All right, another game in Memorial Stadium and another victory!
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before on this blog but I took my son Gregory to the 2003 Big Game for his first game when he was 3 months old and he’s attended every home game (minus last year’s ASU game which was a night game and the opening game this season because he had the flu) since then and he’s NEVER experienced a loss. If Cal were some perennial powerhouse that would be one thing, but the Cal undefeated home stretch (including games at Stanford as “home” games) only started a couple weeks before Gregory’s first game against the routinely week Arizona. We would have beat them anyway. But the moment I start taking my son, we start winning. Need I say more? My boy is the best good luck charm money can buy (don’t worry, he’s not for sale). To sweeten the pot, when Gregory had the flu my younger son Andrew went to his first game at 7 months old (yes, I take BOTH my now 8 month old and 2 year old boys to the game), to ensure that the Crawford boy good luck would be maintained. It’s clear after 3 home games that he has the good luck as well. I hope my point is obvious by now: the USC game is coming up in a month. I think it is clear that we, as the Cal faithful, need to make a group effort to make sure my boys are in good health and able to attend that game if we hope to win.
In any case, back to Saturday’s victory.
Cal looked more polished this week than they have all season. Ayoob looked comfortable, threw a number of good passes and made very few mistakes. The running game looked as strong as ever even when Arizona put what looked like 14 defenders in the box (those were some big guys!).
But what was truly impressive was the play of the defense. These guys were on fire and I was particularly impressed with the secondary. They were hit with a few pathetically bad pass interference calls (one was so bad that I couldn’t help myself from yelling out despite the fact that there was a sleeping 8 month old in my lap. I mean come on, he didn’t even touch the player. What, did he interfere the ball?) but were completely undeterred from making good plays. In fact the goalline pass interference call seemed to provide the ammunition for the shutout maintaining stand. Speaking of which, the run defense was as good as ever and did a very good job of adjusting between the pass and rushing plays as well as wrapping up players, a weakness in previous games. Additionally, they really did a good job of making sure every play was disrupted right from the get go.
The big weakness for the team was the deep pass. Ayoob’s touch on long passes still isn’t there. Early in the season he was skying his short passes and under throwing the bombs. He’s solved the short passes but is now overthrowing his VERY speedy receivers, which is surprising and in an odd way impressive. The score easily would have been 45-0 if he could have completed the long passes to open receivers which made up about half of his incompletions.
I guess there is one other area that has been a little suspect and that is the kickoff/punt return teams. They’ve been giving up too many big plays and not keeping their lanes to prevent the big runbacks. They also seemed to have trouble wrapping up players. This area wasn’t horrific, but in a tight game could become an issue.
Overall this is a team that is starting to click and one that will only continue to get better as they work out these last few issues. Along those lines, I have every reason to believe that they will work out these issues as every game to date the Bears have shored up the biggest weaknesses from the previous game without losing anything in other areas. Tedford said in his press conference that long passes and special teams were the two areas of concern. Consider it done.
Finally, Ray Ratto in his traditionally jovial way pointed to Tedford’s continued dissatisfaction with his practice facilities, particularly with having to have the whole team practice on one field. To quote the article: “a not-entirely-subtle advertisement for Tedford’s Web site, ineedanewpracticefacilitysoondammit.com”.
For all of you more wealthy Bears fans, that domain name is still available.