Looking back on 2006: The Holiday Bowl

(Note to readers: Today we wrap-up our look back at the games in the 2006 season with the Holiday Bowl pretty much on the planned schedule of 2 a week between 6 weeks ago and today, the start of fall practice.  Did these help you last through the dry period?  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State, Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State, Washington, UCLA, Arizona, USC and the Big Game).

The storyline:
In a game with lots of question marks before it started, Cal quickly answered on the field, routing an overmatched Texas A&M team 45-10.  Texas A&M was unable to move the ball after their first possession as Cal was able to decipher Texas A&M’s complex running scheme.  Cal also re-discovered its prolific offense that had been missing late in the season.

The reality:
The key to victory in this game was Cal’s ability to dominate the line of scrimmage.  On both sides of the ball it was Cal’s line that was able to control the flow.  Interestingly it was exactly the opposite on the first set of possessions.  But once Cal settled down, the game was all Bears.  This was particularly true in the 2nd half when Cal went up 21-10 as Texas A&M was forced to resort to its passing game, failing miserably.  In the end, it was not Cal’s 45 points on offense (really 38 minus garbage TD at end) that was impressive but Cal’s defense that not only held Texas A&M to 10 points, but held them scoreless in the 2nd half (and only 3 points after the first possession).

The forgotten:
Forgotten was how Texas A&M was able to shorten the first half and keep the game close.  Cal was only up 14-10 at the half because despite having multiple ineffectual drives, they were able to chew up lots of clock time.  Also forgotten was that Texas A&M had a horrible punt, netting zero yards, in their attempt to punt away from DeSean Jackson.  The resulting touchdown on the short field put the Bears up 21-10 and sent Texas A&M to desperation strategies.

The 2006 learnings:
With the season over, there was nothing more to learn.  Looking back, having such a dominating victory was a sign of just how good the Cal team was when it was playing at its peak.  Between the stout defenses of both Arizona and USC and the difficult conditions of the Big Game, it was easy to forget just how talented the team was.

The 2007 learnings:
Other than Forsett having another great game in relief of Lynch, most of the play makers in this game were the seniors.  If anything, this game showed just how much talent the Bears will need to replace in 2007.  Desmond Bishop had a monster game and it is going to take a team effort with Follett’s leadership to anchor the team.

The Conclusion:
The 2006 season was one with so much potential that it is easy to look back and think of what might have been.  The expectations at the beginning of the season was predicated on USC having somewhat of a rebuilding year, giving Cal a one-year window to get to the Rose Bowl.  In retrospect, it turned out that USC didn’t rebuild, it just reloaded.  At the same time, Cal was very competitive with USC and could easily have beat USC with some better bounces or if the game had been in Berkeley.  With both teams returning similar percentages of talent, there is no reason to doubt that Cal has a realistic shot at winning the Pac-10 outright in 2007.

3 Responses to “Looking back on 2006: The Holiday Bowl”

  1. Avinash Says:

    Hey Ken,

    I’m planning a week-long preview of the football season by interviewing all the big Cal football bloggers to share their thoughts, and you’re one of the more thorough, analytical voices out there. I figure it’d be a great way to cross-promote and discuss the upcoming season with a wider audience. Are you interested? Shoot me an email so I can send you the interview questions.

    Nice job with the blog, keep it up!

  2. Matt Says:

    Great job, i did a smaller version of this right after the season, but i really appreciated the detail of your work. Your analysis was right on the mark. Hope to keep reading you during the season.

  3. tmoran3020 Says:

    Thanks for these recaps. I’ve been anxiously awaiting each posting and found them very useful as well as exciting roadmaps for what (may) happen this year.

    Kudos, and thanks again!