This week is Homecoming for Oregon St., and the Beavers' game is against the California (sometimes) Golden Bears, who are coming off a 50-17 blasting of the Arizona St. Sun Devils, who didn't find a steady rain in Berkeley sunny at all. This on the heels of having been blasted, 48-14, at USC.
The Bears have a well earned sense of trepidation heading into Reser, as the Beavers have won three straight, and 9 of 11 against them, including five straight in Berkeley, where Cal has been otherwise very difficult to beat.
In preparation, Buildingthedam.com and CaliforniaGoldenBlogs.com exchanged some questions and answers. You can see what's on the Bears' minds, and our take on it, and after the jump, see their analysis of what we were curious about.
1. Cal has obviously been a Jekyl and Hyde team, and if it were easy to figure out why, you guys would have fixed it. But while the Bears have been much better at home, Oregon St. hasn't experienced that, as the Beavers always seem to win in Berkeley, doing even better there than at home. So there must be something about the matchup of styles between Cal and Oregon St. What do you feel the Bears must do differently this time to find a matchup advantage against the Beavers?
Kodiak -Usually, the key matchup is Mike Riley's defense vs. Tedford's offense. It seems that Riley is just inside Tedford's head - he knows exactly how to shut down Tedford's pro-style attack. Eventually, the Beaver offense wins the field position battle or just out-lasts the Cal D. Rinse. Repeat. Schematically, it seems like Riley overloads the box, puts his CB's in press coverage, and forces Cal to throw low-percentage passes along the sidelines. (fades, etc) However, this year it seems like the Beavers run D isn't as stout as in previous years. Rather than try to run up the middle at the Mountain Who Walks(Paea), I'd hope we try to attack more on the edges. Our Oline isn't big, but they do move pretty well with pulls and sweeps. Also, we have a number of guys at WR who are dangerous on end-arounds or reverses. The difference between this year and past years is completing passes so that the offense doesn't become one-dimensional and winning 1st down so we stay out of 3rd and long. We'll probably try plenty of screens to get the ball to our playmakers in space.
2. We were really surprised at how few fans were around in the second half of the game last week in Berkeley. And the Bears were on their way to a 50-17 blowout! When something like that happens at Reser, Autzen, or Husky Stadiums, the only empty seats belong to the fans dancing in the aisles. Was that a sign that Coach Tedford has already lost a significant number of the Cal fans?
OhioBear - I'm not sure if it is fair to say that Coach Tedford has "lost a considerable number" of Cal fans. Certainly, the Cal fanbase was surly and frustrated after the shellacking we took at USC. The negativity around the fanbase was palpable and it is no surprise that Coach Tedford noticed it enough to comment on it at his postgame presser. Despite that negativity, the game still drew a crowd of 51,599, which is low for Cal but not a terrible number. The empty seats you saw in the second half were due in part to the smaller-than-normal crowd to begin wtih, plus the weather. I think a lot of fans packed it in when the rain picked up.
3. How would you rate the progress of the defense in the Clancy Pendergast era? The efforts against the Arizona teams were both quite impressive, as was the throttling of UCLA. And hard to contrast with the meltdowns against Nevada and USC.
OhioBear - So far, the Clancy Pendergast era has been okay. Through 7 games, Cal is ranked 15th in the nation in total defense. Pendergast's defense has placated many Cal fans' desire for a more effective pass rush and more aggressiveness in scheme. But yes -- there have been issues. The Nevada game was an epic coaching and execution fail: frankly, Cal just was not as prepared as it should have been to handle the Pistol. But even if you chalk the Nevada game up to a bad performance against a gimmicky offense, the USC game stands out like sore thumb.
4. Freshman WR Keenan Allen looks like he could be on the way to being one of the premier receivers in the Pac-10/12, which is no small accomplishment. Can you assess his development so far, and identify what quality makes the greatest difference in his game?
Kodiak - After literally blowing the gates off their hinges with his debut, he was slowed by an ankle injury. I think he's finally getting back to his early form. So far, it looks like the biggest difference between him and other larger receivers with good speed and good hands is his overall elusiveness. He's very smooth, but has a knack for making guys miss. He also shows very good body control and reportedly picks up offensive concepts very quickly. As he refines his route-running, he could become really fun to watch. Unfortunately, we need someone to get him the ball consistently and we need significantly better pass protection.
5. Shane Vereen averages over 5 yards per carry, and over 10 yards per catch. Yet he also averages only 21 touches per game. Will we see a shift in game plan to get such a productive player more opportunities?
HydroTech - Doubtful. Tedford is big on not wearing out his running backs so it is unlikely that you'll ever really see him carry more than twenty five times a game. Cal likes to use a two back rotation too so the second string running back will usually see a good five to ten carries a game as well.
Ohio Bear - Tough to say because it already seems like Vereen is a huge part of the Cal offense. The number of "touches" is a little bit misleading because Vereen did not play most of the second half in the season opener against UC-Davis. And even though Vereen got 16 rushing attempts vs. Colorado, he would gave gotten more if the game had been competitive. Plus, consider the "touches" that weren't -- Riley has missed some passes to Vereen.
6. Cal doesn't line up a huge offensive line, with only one player not well under 300 lbs, yet Vereen is having a very solid rushing year. Was there a recruiting emphasis on this style of line, or did it just work out that way?
Kodiak - I think it just worked out that way. We did switch O-line coaches two years ago, but I don't recall that previous coach favored quicker/more agile lineman over bruisers. Two of our top reserves (Dominic Galas, Matt Summers-Gavin) are bigger guys and bring a more physical element to the line. We've been better running outside with our starters, and better up the middle with our reserves. They platooned last game - and we have no idea why they don't play Galas/MSG more. Unfortunately, no matter who lines up, we've really had trouble with speed rushers off the edge. The big grumble amongst the fanbase is that our new O-line coach isn't doing a great job developing this line. It's hard to say whether it's a coaching or a talent issue.
7. Will the defense assign a spy to Jacquizz Rodgers, at least in certain situations, or will the Bears rely on assignment football to contain Rodgers, and his cuts?
Kodiak - I doubt that Pendergast will assign a spy. He favors aggressive, assignment football. He'll try to mix up looks depending on down/distance with different guys dropping and different guys rushing from all angles. Now that one of our best safeties has regained his starting position (Cattouse), I think he'll try to fool Katz into making mistakes and do a lot of disguised coverages. If your oline wins the battle of the trenches, Quizz is going to get his chance at a lot of big plays, particularly as a receiver out of the backfield.
8. Cal has played against three explosive Quarterbacks: Matt Barkley, Colin Kapernick, and Nick Foles. Against Barkley and Kapernick, the Golden Bears Defense was picked apart. But against Arizona, the Cal Defense held Foles to only one touchdown. What did the Defense do differently against Arizona, and do you think they will use the same strategy against Ryan Katz?
Ohio Bear - There were two things that were markedly different in the Arizona game: consistent pressure on Nick Foles and very good coverage downfield. Even when we did NOT get pressure on Foles right away, the coverage was good downfield. Against Kaepernick, the Pistol had a lot to do with why Cal got picked apart. Kaepernick got so many chunks of yards running the ball, it opened up the passing game a lot more than we anticipated. Against USC, Cal did not get good pressure on Barkley; he was able to stand in the pocket and sling it all over the field. And many times, the coverage downfield wasn't bad -- Barkley just had enough time to pick us apart with accurate passing.
Lastly, will any of you be making the trip up to Corvallis?
Ragnarok - I'm trying to decide what potential circumstances could induce me to make the trip to Corvallis again. I'm still coming up empty, though...
(We did promise to not have Benny roll Oskie!)
Kodiak - Not I, said the Old Bear.
Thanks to "TwistNHook" and his Hit Squad of Bears for the great answers. It should be interesting to say the least for both teams to see Saturday play out.