Cal-Eastern Washington: What We Learned

WarderroCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Mychal Kendricks #30 of the California Golden Bears returns a fumble for 45 yards against Taiwan Jones #22 of the Eastern Washington Eagles at Memorial Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Cal's backfield just got deeper

Earlier, I asked about which reserves will shine for the Bears against the Eagles, and the answer seems to have come from the running back spot, as the Bears got another look at two capable runners with big play potential on Saturday.

Third string tailback Covaugh Deboskie-Johnson racked up 92 yards and a score, with a 8.4 yard average (the offensive line opening up entire Strawberry Canyons for him certainly helps).

Though his work (146 yards over the last two contest) has come in clean-up duty with the game well in hand, DebOSKIe-Johnson displayed some shifty moves and impressive quickness.

And then there was mighty mite Isi Sofele, who isn't likely to be an every down back, but has the speed to give defenders fits (particularly the Eastern Washington defender who had to endure Sofele's wicked cut-back on the way to a fourth-quarter touchdown).

In addition to a big name back, Jeff Tedford seems to have another replacement waiting in the wings (Lynch after Arrington, Forsett after Lynch, and Best after Forsett); this year appears to be no different.


The Bears' offense shouldn't expect this much help the rest of the season

Watching the contest from the stands today, it seemed like the Bears were starting in Eagles territory every other drive. Looking back at the numbers after the game, my thoughts weren't that inaccurate.

Of Cal's 12 drives, seven of them started at least at their 45 yard line, and five of them began in Eastern Washington territory altogether.

Starting in opponent's territory is always desirable, but tougher games (in hostile environments) loom against teams that will not be so generous. 

Cal has shown the ability to strike quickly—in two games, the Bears have scored in under two minutes 10 times—but will have to be able to put together longer scoring drives, particularly in pressure situations (which they haven't faced thus far).

Mychal Kendricks will be a good one

Fans will remember that Kendricks nearly scored a defensive touchdown after returning a recovered fumble to the five yard line in the second quarter (it took Eagles running back Taiwan Jones, a former track star, to catch him). 

The play, which began with a vicious Mike Mohamed sack, turned out to be huge because it stopped an Eastern Washington drive at mid-field—and the offense's rhythm for the rest of the game. 

But while he may get some teases for failing to take the ball into the end zone, it's hard to be disappointed with his performance so far this season.

As a reserve playing behind Worrell Williams, Anthony Felder, and Zack Follet, Kendricks notched 15 tackles in 2008.

On Saturday, he nearly matched that total, flying around Memorial Stadium and racking up a team high 14 stops; this comes a week after leading Cal in tackles against Maryland with 12.

As 2009 progresses, expect to hear his name a lot more. 


Kevin Riley has some nice security blankets to work with

Against Maryland, receiver Marvin Jones made a statement, and we already know what Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen can do as pass-catchers out of the backfield.

On Saturday, the wideouts took a considerable step back, but we were introduced to more options for Riley.

Anthony Miller was the team's leading receiver (three catches, 48 yards); he displayed good hands and, along with Skylar Curran (a touchdown last week), should develop into a couple of big, dependable targets over the middle.

Meanwhile, fullback Brian Holley showed soft hands and bruising, hard-nosed running after the catch (who doesn't like that combination?) to rack up 32 receiving yards of his own.

Of course, one would have liked to see the wideouts provide more than three combined catches (although 342 rushing yards, many of them coming on big early down chunks, certainly had something do with it).

But it's good to know that there are options to go to when the bigger play isn't available.


Jeremy Ross continues to tease me

In 2008, the speedy wideout was a wizard with the ball in his hands (his hurdle of a UCLA player rings a bell); but he was inconsistent when the ball was actually coming toward him.

Saturday, the story was very much the same, as he once again did his best Knowshon Moreno impression during a punt return; however, he also dropped a very catchable throw from Riley in the end zone and ended without a reception.

Ross is very dangerous in the return game (or any time he gets the ball in space) with his shifty feet and break away speed ; it's his hands and moves without the ball (i.e. route running) that need to become more reliable.