Bear Up (Cal-Arizona Recap)
A few things to say about this game before I turn it over to the people who know things about football.
–One dominating quarter was all Cal really needed before they started cruise controlling for Oregon. Rather strange that the Bears took the pedal off the break that early–they played average ho-hum ball through the mid quarters before regaining control late in the game. But Arizona was in too deep a hole to dig themselves out.
–The crowd seemed to take most of the game off too–the Student Section was not particularly loud, with a lot of idle chatter and shenanigans heard in between quarters, and especially on defense, where we were noticeably silent. And I know we led by as many as 28, but wasn’t this supposed to be a revenge game? How the hell can you be so apathetic about the start of our Pac-10 campaign? Why were so many people leaving in the 4th quarter when the Wildcats cut the lead to 14? Something I was missing? Was there some huge rave party in SF you had to get ready for? Or were you just trying to avoid any possibility of getting your clothes wet from the lingering grey skies? Lame dudes, lame.
–On the bright side, the alumni got pretty loud at times, especially during that monumental 1st quarter. Looks like the Mic Men finally have a practical use.
–Longshore finally seemed to be throwing balls the way we remember in that first quarter, airing it out for a few deep strikes that had us in the Arizona red zone. Then players started dropping balls, and Nate made a few mistakes, including one godawful interception he tried threading through three defenders. But it seemed he put it together by the end. So the passing attack has only been sharp in spurts.
–By contrast, the ground game has been consistently superb. Forsett continues to eat up yardage and refuses to go down, exemplifed by that awesome TD run early in the game. He’s the football equivalent of a great closer, shutting the door on any potential comebacks, just as he did with Tennessee, and helped run out the clock on Colorado State. With a porous running defense like Oregon coming up, the Bears need a similar performance at the end to keep their undefeated season going.
–Credit must also go to an outstanding California offensive line that has only allowed 2 sacks all season and opened up a ground game averaging around 220 yards per game. It seems to be the reason Tedford has opted for more of a conservative scheme instead of continuously airing the ball out; he has plenty of faith that the offensive line will help take out all the air on opposing defenses. It’ll be interesting what tactics he takes to against the Ducks, which almost screams running attack.
–Sweet redemption for Lavelle Hawkins, who put the Bears up early and disappeared. The Hawk was out and chomping at the bit, although he only received modest enthusiasm from the crowd AND the student section. God this crowd was slumbering on Saturday. Were midterm scores just released or something?
–Arizona’s run game was just as previewed–nonexistent. Willie Tuitama had to throw 61 passes and didn’t have much of a choice, being down by three touchdowns for most of the game and getting no ground production at all. Oregon will not let the Bears so easily off the hook, not with Dixon manning the backfield and Stewart running it up.
–The defense played arguably its best game of the year, making hard-hitting tackles all day long, stopping two critical Arizona drives early and late which turned touchdowns to field goals, and forcing four turnovers. Even with Follett, Malele and Davis all sidelined, plenty of players–most noticeably Thomas DeCoud with 10 tackles, a forced fumble recovered for a TD, an INT, a fumble recovery–stepped up their game.
–The penalties worry me a bit (especially all the false start penalties, which could be a huge problem when we go on the road), but I think the Bears were caught looking ahead again. It’s kind of annoying, but this Cal team tends to slack off on games they should win (the last three weeks) and step their game up to the ones that matter (Tennessee). All I know is that 4-0 is 4-0. And we’ll know for sure what type of team we have by late Saturday afternoon.
So I’m cool with what’s going on so far. Not excited, not worried. Just very cool. Fans are acting a little crazy right now on the message boards because we aren’t playing like…uhh, USC, but I’m not concerned. The true test will come this week. And we’ll find out for sure what this team is made of.
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