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Cal Unplugs Sparky in the Desert to Secure Winning Season

Josh Hill and Steve Williams celebrates as Hill's interception clinches Cal's 47-38 victory over ASU on Black Friday

It was Black Friday all over the United States on Friday (which made it an interesting choice on why the Sun Devils didn’t bust out their black uniforms Friday night in the dessert). Many Cal fans probably left Vacaville or Gilroy feeling like winners on outlet clothing, just to come home to another surprise and great find. A Cal victory on the road! Outside of Pullman, Tempe has been the place which Cal has typically cashed in heavily on for road victories during the Jeff Tedford era (outside the slide of 2007). We were able to rid ourselves of the Beaver curse this year, while keeping intact our clamps on Sparky. Three big reasons which lead to the Bear’s victory:

1. Great job by our offensive line and our ground attack. Isi and CJ combined for 193 yards and more important averaged more than 6 yards a carry, keeping the chains moving and the Sun Devils’ defense panting on the field in this back and forth game. Zach also made some beautiful zone reads to pick up some huge first downs and a rushing TD. I loved Tedford’s mix of the running attack this game, as alternating between the contrasting running styles of Isi and CJ definitely kept ASU off-balance this game.

2. Zach took care of the ball. Maynard didn’t have a great statistical game. He only had 237 yards (74 of which came from a flip to CJ on a broken play), but he made plays with his feet when he needed to and placed the ball only where his receivers could catch it. We saw how effective Maynard is when he rolls out to his left, and how his ability to extend plays (sound like another Cal QB in the NFL now?) makes him extremely dangerous especially if he keeps his eyes looking down-field as witnessed by the 74 yard flip to CJ for a touchdown.

3. Cal got some lucky bounces their way. The Cameron Marshall fumble in the 4th quarter as the Sun Devils’ were down 6 and driving could have easily been ruled down by contact. However, the ref saw enough evidence to overturn the call. Of course maybe this was makeup for the Richard Rodgers “fumble” near the end of the 2nd half or the lack of a replay on what appeared to be another fumble by Jamal Miles earlier in the 4th quarter. There was also Isi’s fumble which was luckily recovered by fullback John Tydall early in the 4th allowing the Bears to salvage 3 points on the drive. In addition, Vontaze’s reputation probably earned him his second unsportsmanlike conduct and a trip to the bench which allowed Cal to pound the ball inside to bleed out most of the fourth quarter. Lastly, there was the Giorgio tipped field goal, which if it was even kicked from one yard further behind would have had Cal fans shaking their head and probably doubting the Bears could hold a 6 point lead. The moral of the story, probably better sometimes to be lucky than to be good.

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Jason A.W.’s Cal vs. ASU First Half in Game Analysis

Kennan Allen looks to get open for a lot of bombs this evening in Tempe

– We’ll see how much Arizona State has to play for after Colorado’s win today eliminates ASU’s chance at the Pac-12 Championship Game.

– Great first drive for Cal, anybody know who Jackson Bouza was before today? Giorgio comes up with a clutch 48 yard kick to give the Bears an early lead. Cal 3-0

– Cal is going to need to step up their running game defense against Marshall and Osweiler if they don’t want to get blown out tonight. Our run defense got cut through like swiss cheese that drive. ASU 7-3

– Cal looks great in their response drive. Great run by Isi. I’m surprised Isi attempted to reverse the field on that play, but it worked. Isi caps off a nice drive and runs it in to give the Bears the lead.

– Craig and Mike keep mentioning about Zach Maynard’s accuracy is starting to get annoying.

– Trevor Guyton with a great strip and Kendricks with a big run back after special teams rears its ugly head again (ALLLOOOMMAARRR?).

– I like the aggressive play calling and going for the bomb right after the turnover. Great read by Maynard to get the touchdown. Love to see more zone read plays on 3rd and short.

– Great analysis by the announcers pointing out how Cal is playing with 4 down linemen because of injuries to Wilkerson and Whiteside.

– Steve Williams is having a rough night, gets beat on an out route for an ASU touchdown.

– Cal can’t get the stop on 4th and 10 (good aggresive call by Erickson in my opinion). Negates a nice deflection by Marc Anthony the play earlier.

– Great 3rd down conversion by Cal, to overcome a 10 yard holding penalty. Miller with a big catch. Would like more plays thrown to Miller.

– Nice reverse negated by a block in the back followed by another holding call negating a nice screen play to Allen.

– Nice interception, glad to get 3, would have been nice to get 7 to really put down the Sun Devils.

– If Cameron Marshall can’t play, ASU will likely go to the air more like they did on the converted 4th and 10 (ughhhh why can’t we stop these?). Being the Sun Devils within 6.

– Richard Rodgers probably tried doing a little too much so the ruling on the field of fumble might be hard to overturn. This is a huge play as it looks rather ambiguous whether he was down. Cal defense needs to come up big here and hold them for a field goal attempt.

– Cal down 1. Cal let’s a couple of golden chances to keep a big lead go by them (score a TD, 4th and 10, secure the football).

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Shawn X.T.’s Pac-12 Predictions: Week 13

[Overall predictions]: 58-19 [The Week Before]: 2-4

Talk about a bad week for predictions. So many upsets. Unfortunately, Cal couldn’t be part of that.

There are a lot on the line for Utah, UCLA, and Arizona State this weekend.

Colorado 17 – Utah 32: Colorado covers (22)

California 27 – Arizona State 17: California covers (5.5)

Oregon State 10 – Oregon 42: Oregon covers (-28)

Louisiana-Lafayette 17 – Arizona 32: Arizona covers (-13.5)

Washington State 24 – Washington 35: Washington covers (-9)

Notre Dame 21 – Stanford 38: Stanford covers (-7)

UCLA 17 – USC 32: USC covers (-15)

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3 Things Cal Fans are Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone from Calfootballblog!

It’s easy around this time of year to think about what we want or are wishful for this coming holiday season (that will come during the next blog). But I’m going to take look back what Cal football fans should be thankful for from this 2011 football season so far.

1. A place to go bowling this December – We won’t be playing football on January 2nd as we had hoped this year, but with the Bear’s 23-6 win over Oregon State (ending the 4 year Beaver curse in the meantime), Cal is assured of a bowl game this coming season. Depending on the result of our performance in Tempe on Friday, and all sorts of other factors we can’t control (Stanford vs. Notre Dame, UCLA vs. USC, Utah vs. Colorado, we can significantly improve our bowl prospective from a low tier bowl vs. a non-AQ team, to one against a high-profile Big-12 team (hello Texas or Texas A&M?). Two years ago, the Bears were largely disappointed to hear they were out of the running for the Holiday Bowl when the folks in San Diego announced they were going to pick the winner of the Arizona vs. USC game that season. The Bears then played an extremely unmotivated game in Seattle getting crushed 42-10 by the Huskies and played uninspired in the “other” San Diego bowl game losing to Utah 37-27. However, I’m sure that was a lot better than “studying for finals” or “getting prepared for the draft” which is the silver lining coaches had to focus the players on last year.

2. No significant injuries this year – We had some injuries to our deep linebacking corp and offensive line, but for the most part, we have avoided the injury bug for most of the year. No injuries to Maynard (yes I do believe he is our best option at QB), his brother Keenan, Marvin Jones, or captain on defense Mychal Kendricks. Outside of the USC game, we have largely played competitively in all our games this year. And whether it’s better conditioning or longer offseason from no bowl from last year, it has improved the prospective for 2011.

3. No more home games at AT&T – The home away from home provided 4 victories in 5 games. But lackluster attendance, followed by weird stadium configurations, weird weather, questionable kickoff times, gave a sense we were playing at a pseudo-home field than a true home-field. Unless we play in the Kraft Fight for Hunger Bowl on 12/31, I’m sure Bear fans are eager to un-inhabit their temporary San Francisco home and greet the Nevada Wolfpack opening day in the new Memorial Stadium next year.

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Questions of the Week

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


1. How will Cal bounce back after the tough loss against Stanford?

There has been a lot of talk about how the players are down and frustrated about the loss against Stanford, but still uplifted by the support of some Cal fans and of teammates. This is good news going into the last regular season game. If Cal can replicate the energy and heart that they showed against Stanford, California should be able to come out with a victory against a struggling Arizona State. However, if Cal continues to make big mental mistake and cause untimely penalties, Arizona State will run all over Cal.

2. Will Maynard continue his good play?

Zach Maynard had a strong performance against Stanford (though made a couple costly mistakes). He had 20/30 passes, 280 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions while Andrew Luck had 20/30 passes, 257 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Zach looked poised under pressure and made critical plays in the fourth quarter. It looked like the coaches were making plays that favored the strengths of Maynard, especially utilizing his capability to throw with his feet moving. Consistency will be key for Maynard throughout his Cal career. If Maynard continues to grow throughout the next two games, he may very well be a top quarterback next season in the Pac-12 especially with top quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, and Nick Foles leaving for the NFL.

3. Can the defense recover?

Even though the defense limited Andrew Luck throughout the game, he was still able to make big plays especially in the third quarter. The defense had trouble pressuring Luck and defending one-on-one matchups on long pass plays. However, Cal is one of three teams to sack and intercept Luck this season. Cal should look strong against Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler and their offensive line. Look for the Cal defense to pressure the opposing quarterback all-day. If the defense is forcing a lot of bad plays from Arizona State, Cal may get a similar win against Arizona State as they did in 2010 ( a 50-17 victory for the Bears).

4. Will Cal finally win on ESPN?

Does anyone remember the last time Cal won when the game was on ESPN? I sure don’t. Maybe the lights for ESPN are too bright, maybe the ESPN announcers puts a curse on Cal before every game, maybe the players get distracted trying to say hi to mom on TV, or maybe the national spotlight is too much pressure for Cal. Whatever it is, this needs to stop. Losing on national television does not bode well when recruiting and it doesn’t help Cal get into a better bowl game at all. Let’s hope Cal can end these losses on national television this Friday against Arizona State.

5. Which bowl game will Cal go to?

Right now the mess in the South Division makes this question really difficult. Cal can go to any bowl game ranging from the Alamo Bowl to the Vegas Bowl. Experts place Cal for the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl meaning Washington and South Division team would be above Cal. However, if Cal wins against Arizona State there will be a world of possibilities. The Apple Cup up in Washington is this weekend, and if Washington State can pull an upset, Cal will most likely go to the Holiday Bowl (Assuming that Utah, Oregon, and Stanford takes care of business). If Washington wins like they are supposed to, Cal goes to Sun Bowl. If UCLA upsets USC, Cal goes to Vegas Bowl (anyone down to go to Vegas for Christmas?). If Cal loses to Arizona State, Cal goes to the Hunger Bowl. Cal only goes to New Mexico Bowl if either Stanford or Oregon loses this weekend.