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College Hotline - Cal football report card: Grading the win over Texas

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Sep 19, 2016.

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    RSSBot News Junkie

    Jul 8, 2005
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    (Bay Area News Group)

    The win becomes official and instantly we seek to define it: The signature victory for coach Sonny Dykes? Cal’s biggest upset since … since?

    As upsets go, this was moderate: The Bears were an eight-point underdog at home against the No. 11 team — a team they beat last year on the road, by the way.

    Major upsets require a double-digit underdog and/or an opponent ranked much closer to No. 1 (preferably in the top five).

    It’s not unreasonable to call it a signature win for Dykes, although one could argue that will only come when he beats one of Cal’s conference rivals (Stanford, Oregon or one of the L.A. schools).

    Certainly, it’s the most significant victory of the Dykes era … their most significant since the bottom fell out under Jeff Tedford … and a result that will provide fuel on several fronts.

    Front 1: It adds instant credibility each time the coaching staff walks into the home of a Texas recruit.

    The Lone Star State is gaining significance for Cal on the recruiting front, partly because Dykes and his staff have Texas roots and partly because of the need to expand the recruiting pool to counterbalance the elevated admissions standards. (More on that here.)

    Front 2: Slapping a presumed Big 12 title contender with a head-to-head helps the Pac-12’s cause in the early-but-evolving playoff picture.

    Front 3: Cal’s bowl math is notably more manageable with a 2-1 non-conference record than a 1-2 mark.

    The Bears need to win four league games, not five, and you can certainly identify a handful of games that they stand a reasonable chance to win.

    Result: Beat Texas 50-43

    Grade: A

    Comment: I thought long and hard about the grade before hitting the shift-A buttons, because yielding 43 points, 568 total yards and 307 yards rushing does not equate to an A-level defensive effort, not by any traditional means.

    But Cal does not take a traditional approach to the facet of the game known to many as, you know, defense.

    Sometimes, the strategy works, and Saturday night was one of those times — the Bears were in deep, continuous rhythm offensively and able to outscore their opponent in a last-possession-wins manner.

    *** Davis Webb, who grew up outside of Dallas and idolized UT quarterback Colt McCoy, was clearly locked in against his home-state team.

    Webb completed 27 of 40 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns — also: no interceptions — and repeatedly connected with receiver Chad Hansen to flummox the Longhorns’ defense.

    (Hansen is a wonder, by the way.)

    *** But is the Bears’ approach sustainable through nine weeks of conference play? Recent history suggests no:

    They opened 2-0 in noncon play two years ago and 3-0 last year, and in neither instance did they produce a winning record within the league.

    Currently, they are 126th nationally against the run (out of 128 teams), allowing 296.3 yards per game.

    Yep: Two hundred and ninety six, point three.

    How many teams at that level challenge for a league or division title?

    Zero, point zero.

    *** Cal in situational football:

    Turnovers: +2
    Third-down conversions: 7-15
    Red zone TDs: 4-5

    Can’t ask for much more on any of those fronts.

    *** If we’re to extrapolate … if we’re to examine what the performance suggests about Cal’s pending success/failure in conference play … perhaps the most significant stat was this: 40 and 40

    The Bears had 40 rushing attempts and 40 passing attempts.

    That, folks, is a big deal.

    Dykes and playcaller Jake Spavital talked throughout training camp about the need for balance … about their desire to shed Cal’s previous approach (under then-OC Tony Franklin) to sling the ball 75 percent of the time.

    The Bears cannot thrive in conference play without (in Dykes’ words) being able to run the ball successfully when everyone in the stadium knows they’re going to run.

    That level of efficiency with the ground game requires commitment, but through two games, Cal didn’t show much commitment: Webb threw 72 passes at San Diego State even though Vic Enwere averaged 7.2 yards per carry.

    But Saturday night, Cal was committed. It didn’t always work — Enwere had 17 carries for a meager 56 yards before busting the final run — but it’s a start.

    A significant, italics-worthy start.

    As for the Bears’ good fortune that Texas didn’t immediately pounce on the Enwere fumble, thereby giving the Longhorns one last possession … well, dumb plays are part of the game, and so is good fortune.

    Next up: at Arizona State

    The matchup: Favorable.

    If you have to open league play on the road, at least make it a winnable game, and this is a winnable game for the Bears. ASU is 3-0, but it’s a soft 3-0:

    The Sun Devils beat an FCS team (Northern Arizona), outlasted Texas Tech in pinball (68-55) and had to rally from a double-digit deficit to beat UTSA.

    Moving the ball should not be a problem for the Bears, especially given their edge on the scouting front:

    Texas Tech and Cal run similar systems — it was laid down in Lubbock years ago by Dykes and Mike Leach — so the Bears can digest what worked/didn’t work for the Red Raiders in Tempe and make the necessary adjustments.

    *** ASU opened as a 6.5-point favorite, but the line is already down to 3.5

    It should be close, high scoring and long — four hours long.

    If turnovers are a wash, the difference will be defensive stops in the fourth quarter.

    *** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

    *** PLEASE NOTE: The Hotline will move to a new address (url) next week. I’ll have more details as the day approaches.

    The post Cal football report card: Grading the win over Texas appeared first on College Hotline.

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    by Jon Wilner

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