Boy, THAT was painful. That said, I want to start off with the positives: Defense!
Our defense did a REALLY good job, all things considered. No one rushed for 100 yards, which is HUGE against the Lendale White/Reggie Bush combo. Also, every single yard that USC got was earned. There were only 2 or 3 25+ yards plays and nothing where a small play was broken into a big play. Cal forced a lot of 3rd downs. The only downside is that there were a lot of 3rd and shorts. But USC punted 4 times and this is one of those rare teams that can go multiple games without needing a punter. Finally, it did all of this even though Cal turned the ball over 6 times and let USC have nearly 37 minutes with the football.
Compare this performance against Notre Dame’s, the only other team to really keep them in check (34 points (a missed extra point is the difference): Reggie Bush rushed for 160 yards and 3 TD’s with a couple of long runs. Notre Dame also managed to keep the ball out of USC hands with a time of possession in the low 20′s (from memory).
So I was VERY happy with the defense. They did a great job against a VERY good team. My guess is that if Cal had held onto the ball and kept USC’s time of possession in the 20′s, USC’s final score would have been in the low to mid 20′s. For a team that is just one TD over their previous games from averaging 50 points a game, that’s pretty impressive.
Now onto the bad part. There is only one way to say this:
This guys is a horrible quarterback. His fundamentals are OK when there is no pressure, but that’s the extent of it. He makes horrible decisions, gets rattled easily, doesn’t handle the pass rush pressure well, and when he isn’t throwing “ill advised” throws, often throws passes that are best described as wounded ducks. If this weren’t enough, his biggest flaw of all is that he isn’t a big game QB. Ayoob is at his best when the game doesn’t matter. In those moments where everything is on the line, you can count on him blowing it for the team.
I was amazed that our run game was still able to get 180+ yards today including a 6.7 yard per carry average by Lynch. These guys had no running room because USC knew that the Cal passing game was a joke today. The only reason they didn’t put 11 guys in the box to stop the run was to make the game challenging for themselves.
I was one of those fans cheering for backup QB Levy to take the field in the 4th quarter. Ayoob has had his chance, I wanted Levy to get one. The guy looked reasonably sharp in his one other appearance at the beginning of the season. He looked pretty darned good in his two drives against USC. He was 4 for 4 and also knew when to run out of the pocket. In fairness, USC had it’s backups in and was playing prevent defense. However, Levy understood this and took advantage of what he was given. His passes were sharp, he made good decisions (the main thing I remember from his other appearance) and had very good composure.
The big question is who to start for the Big Game next week at Stanford. I must admit that I’m split. It is one thing to come in and do mop up duty a couple times in the season. It’s another thing entirely to start. I really don’t know Levy’s readiness, so I will defer to Tedford’s knowlege. I think he’s going to make the decision that is best for the team. My gut says start Ayoob and if he looks like he’s crumbling, switch to Levy post haste.