Cal Football 2007 in Numbers: Turnovers II

Posted by: Avinash on Saturday, March 1st, 2008

California UCLA FootballContinuing from Part I earlier, we begin delving into the ugly. I’ll go through the painful truths of how badly turnovers impacted our club both on the offensive and defensive sides of the field.

(When I put the team name next to the turnover, it is the team that ended up with the turnover, not the team that lost it.)

Oregon State vs. Cal
Cal forced fumble at Cal 14, resulted in punt (Cal: 0)
OSU forced fumble at Cal 16, resulted in TD and 7-0 Beaver lead (OSU: 7)
OSU INT returned to Cal 17, resulted in FG and 10-7 Beaver lead (OSU: 3)
OSU fumble rec on kickoff at Cal 39 resulted in FG and Beaver 31-21 lead (OSU: 3)

Analysis: A decisive loss in the turnover margin. Even worse, all the Cal turnovers ended up providing Oregon State with a short field and guaranteed points. Cal’s only forced turnover ended up saving another likely score deep within Cal territory, given the strong leg of Serna.

One of the problems with giving up turnovers deep within your own territory is it keeps a less talented offense empowered and more leeway to work with. The thirteen point advantage of turnovers ultimately provided the difference in the game.

Cal at UCLA
UCLA forced fumble UCLA 32, turned into UCLA fumble at Cal 39 (UCLA: turnover)
Cal forced fumble at Cal 39, turned into missed field goal (Cal: 0)
Cal forced fumble at UCLA 36, turned into INT (Cal: turnover)
UCLA INT at own 23, turned into punt (UCLA: 0)
UCLA INT at UCLA 30, returned into TD (UCLA: 7)
UCLA INT at Cal 38, kneeldown (UCLA: 0)

Analysis: Talk about two teams trying to cancel each other out. If not for Verner taking matters into his own hands, the multitude of turnovers in this game would have resulted in no impact at all. Two turnovers resulted in two more turnovers, which resulted in no scores. The teams would have been better off kneeling the ball down four times each. At least they would have run more clock off of this miserable affair.

Cal at ASU
Cal forced fumble at ASU 13, recovered for TD (Cal: 7)
ASU INT at ASU 45, turned into punt (ASU: 0)
ASU INT at Cal 45, turned into TD (ASU: 7)

Analysis: Cal gets its last defensive TD of the year here, but this can be attributed to the bizarre phenomena of ASU sucking balls in every first quarter they’ve ever played. It’s hard to figure out how much the turnover margin mattered–all it meant was that Cal had no chance to win the game as opposed to some. I’ll probably be looking at Longshore’s stats when Cal is behind a score. They will not be friendly to examine.

Wazzu at Cal
Wazzu INT at Cal 48, turned into punt (Wazzu: 0)
Cal INT at own 42, turned into punt (Cal: 0)
Wazzu fumble rec at Wazzu 40, turned into FG (Wazzu: 3)
Wazzu fumble rec at Wazzu 4, turned into punt (Wazzu: 0)

Analysis: Ew. The Bears turned over the ball twice in opposing territory and ruined any chance they had at a decisive win to right the ship. It didn’t help that I gambled on the Cal 15.5 spread that night, a line that made me physically ill by the 4th quarter as Cal’s offense sputtered and tumbled.

USC California Football

$C at Cal
Cal fumble rec at own 2, turned into INT (Cal: turnover)
USC INT at Cal 13, turned into FG (USC: 3)
Cal fumble at own 42, turned into punt (Cal: 0)
USC Fumble at Cal 36, turned into punt (USC: 0)
USC INT at own 17, turned into kneeldown (USC: 0)

Analysis: All three turnovers involved Nate Longshore, and while some of the turnovers can be attributed to bad route-running, Nate did underthrow those balls and left them as easy pickings for the defense. The fact that Cal forced two turnovers which ultimately led to a USC field goal and a punt could not have helped the defense’s morale.

Cal at UW
UW INT at Cal 32, turned into TD (UW: 7)
UW fumble at Cal 21, turned into TD (UW: 7)
UW fumble at own 43, turned into loss of down (UW: 0)

Analysis: Another three turnovers (two deep in our own territory), and the points off turnovers again provided the decisive margin of victory. To be fair, UW did commit a turnover that was NEVER reviewed (leading to a Husky score), and that punt return fumble was dubious.

The Big Game
Stanford fumble at Cal 28, turned into TD (Stanford: 7)
Cal INT at own 29, turned into punt (Cal: 0)
Stanford INT at own 37, turned into punt (Stanford 0)
Cal fumble at own 36, turned into INT (Cal: turnover)
Stanford INT at own 8, turned into punt (Stanford 0)

Analysis: Ew. Ew. Ew. Two picks in opposing territory, including the one that sealed the game. Two forced turnovers that yielded the glorious sight of Andrew Larson’s hopping leg and Nate Longshore’s beleaguered ankle. The fumble in our own territory that led to the final margin. Ew.

Bonus: Armed Forces Bowl
AF fumble at Cal 40, turned into TD (AF: 7)
AF fumble at Cal 37, turned into TD (AF: 7)

Analysis: Cal didn’t force any turnovers in this game, and can pretty much owe their win to Riley’s spectacular festa and Sean Carney’s disastrous injury.

Overall conclusions
The big thing that stands out? During the collapse, Cal’s offense was given eight opportunities to score (minus the direct defensive TD in the ASU game) and managed to extract zero points from that, and for good measure turned the ball right back to their opponent three of those times (and yes, for better or for worse, they were all Longshore picks). This might be a poor ratio, since forcing only nine turnovers in seven games cannot be considered satisfactory. Nevertheless, the offense did nothing with the turnovers the defense gave them.

The impact was mainly psychological. The defense was probably too discouraged at trying to stop opposing offenses by the end of the season and even more exhausted by the burden they had to relieve off of the mistake-prone offense. The Cal offense committed 21 turnovers during their 1-6 tumble, and our defense limited their opponents to only 47 points (sans the Verner return, which was a direct score).

So you could actually say that the Cal defense did very well to hold off the powerful Pac-10 offense. Unfortunately, the Cal offense could not do the same on the other end.

Next time: Examining the cumulative impact of turnovers on our team.

Do you guys have any particular memories of how turnovers could have impacted our season? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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