California – Colorado State Report Card
Quarterbacks: Kevin Riley is a work in progress. Although his pass protection isn’t quite as good as we’d like it to be, and his receivers have dropped some catchable balls (including one touchdown) he’s still underthrowing catchable balls or misreading routes by quite a bit. The rapport with his wideouts isn’t quite there yet.
While I do think that Tedford has slightly restricted his gameplay abilities by forcing him to be a game manager, we have to entertain the possibility that Riley’s freewheeling ways are too much for his developing receiving corps to keep up with. While I expect Kevin to start on Saturday, it’s up in the air as to whether he finishes.
Nate Longshore was the better quarterback on the field on Saturday, and displayed shocking mobility in and outside of the pocket. While his throws weren’t on the mark in those instances, inside the pocket he went 8 for 11 (should have been 9). His audible to Jeremy Ross on the second touchdown was a thing of beauty.
Caveat: His excellent play came in garbage time, so we shouldn’t really put too much stock into this performance as a sign of things to come. Still, you have to be pleased that his horrifying Michigan State start hasn’t affected his management abilities.
Running backs: In the short run, Jahvid Best’s injury does not hurt us too much. Although we’ll miss his playmaking ability against the Sun Devils, Shane Vereen should be able to handle the load for at least a week (with Tracy Slocum spelling him). It was a strong performance from each of the Golden Bear trio, although neither topped 100 yards. They will be facing a real stiff test next week though, so they’ll have to get ready for that.
Receivers: This is shaping up to be the least spectacular year for receivers in the Tedford era. This isn’t meant as a slight at any of the guys involved–Jeremy Ross, Nyan Boateng, Layrelle Cunningham, Verran Tucker, Cameron Morrah, and Sean Young all bring things to the table. But against terrible pass defenses like Colorado State and Washington State, we haven’t mustered much–only Best had more than two catches, and not one receiver topped 30 yards. Whether it’s a mix of disjointed quarterback play or missed routes or dropped balls, we can’t be encouraged heading by what we’ve seen against the easiest opponetns we’ll face.
They did perform much better with Longshore in the game though. So you have to wonder if this is a receiver issue or a quarterback issue. For those who’ve loved Calfor their offensive playmaking ability, you won’t see much this season. We are returning to convention.
Run blocking: Solid yeoman effort. Some missed blocks, few good 10-20 yard runs, and everything else sprewn in between. The less I have to say about this, the better.
Pass protection: The loss of Guarnero hurts more than Best, probabably hurts more than Rulon Davis. The departure of Gibson and the injury to Tepper could cost the Bears in the long-run. Seeing Riley get pressured on more than one occasion even with the shift of Mitchell Schwartz to the left side did not build my confidence.
The Bears will have to rely more heavily on Alex Mack as the season progresses and even if Tepper returns. Pac-10 defenses are too good this season; this group will have to evolve as the season goes along.
Run defense: 2.7 yards per carry always puts a smile to your face. Although the loss of Davis will hurt along with the season-ending injury to Kendrick Payne, Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan have picked up the slack the 3-4. Zack Follett had his best game of the season, getting plenty of penetration into the backfield.
Pass rush: Four sacks is like ten in Bob Gregory’s defense. I’ll take it.
Pass defense: Chris Conte still looks fairly hapless back there, giving up Colorado State’s two hugest passing plays by losing his man in coverage for 98 total yards. Otherwise it was a solid effort against Billy Farris and his backup Kubiak, whose passes went for an average of 3 yards per carry and kept Colorado State from gaining any momentum before the rout was on. It was sweet redemption for Darian Hagan, who got burned at the tail-end of last year’s Colorado State game.
Special Teams: I’m starting to think I should break up this group into punting and kicking, given that the former category continues its run of astounding success and the latter retains its staggering ineptitude. Anger was excellent, Syd’Quan dazzled thanks in part to excellent special teams blocking, we had another kick block returned for a touchdown, and the kicking continued to perplex. Just another typical week in Pete Alamar’s Special Teams world.
We tried directional kicking three times, and (surprise surprise) three times it boomed out of bounds. Once it didn’t even touch the field of play; Jordan Kay came this close to decapitating a Pac-10 official. Not sure if that’s a net-minus or net-plus. And David Seawright’s line-drive field goal left much to be desired. I never thought that of all the players we were losing from last season, Tom Schneider would be the guy we missed the most. We’re approaching that territory.
Coaching: Tedford was awfully chippy, wasn’t he? Whether he’s trying the Phil Jackson routine or not, it’ll be interesting to see if Riley performs better or worse in practice this week. While I don’t think we’re about to anoint the two-quarterback system utilized by LSU and Florida in their last two title runs, we might be approaching that territory.
The “soft” motivation definitely paid off with more physical play against Colorado State, although the Bears defense didn’t need much to take the Rams out of their game. The bend-don’t-break defense was solid. Bob Gregory deserves some dap for a good gameplan that allowed CSU a few third down conversions but not much scoring. Although we did get lucky with some turnovers.
Overall: The feel of the game was totally weird. The Bears only had the ball on offense for 24 minutes and ran 26 less plays. They got 21 points from their special teams and defense; they turned the ball over twice. We won by 35, yet it felt like a net loss due to the injuries. We’re about to hit the meat grinder as banged up as any Pac-10 team out there. It’s going to be one heck of a battle for the crown now. Or at least a nice runner-up trophy.
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