John Hefti - USA Today Sports
Scorecard time, y’all.
From last week:
1) Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones vs Cal front 7 – WIN. They tackled well, held up against most of the outside work, and sure, Ronald Jones didn’t play, but you’re only responsible for stopping the guys who get on the field. Considering the matchups and the lack of depth in the defensive line, you take it. (Carr also only ran for 4.1 YPC.)
2) Explosives – DRAW. After mentioning the need for Cal to produce some sort of coherent gameplan in this area with D Rob out, the things we tried using Stovall and Jeremiah Hawkins ended up not being particularly effective, and we stopped leaning on Laird inside too, where he has a good chance of making something happen on his own. Cal ended up with a higher explosive percentage than SC, though, which is undeniably acceptable.
3) Extra possessions – LOSS. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.
Not one, not two, not…even our onside kick attempt late went Cal's way.
4) Pass rush – DRAW. A lot of pressure, a lot of unable to finish the sack. Having Saffle out really hurt them in this category, and deploying Devante Downs in the middle didn’t work as well either. Largely encouraging, though. Darnold didn’t settle in and dominate.
5) Petite/Imatorbhebhe – WIN. 4-46-1 is acceptable with one of the starting backers out. I was imagining worse given up to the tight end position. Most of it was just checkdown, safety valve stuff.
To beat Oregon, the Bears need to:
1) Run the dang ball, Beau – It’s obvious by now that there are serious limits to the kind of playmaking Ross Bowers provides at this moment as a first year starter, so trusting him to make the win happen for us is too much, really. Keep things under control, take the opportunities that open up as you keep the game under control. The defense is good enough to keep you in it. That sentence is still weird to type. I gotta try again. The defense is good enough to keep you in it. Less weird now.
Anyway, given that, the strategy shouldn’t be to try to keep pace with anyone. It just can’t be, and no matter how effective it is right away or not, the threat of the run must exist for there to be any opportunity outside.
Also, I don’t know why Ross is not pulling the ball to run on zone-read, but it’s been there for him if he’s wanted it.
2) Third downs – Oregon was 1-11 of third downs (mostly incomplete passing on 3rd and long) last week against Arizona State, which is a large part of why they lost in Tempe, and are at 44% for the year, which is 39th in the country. Cal continues to struggle in this category themselves, and sit closer to the 80s.
Keep them off the field, keep Cal on it. Pretty easy. The game plan this week will probably try to ensure some easy stuff for Bowers again, but I worry that teams are already onto what Bowers can or cannot do. Now comes the counter-adjustments.
3) Ball security – ‘nuff said.
4) Oregon front 7 vs Cal OL – Jalen Jelks recorded three sacks last week. Senior linebacker Jonah Moi has three himself, and while Cal has done a decent job keeping actual sacks away from Bowers, he may be without Valentino Daltoso again and the interior of the line remains kind of small. Tackle play, from my perception, has been generally better than the guard play, but regardless, moving the pieces against these guys will be former Colorado DC Jim Leavitt, who has coached the Ducks to a 4.58 YPP, a mark right inside top 25 in the country, from 115th and 6.41 last year. (Cal’s jump has been from 122nd – 6.71 to 79th – 5.55, in case you’re wondering).
The Ducks also have 32 TFLs on the year, which ties them at 18th, while Cal is 71st with 22. Against Arizona State, the Ducks had 13 tackles for loss, by the way.
5) Four Quarter – I hate making these kinds of comments, since psyche is so tough to gauge in 18-22 year olds, but I’m looking to see how they rebound after their first loss in the Wilcox Era. This will particularly be true against the new look Oregon Ducks, who have thus far tended to race to an early lead, before pulling up off the gas in the second half – this happened against Wyoming, where they only scored 7 in the final two quarters, and Nebraska as well, where they allowed 21 unanswered and barely escaped with the 42-35 win. These are small sample sizes, to be sure, and Oregon had to play from behind against the Sun Devils, but the larger takeaway is that they cannot run in and get blown out. This version of the Cal Bears isn’t a play from a massive deficit team. Can they play a complete game? Can they dictate the state of things?