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Shawn X.T.’s Weekday Links!

If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team. ~ Bud Wilkinson


So What Now? Quarterback & Tailbacks

After four games, the California Golden Bears are 3-1. A good win against Fresno State, a heart-throbbing victory over Colorado, an easy but not perfect win over Presbyterian, and a hard-fought but disappointing loss to Washington. With a third of the season over, what does Cal need to do in order to climb up the Pac-12 rankings and get into a respectable bowl game?

I will take a stab at this question by look at each position from what we have seen to what we need.


What we have seen

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating Att/G Yards/G
Zach Maynard JR QB 4 138 72 52.2 1073 7.8 10 3 137.04 34.5 268.3

From a neutral standpoint, Zach’s stats are decent. However, Zach is only 19/46, or 41.3%, on completions and a PER of 106.9 on 1st downs while his 3rd down stats are 24/45, or 53.5%, on completions and a PER of 166.51. It is either Zach’s confidence increases as he continues to throw (even without success) or that Tedford is making the wrong calls on first down. There could be arguments for both, but seeing that Zach’s PER decreases from about a PER of 173.76 in the 1st quarters to a PER of 76.13 in the 4th quarters, I’m going to lean towards the latter.

Now lets compare Zach Maynard to Kevin Riley of last season to see where they compare after four games.

Name Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating Att/G Yards/G
Kevin Riley SR QB 4 116 71 61.2 877 7.6 8 4 140.57 29.0 219.3

Riley has a higher PER and completion %, but Riley threw less attempts, yards, and touchdowns while throwing one more interception. Cal was also only 2-2 after four games last season, Cal had Shane Vereen to rely on, and Riley was a veteran. In the big picture, Zach has done just a little better than Riley so far.

Assessment of Quarterback so far: B, meaning Zach’s performance so far is what most analysts expected but he has the potential to be much better.

What we need – 

Maynard must be consistent throughout the game. His PER goes from 173.76 in the first quarter to 76.13 in the fourth quarter, which can’t be tolerated against the rest of the Pac-12. Maynard must continue to fix up his mechanics, better understand how to read defenses, and utilize his footwork better. Maynard seems to throw a little better when a rolls a bit to his left or whenever he steps into his throw. There were a few key passes against Washington that if he stepped into his throw, he would not have under-thrown his passes. Hopefully, quarterback guru, Jeff Tedford can mold Maynard to his potential during this bye week before Oregon.

Running Back & Fullback:

What we have seen –

Name Yr Pos G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
Isi Sofele JR RB 4 78 375 4.81 4 19.5 93.75
C.J. Anderson JR RB 4 20 102 5.1 3 5.00 25.50

Isi is no Shane Vereen or Jahvid Best, but he is a constant fighter and a great pass blocker. However, Isi has not been the running back who can shed a tackle or two, or take too many hits. He also does not have that breakneck speed that both Vereen and Best had. We know that C.J. Anderson is the type of back we need for short yard gains (which questions Tedford’s personnel decisions at the end of the Washington game). Tedford’s offense relies on a very good running game to open up the passing game, but opposing teams are just not afraid nor respect Cal’s running backs, which forces Cal’s offense to rely more on its passing game. Sofele is still on track to gain over 1,000 yards this season, but needs to make more big plays.

At fullback, Will Kapp and John Tyndall has done nicely to fill in for injured Eric Stevens. Even though Kapp has not been perfect, he will most likely progress throughout the season after he suffered a concussion during the Fresno State game.

What we need – 

Isi does not have the acceleration to outrun every single defender, but he has enough tenacity to get through some of them. Isi has missed many unscripted opportunities that would have led to big runs. If Isi can increase his vision of the field, he will have a better chance at making big gains on the ground. Lots of fans have asked, “Why not use highly touted recruit Brendan Bigelow?”. The answer is simply, he is not yet ready. Bigelow’s speed is still hindered by the knee brace and he had not played football for over a year and a half, so the couches are just trying to ease him in. However, depending on the situation, the coaches may decide to give Bigelow much more minutes as the season progresses.

Assessment of Tailbacks so far: B-, not bad but Cal needs much more production from this group.

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Jason A. W.’s Pac-12 Predictions: Week 5

[Overall predictions]: 31-6 [Last Week]: 3-2

Arizona 28 – USC 30: Keep in mind Arizona won two years ago at USC.

Washington State 31  – Colorado 42: Colorado finally receives a break on what has been a brutal opening schedule.

Washington 31 – Utah 36: Utah is coming off a bye and Kyle Whittingham is 6-0 off bye weeks. Washington just played two physical games against Cal and Nebraska.

Oregon State 25 – Arizona State 35: Dennis Erickson should easily handle his former team.

UCLA 16- Stanford 38: Palo Alto has been a tomb of horrors for the Bruins as of late.

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Shawn X.T.’s Pac-12 Predictions: Week 5

[Overall predictions]: 31-6 [Last Week]: 2-3

Predicting Pac-12 games is harder than I thought. Oregon State is looking really bad right now considering that they just lost to a struggling UCLA.

Cal and Oregon has a bye this week to get ready for their matchup next Thursday. Can Oregon State pull a huge upset this weekend? I highly doubt it. I’m predicting a lot of home cooking this weekend.

Arizona 20 – USC 31: USC covers (-11)

Washington State 10  – Colorado 35: Colorado covers (-3)

Washington 27 – Utah 35: Utah covers (-7.5)

Oregon State 7 – Arizona State 42: Arizona State covers (-18)

UCLA 10- Stanford 38: Stanford covers (-20.5)

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Questions of the Week

Every week Cal Football Blog will look at 5 most intriguing questions before Game Day.


1. Can Cal come back from a loss?

The Golden Bear’s loss this weekend has hurt the hearts of many Cal fans, players, and coaches. However, can Cal bounce back from a game that they could have won? If we looks back at Cal’s record after a loss since the 2007 season, Cal has a record of 9-9 after a loss. However, five of those nine wins have come against mediocre teams and seven out of the nine wins were at home. The other two away wins came against Washington State last year and a bad UCLA team a year before that. This doesn’t look good for Cal when they face Oregon at Autzen Stadium. However, Cal does have a bye week to fix up some issues and game plan for Oregon (though Cal is only 3-4 after a bye week since 2007). The coaches will need to keep the players excited and energized for the next week and a half before facing Oregon.

2. Can Cal perform against other Pac-12 teams?

Cal has a daunting schedule of having to face Oregon, USC, and then Utah back to back to back (both Oregon and USC will have a bye week before facing Cal). All three of these teams have the potential to be ranked in the top 25 before facing Cal. Many Old Blues are expecting DOOM, but folks must remember, this is college football – you just never know what may happen. With the right preparation and execution, Cal has the talent to upset all three of these teams. Most analysts are expecting Cal to defeat Oregon State, UCLA, and Washington State, meaning that Cal should barely make a bowl game this year. Also, if both the players and the fans bring the energy, especially at AT&T Park, Cal will have a great chance at being undefeated at home this season.

3. What has happened to the defense?

Don’t be surprised here. Since, the beginning of last year, good quarterbacks have really hurt Cal’s defense, resulting in big blowouts. Luckily, this year Cal has an offense to keep things close. Pendergast has continued to stress that Cal’s scheme is fine and that the problem is with execution and winning one-on-one matchups. However, Cal’s defensive players are not progressing as fast as Cal needs them to. Trevor Guyton and Mychal Kendricks are doing well, but like the team’s motto this year, it is all about the team and not about the individual. If the other players, especially the talented young players, do not begin to step up on a consistent basis, the production from Cal’s star players will not be enough for a win. Cal must take advantage of this bye week to fix up technique and execution. Cal will see if whether the defensive assistant coaches are as good as Cal hopes they are.

4. What must be done so Cal can score touchdowns instead of field goals in the redzone?

Tedford addressed this issue after the game, saying that Cal’s offense can’t just settle for the field goals. If Cal had scored a couple touchdowns instead of a couple field goals, Cal would have had a decent lead going into the fourth quarter. A dropped pass here, an underthrown pass there, and bad execution everywhere led to missed opportunities that Cal could have easily taken. Many people questioned Tedford’s playcalling and personnel on the goal line that led to Cal’s defeat. However, Tedford wanted to play an outside zone play, where Isi would have the chance to cutback or make a better play than Anderson, but wasn’t given the chance because of bad blocking. Tedford will have his hands full on figuring out different schemes, personnel, and how to improve execution (so pretty much the entire offense). Maybe we’ll finally go for a fake field goal this season?

5. What positives can we take from last weekend’s loss?

Cal’s run defense was very stout in containing Chris Polk to only 60 total rushing yards (though he did receive a 70 yard touchdown pass). The offensive line made much less mental mistakes and were able to give Maynard decent protection throughout the game. We learned that our stars can really play – Keenan Allen amassed 197 receiving yards, Mychal Kendricks had 14 total tackles, Trevor Guyton accounted for 2 sacks, and Zach Maynard threw for a season high of 349 yards passing. Georgio is still perfect on field goals while Bryan Anger averaged 49.7 yards per punt. Even when Cal’s defense faltered, Cal’s offense kept things close, which is something Cal fans have not seen in a while.

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Gameday Snapshot: Cal vs. Washington


Cal takes on Washington today, opening Pac-12 play on the road in Seattle.  Cal completed their non-conference slate with a 3-0 record, including an expected blowout win over Presbyterian last week by a score of 63-12.  The Bears by no means played a perfect game last week – check out the highlights here.  Once again, there were too many penalties, plus a pick-6 and blocked punt for TD that resulted in Presby’s only points.  Today’s game against the Huskies gives the Bears a great opportunity to prove that those mistakes have been fixed.  It also gives the Bears a chance for “get back” against the team that prevented them from bowl eligibility last year:  Cal lost 16-13 on Chris Polk’s TD dive on 4th & Goal – the very last play of the 2010 season.

Here are Cal’s keys to the game:

1. Maynard Needs to Have a Big Day

As noted in our preview, Zach Maynard is facing one of the Pac-12’s most dynamic QBs, Keith Price.  Price is currently tied for the national lead in TD passes with 11, but he is also nursing two sprained knees.  The Huskies’ sophomore QB has several playmakers around him:  RB Chris Polk & WRs Jermaine Kearse, James Johnson, and Devin Aguilar.  Maynard counters with 9 TD passess of his own, and like Price, has an array of weapons on offense – including Keenan Allen & Marvin Jones.  For the Bears to be successful today, Maynard doesn’t necessarily have to outplay Price, but he needs to have a big day of his own against the Huskies’ much-maligned pass defense.  A performance similar to the Colorado game – multiple TDs and key 3rd down conversions, in a hostile stadium – should result in enough points to put Cal in position for a victory.

2. Cal Defense Must Show Up

Cal’s defense is currently ranked 21st in the nation – but this is somewhat padded by last week’s complete domination of Presby’s offense, which they shut down to the tune of 48 yards.  Despite Price’s injuries, the Huskies arguably have the most explosive offense the Bears have seen so far this season.  The Bears’ D needs to bring their “A-game” today – the secondary, in particular, cannot repeat their poor showing in the Colorado game.  Coach P will likely focus on stopping the run first, but he’ll also be mixing up blitzes and coverages to pressure Price into mistakes.

3. Minimize Penalties and Special Teams Miscues

Cal currently is among the worst nationally in penalties and penalty yards.  Special teams have been a problem as well: 3 blocked PATs and a blocked punt returned for a TD.  The Bears need to stay focused and cut down on mental mistakes today, especially considering that Husky Stadium is one of the Pac-12’s loudest and toughest road venues.  If the Bears are able to minimize their mistakes, it should go a long way in helping break their 2-game losing streak in Seattle – Cal hasn’t won there since 2005.