The Big Game Report Card
Quarterback: D. Typical Nate. Strong promising start, even a deep ball or two. He even had a great play-action throw to Jordan. But his second half was hideous, 9-30 with two picks, and he looked more and more gimpy as the weeks went on. There was an inordinate amount of pressure put on him too; it clearly made him more nervous to make snap decisions throwing that ball. So I can’t put the whole onus on him. Those two picks were still pretty terrible.
Running back: C+. Forsett again rolled his way to 82 first half yards, slipping through plenty of broken tackles and moving quickly through everything. He then stalled for only 11 in the second half. Hard to tell how effective Justin would have been if the Bears didn’t fall behind, but Cal surprisingly abandoned the run really early with only five rushes in the second half. Why? I dunno. I wasn’t aware a ten point defecit with fifteen minutes left was reason to panic and start exclusively throwing rock. This isn’t UCLA’s defense out there, it’s the fucking ‘Furd. Keep the balance.
Receivers: C. Despite Longshore’s struggles, he was not helped by his corps. I might have been hard on Jackson the past two weeks, but clearly taking him out of Cal’s offense has made the Bears look completely mediocre. Stanford was able to return to conventional packages, putting the corners on Jordan and Hawkins without having to worry about the thought of a double team. His unavailability certainly made it easier for Stanford.
Outstanding production by Jordan, who came up with big catches early and late to keep things going, and Hawkins workhorsed his way to another fine effort, but both dropped crucial catches. Hawkins bro…stop bodycatching!
Run blocking: C-. It looked good for most of the first half when Forsett had open holes everywhere. Uh, what happened to that? Holding penalties, blocks in the back, and lots of penetration. This is the 79th run defense in the country. Talk about uninspired play.
Pass protection: F. Mystifying. Cal had managed to keep OSU, UCLA, and USC’s defenses pretty much in check. Now Clinton Snyder, Pat Moyner, and Udeme Udofia are penetrating at will and placing nonstop pressure on the football. Longshore was getting knocked to the ground throughout the second and third quarter, and got plenty of pressure in the 4th.
Run defense: C-. Really the only place to go is up from that UW debacle, but even the change in linebacker didn’t do much to change the result. A good effort by Follett to recover that fumble.
Pass rush: D-. One sack. Is that above average? I recall Pritchard running bootlegs on the TD and crucial 3rd down conversion late, killing Cal on the move with all the time in the world, and well…we still have pass D to cover. I can’t wait for the Bears to start playing complete defense again. Two years perhaps?
Pass defense: F. Ostrander and Pritchard played platoon, and pretty much picked their targets at will. 21-32 for 196 and 2 TDs is damned efficient, including several key third down conversions on the scoring drives/scoring attempts. Thompson was pretty terrible, and the linebacking changes had no real effect. Hicks had a pick, but that was more a hideous decision by Stanford to force that trick play rather than Cal doing anything special.
Special teams: C+. Kay missed a field goal but made two others. Larson just kept punting it up. Special teams coverage was average. Hawkins’s huge return gave the Bears plenty of chance to regain momentum, but Cal as usual failed to capitalize.
Coaching: D-. Balanced in the first half on offense….and naturally we were still down by three at the half. For most of the second half, nothing. The pass-wacky offense seemed a little desperate, considering how good Stanford’s corners are on man coverage and how well Forsett had been running the ball. I know this collapse has been hard, but the fact the players weren’t motivated for traditionally the most heated Cal game of the year falls partly on the coaches.
Additionally, another anemic defensive performance on the other side could spell the end for Bob Gregory. I’m not going to debate the merits of such a change, but it seems like the natural progression after the defensive lapses of the past few weeks.
Overall: F. It’s one thing to lose the Big Game. It’s completely another to show almost no emotion in defeat. Only Hawkins, Jordan, Forsett, and a few select others seemed to really care about the outcome of this game. Everyone else looked ready to hand over the Axe.
And that’s what the saddest part of this collapse has been. I don’t recognize the team that I rooted for two months ago anymore.
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