Quick Hits, Cal-UCLA (Report Card)

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, October 22nd, 2007


The loss is still pretty numb to me. I just watched as much sports as possible, from Les Miles being a bonehead and having it pay off (ugh) to watching the Red Sox score 100 runs this weekend. I just thought that these past two weeks were a return to the mean, because this Cal team never struck me the way past teams did. I was confident in them, but never completely sure they could pull through week-by-week, if that makes sense. Somewhere along the line the flaws would show.

Then I read this little snippet, and slowly it dawned on me:

“There is another type of parity involved in some games — parity of coaching. We have been outcoached in every game but Cal.”

We were outcoached by the laughingstock of our league, and it’s been the ONLY TIME THIS YEAR that he’s done that to anyone! It’s painful, but it’s true. One thing’s for sure–I’m on the Fire Dorrell bandwagon now. I don’t think I can survive another loss to his sorry ass. Watching them blow a game to Wazzu or Arizona the next two weeks will make this loss all the more embarrassing.

So let’s go through this, Tightwad style (sorry Tightwad if you’re reading this, I know I’m going to butcher it).

Quarterback play: B-. This was a B until the pick-six, which is kind of sad (I’m discounting the last INT; the game was for all practical purposes over). Very efficient game from Longshore for three quarters, although he did throw a huge pick in UCLA territory that was a little behind Hawkins in the 3rd. But I was very confident with him in the pocket. It makes the ending that much more exasperating.

Running game: D-. We got mauled. Plain and simple. The UCLA D-line pushed through our O-line with ease, allowing the linebackers to penetrate and ruthlessly pursue Justin off tackle, in between tackles, anywhere. The fact that Tedford stubbornly stuck with the run makes poor Forsett look that much worse. We should not have been running that much in the 4th quarter and played clock management–we were only up by two, not seven or ten!

Almost all drives that were run-heavy led to punts. We were stopped at the goal-line, at midfield, in our own territory, whereever. Forsett is not a power-runner; he does not wear on the defense as time goes on. If he wasn’t getting going by the 4th quarter, he wasn’t getting going at all. Surprisingly few touches for Jahvid Best, whose speed might have been something for UCLA to reckon with. Even if he did have another costly fumble (which was a collective error between Longshore, Best and the O-line for the easy penetration), at least it provides another option.

Receivers: B. Other than Verner ripping that ball away from Hawkins, recievers were generally in good position the entire game to grab Longshore’s throws. Jackson had an outstanding first half but slowly tapered off in the second. Stevens and Cunningham had great catches to set up TD drives, and Hawkins did what he could.

I generally don’t like passing much, but when you’re being dared to throw you generally should try to go deep a little. Robert Jordan’s absence hurt us in the end–the lack of a viable third option really allowed the corners to hone in on Jackson and set up the backbreaking INT. The Jackson hawing for a PI call after every incompletion grew pretty irritating though.

Pass protection: B-. Good in the first half, not-so-good in the second. Eventually UCLA realized that Longshore’s lack of mobility could be useful to exploit. He certainly had a much harder time throwing downfield in the second half, and then the need to run the ball really hampered his effectiveness.

Run blocking: D-. At the line of scrimmage there was no such disparity between first half and second. For the second straight year we’re having trouble opening the seams against good defenses. 2.2 yards per carry is very bad, and UCLA linebackers were quicker to Forsett than our lineman were to blocking them. I’ll review the tape later, but it looks about right.

Run defense: D. The linebacker corps might be the most gifted Cal has had in 4 years (Felder, Williams, and Follett had solid games), and we are wasting them because our defensive line is getting buried at the line of scrimmage. This is just not a good D-line–UCLA converted almost every short down situation on the ground, with the offensive line allowing Bell to eat up yardage.

Pass rush: F. We sacked a guy with a torn MCL once or twice, and I’m pretty sure one of those sacks was an accident, like two retards running into each other during a soccer game. Every blitz we tried was picked up (Damn, they’re stacking the line with six? What could possibly be coming?). Cowan, just like Canfield last week, was able to move out of the pocket with ease and throw on the go. Utterly baffling.

Pass defense: F. Just a shitty performance. That we got burned on that wide receiver TD gimmick (something even I saw coming the moment he got the ball, you can tell by the way he was backing up rather than curving around back into the line of scrimmage) will always come back to haunt me. Not to mention several pass interferences (and some weren’t even added in because the receivers STILL caught the ball), no one looking back for the ball, etc.

Special teams: C-. While coverage was greatly improved from the Beaver debacle, our individuals struggled. Larson had a terrible day (34.4 net), including a 19 yard punt that UCLA capitalized on with the 64 yard breakout by Bell. His two punts in the 4th quarter only went 34 and 32, leaving UCLA a very short field to drive for the go-ahead score.

Jordan Kay, who had a great start to the year in replacing Schnieder, missed another long field goal and has now converted one for his last five, from my tally. This makes the two running plays on that last fateful drive all the more mystifying; why play a time game after the mindfuck of last week?

Slater had one big kickoff return for UCLA that thankfully yielded zero points. DeSean might not touch the ball ever again (although there was one returnable option in the 3rd if I remember), yet Perez still outnetted Larson. Best did have an outstanding kick return late to put us in position to win though.

Coaching: F. I will say that Tedford did try to pull out the tricks–that end-around fake, receiver option to Jackson was beautiful. And that goal-line play action to Jackson worked perfectly, although the defender did see it coming (an awful foreshadowing of the final INT). But other than that, gag. The Jackson wide receiver option isn’t fooling anyone anymore, and I swear over half of Longshore’s pass attempts were aimed at DeSean. Stevens and Hawkins were used or looked at sparingly, if at all. What happened to distributing the wealth?

While the first three quarters were pedestrian with an occasional flash of awesome, the fourth quarter was painful. UCLA dared Cal to throw all day and they didn’t bite. Tedford’s greatest strength may also be his greatest weakness–he’s stubbornly loyal to his players, almost to a fault. He wanted Forsett to end the game, just like he did three of the first four weeks. But UCLA is not Arizona. Tedford knew how good the running defense was–hell, he’d seen it for three quarters. Why force your defense to shoulder the load, especially since UCLA has the field position advantage?

I could talk about Gregory forever. That was a completely unprepared defense.

And, yes, despite the flashes of brilliance, the fact is we still did get outcoached by a laughingstock who called a timeout, took a delay of game, and punted on 4th and 1 at midfield and proceeded to have his homecrowd boo him for two minutes. We lost to THAT. Sorry, Coach. Here’s hoping failure breeds success these last five games.

Overall: D-. A very uninspired performance after the Oregon State shocker, outside of Longshore and the receivers. I never felt from the opening kickoff that Cal ever took control, even when we had the lead, even when UCLA gave us chance after chance to beat them despite controlling Forsett. As it is, you have to give credit to a stalwart performance by the front seven of UCLA. Again, fast defenses overwhelm fast offenses every time. We might have to face facts and realize that we still have two more fast defenses on our schedule (ASU and USC), and that winning both of those will go a long way to healing these losses.

Even that might be expecting too much of this team, whose defensive issues cannot be overcome with any significant amount of adjustment. It’s not just a terrible overreaction–USC allows just as much as Oregon State on the ground, and ASU has given up around 90. I have seen nothing over the past two weeks. We will need 110% to beat the Sun Devils in Tempe, and certainly none of the garbage coaching we’ve seen the past two weeks can be tolerated if we don’t want this entire season to fall by the wayside.

But I don’t give up hope. Not until it’s all over.

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