Saturday, November 22, 2008

Order Is Restored

Just some quick impressions:

1. Cal finally came out and took control of a game in the third quarter.

I have always considerd the third quarter the one where teams really show their true colors. Jacked up underdogs usually start to stumble, slow-starting favorites get warmed up and finally get going. And nervous teams tend to lose confidence and make mistakes. In its losses this season, Cal has come out of the locker room and let the other team seize the momentum. Not today. Today, they literally awoke from a slumber and took Stanford behind the woodshed, in all three phases. This is what they should have been doing all season. Better late than never.

2. Excellent offensive game plan (again).

This will go down as a poor offensive season from a statistical standpoint, but I actually think it has been some of the best game planning and scheming we've seen under Tedford. The problem has been mistakes and execution, but the plays have been there. What I also have been impressed with is the way the game plans seem to evolve each week, and the plays seem to to evolve, with more counters each week. With the musical chairs at QB and o-line, and the young WRs, I am sure it has been a challenge to game plan not only for the opposing defense, but also within the limitations of your personnel. Hats off to Cignetti in his debut season. I think things will be even smoother next season.

Today was a perfect example of that. The coaches know what they have in Riley and they used him the right way today. They loosened up the defense with screens, sweeps and counters, then let Riley pull the trigger a couple times, and then reined him in again. They didn't just force him to play a Nate Longshore game, standing in the pocket and making reads (which he really cannot do). It worked well. This is encouraging for next year.

3. If this team can run the ball consistently next season, they will average 50 points a game.

Those trick plays and counters are going to be there anyway, as they have this year even in games where Cal has struggled. But instead of trick plays serving as its only offense, if Cal can execute these back breaking plays and run the ball plain vanilla, "rice and beans" style, they are going to dominate people next year. With the speed at the skill positions, and another year of experience for Riley and the receivers, the speed of the offense is going to be lethal. It all hinges on the health and development of the offensive line. If they can come out and be consistent, this team could be scary on offense.

4. Bryan Anger is a phenomenal talent.

The kid not only averaged 60 yards per punt today, but that one punt he nailed to the 1-inch line (which the defense promptly squandered by vomiting up 90 yards to the Stanford offense), was a sight to see. On the radio post-game, color man Lee Grosscup said it's the single greatest punt he's ever seen at Memorial Stadium since he started doing games with Starkey 22 years ago. That includes watching guys like Nick Harris punt the ball. And Anger is only a freshman. He will be a formidable weapon for Cal next season.

And with the high value Tedford places on punting and field position, I'd say odds are 2:1 Tedford puts Anger in a hermetically sealed room during the offseason. Remember this is a man who flew to Australia to meet David Lonie's parents and seal the deal, and then got right back on the plane and came home. And this is a guy who gives scholarships to long-snappers, and beams with pride when he talks about them. Of course, my favorite Jim Tressel quote is that the punt is the most important play in football. If you buy that (and Jim Tressel knows a thing or two about this crazy game), Anger is the most important player on this team. Probably not, but it would be sort of Tedford-like to say that.

5. A good showing for some great recruits.

Cal had a star studded group of recruits visiting for this game, and showed them a glimpse of what this team is capable of. In particular, all-world defensive end/OLB Devon Kennard was in attendance, likely watching Zack Follett very closely. The coaches have talked to Kennard about playing a hybrid OLB position, which would allow him not only to be in the mix as a true freshman (he is that good), but give him the chance to use his speed dropping into coverage or blitzing from a two-point stance. Tedford and his staff really came up big today with these recruits on the sidelines.

It's good to get the Axe back. Now let's beat the Leg Humpers, go 8-4 and get to a nice bowl.


oldblue said...

I couldn't agree more that we dominated yesterday. The play calling was excellent and played to Riley's strengths, enabling him to execute more effectively. He still missed some open receivers, but overall had a good day and we scored and moved the ball more consistently. I think moving him out of the pocket on rollouts and screens gives him a better comfort level.

Seeing Cal turn it on in the second half was nice. In the first half, I was wondering what kind of day Best was going to have. It seemed as though every time someone laid a hand on him he went down. But in the second half he ran more aggressively, turning on the speed up field with cuts that gained more yardage, rather than dancing around looking for an opening.

Anger is phenominal. He will be fun to watch next year (and the year after that and the year after that).

Now, if we could just get a couple of first downs and hold onto the ball down the stretch and put some teams away instead of letting them believe they're still in the game ....

SD said...

Yeah I agree at times our RBs tend to go down too easily. When we're blocking well, it doesn't matter. But up the middle, the slightest hand slap seems to trip them up. I hope our line gets better next year, because Best and Vereen really only need a sliver of daylight.

I have to say, another thing that became painfully clear is our kickoff coverage and kick return coaching is lacking. Everyone in the stadium knew that onside kick was coming...except apparently coach Alamar. Cal's kick coverage has been terrible for years, and the punt and kick return has been burned by fakes and onsides too many times. And how come we can't just kick the freaking ball inside the 5 yard line? Kicking out of bounds is inexcusable.

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