Unnoticed Bears Of The Week: California's Under-Credited Plays and Players
Football is one of the few sports where you can be one of the elite players at a given position and still go relatively unnoticed. It is easy to ignore the small minutiae when a running back breaks off a 47-yard run, a receiver makes a one-handed grab, a corner rips the ball from the receiver's hands, or a defensive end crushes the quarterback for a sack.
Those are the sorts of things that wind up on a stat sheet. This article is for the California Golden Bears' plays and players that do not "count." (Sadly, as I am limited to what can be seen by the television cameras, plays and players might be missed, though I will do what I can to avoid that.)
First, to the offensive line. Easily one of the least glamorous positions in sports, the "Bears" of the offense did a great job opening holes. A closer look at the touchdown runs usually demonstrated the o-line's ability to seal off blockers from getting in the hole and their talent for getting a push at the line.
One example comes from Best's third TD scamper. Left tackle Mike Tepper sealed his man while the left guard got a great push to get Best to the second level.
Mike Summers-Gavin was one of two Bears pushing a pile to enable Shane Vereen to convert on 3rd-and-3 at the Gophers' 27. Two plays later, Best was in the end zone.
The o-line as a whole did a great job getting the push for Riley to get the first down on the quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter. It was a key play in sealing the win for the Bears, allowing them to run off more of the clock and eventually score the game-clinching touchdown. They are a solid unit, and have played well this season.
Next, take a look at the wide-outs. Wide receivers might seem like an odd bunch to get credit in an article about the less glamorous positions, but in Cal's offense, it fits in quite nicely. This is a group that does their jobs exceptionally well, especially considering how the position is well known for diva-like tendencies.
On one play, they sold a screen fake to the trips side, spreading the defense and allowing the screen up top to be that much more effective.
The downfield blocking was, again, solid (I think that might be a running theme, especially if Cal is going to excel this season). Marvin Jones was key in more than one touchdown run by forcing defenders to take poor angles when he could not engage them.
On defense, Mychal Kendricks did a great job of reading plays, though he might not get much credit because other defenders (Michael Mohamed, Devin Bishop) made the play. (I'm not counting his forced fumble, since those show up in the stat sheet.)
Kendricks was about to hit quarterback Adam Weber when Bishop sacked him. Both came from the outside and were right on Weber, but Bishop made the play.
The other play came on the next series when, on 3rd-and-15, both Kendricks and Mohamed read the screen pass and avoided the blockers. The ball-carrier was closer to Mohamed, so the tackle and the play were his. But Kendricks showed a natural nose for the ball on those plays, and was in position if his teammates had not been there to make the play.
Now, for the Unnoticed Players of The Week:
Unnoticed Offensive Player of The Week: Brian Holley. Some fullbacks get regular opportunities to make plays with the ball, but Holley is not one of them. He was not able to add to his season-total four touches against Minnesota, but his presence was felt all over the field.
He seemed to go into every block with a full head of steam, stunning defenders left and right. He helped push the pile to get Vereen the first down on a 3rd-and-3 during the third touchdown drive. He aided the offensive linemen by providing nice chip blocks. On the final touchdown run of the game, he collapsed a blitzing linebacker, which allowed Best to get to the corner.
Unnoticed Defensive Player of The Week: Cameron Jordan. He had a somewhat slow first half, but his relentless motor showed up in the second half as he never quit on the game. As the opposing tackle wore down and received less and less help from the guard, Jordan's presence became more noticeable.
By the end of the game, he was routinely in Weber's face, stopping the Gophers' quarterback from engineering a game-tying drive and helping to force the final interceptions.
Unnoticed Special Teams Player of the Week: D.J. Campbell (with apologies to Quinn Tedford if he was in on special teams as well, since they are both No. 7). As a gunner on punts, he downed one punt on the 2 and forced a fair catch on the 13, the two worst starting positions Minnesota had all game.
He also was the one who finally tackled Hayo Carpenter at the 47 on Cal's first kickoff. Special teams is usually where players are only noticed when they mess up, which would explain why you did not hear D.J. Campbell's name very often.
The little things in football mean the difference between first down and fourth down, between the ball on the 20 or the ball on the two, between winning and losing. If California's unsung heroes continue to do these little things, there is no limit to what the Bears can do this season.
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