here for three turnovers, two of which were bad (I'm not counting the pick/punt). Nate needs to develop better pocket presence - a quality that is all the more important given his almost complete lack of mobility.Receiver Play: D
Yuck. Our receivers failed to find the open spots in the zone, which was a necessity given SC's defensive strategy. I know there were 17 receptions, but seven came from the backs. We basically made four plays all night, and three came on the same drive (Jackson, Jordan and Hawkins' very nice TD grab). Pass Protection: B
SC blitzed a bit more than I expected, and Cal generally did a good job picking it up. Matchups went fine, other than Jackson's pressure on a coverage sack that forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter. The line did a much better job of forcing defenders to lower their arms, preventing the tipped pass and blocked passing lanes that bedeviled us against Arizona. Running Backs: B-
Our backs did what they could with what was available. Marshawn added a sore shoulder to his two bad ankles and played a heroic football game. His instincts on cutting the off-tackle play wide resulted in several good gains. He did fumble, though it was recovered by the Bears and didn't hurt us. As always, he was efficient in the passing game. Forsett simply can't produce at the same level as 2005; this year he's getting hit at the line and is generally unable to break free. Storer blocked well when he was in there.Run Blocking: D
We're just not a very good run blocking team. Cal controlled one matchup all night - LT Andrew Cameron against Brian Cushing. Everything else was advantage SC. Just as the 1st and goal against Arizona set the tone for the remainder of that game, so too did our inability to convert a 2nd and 1 doom us against the Trojans.Pass Defense: C-
Only one glaring mistake against Smith, though our zone drops looked erratic and occasionally left receivers too much room. A good enough performance to beat 7 or 8 of the teams in the conference, just not SC. Pass Rush: D+
Our most notable play in pass rush was Pimentel's roughing penalty. There was a little bit of pressure, but not the type of pocket collapse that you need against a highly efficient passing game. Tafisi had one nice series in the 2nd quarter (I think) but that was about it. Run Defense: C+
SC came out and established the run, but Cal adjusted very nicely and controlled the remainder of the half. In the second half, we appeared to tire and revert to arm tackling against Gable. Brandon Mebane had a tremendous performance and ate Radovich's lunch all night - it was one of few key matchups that Cal won. Desmond Bishop was awfully quiet all evening - part of that is Ryan Kalil and a very good interior OL, and part is Desmond overrunning plays and taking bad angles. Again, good enough to beat most teams in the conference - just not this one. Special Teams: D
For the first time in a long time, we performed poorly on special teams. Jackson was a non-factor, though he didn't have many opportunities. Kick cover was mediocre, and Forsett fumbled a return. Schneider's long FG try wasn't close. Larson was the lone bright spot with a 41.3 average and only one returned punt. Coaching: C+
Too conservative? Maybe, but I keep remembering the first drive of the 3rd quarter, when Nate threw six times in a row. SC took away the deep ball with their scheme, and Tedford/Dunbar were wise not to force matters. We did give it to Jackson on the end around (FINALLY). There's only one play call I could really dispute - I would have tried to press the advantage on 2nd and 1. That said, I can understand why JT didn't - our OL is hardly a cinch to pick up 1/2 a yard on 3rd down.
The three issues I have all deal with formations (and loyal readers have brought a couple up already). First, the shotgun: it's nice that Dunbar is a spread coordinator, but we don't have the most important ingredient for the spread - a QB who can actually move and be a threat to run from shotgun. The spread works when you can not only spread the secondary but also force the linebackers to move in opposite directions on running plays and play action from the gun. Watch Oregon (when they're trying) or Florida at certain times to see how this stresses a D. That never happens with Cal because Longshore is an absolute statue in the pocket. So why feature so much shotgun?
Second, I think we're a better team in the I or split backs with Storer in the ballgame. Third, I can't understand why we don't split Marshawn out more. Every time he goes in motion from the wing to the backfield, he gets the football - time to try something else.
That's it, though - hardly adds up to a coaching loss. Indeed, I think Tedford had the Bears well prepared. Two good things come to mind - our composure after SC's first drive of the game, and winning the penalty battle in the Coliseum. Overall: C-
Three quarters of pretty decent performance washed away by an absolute horrorshow in the 4th. Cal has plenty of issues to address in the bye week, and most of them have to do with the offense. Our breakdowns in the run game are putting Longshore and the receivers in difficult situations - and they haven't shown the ability to cope with difficult situations for the past eight quarters of football.
IT'S TEDFORD'S FAULT
That's what I've been reading on message boards
. Young Blues blaming this loss on Tedford. Saying that he's "peaked
" at the Holiday Bowl; that he'll never get Cal to the Rose Bowl.
Just so you know, that's not just a wrong opinion. That's insanity, and you need to pull your collective head out of your ass.
Cal's playcalling was just fine Saturday night. Our execution wasn't. Tedford's alleged sins:We should have gone deep more often
. SC had a safety deep on every snap - their defense was designed
to take away the deep pass. Longshore's punt/interception showed what Cal could expect if they forced the ball into the deep zone. Fans who wanted Cal to go deep either a) weren't watching the defensive backfield or b) just don't understand football.We were too conservative on 2nd and 1 in the 3rd quarter
. No, we just didn't block anyone. In fact, JT's run game was very smart - he challenged undersized Brian Cushing to make plays, and Marshawn had his best success outside the tackles. As for our supposed "conservative" philosophy, Nate threw six consecutive passes on the previous possession.JT should take a lesson from Pete Carroll's aggressive approach
. First of all, it's Lane Kiffin calling plays, and he called a nice game. Second, if we had even tried to cover Steve Smith on 4th and 2, no one would be lauding Carroll's aggressiveness. The Trojans made a play, we didn't - there's no magic here.
I'll address the "peaking" issue later. Just wanted to vent my spleen at a bunch of Cal fans who don't know their football, or their history.
50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #27 - SEAN DAWKINS
#27 - SEAN DAWKINS - WIDE RECEIVER (1989-1992)
Sean Dawkins is the best wide receiver in school history (which is saying something at Cal).
He's the best because he had the best combination of size, hands and speed - Dawkins stood 6'4" and was just fast enough to create separation from make corners and safeties pay after hauling in a pass.
He's the best because all he did was score touchdowns - 31 over his career, ranking him first among all Golden Bears pass catchers. Dawkins caught "only" 129 passes over his Cal career, but almost 1/4 went for scores. The fade to #86 in the corner of the end zone was a thing of beauty, and few Pac-10 corners had the size or strength to deny him the football in the red zone.
He's the best because he was a consensus All-American and scored 14 TDs in 1992, despite facing constant double teams on a bad 4-7 team.
He's the best because he always got up for Stanford, even if his teammates didn't. Twice he was named Cal's player of the game in the Big Game. He also got up for SC - his three touchdowns drove a stake in the heart of the Trojans in Cal's record 52-30 rout in 1991.
He's the best because he helped propel Cal to back-to-back bowl appearances in 1990 and 1991, and because he made an amazing TD catch in that Citrus Bowl against Clemson.
Dawkins was chosen by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played 10 years in the NFL with the Colts (1993-97), New Orleans (1998), Seattle (1999-2000), Jacksonville (2001) and Minnesota (2002), posting 445 catches for 6,291 yards and 25 TDs during his pro career.
PROGRESS AND PERSPECTIVE - USC BASKETBALL
USC's ascension under Tim Floyd was tragically interrupted in the offseason when point guard Ryan Francis was shot and killed in his hometown of New Orleans. As if that weren't enough, SG Gabe Pruitt
) flunked out of school after the MySpace affair
, rendering him academically ineligible until 2007. With Francis and with Pruitt for a full year, this was a likely NCAA Tournament team. As it stands, the Trojans are probably still a postseason team, though they're likely to sit squarely on the bubble come March.Good News
: USC returns its three leading scorers: Pruitt (16.9 ppg, 2.2 steals per game), F Nick Young
(17.3 ppg/6.6 rpg) and G Lodrick Stewart
(12.3 ppg). Abdoulaye N'diaye
returns at center (5.3 ppg/4.7 rpg) is a sound defender
in the paint at 6'11". Floyd is a terrific coach who has been the perfect tonic for a program that had become fractious and frankly lazy under Henry Bibby. Defense is now a strength in South Central, as SC held 11 consecutive opponents under 70 points last year. Gone are the mental lapses that characterized SC in the Bibby Era.Bad News
: Like last year, the Trojans could struggle on the boards. N'diaye hasn't shown strong rebounding instincts, and last year the Trojans often ran a small lineup that failed to produce second and third chances. The key player for SC might be true freshman Taj Gibson
(6'9"/210), who has looked very good in the early going. Another contributor is RouSean Cromwell
, who missed the 2nd half of the season in 2005-6 with a fractured foot - Cromwell also had off-season knee surgery, but has been cleared to play. USC is also very thin - only two other returning players who played in more than ten games last year.New Faces
: Lots - In addition to Gibson, the Trojans have seven new players
, of whom several will see playing time in 06-07. Dwight Lewis
should add athleticism and depth as a backup to Pruitt, though he'll start early.Prediction - Fifth place
. This is a difficult team to figure. We think the world of Floyd and are convinced that SC is heading in the right direction. The Trojans may struggle early without Pruitt, and they lack a true point guard. If Gibson makes the D-1 adjustment smoothly, and Floyd finds some quality depth, then this team could rise as high as 3rd. Conversely, they could drop to #6 if they revert to being a team of talented wings without a meaningful inside presence. In any event, things will only get better with uber-recruit O.J. Mayo
on his way to LA for the 2007-8 season.