UPDATE: updated to include my brother’s contribution to the trip
Well it seems of all the Cal Bloggerbacks that I read, I’m the only one who actually went to the game. So here’s a wrapup of both the game and the event:
My brother Brian and I left Sacramento on Weds. the 21st at 6 PM headed for Vegas after I had a long day of work trying to wrap things up before my Christmas break. Brian works an early day (5 AM to noon) and met me at my place for the trip after driving up from Oakland. 9 hours and a refresher clutch driving lesson for my brother later we arrived in Vegas (my first ever trip) and checked into the Hard Rock Hotel, the official hotel of the Cal Bears for the Las Vegas bowl. The Hard Rock Hotel is about 6 blocks off the strip and let me tell you it was DEAD. Granted, it was 3 in the morning, but there was absolutely ZERO sign of a partying Cal contingent. When I woke up, after remembering just how loud my brother can snore, I showered and we checked out of my room, the place had transformed itself into a Cal dominated hotel, but a very mellow one. I thought we were in Vegas?
Besides driving the strip to see the various hotels, Brian and I knew one of the important sights to see in Vegas was the buffet line. After a long decision making process including calling one of Brian’s long lost friends who lives in Vegas and accounting for Brian’s numerous food aversions, we ended up going to the MGM grand for a lunch. The cash register lady looked none to pleased to see us approaching, knowing it was a losing proposition to let us eat…
Tailgating at Sam Boyd stadium was relaxed and jovial. Cal fans just aren’t experienced tailgaters. May have something to do with the fact that there is no where to tailgate in Berkeley… BYU fans seemed to be similarly as inexperienced at tailgating because despite the fact that Cal fans were greatly outnumbered in the stands, Cal tailgaters outnumbered BYU tailgaters 2 to 1. The first true sign of us being in Vegas was the cadre of Cal fans (OK, only two of them) who came over asking for food because they spent all their money on beer.
Sam Boyd stadium is nice enough and has a TON more legroom that Memorial stadium. The entire seating areas is elevated, so even being in the 6th row, we had pretty good depth perception and no visibility problems. The stadium also has remarkably little sideline room so the stands are VERY close to the field. The TV announcers greatly over estimated the dominance of the BYU fans at the stadium. Basically the BYU fans took one side of the field plus the endzone while the Cal contingent took the other side (the second endzone having no stands). I’d say the crowd breakdown was 15K to 25K in BYU’s favor. While their cheers were loud, the fact that they were opposite the press box I think made them sound louder than they were compared to the Cal fans who were below and facing away from the announcers. In other words, Cal fans made plenty of noise. In fact, there seemed to be moments where the BYU players seemed a little surprised to hear so much Cal noise when they were expecting a home crowd.
OK, on to the game.
I think Cal played below their potential and BYU played above theirs. They also got some VERY generous penalty calls and Cal didn’t get any penalty breaks. Said another way, there was only one way this game could have been closer than the 35 to 28 Cal victory that occured: Cal turnovers. That is the #1 thing to be happy about in the game. Cal made ZERO big mistakes. No bad penalties, no turnovers, no special teams mistakes, nothing. In fact, the worst play of the game was a 50 yard pass play that the defense gave up. Other than that Cal made BYU earn every point they got and didn’t leave any points on the board that they should have got.
Levy played OK. Mistake free, no doubt, but his accuracy left something to be desired. It’s harder to see on TV, but receivers had to make a lot of corrections to get to his balls. In fact, the just before halftime touchdown catch and run was facilitated by a bad throw that required the receiver to make a correction (and the defender was unable to adjust). He also threw a number of low balls that hurt the ability of the receivers to get yards after the catch. All and all, he did his job, but he didn’t impress me for next season. I’d take him any day of the week over ‘booya in reverse’, but he’s not the QB who is going to take us to the Rose Bowl or to a National Title.
The BYU quarterback on the other hand was pretty darned good. He threw a number of VERY impressive passes and did a very good job of keeping out of trouble. One has to remember that both of his interceptions were off of balls thrown as he was hit. The reality was that he kept them in the game by making key throws to some VERY tight spots. The Cal DB’s did a very good job of pass coverage, particulary on the ouside and deep and the few passes they made there were because the QB threaded the needle. The one place the Cal defense could have played better was protecting the underneath passes to the TEs. A great deal of the offense BYU had came from those plays. For some reason Cal had a tough time adjusting to that. I think they were trying to get more pressure on the QB and as a result were one linebacker short on the underneath protection.
I watched the TV coverage of the game when I got home and laughed to see them spend time focusing on number 76 or “lunchbox” the offensive lineman of BYU. This guy was PATHETIC. He looked like a pregnant woman woddling on and off the field. He couldn’t block, was falling down all over the place, and was useless for just about anything. For those watching the TV coverage, they may have noticed that they didn’t focus on him later in the game. He was basically benched in the 2nd half for not getting the job done.
Looking forward to next season, I’m really optimistic if we can just find that QB to give us balance. Everyone knows Ayoob isn’t it and it is my opinion that Levy isn’t it either. We could be 9-2 with him but not the 10-1 we need to be to get to the Rose Bowl. I’m hopeful that either Longshore or Reed will be the QB we’re looking for. Everything else seems to be falling into place. We’ve got great and improving WR’s, the offensive line will have a lot of experience after this injury plagued year for the graduating seniors, we seem to have enough depth at our DB positions to make up for the loss of our safeties and our defensive linemen are all back next year. I don’t even need to mention how awesome Lynch and Forsett are…