Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bears at USC

The California Golden Bears take on USC this Saturday evening at 5:00 PM.

This is probably the most interesting game in Cal history.

First off, the Bears have / had visions of grandeur. National Championships, Rose Bowl wins, etc. SC has had all of those and more over the last 7 or 8 years with Pete Carroll as coach. But the Bears probably had the biggest upset in the 123 years of Cal football last Saturday at Oregon. 42 to 3 - the number 6 team in the country loses to an unranked foe.

I did not think Oregon was any good, frankly. i though Chip Kelly was a terrible coach, and I thought their defense would stink. And that was based on the way that they were playing so far this year. And as opposed to Cal, who had just gone on the road to Minnesota, and their bright new stadium, and cruised to an easy win. Yes, I know it was tied in the 4th quarter. But the Bears never really lost control of that game, and played pretty well. Were it not for some phantom calls, the Bears would have won by 28. And the thing about that game was that Cal manhandled the Golden Gophers. Who are not a lousy team.

What happened in Eugene is debatable. I think it was just a matter of the Bears coming in and becoming bewildered at their initial lack of success, and panic setting in. They were tight, they were playing not to lose and they could not function. While the Bears are a good team, and have better talent overall than the Ducks, I would say that they do not have better talent if they are not playing at the top of their game all game long. Last year, at Berkeley, Cal dominated that game, and essentially, both teams came back - the Bears with a bit more experience, and the Ducks with a bit less. But the difference was, they had nothing to lose, and we had everything to lose. And we did.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Pete Carroll was bewildered by the outcome of the Bears / Oregon game. Stunned. Because he knows the talent level and the skill level was not representative of the final score. Meanwhile, USC is barely getting by in their games, they have lost to Washington, scored only once after the first quarter in the Washington State game, and should have lost the Ohio State game if Jim Tressell was any kind of coach. They are lacking in talent on the offensive side of the ball this year. And this week, one of their top two running backs - Staphon Johnson, had a horrendous accident in the weight room, when the bar he was bench pressing fell on his neck, requiring a 7 hour reconstructive surgery to save his life, and hopefully his voice. He is not out of the woods yet. Carroll is there hours on end this week. They have also lost a number of other players, including the QB, to injury this season. Now, the true freshman QB is back, but not fully healed. The Safety is back, but not a 100%. The Trojans are banged up.

One of the pieces of magic that Carroll has been able to instill in his team is the ability to keep loose. But this really is a season on the brink for them. They have been able to stock-pile talent over the years, but have not been able to get that talent up and going as well as they have in the past. I do not think that the coaches they have brought in have been as good as the ones that have left, at least not yet. They have three new coordinators this year - offense, defense and special teams. They have not been scoring as many points by a long shot, and while Carroll is still presiding over a pretty good defense, they have been in very close games all year long.

That being said, they are still USC. They are in a midst of a huge streak of road games - 4 of 5 - and 6 of 8. They play Notre Dame after the Bears (and a bye week). I think the injury and the nature of it to Staphon Johnson this week takes something off the luster of the Cal game. That type of mortality injected into the lives of invincible young people is a distraction to say the least. For the Bears, they have come down from their lofty perch. But they are not yet free of the burden. They still think they are playing for the NCG. Tedford's job this week is to get them loose. Tell them they are playing for themselves. I think as a coach, he may be too goal oriented. The goals should be smaller: Beat your man on every play. Complete every pass. No fumbles. Not, win the Pac 10. Not go the the National Championship game. The difference between this year and prior years is that in prior years, the Bears were not embracing expectations. And when the lost those expectation were trashed in the second quarter of the Oregon game, they stopped playing. They could have easily come out in the second half of the game and come back. Instead they curled up in a little ball. They were embracing expectations but not understanding that expectations are what people think you should do. Performance is what you do to meet expectations. And if you perform on each play, and have success, then the team will meet expectations. But the expectations should not be the goal. The grade on each play should be the goal. If you get burned, so what. Try again.

I hate it when people leave early during a game. Dodger fans. Well, the Bears were a bunch of Dodger fans last week. Let's see if this week they can be like the fans during the down years of the Joe Kapp era - the 25,000 who continued to show up each week to see the Bears perform. They would cheer a great play, or a great series. Rarely expecting to win, but always expecting a great effort. Knowing that some day the Bear would rise again - just maybe once - in their lifetime. That is what needs to happen this week. SC is down, the Bears are down. Who is going to win these individual battles this week? I am not expecting a victory, although I am not expecting a loss. But what I do expect is an effort each play. I expect to be rewarded for coming out to see my team by effort each play.

Last week, Tedford said the team was not tense, but intense. I am not sure if I want an intense team. I want a loose team that plays with abandon. If I wanted an intense team, I would root for Arizona. Lot's of bluster, lot's of collapse. I want a team that loves what they do, and gives it their all. That is what the Cal Bears should be about.



Anonymous said...

You need to get over yourself and your myopic analysis of the Bears.

At kick-off you had undeniably "better talent" than Oregon at exactly two positions--RB and P.

Masoli, though he hadn't showed it yet, is tougher competitor than is Riley.

Best is better than any RB remaining on the Ducks roster, but James and Alston were both better than Vereen.

TE--You have no one to compare to Dickson

OL-Both units lost major players in Mack and Unger. We appeared to gel better, maybe because we have a way better OL coach n Greatwood and you have a noob.

WR--Both units are raw, but ours can catch.

DL--Ours was better than yours in reality if not on paper.

LB--Ours are faster than yours and on paper/rankings as or more talented.

DB--Before Thurmond went down, both teams featured lock down corners on one side, competent play on the other corner coupled with solid but unspectacular safety play.

K--Ours was way more proven than yours.

So where was the edge in talent again?

There was also definitely no coaching edge for the Bears. Kelly schooled Gregory and Aliotti knows all about Ludwig's infatuation with lame ass middle screens.

Oski88 said...

You point of assessing the talent based on the game is a little silly. Vareen is just as good of a back, or maybe slightly worse, that Best. But he would be starting for the ducks - over Blount, and anyone else on the team.

The Bears offensive line was a question coming into the season but only because of experience level. The guys who are playing are all highly rated. And until this game, played very well. Tepper, who was a 4 star rated player, and a senior, got thrown all over the field. That is not typical. Matt-Summers Gavin, 4 star recruit - picked Cal over Oregon (had the flu). Mitchell Schwatz - best lineman on the team - freshman all american. Guarrano - he was going to start for Mack as a freshman so Mack could move to Tackle - he was that good. Our offensive line was tremendous going into the game. The fact of the matter is, that is the biggest surprise - that they got handled so well. By the ducks, who frankly do not have a great d-line. Yes, yours was better, but they do not have better talent. I guess that was the point of the ariticle - thanks for your support.

TE - Dickson is great, but before the game had 2 catches in three games. That is kinda weak. People were wondering what happened to him.

Masoli - worst QB in college football until he faced the Bears this year. Sucked against the Bears last year, but ended with three good games. Why would anyone expect him to do well? Not that Riley is a great QB, but he is efficient, no turnovers (even after the Oregon game) and has shown just as much flashes of brilliance than Masoli.

LBs - our LB squad is just as fast and higher rated than the Ducks. All are 4 stars or higher. Mohammed led the team last year in tackles, even though he did not start.

DBs - Cal has probably the top corner in the country, and lots of depth. And Thurman did go down.

Point is, the Bears are the better team on paper. Oregon is a good team, but looked terrible before the game, so everyone thought they were terrible. they STILL are not highly ranked, even though they have played more top 25 teams than anyone else in the country. Because they looked terrible, except against Cal. Do you really think that the Cal game is representative of your abilities, or do you think that it is somewhere in between?

I know that the Bears are not as lousy as they were on Saturday. i know that they have beaten Oregon 4 of the previous 5 times. Maybe they got complacent - seeing as how the Ducks looked pretty bad. Who knows. But if the Ducks think they are the top of the heap this year, then they are in for a big fall as well. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you that the Ducks looked pretty bad this year until they played CAL. And because of that I think maybe the coaching staff overlooked them and they were focusing on this week's match against SC. Everyone else did. I bet the Ducks did too.

The Ducks winning a close one, I think some might have seen. A blowout win? That should have come from CAL. I don't think anyone saw this outcome, especially the CAL offensive futility.

I feel bad for the players that the coaches let them down. Tedford can always argue that execution wasn't there, but how about his execution as a coach? I must say that has been sorely lacking in big games in the past few years.

Anonymous said...

My larger point was that looking at "star rankings" is the myopic part.

Part of talent is how it performs. Good iron ore can be the basis of great steel, but if the carbon content isn't added just so and the tempering off, you have garbage. Our Asst. HC and OL coach Steve Greatwood is a master blacksmith. Yours went to the Raiders.

An example of the errancy of your star based approach: Walter Thurmond going into the game had every accolade going for him as Squid did. In fact, with a PR TD and a pick 6, Thurmond was already having a better year than Squid to date.

Using your chosen analysis, Thurmond was a two star recruit, and so "not as talented" as Squid.

That defies the reality of the situation.

Furthermore, your analysis would draw the conclusion that when Thurmond got hurt, and Glasper, our nickleback, replaced him for the season, that we upgraded the position because Glasper was a highly touted 4 star recruit.

Based upon their relative success at Oregon, that is extremely counterintuitive.

So what I guess I was criticizing you for was this: Performance does dictate who had comparable talent.

Masoli, for all of his faults, did lead the Ducks to a top 10 ranking and was the MVP of the Holiday Bowl, thereby accomplishing more than Riley ever has, with less experience to boot.

Dickson's not being found much while our O-line was gelling does not change the fact that he is a lock for a first day pick by the NFL. You could have a five star TE on your roster for all I know, but none of yours can match the proven potential of Ed.

Bottom line--I don't know if we'll win another game, but if we don't, it won't be for a lack of talent.

Your "better team on paper" needs more variables in the mix than the raw star rankings can show.

Oski88 said...

Well, that is easier to defend than my other comments. before the Cal game - Oregon looked terrible all over the field. Cal looked much better. Cal was, on paper, the much better team. Are you really trying to say that before the game, Oregon looked better? Because that is just not true. In fact, the point was the Bears were rated 6 in the pools because they were the much more attractive team for a whole host of people. That is not homerism - that is the plain fact. Oregon looked like crap. Dickson ahd two catches all year - Masoli looked terrible. The offensive line was a sieve. The defense was better but still gave up hugh amounts of points to Purdue - a terrible team - and barely held a crappy Utah team. I tried to break my anaysis down to your level. The fact is, Oregon looked much better than their resume during the Cal game. I think you have to agree with that. They are not going to run the Pac 10 - although they would if they play that way all year long. This was a negative aberation for the Bears and a positive aberation for the ducks.