Several of you have written to ask what happened to a A Cal Fan’s Notes this week. I apologize for being late but my wrists have just heeled. Also I have casts on both feet for having attempted suicide by jumping out of my basement window.
If you think sharing a bed with Hillary Clinton is tough, how would you like to be a Cal fan? Or worse yet—-share a bed with Bill Clinton. But I digress.
We Cal fans are an interesting subspecies. Or maybe we are just stupid. Could it be the residual effects of the drug infested 60’s? I can’t remember. Could it be masochism? “Beat me!” said the masochist. “No I won’t,” replied the Sadist.
We just can’t seem to win for losing or lose for winning—-I can’t remember that either.
We go from 6th to 24th? Every other top 10 team which loses drops 10 to 12 spots. Bears can’t even get a break from the pollsters (that’s hardly news—see Mac Brown). But of course, I’m just whining and deflecting attention from the real issue. I may have a future as Speaker of the House.
Everyone is in shock. Everyone wants an explanation. Everyone wants to point fingers. Before you blame it on the coaches, have you ever been the parent of a teenager--or a 20 year old. But more on that later
What happened? Sure, Cal’s offense looked deader than the Public Option. But rather than talk specifics for a moment, let’s look at some ancillary incidents which probably had nothing to do with the game—or may have had everything to do with it.
One of the finest young men ever to don a Cal Uni, Jahvid Best mysteriously admitted to a reporter that he didn’t like playing in Autzen Stadium. He said something about being able to “hear the fans.” Rabbit ears we call it. Rabbit ears not only affects one’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand (hard to remember your assignment when you’re listening to someone compare your Mother to Dumpster Muffin), admitting it in public only encourages more of it—at higher decibels. Not a deciding factor—but not neat, either.
Our spies also tell us that young Kevin Riley (who had performed heroically in the first three games) also has grave misgivings about playing up there. Apparently, he doesn’t like it because he’s from the area and his friends think he’s a “traitor.”
Still, not definitive, but that attitude could cause one to press more than normal.
Speaking of those “in the know” (when you get to be our age “inside info” is thecoin of the realm—though no one we know knows nada—still, we always talk in whispers and in that conspiratorial tone like we’ve got the inside dope). It usually comes from one of the trainer’s son’s wife’s hair dresser.
The word was out even before the season that Oregon had nothing. We had heard, even before the loss to Boise State that they were "terrible"—that we would kill them.
If anyone had thought that and it permeated down to the kids on the team—that couldn’t be good.
Also, call it adrenalin, neuro-transmitters, dopamine or serotonin—when one has an adrenalin rush and it’s over—for whatever reason—the legs just won’t work. We saw it in Tennessee. On the opening kick off Tight end Craig Stevenson, the biggest, baddest, toughest kid on the team, got his bell rung on the opening kick off and staggered off the field like me leaving Stoney’s tailgate late at night.
With his loss, the entire team deflated like a whoopee cushion on Charles Barkley’s couch.
Unlike other sports, because football is so physical, you can just “see” it when a team has lost its fight and doesn’t “hit.”—especially the D. There was a lot of pushing and shoving and zero leather smacking sticking (am I dating myself?).
Conversely, what makes the Big Game so exciting is that even with average athletes, the adrenalin rush is so great (it being the last game of many kid’s careers) that bodies seem to fly through the air and smash into one another with reckless abandon.
Of course the Ducks were the perfect “trap game.” Who wouldn’t look past an inferior foe towards the big battle in Strawberry Canyon against SC?
They were in disarray (suspending Blount after his Ali imitation), with a new coach, and a qb who couldn’t find the handle. But they were never without talent.
I think it’s wrong to blame Tedford. He’s our guy. We’ve go to back him and not chase him away just because some things don’t go our way. We need to mature as fans and realize that every team has days like Saturday. (Can anyone spell SC?)
But being fans—-I guess we are entitled to kibitz a bit and ask questions. It’s what makes it fun—and gets us through until the next week.
The game started out great. D’amato kicked down to the nine and Sofeli and Moncrease collided and forced a fumble—Sofeli got his bell rung.
We started on the 22. A pass was called, protection broke down as Riley was hit from behind. We lost 8. Two more incompletes and a field goal puts us up 3 zip.
After the kick off they go three and out—punt and we take over on our 41. Great field position. (And here, for this amature, is where the game turned. Best carries three times. He gains 6. Then 5 for a first. Then 4 for a 2nd an 6 and then….
And that was it. Two incompletes and we punt (a touchback) from the 44.
Best was to touch the ball only 13 times after that.
I know. I bang that drum to death.
“They had 8 men in the box. They shut him down,” they tell me.
No. When we next get the ball we throw on first, then throw again. Make a first. Throw on first and eventually punt. We never gave them the chance to shut Best down.
(And it does no good to tell some of us about too many men in the box. That’s how we grew up. On rainy, wet, muddy fields where throwing was an impossibility. You had to run—they knew it and stuck everybody up there and somehow someway one side won—ususally by just wearing down the other side. And yes. Both teams had too many men “in the box.”
However, it is fair to question the depth of the pass paterns--or at least the way the receivers ran them. Rarely did Riley throw (complete or not) to a spot where there was a one on one match up. On TV, it appeared that there were almost always more Ducks than Bears near the ball--as opposed to the two great throws and catches we saw last week where receivers were wide open.
Also, when it comes to imagination--how 'bout that first drive last week against Minnesota? That was poetry.
The next time Best carries he picks up 5 (but there’s a penalty). Then he carries for 11. Then he loses 4 but Vareen picks up 5. A penalty gives us a first so we-------pass. And a P.I. penalty in the end zone gives us a first at the 14—no. It is offset by a lose-your-cool taunting penalty by Tucker, so it’s still first at the 29.
Vareen loses two. Best gets one. An incomplete pass and then a missed field goal.
Is there a pattern emerging here?
Best starts out 5 carries for 31 yards. He then loses 4, Vareen gains 5, --then Vareen loses two and Bests gets 1. So the two of them go 4 for -2.
So we are 9 for 27 and best is 7 for 28. What am I missing here? This is not a shut down of the run.
Best then loses two and fumbles the exchange with Riley.
Next time he touches the ball he gains 10.
Next time he touches the ball he gains two. Then loses one. Then gains 9. (These were not consecutive).
The point? It is conceivable that we could have run against these guys. Trouble is once we throw on first down—if it is incomplete or a sack, we never run on 2nd down—ever. Walsh often did—knowing that the D was looking for the pass. He’d then have a 3rd and 3 or 4 as opposed to a 3rd and 10 or 15.
You saw the Oregon quotes. “We knew what they were doing on every play.”
On the other side of the Ball, Oregon did what we’ve (those of us at the top of CC & D) have always wondered about. They threw (maybe 10 times) to one of three recievers split to the side. Our DB lines up on the outside guy. The inside slot is left open. A linebacker is near the tight end or other inside wide receiver. And the safety is 15 to 18 yards from the first inside guy. We have always asked ourselves, “Why don’t they just run a five yard out?” Well they did better than that. They had the QB run like an option, then pass it to the outside guy. Then they hit the inside guy at the line. Then they ran a perfect feint and hit the tight end in the corner for a TD.
They milked that formation like no one ever has (I might add that the Bears are not the only team that often leaves the slot back uncovered for 15 yards). We’ve always wondered how teams get away with it--and never—never in all the games we’ve seen have we seen a team exploit it the way the Ducks did.
Last comment. Every day in practice we run the two minute drill. We practice it. We were down, 25 to 3 on our own 20 with 56 seconds. First play we were sacked. Fair enough. Is that reason to run away from the two minute offense? I know. We couldn’t afford an interception and a 32 to 3 halftime score, but I’m sorry. Best ran for 9 and then we took a time out with 12 seconds. Not great clock management. Worse: It looked like we’d given up.
Best did have a fumbled exchange with Riley. He lost yardage on three carries. But the rest of the time it was not only positive—he also cranked out gains of 6, 5, 4,5,9, 11, 10 and 9 yards. It’s not just about average yards per carry. That means that on at least 8 occasions he gave us a first down or put us in a short yardage situation—thereby giving us plenty of options and a decided advantage over the defense.
Ok. Nuff said.
Regardless of decisions on the field, 19 and 20 year olds are mercurial. Their hormones and insides are raging. You just never know where they are or what they are thinking. That’s what makes coaching so challenging. Each coach knows the x’s and o’s. But which coaches can get their teams up to play in every game week in and week out? That’s why I hate the Mountain West Teams like Boise and Utah, get any credit. Yes, they can win a big game here and there, but can they do it each and every week?
Tedford does a better job of this than most. We have to back him. He’s our guy and he’s brought us a long way. But from afar, I just wish that he would wear Best out one of these days. Run him till he can’t run anymore. He might be pleasantly surprised.
We can still win out. We can still beat SC. We can still go to the Rose Bowl. The 49ers may still call and ask me to play for them. My wife can still give up credit cards. Ok. Maybe I’m asking for a miracle. Still, it is unlikely that we will settle for 8 and 4, though it is possible. Hey, with kids—anything is.
Anyway, loving the Bears drives one to drink. I for one am swearing off alcohol. I just read that LSD is back in vogue and I think that’s the direction I’m headed in. Another afternoon like Saturday and I’ll be one of the grateful dead, anyway. Cue up the theme from M*A*S*H: "Suicide is Painless"
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70