Oh what a night! Wasn’t that 2006 Holiday Bowl great? The awesome fighter jet fly over, the fireworks, the six touchdowns, the radioactive urine colored jerseys… mmm, almost a slice of heaven. Oh, and the awesome Cal Band! How ‘bout the Cal Band? The best damn band in the land!
Anyways, after the dust had settled from the 45-10 massacre of aTm, I heard a lot of Cal fans comment on how different our offense looked that game. How it looked a lot more… traditional. A lot more… professional. A lot more… Tedford. Yup, Dunbar called one hell of a game. Yeah, that’s right. DUNBAR called one hell of a game. Most Cal fans were a little too busy reveling and reminiscing the glorious 45-10 Christmas beatdown to even remember that Dunbar, oh horrible Dunbar and his crap spread offense, was our offensive coordinator. The Dunbar critics were silent, but as soon as it became public that Dunbar was going to Minnesota the Cal fan voices echoed a resounding: good riddance! I guess we’re a tough crowd. But let me propose to you that if you haven’t already given some props to Dunbar for the Holiday Bowl, then you should. Because that game was near perfection.
So please join me in this 2006 Holiday Bowl analysis as I break down Cal’s offense and Dunbar’s playcalling in an attempt to prove that Dunbar called one hell of a balanced game. A game that consisted of a variety of play types, an offensive gameplan that is strong, and Tedford-esque. So let’s begin.
Once again, I rewatched the game. And I took notes. Lots of notes. All those nitty gritty notes. Down and distance, personnel packages, formations, plays, all that fun stuff. My notes organized all this information chronologically, thus allowing me to see Dunbar’s playcalling development. The following is what I found.
The 2006 Holiday Bowl consisted of 56 offensive plays for Cal during 10 possessions. In an attempt to get a clean read on Dunbar’s true offensive gameplan, we will not include the plays in Cal’s final three possessions. Why? Because with two minutes left in the 3rd Quarter, Cal went conservative and ran the ball all but three times. In other words, Dunbar went into his conservative protect-the-lead offense which is not representative of his original offensive gameplan. Additionally, we will not include the 8 offensive plays in the 2nd quarter right before halftime. At this time our offense was in its hurry-up no-huddle offense mode and attempting to score quickly before halftime. These plays represent an overly aggressive gameplan and will be excluded. Thus, we are left with 6 possessions and 32 offensive plays to work with.
Within these 32 offensive plays, Dunbar called 13 passes and 19 runs (40.6% pass, 59.4% run). This is pretty much right on the dot for a 60:40 run/pass ratio and very indicative of past Tedford offenses – which many of you hardcore fans may know to be a “run first” sort of offense. Recall that in my Tennessee analysis (which can be seen here, here, and here), Dunbar’s playcalling resulted in a backwards ratio of 35:65 run to pass (partly Dunbar’s fault, and partly because we couldn’t gain yardage and were forced into lots of must-pass situations). So already, things are looking good.
Furthermore, within these 32 offensive plays, Dunbar called 23 under plays (plays where the QB is under center) and 9 shotgun plays (where the QB is 5 yards behind the center). That’s 71.9% under plays, and 29.1% shotgun plays. So roughly about one in every four offensive play was from shotgun. Do you like the sound of this? I do. Now this is more of the Ted-Spread or Hybrid offense that I think Tedford, and all of us wanted to see against Tennessee! And speaking of Tennessee, do ya’ll remember our under/gun ratio from that game? It was 44% under center, and 56% shotgun. We saw a lot of shotgun in Tennessee. And shoot, things might have been more pleasurable if Tennessee just held a real shotgun to our heads.
Now, the next stat I want to talk about is the percentage of passes and runs from under center and shotgun. If you read my Tennessee analysis, then you know I was making a bit of a fuss over the necessity to have a good run/pass balance no matter where the quarterback is located at the snap so no there are no obvious tendencies.
During the Holiday Bowl, Dunbar called 23 under center plays. Of those 23 under center plays, 14 were runs and 9 were passes (60.9% run and 39.1% pass). This ratio of run to pass is pretty much just what we want to see. Any more runs and we’d have too much of a tendency to run when the QB is under center. A few less runs would be fine too, but a 60:40 run/pass ratio out of (mostly) the I-Formations (strong, weak, and the regular I) is just dandy.
As for shotgun plays, Dunbar called 9 shotgun plays. Of those 9 plays, 5 were runs and 4 were passes (55% run and 44% pass). What?! We ran MORE times out of shotgun than we did pass? Yup, we did. And it was awesome. If you recall, against Tennessee our run/pass ratio out of shotgun was approximately 10:90! We were tipping our hand (a tendency) to the Tennessee defense that we were going to pass when our quarterback was in shotgun. But in the Holiday Bowl, we had no run/pass tendency when Longshore was in the gun. Our run/pass ratio was practically 50/50. Now talk about keeping that defense off balance! That aTm defense might have actually had more balance while drunk walking concrete lines during a field sobriety test than against our tricky shotgun offense.
Below is a graph to give you a visual representation of what percentage of Cal’s plays were from under-center or gun, and if that play was a run or pass (note the slight tendency to run when under center, and the balanced playcalling from shotgun).
Under-center run/pass vs. Shotgun run/pass
So now you’re probably wondering what’s next. And what other stats I can pull out of my hat to convince you that Dunbar was actually a pretty good offensive coordinator. Well, let’s go over the types of plays called using various personnel packages because I submit to you that they will further show that Dunbar called a balanced game.Check back in a day or two for Part II!