Tuesday, October 20, 2015



   Just had a couple of brewskis with my good friend Steve Sarkasian.  Afterwards we left the house to get some breakfast.
            In the bar—er, coffee shop--we interviewed a couple of guys applying to be our new gardener—Kevin McCarthy and former Cal Astronomer Geoff Marcy.  It’s a tough decision. One is used to talking with plants, while the other has a more “hands on approach.”
            Afterwards, we talked Cal football and SC stupidity.  Mostly, we just got blotto—as though it were a normal working day—like in the Halls of Congress in DC or the halls of the Coliseum  at SC.     
            The consensus? Ok.  Utah was a moral victory.  And we know what Duffy Doroughty said about moral victories—something about screen doors, kisses and sisters. 
            I know little about screen doors and even less about sisters, but what we learned was instructive—if unsatisfying. 
            We learned that the Bears can play with anybody in the Pac 12.  Who’d a thunk it at this time last year?
            Like having the FBI find e-mails on your private server, the defeat was devastating—but not unexpected.
            Young Goff didn’t have his best day, but the loss wasn’t due to him.  The O line had a tough time with the bigger, stronger Utes.  And the receivers—well it’s never been the intention here to spend time criticizing 20 year olds, so I’m not going to begin now.
            But coaches are adults.  So I think it is fair to question some techniques which are being taught and their consequences.
            Much can be learned from the great receivers of the 50’s and 60’s, Raymond Berry, Lance Allworth, Don Maynard, Billy Wilson, Tommy McDonald, et al were probably not a good as today’s athletes.  But they had better technique.  They “cradled” the ball, and rarely attempted one handed receptions.

            We’re old, so we favor traditional approaches—especially when it comes to mechanics.  No, we don’t think Hank Luscetti ruined basketball with the one handed jump shot. Clearly, techniques change as athletes get bigger, stronger, and more skilled than their predecessors.
            The back shoulder pass never existed in our day.  The “fade” came in around 1967.  It had never been seen before, and was probably discovered when some QB made a bad pass over a receiver’s outside shoulder, and the receiver made an improbable reception.  No doubt someone caught it on film and noticed that the defender had no chance to defend the ball.  Wallah!  A new pass pattern was born—the fade in the end zone.  The same is probably true about the back shoulder pass.
            When one witnesses on You Tube an Odell Beckham making a spectacular one handed catch, then learns that he works on one handed receptions in practice and in pre-game warm ups, it becomes all the rage.
            Surely, catching with one hand increases the number of passes which can’t be reached with two hands?
            Wrong. (Mostly).
            There are several problems with one handed catches.  First, is simply that  one is more likely to complete a reception with two hands.  Second, if you can get one hand on the ball, in most occasions (there are a couple of exceptions—see Beckham's catch)--if one can get one hand on the ball, she can get two.
            Back in the day, we were never allowed to raise just one hand to go for the ball.  Why?  Because if you don’t catch it, the ball is going to be tipped and stay in the air—ripe for an interception.  Since most one handed grabs are not complete, the odds are more will be intercepted than completed.
            A one handed attempt cost us the game when an extremely good receiver (on 4th and 5 in the 4th quarter), raised just one hand up on a fairly easy “out route,” and didn’t come down with the ball. 

                Probably he makes that catch dozens of times in practice, but it is a low percentage technique.  Two hands and he has it—and the Bears most likely get the W.

            On two handed receptions, watch the films.  The great receivers of the past “cradled” the ball. (Of course, there hands were smaller and the ball was bigger in the 50's)

            That means when looking left, the left hand is on the bottom, right hand on top, and little fingers together.  Looking right, was the opposite—right and on the bottom, left on top, little fingers together.
            Only rarely (when a defender was behind them and they were using their body like a rebounder in basketball), did they use “full extension” and thumbs together. Another exception:  the back shoulder pass.  But I digress.
            In the first quarter one receiver (perhaps our best) used bad technique by looking left and having his left hand up, instead of down—thumbs together.  The ball bounced though his stiff hands (you can’t softly cradle it that way) and was intercepted.
            He repeated that technique later on and dropped a sure TD.  Now THAT affects a QB’s confidence.

     Hate to get too technical but poor technique cost us the game in Salt Lake—not Jared Goff. 

            Not picking on the kids, but when you think of all the things that go into a successful pass play, the blocking, the timing, the routes, the throw, and the catch—as Ray Willsey used to say to me time and time again, the easiest thing is the catch.
            The D was stellar—continuing to opportunistically get take-aways (though they were largely negated by our give-aways).

            On another important note, Sonny Dykes is getting national recognition.  He was just has been named one of 20 coaches  to the mid-season watch list for the Dodd Trophy, (Coach of the Year).  It’s quite an honor.

            Less of an honor was that Sonny’s salary of $2,000,000 places him 55th in the nation (among College coaches) and last in the Pac 12.  I think we all know what that means if the Bears continue to perform above expectations this year.

            Athletic Director Michael Williams is probably more pleased that the team GPA is now 2.78.  Significantly higher than what most of us had (just kidding). 

            Back when Marshawn Lynch was a Freshman and then a Sophomore, a tall good lookin’ guy wrote that he needed to touch the ball more. 

            Is it plagiarism if I substitute the name Khalfani Muhammad for Marshawn Lynch? 

            Tre Watson played well.  No complaints.  However Khalfani picked up 3 yards on his first carry.  Then 24 yards on his next.  He almost broke it as he did against Texas.  He touched the ball twice more, the last time being with 13:25 to go in the 2nd quarter. 

            If he’s hurt, fair enough.  But he entered the game with a 9.o yards per carry.  What did he do wrong?

            For those kids who aren’t studying for mid-terms on Thursday night, there is a scrimmage against UCLA down in the Rose Bowl.  Thursday night games are what put the “student” in “student athlete,”  according to the Pac 12 hierarchy.  Clearly it’s not about money or ratings.

            For the Bruins, this is their 2nd Thursday night game in a row (Makes it tough to get up early for sun rise surfing after these late nights).

            They say (whomever “they “ are) that the Bruins’ defense is depleted and that they are down after two losses after being ranked as high as 7th.  Don’t bet on it.  They are always tough.  There’s a reason they are favored by 3 ½.

            And, win or lose, the one thing we learned ins Salt Lake was that we can play with anybody in the conference.  Utah’s slogan was “Bring ‘em Young.  Tomorrow night, it’s “Bring ‘em on.”  This year the Bears can handle it--even if we alumni can't.