Cal 49, Washington State 17

Another terrible opponent, another mediocre blowout. We scored with relative ease and, as expected, beat the crap out of the worst team in the PAC-10. We also ran the ball much more consistently well (including more wildcat!) and finally put some pressure on the opposing QB. But we gave up a ton of yards to one of the worst offenses in the FBS, continue to have a so-so passing game, and didn’t cover the spread (yes, that’s important). What did we learn? Not much, other than the fact that you can be ranked in the BCS without many (any?) impressive victories.

This week’s assessment…

  • Jahvid was back at it, going for 159 and 2 TDs on just 13 carries. He had seven rushes of 10+ yards (including a nice 61-yard TD), while losing yards on only his last attempt. He still doesn’t look as fast as he should be (on his 61-yarder, he had just enough speed to cross the goal line before a Cougar caught him), so his left foot must still be bothering him. He also caught a nice 27-yard TD pass in the first quarter. A good day all-in-all, but considering what he did at Pullman last year (200 and 3 TDs on 14 carries), this definitely wasn’t Jahvid at his best.
  • Led by Jahvid, the running game was really on track this week, going for 309 and 3 TDs on 39 attempts. One-third of our rushes gained 10+ yards through a porous Cougar run defense. Our wildcat offense made quite a few appearances, resulting in a couple long runs by Best and Sofele that I can recall.
  • Shane Vereen had another good day, if not as spectacular as last week’s performance. Two more TDs for him and 103 yards from scrimmage on just 15 touches. Still the best 2nd-string RB in the country, in my opinion.
  • Riley put up pretty good numbers for the second week in a row, despite throwing his second INT of the season. All three of his passes in the 1st quarter went for touchdowns and he finished 12/18 for 229 and 3 TDs. He made some decent mid-range throws, but I would’ve liked to see us do a lot more of that in the 2nd half, rather than run the ball (which we already know we do well). His interception was a terrible decision, trying to thread the needle while scrambling, rather than just throwing it away or running. Beau Sweeney made a strong appearance, going 3/3 for 21 yards…I guess he’s jumped Brock on the depth chart for now.
  • Another good, limited-action game for Marvin Jones and the receiving corp. Jones snagged three passes (the only WR with more than one catch), including a great 37-yard TD catch in the 1st quarter. Ross hauled in a 61-yarder that would’ve been a TD if Riley had led him a little better. He also had a gorgeous 76-yard punt return for a TD and a 54-yard kick-off return to open the game.
  • Overall, our offense once again benefited from a weak opposing defense. Our first four offensive TDs were 21 yards or longer and we had many 20+ yard plays. On the other hand, we still had a couple 3-and-outs and two more short drives (15 and 16 yards) that ended with a turnover and a punt. We had just two drives lasting more than six plays…the last two drives of the game. I know, I shouldn’t penalize us for scoring quickly against a terrible defense, but that terrible defense still stopped us plenty of times fairly easily.
  • What to say about the defense? We finally started harassing the opposing QB more consistently (including quite a few plays in which we had four down linemen), to the tune of five sacks. We held them to just 55 rushing yards on 28 carries (if you exclude RB Carl Winston’s 37-yarder, we gave up just 0.7 yards per rush). We held them scoreless in the 2nd half. We forced four 3-and-outs (two of them for negative yards) and three more 4-and-outs. But we also gave up five drives of 55+ yards and two long TD drives in a row to essentially close out the 1st half. We gave up 440 yards (385 passing) to a Cougar offense that was averaging 269 a game (194 passing) coming in. Cougar QB Jeff Tuel came in with mediocre-to-poor numbers (56% completion, 6.84 yards/att, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) and really lit us up (67% completion, 8.23 yards/att, 2 TDs, 0 INTs). We gave up another 100-yard receiving day (Johnny Forzani pulled in 116 yards and a TD on four catches), with three other Cougars topping 66 receiving yards. Two consecutive bend-but-don’t-break games against really bad offenses…not very encouraging.
  • Some EECS students must’ve hacked into the computers, because we’re actually #24 in the BCS rankings, despite being unranked in both major polls (we’re three steps away in the AP Poll and four steps away in the USA Today Poll). Were our road victories over Minnesota and UCLA really that impressive? I think not.
  • We’re one win away from bowl eligibility, but as Jav points out, we’ll probably need seven wins to get a bid (who’d give us a bid for going 3-6 in conference play?). I think I’m 50-50 right now on whether we’ll reach seven wins in the regular season.
  • I didn’t pay as much attention to the game as I normally would and actually left early for the first time ever…but for good reason: little Piper attended her first Cal game! This game met all the right criteria for bringing acalgame three-month-old: afternoon start time (no good being out at night), nice weather (don’t want her freezing), and relatively light attendance (much easier changing her when you have large stretches of empty bleachers). She did great and spent much of the time just staring at all the people. Go littlest Bear!

Hitting the road against a 4-3 (2-2 conference) Arizona State team. We’re 6.5-point favorites…I’m not sure I buy that. The Sun Devils beat SC-killers Washington last week and lost on the road to Georgia on a last-second FG. They’ve got a couple solid WRs, though just a so-so starting QB and RB judging from the numbers. They have the stingiest defense in the conference (giving up just 280 yards/game), particularly against the run. We’re going to have to bring it more than we did against UCLA to win this road game.

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