I decided against posting the remainder of this entry in its original Greek. Although the English version loses something in the translation, I went with English because most Golden Blogs readers, myself included, do not speak Greek, and finding the Greek word for "Odyssey" took way too long (thanks Wikipedia!).
Good writers and people imitating good writers often choose a title with multiple meanings. The Odyssey, in this instance, refers not only to my Cal-related travels over the last 24 hours (San Francisco to Berkeley to Palo Alto to Haas, what a jet-setter am I!), but to my metaphorical journey with The California Golden Blogs over the last couple months. I also played King Agamemnon in a fourth grade play which I thought was The Odyssey, but further research (thanks again Wikipedia!) indicates that it must have been a recreation of the Battle of Troy. Oh well, 2 out of 3 isn’t too bad (Nasty Nate would love to have my completion percententage, and I didn’t even throw a back-breaking interception in the process).
It seems like only four and a half months ago that TwistNHook informed me of this hot new blog and challenged me to determine which person matched which handle. I read some detailed analysis, some levelheaded perspectives, and finally some nonsensical ramblings written by a “Twist-N-Hook.” In the meantime, I have written a few articles, been referred to as the 5th Beatle, and on Friday, with HydroTech drunk on Law School, TwistNHook drunk on Marshawn, and Ragnarok drunk on Alcohol, I was invited to join as a full time fellow. I hope to fill the niche of a less insightful Hydro with fewer rambling tangents than Twist, with the bonus of free tickets and a desire to see Ben Braun Ball. I’ll retain my handle “CBKWit,” and kudos if “CBK” means anything to you. I enjoy Top Dog and hate (in order) Ronald Reagan and USC. My dream girl is someone who does the Hawk with me and angrily stares at the wall after a cal loss (it’s soothing, trust me).
I spent 4 years at Cal starting in 2002, with the 70 point explosion against Baylor in my first game. As a member of the band, I was one of around 25,000 people in the stands, and it’s hard for me to remember Memorial that empty. My final game as a student and band member (I played trumpet and threw the occasional baton) was a victory in the Vegas bowl against BYU. I turned 21 only six months before the game. You could call me spoiled, and you’d be right.
Friday night (or Big Game Eve, as us non-denominational Cal worshippers call it) witnessed a $100 bar tab and a heroic feat: to the two trumpets with three shots of gin in under a minute, that was absolutely Hawk-like (in the 60 yard catch and sprint to bring us within 3 of OSU sense). To the hangover and 8AM wake-up on game day, that was absolutely Hawk-like (in the dropping consecutive touchdown passes that would have tied Big Game sense).
I arrived at the game immediately following Cal’s opening touchdown (incredibly, our only touchdown against one of the worst defenses in the country); the timing was eerily similar to my arrival at the UCLA game, which also did not end well. Upon entry, the stadiumette immediately commands your attention, and unlike Twist, I did not like it. It felt very sterile and professional, more like Pac Bell than any Pac-10 football stadium. If you were designing a facility for a very rich school with a terrible football team, Stanford Stadium is what you would create – a small, expensive structure high in amenities and devoid of any character or spirit. Memorial may be old, rickety, and a tough place to eat or pee, and there’s no denying it desperately needs renovation, but I’ll take it over that soulless yuppie house any day.
I’m no HydroTech and I haven’t seen the film, but here are a few thoughts on the game:
- First, the obvious: Longshore. The bad ankle and lack of mobility are his primary problems, and they really hurt the offense. He does not step up in the pocket, cannot avoid any rush (with one notable exception yesterday, an almost inexplicable escape from a near sack), and never will break containment to buy his receivers some time. Tedford was running max-protection plays all afternoon, which he often does anyway, but Nate was still very unsettled and ineffective for most of the game. Part of this was due to poor pass protection and incessant blitzing from Stanford in the second half, but not every quarterback needs absolutely perfect protection in order to make good throws. I have been a Longshore defender for a long time, and I still think he can bounce back and have a good year next season, but this is the first time (ASU excepted) I’ve felt that his lack of mobility really hindered the offense. Cal certainly doesn’t need a Dixon or Tebow, but this game made it very obvious why your QB needs to be able to move a little.
- HydroTech points out that Stanford ran a naked bootleg with Pritchard early in the game, just as he predicted in his preview. On the critical 3rd and 4, following Longshore’s final interception, my colleagues and I predicted Stanford rolling the pocket and running receivers on crossing patterns with the flow of the play, giving the QB the option of running for the first or throwing if needed. We figured that four yards was too far to risk a run, since Cal could use it’s final timeout and get the ball back with plenty of time if the run came up short, but Stanford likely would not just drop back if they didn’t have to. Apparently Gregory had the same thoughts, as the rolling QB was accounted for and short options were picked up nicely. Unfortunately, our DB missed making a play on the ball and Bradford did a nice job to stay in bounds. Ball game.
- Hydro also notes that the Stanford safeties played the run primarily, and that the play-action TD to Jordan nicely took advantage of this. The pass protection on our lone touchdown was impeccable, and the play looked easy. Cal tried to run a number of other deep play-action passes, but Stanford was able to pressure Nate and prevent the big play.
- Our special teams are very poor, and this had a huge impact on the game. Losing Schneider has hurt more on kickoffs than on field goals – kicking deep means low line drives that essentially out-kick our coverage, meaning opposing returners don’t have to make anyone miss until around the 30 yard line. The contrast between Kay and Stanford’s kickoff specialist was very apparent and lead to Stanford starting around their 35-40 and Cal starting around their 20-25. Even more troubling is the lack of discipline on special teams – how many holding and block in the back penalties did we have on kickoffs and punts? Four?
- On that note, penalties were killer all game long. Although I haven’t seen the tape, it seems hard to believe that Cal honestly committed 4 times more penalty yardage than Stanford. You can call holding on every play, but Stanford was only whistled for two false starts and an offsides after I arrived. In other words, no subjective penalties went against the furd, while Cal was racking up holding, PI, and personal foul calls right and left. For a team that emphasizes ball control and field position as much as Cal and Tedford do, this was disastrous.
- Finally, turnovers. Cal had three, Stanford had two. If those numbers are flipped, Cal probably wins. You can say that for almost every Cal loss this year, and for some of the wins (Oregon, most obviously). In college football, turnovers go a very long way in determining the outcomes. This may lead some to consider, why invest so much in a sport that is determined so often by the most random and variable statistic from game to game? If I had the answer, I would probably be writing a blog on cooking right now.
Coming Soon: The Οδύσσεια, Part II…A New Hope