Archive for the 'Sports' Category

Looking back on 2006: The Oregon State game

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Oregon State.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State and Arizona State.  Also note that because this game was not televised and that I couldn’t find a feed to review the radio broadcast, this review is based entirely on a textual play-by-play review.)

The storyline:
In a game between a shaky 2-1 Oregon St., who’s only test and loss came in a 14-42 beat down courtesy of Boise St., and a re-energized and confident Cal squad, the highly favored Cal team dismantled Oregon St. in a 41-13 victory.  The game was further proof that the Cal squad was on their way to great things, although those conclusions were tempered by what appeared to be a weak Oregon State team.

The reality:
While at the time it didn’t seem that this game was very meaningful, in retrospect this was a very impressive win for Cal.  Oregon State went on to win 8 of their last 10 games including beating USC, placing 3rd in the Pac-10 behind Cal and USC and winning the Sun Bowl.  Considering that the Oregon State defense led the way for the remainder of the season, Cal’s ability to score on all 5 of their first half possessions, all from sustained drives starting in Cal territory, and 50% of their 2nd half possessions showed just how potent Cal’s offense was.  Only Boise St., who ended up 13-0 including beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, was able to score more points (42) on Oregon State in 2006.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was that after Cal drove the length of the field on their opening possession to score their first touchdown, Oregon State responded with their own drive that, luckily for Cal, ended with a fumble on the Cal 5 yard line.  That was a huge psychological blow for the Beavers and may have made all the difference in Cal’s domination throughout the game, particularly considering the team that Oregon State proved to be. 

The 2006 learnings:
By the time this game was in the books, it was finally clear just how potent Cal’s deep passing threat was.  Through most of the early season, defenses had been focusing on containing the running game of Lynch and the short passing game which was expected from a hybrid west-coast/spread offense.  This game proved that it was no fluke.

The 2007 learnings:
It’s harder to derive conclusions for 2007 from this game because it was not televised and much of what one could garner from talent evaluation is not so easy over other media.  Perhaps one learning for the Athletic Office was just how much the Cal faithful were coming to expect Cal games to be televised.  This would be the last game for which dedicated fans in northern California didn’t have a televised option (albeit for WSU the only option was to go to Memorial Stadium to watch on the JumboTron).  Returning to the game, this game is the prototype for how Cal can stretch the field in 2007 and I’m sure Tedford and staff have analyzed this game over and over to see how they can continue to take advantage of the deep passing threat.  Finally, with Oregon State returning most of their team sans their QB, there is both reason to be hopeful that Cal can handle OSU in 2007 (based on 2006’s result) and that this is a team to worry about (based on OSU’s later performance).

The Conclusion:
What struck me about this game was how every concern the coaching staff had mentioned in previous games was addressed.  Scoring in the 2nd half: done.  Controlling the game with the running game: check.  Keeping the running game of OSU in check: with authority.  Win on the road: double check.  In every aspect of the game Cal dominated and considering the team OSU proved to be and that this was Cal’s first trip back onto the road after Tennessee, this makes OSU the most impressive win of the 2006 season as far as I’m concerned.

Looking back on 2006: The ASU game

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Arizona State.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota and Portland State) 

The storyline:
In a game where it is anyone’s guess just how the two teams will match up, Cal having been blown out by Tennessee but rebounding strongly and ASU having demolished 3 weak teams and remaining unproven, Cal was able to work it’s offensive mojo again.  The Bears were able to score at will in the first half and took a unassailable 42-14 halftime lead.  They were able to continue to slow the ASU team in the second half for a 49-21 smackdown.

The reality:
In reality this game was less about the offensive power of Cal than it was about the defensive turnovers and special teams play.  21 of the 49 points, including the only Cal points in the 2nd half, came directly from defense and special teams play.  In addition, two of the offensive TD’s were setup by turnovers giving the Bears a short field to work with.  Although in both cases the offense was able to strike quickly, it was the defense who setup the scores.  In reality, Cal was only able to drive the length of the field twice.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was the difficulty Cal had stopping the running game of ASU.  ASU rushed for 228 yards, 185 of that from their bruising tailback Ryan Torian.  ASU was able to march down the field on their first possesion and score a touchdown mostly because of their running game.  Because Cal was able to score so frequently in the 1st half, it kept the power running game of ASU out of the equation as ASU tried to play catch up.  The game may have been very different if ASU had kept the score close.  The other forgotten factor in this game was the slow start for Cal.  ASU was able to march down the field for a TD on their first possession and Cal responded with a 3-and-out.  After that, both the Cal defense and offense were able to get back in gear and the blowout ensued.

The 2006 learnings:
This was the 4rd consecutive game with a slow start for the offense and the concern had in some ways grown into a panic.  What will this do to the team next time they face a tough opponent?  Other learnings from this game was that DeSean Jackson was going to be a heck of a punt returner.  His return for a TD was a thing of beauty, finding a surprisingly small seam and using his speed and agillity to quickly navigate it en route to blowing by the last couple defenders.  Also, this was the coming out party for Damien Hughes amazing senior season.  His 2 interceptions, including one for a TD on a spectacular runback that including incidently stepping on the ASU quarterback on his way to the endzone, as well as numerous knock downs and overall strong play, re-enforced that Hughes side of the field was going to be well defended.

The 2007 learnings:
ASU was a soft team for the last few years with Koetter as head coach.  If he was still coach, I think we could say with confidence that the 2006 game would be a good indicator of success in the desert in 2007.  But with Erickson leading the charge in 2007, I don’t think we can make that conclusion.  On the contrary, I expect them to be strong in 2007.  Most worrisome about ASU is whether they can repeat their strong running performance against Cal.  With Torain back as well as most of their offensive line combined with the need for replacements on Cal’s defense, it’s definitely something to be worried about.  If ASU can avoid turnovers and mistakes, while keeping their effective run game, this will be a tough game for Cal in 2007.  The upside of course is that Cal was able to have their way with ASU offensively when it mattered in 2006 and there’s nothing to suggest 2007 will be any different.  Perhaps the key to the game will be similar to 2006: Can Cal build enough of a lead early to take ASU’s running game out of the mix?

The Conclusion:
This was a game that I expected to be a blowout and so I was not and am still not that impressed with the Cal victory.  Many saw it as the moment it was clear Cal was going to be a formidable opponent to USC.  For me, that game was still a couple weeks away particularly as ASU faultered through Oregon and the rest of their lackluster season.

Looking back on 2006: The Portland State game

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Portland State.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota) 

The storyline:
Cal avoids any trip-up from Portland State, a I-AA team, albeit it a highly esteemed one, but a I-AA team nonetheless, by taking care of business in an easy and expected blowout, 42-16.

The reality:
The reality was not much different than the storyline.  It was a blowout and Cal didn’t struggle much.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was the turnovers and penalties.  Cal turned the ball over 3 times including an interception on the first possession of the game.  Cal also had 9 penalties for 103 yards.  Luckily for Cal, their talent so outclassed Portland State that they were easily able to overcome those mistakes.  Some may also remember Tedford being critical of the fact that Cal didn’t score in the 2nd half.  While that was true, there were 2nd and 3rd string players at every position at one point or another in the 2nd half and this definitely affected the play of the Bears.

The 2006 learnings:
This was the 3rd consecutive game with a slow start for the offense.  It was definitely a concern after this game that the offense was taking its time to find its rhythm.  Also re-enforced in this game was Longshore’s firm grip on the starting position.  Both Ayoob and Levy got significant playing time in the 2nd half and neither had near the effectiveness of Longshore.  Finally, with so many backup offensive line and defensive players getting time, and those units mostly not missing a beat, it showed just how much depth Cal had in 2006.

The 2007 learnings:
It’s hard to apply too much from this game to 2007.  One point, and a minor one since team emotions are such a dynamic thing, is that it was clear that Cal came to play even though the game was against a I-AA team.  That suggests that Cal will come to play for their lesser non-conference games against Louisiana Tech and Colorado State in 2007.  Also, A number of the backups that got significant playing time in this game will be the players who replace those lost to graduation and the NFL.  The fact that they mostly did a good job, gives Cal fans reason to be hopeful.

The Conclusion:
Not much can be taken from this game because it was a I-AA team.  It didn’t really validate that Cal was back on track for 2006 because the opposition was so weak.  For 2007, particularly with no I-AA teams on the schedule, not much can be garnered besides talent evaluation of backup players.

Big Game tickets purchased

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Today was the day that all us poor yet die-hard Cal fans were waiting for.  It was the day, after a month of rich donors getting their chance, for season ticket holders to purchase Big Game tickets.  Tickets went on sale at 8:30 AM.

Long story short… I got my order for 4 tickets (the maximum) processed at 9:05 AM.

And it’s a good thing too, the tickets sold out before 10:00 AM.  The Athletic office put up an announcement mid-day telling the world the same thing.  So sadly for all of you who are reading this before you put in your order… better luck next time.

Well not quite… There are still ways to get tickets (in order from cheapest to most expensive):

  1. Buy Big Game tickets from Stanford – $50 per seat (will there be any left when they go on sale August 1st?  And do you want to sit amongst people who can’t tell that a dormatory impostor is living on campus?)
  2. StubHub – $115 minimum (A number available right now, some in visitor section)
  3. E-Bay – unknown price (none available right now and might get pretty pricey before the game.  Plus it might be tough to know if you’re sitting in Bear Territory or Loser Land)
  4. Buy season tickets for Stanford football – minimum $185 per seat or $190 for family plan plus $50 a ticket for Big Game, up to 6 tickets (Pretty much a guaranteed ticket, probably even after August 1st when the single tickets go on sale, but you’ll be sitting amongst people who don’t mind a band that trashes their own building and you’ll be giving a bunch of money to the Evil Enemy!)

Other options anyone?

Depending on who you talk to, waiting until November to purchase from StubHub or E-Bay is either a good idea or a bad idea.  Some think that demand will only continue to rise as fewer and fewer tickets are available for bidding on and prices will rise.  Others think that when (not if) Stanford’s season goes into the tank, Stanford “fans” will be dumping their tickets like they’re going out of style.  My advice?  Generally I’m a fan of “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  I’d either get tickets on StubHub now or wait until August 1st to see if I could get single game tickets from Stanford then and buy on StubHub shortly there after if I couldn’t get single game tickets.

No GameDay – verified

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Well, the news broke today that ABC/ESPN will be sending their GameDay crew (not to be confused with TV coverage of the game), to Virginia Tech instead of Berkeley for week 1 of the season.  See the announcement from Virginia Tech here.  That’s what I suspected was going to happen all along but The Bear Insider article a couple months ago got everyone excited.  This is definitely a black eye for them because not only did they write the errant article, they also defended it in their message board long after it was clear that the decision had not been made.

Of course I’m disappointed, but at the same time, I understand ABC/ESPN’s motives.  Hopefully we’ll have GameDay in Berkeley for the USC game.

Louisiana Tech game to be televised on Comcast Sports Network

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

The Cal Athletic Department has announced that a TV contract for the game vs. Louisiana Tech on Sept. 15th will be televised on the Comcast Sports Network.  Now all 3 of Cal’s non-conference games have TV contracts.  In addition to that being good news for the number of games televised, we also get a game time, set for 3:30 PM.

As a reminder, here’s the Cal TV schedule (all times Pacific):

  • 9/1 Tennessee, ABC 5:00 PM
  • 9/8 @Colorado St., CSTV 11:00 AM
  • 9/15 Louisiana Tech., CSN 3:30 PM
  • 10/27 @ASU, FSN 7:00 PM
  • 11/3 WSU, FSN 7:00 PM
  • 11/10 USC, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 5:00 PM
  • 12/1 @Stanford, Versus 4:00 PM

We can say with some confidence that there won’t be any more TV announcements between now and when the season starts.  Now that ABC/ESPN and FSN (and Versus by proxy) have made their pre-season selections (they make additional ones mid-season), the only thing left to wait on was non-conference games, which have more contractual scheduling flexibility to schedule outside of our Pac-10 contracts.  The Louisiana Tech. game was the last non-conference game to schedule so now we done until the mid-season selections.

Or at least that’s the way I understand it…

To understand those mid-season selections by ABC/ESPN and FSN/Versus, I went to the official Pac-10 TV schedule where they list the selections still to be made.  Here is a list of each game remaining and the mid-season selections to be made:

  • 9/22 Arizona: FSN and Versus (have a selection)
  • 9/29 @Oregon: ABC/ESPN and FSN
  • 10/13 OSU: ABC/ESPN, FSN and Versus
  • 10/20 @UCLA: ABC/ESPN
  • 11/17 @Washington: ABC/ESPN

To my eye, the week that is a big risk for not having a televised game is @Washington.  The 3 early games all have multiple television options and look like compelling enough games to get picked up by one of them (Arizona=revenge (I guess FSN), Oregon is always a big deal (ABC), OSU will likely be strong this year (ABC)).  Additionally, I’m pretty confident that SOMEBODY will televise the Cal vs. UCLA game and I think has the inside track on the ABC selection (the other options are Stanford at Arizona or Oregon at Washington).  That leaves Washington as the weak spot.  The good news for the Washington game is that, looking at the Pac-10 game schedule, there is only one competing game: Oregon St. at Washington St., a similarly unattractive game for a TV network.  Nevertheless, it’s a concerning week with few options on a game that is likely to have low amounts of hype.

The week of 11/17 might be a good time to make a trip to Washington…

Looking back on 2006: The Minnesota Game

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Minnesota.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee) 

The storyline:
All eyes were on Cal and whether they could rebound from the disaster in Tennessee.  In their way was a Minnesota team which seemed to be on the rise after a 1st week blowout over Kent State.  Cal more than rebounded by lighting up the Minnesota defense for 42 points and 557 yards.  Cal QB Longshore displayed why he won the starting job over Joe Ayoob with his ability to throw the long ball with good touch.

The reality:
While it was true that the passing game of Cal came to life in this game, it was the running game that setup the victory.  By pounding away at Minnesota with the one-two punch of Lynch and Forsett, Cal was able to open up the passing game.  Additionally, the defense, which held Minnesota to 10 points (the remaining 7 came off a kickoff return), was able to shutdown the powerful Big-10 run offense of Minnesota.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was that it didn’t start out as a Cal blowout.  Cal went 3 and out on it’s first possession and Minnesota responded with a touchdown drive made up of a long misdirection pass play and the power running game.  While Cal was able to rebound on their second possession and tie the score at 7, the score remained 7-7 until the 2nd quarter.

The 2006 learnings:
The big learning from this game was that DeSean Jackson had arrived as Cal’s premier wide receiver.  The Longshore to Jackson connection was in full force starting with the Minnesota game.  Another learning was that Syd’Quan Thompson was able to rebound from his poor performance at Tennessee and was going to be at a minimum a serviceable cornerback.  Finally, it was learned that Cal could play a physical run defense.  While this should have been clear from the Tennessee game, the blowout hid this fact.  The Minnesota game re-confirmed that the Cal run defense would be strong.

The 2007 implications:
Without Minnesota on the schedule for 2007, nor a team with a similar style of play, the implications are limited to general team performance.  For one, it was Tedford’s 5h consecutive win in their home opener.  Hopefully that bodes well for the Tennessee game to open the season.  On the flip side, it shows just how resilient Cal can be after a big loss and that there is reason to believe that even if Cal gets blown out by Tennessee twice, that there is still hope for the rest of the season.  Finally, Cal’s defensive line got some time to play backups at the end of this game, specifically Tyson Alualu, and there is reason to be hopeful.

The Conclusion:
The Minnesota game was the beginning of a long run of wins for Cal.  How much would we love to see that run start with the opening game of 2007?

Looking back on 2006: Tennessee game

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

(Note to readers: There are less than 7 weeks left until fall practice starts.  At a rate of two games a week I’ll be able to review each of the 2006 games between now and the start of fall practice.  We start today with Tennessee.)

The storyline:
Cal went to Tennessee highly ranked with high expectations.  The Bears got their lunches handed to them in a blowout where Tennessee looked faster, stronger, better prepared and ready with a better game plan.  Tennessee scored 35 unanswered points in the first 40 minutes of the game.  Cal was able to save some face at the end of the game by closing the score to 35-18, but that rebound was generally discarded in the analysis of the game because of the 35-0 3rd quarter score.

The reality:
While there is no debating the blowout, the disparity between the two teams was not as great as the score suggested.  The reality is that a handful of big plays in the 3rd quarter is what put the game away.  Cal was only down 7-0 with 4 minutes left in the first half, and while the Tennessee offense was definitely performing better than Cal’s, Cal had shown signs of life at times and there was reason to be hopeful.  Along the same lines, much of the Cal offensive struggles were self-inflicted.  Penalties, dropped balls, gitters in Longshore and missed blocking assignments slowed the offense as much if not more than Tennessee’s defense.  That said, there is no debating that starting with the first of the big plays at the end of the 1st half, both Cal’s offense and defense fell apart for about a quarter of the game.  By the time they recovered, the game was long over.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was how competitive Cal was in the 1st half.  High expectations and total Tennessee homers announcing the game on TV helped exacerbate the problem.  Also forgotten was that Lynch only had 12 carries but managed 76 yards and that when Cal was in running downs and running formations (as opposed to the “Dunbar spread”), Cal was able to run against Tennessee.  Unfortunately for Lynch, between penalties, dropped balls and a poor game plan, there weren’t many power running opportunities for him to work his magic.  Another forgotten factor was that this was really Longshore’s first start and his jitters had a larger impact on the game than remembered.  Finally forgotten was the success Cal’s run defense had in slowing Tennessee in the first half.

The 2006 learnings:
This might sound odd since it was Longshore who was unable to score, the number one learning from this game for the 2006 season was that Ayoob was not improved from 2005 and didn’t deserve a second shot as being the starter QB.  While Ayoob was able to generate some offense, much of it was against the 2nd string Tennessee defense, he still made a number of mind-numbingly bad decisions of the type that plagued his 2005 season.  Another learning was that the Tedford-Dunbar combined offense still had some kinks to be worked out.  A number of the failed plays in the 1st half for the Cal offense were clearly poorly designed plays that were not seen often after the opener.  While it wasn’t time to write a eulogy, there were reasons to be concerned.  Finally, we learned that Cal was definitely hurt by the loss of Tim Mixon and was going to have to give Syd Thompson some safety help while he developed as a corner.

The 2007 implications:
Seeing as how Cal gets a re-match at home against Tennessee in the 1st game of the season, there are more implications from this game than I could list.  Speaking generically, Cal will have to play a lot more polished game to have a hope of beating Tennessee this year.  Tennessee clearly came into the game well prepared and ready to strike.  While the home-field advantage helps, it’s still clear that they were ready to play.  Additionally, it’s pretty clear that for Cal to be able to run the football, they’re going to have to play some power football.  Tennessee is too fast and too strong for “cute” run plays to work or for running out of a spread formation to be successful.  Hopefully the return to the traditional Tedford offense will serve us better than the experimental Dunbar-Tedford hybrid spread did against Tennessee in 2006.

The Conclusion:
In many ways, the emotion of the 2006 Tennessee game made the black eye that it was look worse than it was.  In reality, while the game will always remain painful, there is reason to hope that the 2007 game will have a different outcome.  Cal, contrary to popular opinion, was talented enough to beat Tennessee.  Poor play, inexperience, a weak game plan, a huge home field advantage for Tennessee and some big plays turned a game between two fairly comparable programs into a forgettable blowout.

Barbour writes letter to Cal supporters

Monday, June 18th, 2007

No need to comment on it, just wanted to share:

Trial date set for Cal vs. the world lawsuit

Friday, June 15th, 2007

A trial date has finally been set for the Cal High Performance Center (HPC) lawsuits.  Just to recap, the City of Berkeley, the Panaramic Hills Association (a home owners association) and some tree-sitters have all sued Cal to block construction of the HPC.  The 3 separate suits were joined into one and then a preliminary hearing was heard in late Janaury at which a temporary injunction was granted to stop construction until a trial could be held.  The driver for the injunction was that the earthquake fault data was potentially incomplete.  The trial was to be held in June or July.

Since that time, the University has expanded their earthquake testing and everything has come out in favor of the University.  That was a necessary first step to getting the trial under way and since that data wasn’t released until late May, it slowed the trial a bit.

The new trial date is September 19th.  The same judge who granted the preliminary injunction, judge Barbara Miller, will be handling the actual case.

Overall this is good news.  It’s good news because the trial will be happening early enough, albeit later than originally hopeed, that construction can begin immediately after the season ends (the last home game is November 10th) if Cal wins the case.  While others may disagree, I think having judge Miller preside over the case is also a good thing.  Her preliminary ruling, although not what Bear fans wanted to hear, was a reasonable decision under the circumstances.  I don’t see her as an activist judge.  Also, since her injunction was in regards to one specific issue and not a plethora of issues, it seems to follow that since that issue has been resolved, that she is likely to rule in Cal’s favor.

The final reason this is good news is that it lights a fire under the 3 plaintiffs regarding any desire they may have to settle.  Particulary now that we have a fixed date for a trial with a judge who made it clear what needed to happen for Cal to win, and Cal has satisfied that requirement, the plaintiffs should have a strong desire to settle to get concessions instead of losing outright in court.  It’s one thing to talk settlement when neither the trial date nor the judge has been set.  There’s a new urgency once the clock officially starts ticking.