Five Things: Washington

Nam Le, Golden Bear Report
Golden Bear Report
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Troy Wayrynen - USA Today Sports

Uh, so I missed the game last week, but I don’t really have to have watched it to tell you that:

1. Cal lost 1 (run the dang ball) by gaining 40 yards on 20 non-QB carries. I don’t exactly blame Beau Baldwin here, considering that our top RB is out, Vic barely played – I suspect he’s injured too, based on last week – and the line really…isn’t very good yet.

2. Third Downs? 4 of 18, with the average distance at 8.8 yards per attempt. Another loss. Oregon was 6 of 14 from an average distance of 5.5 yards, by comparison.

3. Cal only lost the turnover battle 2-1, because they had far bigger issues to worry about against the Ducks, thankfully. Or maybe not thankfully, considering how they almost beat USC behind 6 of the damn things.

4. Oregon Front 7 vs Cal OL – perhaps the biggest, most decisive series of losses we’ve seen in this category in a while. 7 sacks, 11 TFL on 72 plays, and a 2.0 RB YPC? Christ.

5. Four Quarter – I’m going to give the Bears half a point here because until the sack and fumble midway through the fourth quarter – that sounds familiar again – they were still in a game tight against an opponent they had no business hanging around with. It wasn’t an ideal bounce back by any means

0.5 of 5 on the scorecard, though, spells the first big loss of the Justin Wilcox era.

For Washington, the Bears will need to…

I don’t freaking know. Listen, 26.5 points from Vegas means they peg Cal as having near zero chance of winning, and I am not sure I can blame them much – this is the only matchup I knew coming into the year was a nigh-unwinnable anyway. Between two power 5 teams, that gap is ridiculous – and should they win, it would be the kind of game that is mentioned for years and years to come.

Still, they gotta play the damn thing:

1) Morale management – This was what I was afraid of – the momentum of a 3-0 start is bleeding out before our eyes, with a slide down to 3-4 possible, before the critical, absolutely must-win Arizona matchup. What this item means is – are they tight again with teams we have no chance of beating? Will they be competitive for most of it? Do they get blown out early and quit? Do they show bad body language? When do they pull the starters, and does the game-state of pulling them or not pulling them indicate deficit management to hide the margin of defeat (like Sonny was so good at) or for learning opportunities?

2) Ain’t played nobody! – If we’re looking for any slightest flaw in the outstanding statistical profile Washington’s put together, in which excel at producing explosive plays, preventing them on defense, and move the ball at a consistent clip to boot – and I have to try hard to make a cse here -- it’s that their non-conference slate that helped produced those numbers has been below about 50 feet of crap, and Colorado’s an average team according to S&P+. The metrics suggest Cal's no better than any of those teams, and I will grant you that, but at the same time, Rutgers is 1-3 and played them pretty close…

3) Growth targets for OL – Well, they have who they have. The guys aren’t all there yet this year – there are just too many new starters still growing into their bodies, and not much depth behind them as other options. Meanwhile, Washington’s Havoc rate is consistent from all three levels of the defense, and ranks 21st in the country with 19.7% -- one out of every five plays, they’re being disruptive, so instead of thinking we straight up stop them with this personnel, you want to see us run for…a more normal YPC than last week, less than double digit TFLs, only two sacks, and holding them to below their normal Havoc. Those would all be good bounceback marks. I’m not expecting a win in this area.

(Washington is the No. 1 team at stopping explosive runs.)

4) Paging Brandon Singleton and Jordan Duncan – Noa’s going to be good next year. Vic Wharton’s doing fine. But they have no deep threat to help them out, no tight end stressing defenses in the middle of the field, and teams now know what we plan to do with Patrick Laird in the pass game, which means someone else has to step up. Singleton feels like a logical candidate to try to take over D Rob’s speed downfield, yet has rarely seen any PT this year, and Duncan’s been largely unremarkable when he plays at all – true freshman Jeremiah Hawkins drew more targets than the two of them combined. Perhaps it's too early on both.

But man, they need someone. The opportunity is ripe to start stepping up for next year. The offense is going to be really limited until someone does.

5) No injuries – This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Offensively, they can’t take anymore losses. D Rob’s confirmed done, Melquise missed this week, Saffle’s done for the year, etc. If it gets out of hand, you want to prefer they get the backups in quick. The team still has a future beyond this game, including some matchups they can still flat out take, and a couple others stealable.

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