Let’s Speak of It One More Time: Cal-Maryland Report Card
First of all, everyone’s looking for a scapegoat to blame Cal. The humidity, the weather, the turnovers, the coaching. Clearly, Maryland did nothing to win that game; this was all Cal playing below their level, right?
Fine, if you’re going to blame someone, blame me. Here’s what I said before the game.
Again, this being a young team, expect some growing pains (first game, then first road game, now first national TV game), but Cal will have to kill themselves repeatedly to fall.
Nervous? Jittery? Wouldn’t you be?
An innocuous jab at Maryland, but a jab nonetheless. Just damned stupid, especially knowing Cal -14 was going to be a trap line all week long. Someone meet me on San Pablo and place a pickaxe through my skull. For more stupidity, I added in that dumb poll on the sidebar to project Cal’s season, that included an option for Cal going to the National Championship game, which was insane. That answer has been eliminated, and voters who are wiser than me were smart enough not to pick it.
Goddamn 66-3. It made me channel my best Bill Simmons impression. I jinxed the team. And for my last moment of Sports Guydom, I’ll admit I’m an idiot.
It’s my fault, damnit! Give me all the blame!
Alright, time for some fairly grim grades.
Quarterback: That interception was horrid, although it might have looked worse than it actually was–there is a possibility that the receiver on the play was caught slipping on the play and the D-back jumping into the route of the pass. But many of Riley’s balls did the same thing against Washington State–sail. It seemed the easier the pass was, the further the ball drifted away from the receiver.
Some of these passes were against tight coverage, so I can’t totally blame him. On the other hand, he was holding onto the ball a long time, making a few receivers frustrated they were not getting the ball in time. It makes you wonder if he’s going through all his progressions and reading as many of his receivers as he can. A nasty side effect was that it eventually made him a sitting duck against an aggressive pass rush.
On the other hand, he did lead the team back late on three scoring drives. So he did show that comeback ability when he needed to, albeit far too late to make a dent on the game.
I don’t know. I need to watch more tape. To be continued.
Running backs: Jeremy Ross had the biggest rush of the game. That is pretty bad. At least Best still accumulated 200+ all-purpose yards, although his overblown Heisman hopes (the dumbest thing to emerge from last week’s beating) are over. I’m not in mourning over it. He’ll have more years.
Just eat better Best. Whatever came out of your mouth yesterday was not pretty.
Receivers: Eventually, all these receivers looked good. At the beginning, none of them looked good. Some of it was due to passes from Riley sailing over their heads, some of it was likely due to bad routes being run yet again. Cunningham, Boateng and Calvin would all have solid games by evening’s end, but you have to wonder when the offense will start to click together as a cohesive unit for an entire game. Hopefully it’ll happen before Oregon.
Run blocking: What does humidity do to these guys? The same problems emerged in the Tennessee game, where Cal could not move the ball or protect the quarterback. Chet Teofilo and Noris Malele did not look sharp. Even Alex Mack went mad. Everytime early in the game it seemed the offense made a big play, the offensive line committed a stupid penalty to bring it right back.
The Bears had three rushes over seven years the entire game. They had three rushes over forty yards last week. This is a slight downgrade.
Pass protection: Kevin Riley got sacked five times and knocked to the ground a few more times. Some of it was due to his holding the ball, some of it wasn’t. This was still their worst performance in years, especially considering the underwhelming performances of the the team they were facing. Oh well, Maryland’s pass defense seemed to finally awaken after their trashing last week.
Run defense: I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but the run defense wasn’t that bad after the first quarter. They gave up about 65 yards in the first quarter and then 76 yards the rest of the game, and half of that was on the Megget run after the onside kick that set up the deciding score. They looked worse than they actually were. The linebackers eventually got to the edges and kept up with Scott, and they did the same with Megget later on. Still, most run defenses would take three yards per carry.
A hobbled Rulon Davis did not help matters early though. The Terps got penetration up the middle at the goalline at will.
Pass Defense: I don’t know what was up with surfer dude turned quarterback Chris Turner, but he played out of his goddamned mind. He was six for six on 3rd downs, getting five first downs (including on a 3rd and 9, 3rd and 12, and a 3rd and 16). Either way, it reflects badly on the defense. I’d like to say the running game opened up their defensive options, but we all know this was not their finest hour.
The silver lining was Syd’Quan, who despite being burnt on some of Turner’s black magic passes continued to sparkle. His deflection of a Heyward-Bey touchdown was spectacular.
Pass Rush: Actually the best part of the entire game. Lost in the chaos was the Bears managing four sacks of Turner and a few more rushes that prevented drives from being extended anymore. Tyson Alualu was all over the place again. Somehow Turner made some crazy completions.
Special Teams: Excellent starting field position for Maryland all game long. A 24 yard field goal shanked off the upright. Muffed punt return. Two terrible onside kicks from Seawright. Only Best’s early returns and Anger’s excellent punting kept this from being an outright fail.
Coaching: We weren’t quite prepared.
Overall: Figures. Cal gets its best coverage of the entire season worldwide and they proceed to get spanked. Cal was starting early and adapting to the humidity and it showed for three quarters. Maryland was clearly angry about their last two performances and they were hyperfocused to beat us into the ground. And, of course, I jinxed them.
I’m not terribly disappointed by this loss though, because the Bears fought the whole way rather than caving in. They showed what they were capable of even if it was a little late. I knew they’d suffer through some ups and downs with this new offense in place, and although I’m surprised it happened this early, I wasn’t surprised it happened. This could have been a much bigger deficit; credit Cal for hanging in there and making it close in the end.
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