Nate Longshore: We’ve seen this script before. It’s the typical Nate Longshore game we’ve seen the past two years. Let’s move on before people start yelling.
Kevin Riley: Ditto.
Running backs: Just when it looked like Arizona was ready to run us off the field, Jahvid Best scorched the Wildcats and shifted the initiative back to the Golden Bears although he sat out the 4th quarter. Shane Vereen had a nice gallop in relief, but was stuffed on his remaining three carries. ‘Furd’s power back game tore up the Wildcats; Cal’s smaller backs were not able to make enough plays on their own to open up the passing game.
Because I reward process rather than bursts, this grade is probably a little bit lower, but we can’t discount the promise that Best holds as a gamechanger, all on his own.
Receivers: Verran Tucker was a bright spot, making some huge catches in stride with Longshore early in the game. Him and Morrah adjusted to make some brilliant touchdown catches. Sean Young was the most consistent in running his routes in stride. Nyan Boateng and Jeremy Ross spread the wealth.
On the flip side…dropped passes. They just keep on coming, and I’m not sure how much of that has to do with quarterbacks and wide receivers not getting on the same page, our quarterbacks throwing crappy passes, or the relative inexperience of our skill players. Then again, when the Bears couldn’t run the ball, and the Wildcats started dropping seven into coverage on 2nd and 3rd down all the time…
The lack of depth in the offensive line finally hit us hard. Neither Vereen nor Best were able to do much in the run game, as Arizona played tight up eight in coverage. The Bears couldn’t push the Wildcat defense back for most of the game, and there were only a handful of runs over four-five yards.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen California’s quarterback been pressured, hurried, broken up, fleeing for his life in the pocket. Only Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack have been consistent, and they were merely adequate in Tucson. Just like the weak defensive line caved in last season, the usually sturdy Golden Bear offensive line might be our Achilles heel in 2008. The yet-to-be-determined injury to Noris Malele, slowfooted as he was, does not help matters.
Very strong, some good blitz packages and Tuitama felt the pressure for much of the game. Sadly, the times Cal’s blitz packages were picked up, the pass defense got burned, so the results don’t exactly match up with how well the 3-4 did against the front line.
Run defense, pass defense
Aaaand…this is what happens when you get two weeks of effusive and excessive praise.
I examined enough in the Arizona preview about the spread offense and ways the Cal defense would have to protect against it. Unfortunately, none of this invovlved the Wildcats using their third string running back to gash us for 140 yards behind solid run blocking. Where has Arizona been hiding Keola Antolin, and how did they morph into a power run squad able to block out Cal’s supposedly vaunted 3-4 on the ground?
Add in the sloppy tackling, Syd’Quan and Marcus Ezeff getting totally manhandled in coverage assignments against Mike Thomas and Rob Gronkowski, and leaving Cal’s coverage on one-on-one schemes with defenders, and you’d have to say the secondary couldn’t handle the responsibility it seemed to earn. Their third quarter performance earns them a FAIL, which weighs down any of the good they did the rest of the game.
Special Teams: At last, a bright spot. Well, Pete Alamar got it together. Other than the kickoff coverage, which looks…rough, most of Cal’s issues seem to be working out. Bryan Anger’s leg might have been the MVP of this defeat, keeping the Arizona offense from gaining traction much of the first half and the fourth quarter. And with Giorgio Tavecchio asserting himself with two long California field goals, our special teams kickers might be set for the next three years. Syd’Quan Thompson is becoming a better returner with every passing week, showing a weaving ability to elude tacklers. One bad punt return and one missed field goal keep this from being perfect.
Coaching: Gregory’s schemes were pretty good but the players didn’t execute, and Alamar and the special teams seem to be back to normal. No, the biggest issue I had with Cal’s loss is something Hydrotech already noted. Something isn’t quite right with what I’m seeing from Cal’s quarterbacks. Longshore and Riley have played…below par, and their play continues to show little or no signs of improvement. No progression, just stagnation.
Overall: California and Arizona were rated at pick’em before the game, and aside from that ghastly third quarter, there’s no doubt the game could’ve swung either way. When you’re on the road, considering the inexperience of the offensive unit and the swings between good defense and bad defense, this game wasn’t awfully surprising. The swings went Arizona’s way when they needed to, and Tuitama and Antolin brought them home.
Factoring all this in, the Bears still seem on pace for the 8-4 season we expected from them. Tough loss, but we’ve seen much worse in the Tedford era.
Final grade: C-
Vote in the sidebar and leave your parting thoughts on Cal-Arizona in the comments.
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Sorry I’m late with this guys, I was supposed to post it this morning and I didn’t notice until now that it apparently was posted for Sunday. That wouldn’t have been much help to anyone.
Leave comments if there are any corrections I need to make to either map.
Liveblog starts at 9:45 PM EST, 6:45 PST. See you then!
“How do you defend against [archnemesis/former Texas Tech OC’s Sonny Dykes’s spread] offense?
1. You must limit yards after the catch. When this offense racks up 40+ points, it is due to big gains off short passes. Think of how the Patriots used Wes Welker (who played at Texas Tech) last season, hitting him in stride all over the field. How do you limit these yards? There is only one way, and it’s got very little to do with scheme or coaching: fast, athletic linebackers. If you have quick, rangy linebackers, the receivers will get stopped dead in their tracks. If you don’t, this offense will run your defense ragged. Cal really didn’t have that kind of quickness versus Tech in 2004, and it made it hard to stop them.
2. You must have success with disguised, well-timed blitzes, preferably zone blitzes. Arizona’s spread is a bit more susceptible to the blitz than the Tech spread because they do not subsist entirely on short passes. They will look deep, and they do run the ball occasionally. But with 5 options to throw to, a good QB like Tuitama is going to burn a blitz if he sees it coming.
3. Punish the receivers for catching the ball. This offense needs receivers to catch over the middle to be truly effective and spread the defense out. A couple huge hits can cause receivers to be hesitant or drop balls, which kills the timing and rhythm of the offense.
4. Keep your offense on the field as long as possible. This offense can score alarmingly fast, so no lead is really safe. But it can also go 3 and out in 10 seconds. If you can make them pay by keeping them off the field, it disrupts their rhythm.”
“If Cal can successfully run the ball tomorrow against Arizona, it is very difficult for me to see them losing against Arizona, barring any costly turnovers. In their two losses this season, Arizona has given up 507 yards on the ground rushing the ball. They face a Cal offense that is currently 3rd in the conference in rushing yards per game, averaging 180.0 yards on the ground. Cal shouldn’t get too excited just yet however, as the commonality in the two rushing attacks that Zona stuggled against were power running games with both Stanford backs Toby Gerhart and Rodney Ferguson of New Mexico, topping out over 230 pounds.
Neither of Cal’s featured backs in Jahvid Best or Shane Vereen even break up the 200 lb. mark, so breaking tackles and moving piles won’t really be a big part of Cal’s rushing strategy. However, if Cal’s offensive line can control the line of scrimmage and open up enough holes for Best or Vereen to break into the second level, it might be a long day for the Arizona defense. Cal’s run blocking struggled mightily in the second half of the Arizona State, as the Sun Devils’ defense keyed in on the run as the Bears nursed a lead. They need to reestablish themselves as a unit against the Wildcats Saturday, and with Arizona’s lack of depth at the defensive tackle position, it might just the place to do it.”
“Historical implications aside, Tuitama has stepped up his game even further this season, tossing just two picks to 13 touchdowns. His accuracy has also steadily improved, and the senior trails only USC’s Mark Sanchez for the conference’s top mark in passer rating with 152.2. “You can really see that his comfort level has grown,” Tedford said. Arizona’s bevy of downfield options has only helped Tuitama notch his impressive stats. Wideout Mike Thomas, who went for 1,038 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007, returned for his senior campaign and has maintained his status as the quarterback’s main draw this season. Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean have also emerged as steady targets for the Wildcats, while tight end Rob Gronkowski (five touchdowns) also merits mention as one of the best in the nation at his position.”
“With Best likely to return to action this week, Arizona will have a big challenge on Saturday as it tries to stop the Golden Bear running attack, especially considering that the Wildcat defense gave up 286 yards to Stanford last weekend. “I’m sure they’ll see that on tape and see, ‘Hey, we got to try and run the ball on them and get some big plays in the run game,'” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “We’re gonna have our hands full.” The California defense, ranked in the top 27 nationally in total yards allowed per game (290.6) and points allowed per game (18.0), also has a difficult job ahead. The Sonny Dykes version of the spread offesne creates favorable matchups for Arizona. It could be tough for the Wildcats this weekend, however, if Cal’s defensive line is as disruptive as in recent games. The Golden Bears have 13 sacks through five games. But Cal head coach Jeff Tedford sees this weekend’s Arizona game as a huge test.”
At 4-1 with seven fat Pac-10 games to go, Cal is once again ranked, once again in first place in the conference, and once again besot with a doubting fanbase wondering just how good (or bad) the team really is. Why are we still wondering? Because college football is epistemologically… well, complicated. The future is unknown. The past is impenetrable.
Consider: to answer how good you are, you look at the games you’ve played. And to assess those games, you look at the quality of the competition. And to assess the quality of the competition, you look at their competition, and so on. In other words, mere records are deceptive because they ignore strength of schedule. But strength of schedule is deceptive unless it takes into account the records and competition of one’s competition. And if you follow that reasoning too far, you wind up with a muddle of contradictions and a world in which every team has approximately the same strength of schedule because every team plays competition that plays competition that plays competition drawn from the same interconnected pool of something like 150 teams. This is also, BTW, one of the main reasons why the BCS never works out.
Now, having set out the philosophical limitations of our inquiry, let us go forth into an examination of what our past and our future appear to tell us about the 2008 edition of the California Golden Bears.
Our Past Through It’s Future
What we know about Michigan State (6-1, 3-0)
Since losing the season opener to Cal, the Spartans have been spotless. They boast the nation’s leading rusher and a darkhorse Heisman candidate in Javon Ringer. Aside from being undefeated against all non-Cal competition, MSU has posted wins over Notre Dame (whose only other loss was to #18/21 North Carolina) and the previously-undefeated Northwestern (albeit previously-undefeated against jokey competition).
What Michigan State tells us about Cal
Cal held Ringer to 81 yards rushing. Since that game, Ringer has averaged more than twice that at about 172 ypg. In other words, the 3-4 works, Cal is capable of shutting down any rushing attack in the nation, Cal D great!
What we know about Washington State (1-6, 0-4)
What Wazzu tells us about Cal
We’re slightly better at beating up Wazzu than Oregon and Oregon State were. Although, as I noted after the game, our rout of Wazzu was the most decisive conference win in Cal history, that really says more about Wazzu than about Cal.
What we know about Maryland (4-2, 1-1)
They’re erratic. Maryland has famously beat ranked Cal and Clemson, but inexplicably lost to Middle Tennessee and, in perhaps the most shocking result of the year so far, got shutout 31-0 by an atrocious Virginia team. It’s possible that Maryland has a problem with looking ahead (the loss to Middle Tennessee was immediately before the matchup with Cal and the loss to Virginia preceded this weeks matchup with #21/19 Wake Forest). Another possibility is that Maryland’s competition has been misjudged. Perhaps Clemson just isn’t as good as people thought (having themselves just lost to Wake and having just fired head coach Tommy Bowden) and maybe Virginia isn’t as terrible as they seemed (losses to Duke and UConn no longer look so bad, and UVa did just knock off former cinderella East Carolina by more than two touchdowns).
What Maryland tells us about Cal
Bears hate humidity. Other than that, Cal is capable of losing — not just to a U$C — but to any reasonably skilled BCS-conference team that happens to execute on a day when Cal doesn’t. Cal also has the ability to come back against a skilled team when it does execute. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. Also, Cal’s D has a much tougher time against a balanced offensive attack than one that goes one-dimensional.
What we know about Colorado State (3-3, 1-1)
At 50% on the season and in conference, the Rams have won two games by three points apiece, and lost another game by six. Their only decisive win was a 41-28 victory over UNLV (the same UNLV that beat Arizona State in OT), and their only decisive losses were the opener to Colorado and the rout at Cal.
What CSU tells us about Cal
Cal has enough talent and explosiveness on defense to rout mediocre teams regardless of how the Cal offense performs. That’s worth keeping in mind for future games against some of the Pac-10’s less fortunate. It’s less comforting when it comes to above-average competition.
What we know about Arizona State (2-4, 0-2)
Talented, but hopelessly flawed. ASU is in the midst of a four game losing streak that began with an inexcusable OT loss to UNLV, that then meandered through drubbings by Georgia, Cal and, in a 28-0 shutout, U$C. That last loss is tempered a bit by the fact that, in injuring Carpenter, Cal softened up ASU’s best (ok, only) offensive threat. In any case, ASU doesn’t look to be anywhere near a complete team capable of competing in the Pac-10.
What ASU tells us about Cal
Cal’s defense is about as efficient at shutting down a quality one-dimensional passing attack as it was at shutting down a one-dimensional rushing attack. If Cal’s offense can achieve it’s own balance and rhythm, it’s definitely capable of putting points on the board.
Our Future Through Its Past
The inconsistency of the Pac-10’s performance makes it difficult to draw many conclusions about the teams we have yet to face. Each has either lost a game it had no business losing (Arizona @ New Mexico/Stanfurd, Oregon v. Boise State, U$C at Oregon State, Oregon State @ Stanfurd) or has otherwise been dramatically routed by a mediocre team (UCLA @ Utah, Stanfurd @ ASU, UDubb against anyone). This tells us that any of the teams we face is capable of going down… but so are we.
The most frightening feature of our future through it’s past: Stanfurd has already played four Pac-10 games, and has won three of them. The Axe comes first people, and let’s not forget it.
This opened at Pick’em, but some sportsbooks have moved the line up. I wasn’t terribly surprised with the line, given all the staistical indicators seem to point toward this game going either way. Why? Just look at Sagarin.
Sagarian has these teams on equal footing this week. Although they have California ranked at #15 and Arizona at #37 overall, their Predictor Ratings are approximately identical: Cal at 86.25, Arizona at 84.09 (8th and 15th on the Sagarin Predictors). So given that the differential is 2.16 and Sagarin places a -2.87 homefield advantage point, Sagarin’s spread would have Arizona favored by barely 0.71 points, about on par with the original Vegas line.
Why the two point shift? I can only think that Vegas believes Jahvid Best will play, which would dramatically alter the offensive gameplan for the Golden Bears. Considering how Arizona has been gashed by power running, and how impressive Shane Vereen has been out of the blocks, Best would give the Bears a decent edge and makes California a more attractive option to bet on against the line. If you picked up the Bears at pick’em, there’s a decent chance at a middle with Arizona +2.5, considering how close this game will be.
Interest on betting this line: Meh. There isn’t much of a reason to cause yourself more undue stress by betting on the Golden Bears, unless you’re totally confident in the defense smashing Willie Tuitama into the ground. Bet Cal if you like, but I can see this game going either way. Flip a coin! Football betting is never usually this hard.
(Started a thread about cardinal sins for Cal fans last night over at CGB. Come take a gander.)
I am not a Nate Longshore fan. I admit that.
It’s nothing personal because he seems like a nice young man, polite, cheerful, upbeat. He is an undergraduate the University of California can be proud of. But I don’t like him as a quarterback.
He is too programmed, too much like a machine, has no intuition or feel or imagination for quarterbacking. He is Kerry Collins instead of Steve Young and that means he does well when everything is perfect, when things go right and he can line up a receiver and throw with no one making his life miserable by chasing him out of the pocket. He is a serviceable college quarterback, although his coach Jeff Tedford has not believed in him.
Let’s ignore the fact that Kerry Collins guided the Penn State Nittany Lions to a Rose Bowl, because facts are inconvenient and we have no use for them here. Lowell does bring up an interesting point: Is Nate Longshore a capable enough machine? Or are there other machines with a better quarterback package that Jeff Tedford should consider trying out?
Here are some candidates we’ve found for the job.
Upside: Already has the golden colors to distinguish himself as Golden Bear through and through. Very good quarterback draw runner, since he’s best at panicking and running away from danger. Debatable if knowing the Wookie language will help subdue the beasts running to sack him. Already has an affectionate nickname of Goldenrod.
Downside: Flatfooted in the pocket. Not capable of lateral movement. Has difficulty grasping ball since he lacks ability to clasp his hands together. Not sure If tackled, very likely to break into a thousand pieces. Needs R2-D2 to be succesful in anything he does, and the astromech has a terrible history of dropping catches that any regular receiver could make. Prissiness and British accent prone to make him least popular player in the locker room.
Chances he’s a better quarterback=The odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field.
Upside: Quick-witted, so usually knows how to get himself out of trouble. He has extendable arms, which would make it hard for someone to tip his passes. Also very likely to throw a deep ball, although it’s debatable how accurate that throw would be.
Downside: Hostile and belligerent. Not terribly mobile. VERY flatfooted. As in his feet are flat. Bender would probably end up tailgating before, during, and after the game and would toxically belch his offensive line into submission. Probability for intentional safety increases by 700%.
Chances he’s a better quarterback: 01011 (translate into base ten please?)
Upside: He’s foreign, he’d attract half the girls in the school, he has played in championship situations.
Downside: He’s foreign, he’d attract half the girls in the school, he has sucked in championship situations.
Chances he’s a better quarterback=chances he’s a better two-guard than Kobe.
Upside: Has awesome depth perception, so should be able to read routes within seconds and find the open receiver without much trouble, depending how mobile his throwing arm is. Anyone trying to tackle him and end up cracking their helmets off his metal exterior.
Additionally, would kick everyone’s ass. If Rey Maualuga were to attempt to sack him, RoboCop would simply aim his Cobra assault cannon in his direction. Wham. No more Rey Maualuga. Could use his explosive cache of weapons to subdue any defenders on the warpath. Option play for RoboCop would send Pac-10 defenders fleeing.
Downside: Probably would be suspended after one or two games. Would most likely destroy the stadium, and its fans with his explosive gameplay. Could also come after his teammates who have committed felonies since he has been programmed to uphold the public trust.
Ensuing collateral damage would mark him as a threat to aforementioned public trust. Would hence commit suicide and be wildly mourned and feared. Stadium takes fifteen years to rebuild. Assuming Tedford survives and witnesses the ensuing fallout, heads off to revive some fledgling program somewhere.
Chances he’s a better quarterback: 1100X percent.
Upside: An efficient collective hive mind allows for generally proper analysis and logical decision-making in the pocket. Would probably be most like Longshore of all the machines on this list, although that’s not saying much.
Downside: Can only back up one step at a time in the pocket. Might require that his own offensive line commits a billion holding penalties to prevent from careening into him.
Oh yeah, and as a sidebar to winning football games, might require all Cal coaches and players to submit to the Hive Mind and assimilate. Coach Tedford would not be pleased with this outcome. Would probably send the Borg searching for humpback whales.
Chances they’re a better quarterba–SUBMIT TO THE HIVE. California Golden Borg 4ever.
Which machines do you think would be better quarterbacks than Nate Longshore?
California Golden Bears at Arizona Wildcats
Time: 7 PM
Networks: CSN+ Bay Area (channel 400 something on Comcast for most of us in the Northern California/Bay Area, who knows what for everyone else), FSN Pacific, FSN Arizona, FS Northwest, FCS Pacific. All sorts of madness to try and figure out how to watch the game this week, although it should be sorted out once you find the right channel.
Note: Thanks to members of the 506: “Cal’s website has this game showing on CSN California (formerly CSN West). Expect Cal’s website to change as CSN Bay Area’s website confirms that this will be shown on their alternate channel (CSN+ Bay Area). You’ll have to scroll down a touch to see the CSN Plus listings:
Per CSN California’s website, they will show the Kings-Mavericks preseason NBA game at 6 PM PST (with a repeat broadcast at 8:30 Pm PST).
Announcers: Greg Papa, Mike Pawlawski, Kym McNicholas
One week after defensive end Greg Hardy dismantled Florida with his pass rushing ability, the talented junior seemed invisible during the Rebels’ 31-24 loss to South Carolina on Saturday.
By the second half, Hardy was rarely on the field and finished with just one tackle. The UM coaches say the decreased playing time was because they didn’t feel Hardy was giving maximum effort.
“In this sport here, if you’re not excited about Saturday, something is wrong,” defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “I don’t know what was wrong (with Hardy), but I got a lot of kids out here that want to play. Counseling time is over. I made a switch because I was trying to win the game.”
This is an unusually harsh analysis of a young college football player, especially after the dominating performance he put on in Gatorland, but oh well, what have you done for me lately.
Houston Nutt was more levelheaded.
“(Hardy) just wasn’t playing at the energy level that we’re used to from him,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “… But he wasn’t the only one. For whatever reason, we had some guys who weren’t right that day. We’ve got to get better.”
Nutt seems to be describing a phenomenon that is common in the college football landscape:
Disregard of regression toward the mean — the tendency to expect extreme performance to continue.
A week before they got beat up by a fairly lame South Carolina team, Ole Miss went into the Swamp and upset one of the top five teams in the nation. Although Ole Miss is a talented team (they were ranked in my top 25 blogpoll at the beginning of the season based on talent alone), they’re still far behind the Gators in terms of depth. You could say they played at the extreme level of . This game was pretty much a replication of Nutt’s triple OT thriller in Death Valley with McFadden and Arkansas last Thanksgiving).
Unsurprisingly, the team shifted back to first gear when they played South Carolina, and lost.
USC dominated an Ohio State team in the most hyped game of the year, and then went into Corvallis and sleptwalk their way through three out of four quarters in the biggest upset of the season. Alabama throttled Georgia in a Black Out, then promptly sleptwalk through the Kentucky game. These things happen all the time.
Candidates to look out for this week: Colt McCoy and Texas, possibly Saban and Alabama (facing…guess who…Ole Miss).
Recent Golden Bear example: Remember when DeSean Jackson had some good returns but was quiet for most of the first four games, had that fabulous game against Oregon last September, then disappeared in nonprominent games not featured on ABC? People may wonder if he was sabotaged by bad quarterback play, or toxic locker room drama, or Tedford refusing to call passes for him. The explanation is probably more simple: Defenses doubled up on him, forced Cal to dial up plays to Hawkins and Jordan, and perhaps he got mixed up on a few plays after being rock solid the week before.
In other words, he regressed to the mean after acheiving perfection. Just like many college athletes do.
Can you think of any other athletes who regressed to the mean after an astounding performance?
After Rob Calonge gave this site massive props in putting us in the “Best Blogs” category with other worthy contenders and adding us to his Oski’s Favorites linkroll, it was time to return the favor. I wrote up an article in the SF Examiner discussing the divisive nature of Cal fans and the quarterback debate (heard about it?). I get all political and stuff. I love election season.