Cal – Washington State Report Card

Posted by: Avinash on Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Every week the Golden Bears play a game, I write up a report card. You can click to read the extensive Michigan State one from last week. Here are the final grades from that 66-3 smashing.

Quarterbacks: Nate Longshore clearly inserted himself back into the quarterback competition with a strong second half performance, completing 7 of 8 for 52 yards and leading the Bears on their two most impressive offensive drives. With Kevin Riley struggling with command and precision all game long, hopefully Jeff Tedford will realize the importance of reviving the open competition and allow Nate the opportunity to regain his starting position.

Haha. Made ya look.

Anyway, although Riley was airmailing his passes to Spokane the entire afternoon he really didn’t commit any blatant errors outside of fumbling that ball when he was scampering on his second run. The Bears were up huge, so Riley was pretty much practicing his deep routes the rest of the game. It didn’t really matter if he completed them–it would’ve been nice, but the Bears were playing with house money  most of the game.

Either the receivers couldn’t catch it or Kevin sailed the ball, but with the exception of one or two throws neither was in position to be intercepted. This kept the defense from solely defending the run by having to contend against Riley’s deep ball capabilities, even though he couldn’t complete any today. The potential remains there for future games.

Anyway, you know it’s been a fantastic day when Brock Mansion gets a full fourth quarter of reps.

Grade: B

Running backs: Jahvid Best first touchdown run netted more rushing yards than Washington State would accumulate all game. Shane Vereen had a modest 81 yards and just kept on pounding it to the corners.  Our redshirt freshman backup fullback averaged over seven yards per carry. Riley scampered for a 27 yard touchdown on what appeared to be a broken handoff. Mansion plunged in from the one to cap off the scoring.

Our biggest drawback the entire game was that Tracy Slocum looked too slow in the 4th quarter. And even he scored.

Grade: A+

Wide receivers: You wonder when Nyan Boateng said Nate Longshore was his guy, he really meant that Nate was the only one who could catch any of his balls. Boateng hauled in all four catches Longshore threw to him. That’s pretty much all the insight I have this time around; it was a disjointed game for the receivers, who often had no chance to make the plays on the deep routes Riley ran but were perfectly adequate in the mid-range area.

Welcome, Michael Calvin. Hopefully we’ll get to know each other over these next few weeks.

Grade: B-

Run blocking: A few good blocks set up the three long touchdown runs by Vereen and Best, netting over 200 yards. Even outside of those three carries Cal accumulated around five rushing yards per carry. The loss of Ahmu certainly hurt a beleaguered Cougar squad, as Cal focused on the weak side and just pounded it all game long.

Grade: A

Pass protection: The Bears didn’t give up any sacks, although there was quite a bit of pressure on Riley in that stretch of the second quarter he was throwing. Then again Kevin was holding onto the ball perhaps a little more than he should have. There were two roughing the passer fouls too, probably attesting to Wazzu’s frustration of playing thirty more minutes of meaningless football. They looked fairly listless after falling down 28-3 on both sides of the ball.

Grade: B

After the jump, grades are provided for special teams, defensive elements and coaching.

Run defense: First Javon Ringer, now Dwight Tardy. Tardy was a premier Pac-10 back last season before he got injured and sat out the Cal game; today he was afforded plenty of one to two yard carries that went promptly to nowhere (20 yards on 14 carries in all). The Bears averaged 10 yards a carry; the Cougars managed barely to surpass 1.5. Tyson Alualu and Rulon Davis provided all sorts of damage to wear down the O-line, and the linebackers swooped in for the tackle. Next up: Da’Rel Scott.

Grade: A+

Pass rush: Gary Rogers did not have a pleasant day. For the second straight week Cal spent much of the game rushing three and still managed two sacks and plenty of knockdowns (Follett had the first sack, the promising Kendricks second). It is worth mentioning the Cougars lost their left guard Andrew Roxas to injury the week before the game.

Grade: A

Pass defense: Two years ago, Syd’Quan Thompson was the face of the disaster at Rocky Top. This season he is emerging into a top NFL prospect for either this season or next, as two years of playing experience have transformed him into an outstanding defender. The Bears picked off four of Rogers’s passes (Thompson had two) and converted all four turnovers into touchdowns. They allowed only 3.7 yards per attempt, an excellent number for an often porous secondary. Only a few tackling errors here and there, although most happened late in the game and are fairly excusable.

Grade: A+

Special teams: One of these days we’re going to give up two punt/kickoff returns for touchdowns, and the offense will sputter, and our hopes of a Rose Bowl berth will dwindle. For now though, let’s attribute the two big returns in special teams coverage to “forseeable letdown”. The rest of the time they did their job.

Pete Alamar might worry a little bit about the slackening of Anger’s leg (an average 40 net in the Paloouse); doesn’t really have to worry about David Seawright’s extra point skills, kind of has to worry about the total drop in punt return yardage–Sean Young is not breaking for daylight anytime soon. But hey, it’s not often you see a blocked field goal for a touchdown, so there’s that. The good outweighs the bad this week.

Grade: B+

Coaching: It was curious to see Tedford let Riley loose late in the 2nd quarter with the Bears in cruise control, but it was also quite liberating. Everyone’s been asking for a more aggressive Tedford. They got it today. And for all I hammered him last year, this Cal defense provided Bob Gregory its finest effort since the  2006 Oregon game.

Grade: A

Overall: Just look at the scoreboard guys. What grade am I supposed to give them?

Grade: A

Any additional comments on the team’s performance? Leave them in the comments.

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