Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hats off to Gregory and the defense

Some initial thoughts:

1. Did I just see a Bob Gregory defense control a football game?
I think I did, but my mind is reluctant to believe what my eyes just saw. In fact, take away Cattouse going to sleep on the first ASU TD pass and the "leaping" penalty on the FG that led to the second TD, and the defense flirted with keeping ASU out of the endzone. They shut ASU's run game down (though it has been suspect all season), they got pressure without too much blitzing, and the corners were stout in run support. And we saw a lot a young players making plays (Jordan, Hagan, Conte, Cattouse, Kendricks). Good job, Bob Gregory.

2. The offense looked like its old self again behind Longshore (you can decide whether that is a good thing).
The opening drive was vintage Tedford, spreading the ball around, running the defense from one spot to another, and running smoothly. He even sprinkled in a red zone stall to make sure it was authentic. But there is no question that Tedford puts a high value on starting fast, especially with the initial scripted plays. Like it or not, Longshore accomplished that today, and it got the game off on the right foot (the fumble recovery that led to the first TD didn't hurt either). Riley was not doing this, and the contrast was apparent.

The offense also looked like its 2007 self at times. For example, it could not run the ball in the second half, despite sticking slavishly with the run. This was disturbing to say the least. I understand conservative play calling, but at one point late in the 4Q, Cal had only three first downs in the entire second half. The dynamic offense we saw in the first half curled fetal in the second half, and frankly almost gave the game away running Vereen into a pile and throwing predictable screens. I have to wonder if Tedford did not trust Longshore not to turn it over. That was certainly going through my mind every time he dropped back.

Still, a fast starting offense and a stout defense is the Tedford way, and it has won a lot of games the past few years. Nice to see it again.

3. Darian Hagan played like he aged a year since the beginning of the season.
Hagan looked like a confident playmaker out there. He made tackle after tackle in run support, and played like a ballhawk in pass. Without him playing well, Gregory cannot send pressure on the QB. If this keeps up, this defense is going to be formidable.

4. Shane Vereen is going to wear defenses down.
Vereen is reminiscent of Arrington the way he gets low and stumbles and scampers for two or three yards after contact. Defenses think they have him tackled after two yards, but when they get up and look where the ball is spotted, they realize he got two more. This is demoralizing as the game wears on. He also has a knack for avoiding big direct hits, and slipping off contact, something Arrington and Forsett did well (and something Best is still perfecting). This is another great Ron Gould coaching technique, and it allows his backs to stay healthy.


oldblue said...

I like the way we started, but not the way we ended. We are letting too many teams hang around and need to put them a way when we have the chance. At least a couple of first downs in the 4th quarter would have used the clock and iced the game. It would have been nice to rack up one more TD as well. I also wondered if the strategy was to avoid a situation where Nate would turn the ball over by throwing an interception, which doesn't really speak of confidence in your QB down the stretch. Against the likes of Oregon and USC we need a second half offense that can keep putting points on the board, or we will probably lose those games, stellar defensive play not withstanding.

SDGoldenBear said...

Couldn't agree more in theory, but like you, I think the coaches are worried about turning it over. While that does not bode well for USC and Ore games, I can see Tedford just wanting to get the W, get Nate some confidence, and get the young offense some reps in the run game. For all the talk about Tedford's innovative offensive mind, he is actually a very conservative, systematic coach in terms of game management.

That said, I think if Nate continues to start (and I think he should), I see the offense getting better. It is still behind where it should be, which suggests there is more improvement ahead.

An interesting thought is to use Riley in tight games down the stretch if Nate is struggling. Riley clearly excels under pressure, and he seems to avoid INTs.

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