Oh those turnovers! A plaintive cry uttered by coaches across the nation.
Cals 27-0 victory over Arizona State was a sterling example why teams put so much
emphasis on "ball security". Against the Bears, ASU lost the ball five times.
These gaffes led directly to all three Bear touchdowns as well as cutting short promising
drives by the Devils at the ASU 45 and the Cal 10 yard line. The latter turnover was
caused by a big Matt Giordano hit and was recovered by Ryan Riddle in a demonstration of
athletic balance and skill. With the ball teetering on the sideline, Riddle gently picked
it up without stepping out of bounds.
The game opened with a, you guessed it, Sun Devil fumble on the opening
kickoff. Cal capitalized on the next play when Aaron Rodgers hit Robert Jordan down the
right sideline in the end zone for RJs first college touchdown. Quite frankly, it
was too easy and one axiom in football is dont be fooled by the ease of the first
score. When the Bears did not take advantage of subsequent first half opportunities to put
the ball in the end zone, there was room for concern. Too often, teams that dont put
the opposition away early live to regret it late.
The next six Cal drives in the first half were cut short by a sack, a
couple of dropped passes, a holding penalty, a third dropped pass and another sack. The
Bears netted only two field goals from those half dozen opportunities. Credit the Sun
Devils with putting a lot of pressure on Rodgers. They did a nice job of mixing their
defensive schemes and the Devils have a very active corps of linebackers. However, it was
evident that Rodgers and his receivers were not always on the same page. For example, on
one play, Robert Jordan apparently cut the wrong way and was forced to make an excellent
catch on a ball thrown behind him. It was clear that the limited practice time the
freshmen reserves and David Gray have had with Rodgers has impacted their ability to make
plays. Repeated "reps" in practice are the solution to this issue.
In the second half, Cal had the ball four times before the final drive on
which they ran out the clock. These efforts resulted in two punts, a missed field goal
attempt and a touchdown following a four-play, 13-yard drive.
Meanwhile the Bear Minimum (21st Century edition) was more than
holding their own against the Sun Devil aerial attack. Andrew Walter was under constant
pressure from the blitzing Cal defense. The Golden Bear linebacking unit accounted for
four sacks (Hunter 2; Maningo 2) and the defensive line channeled images of
Ed White, Mike McCaffrey and Irby Augustine with their play (Lorenzo Alexander, Ryan
Riddle and Tom Sverchek cumulatively tallied three fumble recoveries and a sack).
Also, the defensive backfield played well. Harrison Smith made a great play
to break up a long pass intended for WR Matt Miller and Tim Mixon baited Walter into an
interception that he returned for a touchdown. The G-Men played with the hard-hitting
style to which we have become accustomed (13 tackles between them).
In the last two weeks, the defensive unit has rewritten several lines in
the Media Guides "The Last Time" page. To wit, last week was the Bears
first road conference shutout since 1999. This week, Cal recorded their first home
conference shutout since 1992. The back-to-back shutouts were Cals first overall
since 1968 and first against consecutive conferences foes since 1948.
Bob Gregory, Ken Delgado, Justin Wilcox and J.D. Williams should be
commended for their work with the defense. This unit of coaches has done an extraordinary
J.J. Arrington carried the ball a season-high 30 times. In doing so, he
gained 188 yards and extended his Cal record to seven consecutive 100 yard+ efforts.
Against an excellent tackling team, Arrington demonstrated toughness by repeatedly
pounding the middle. It was a great effort that put J.J. within hailing distance of Chuck
Muncies single season rushing record. Arrington needs to average 89 yards/game in
the final four games to surpass Muncie.
In only his second collegiate appearance, Robert Jordan hauled in seven
passes for 116 yards and one TD. He made several tough catches, including a sliding grab
at the ASU 47 to keep a drive alive in the third quarter. Considering that Jordan was
expected to redshirt until a rash of injuries depleted the Cal receiving corps, he has
Harrison Smiths cross-field sprint to track down Hakim Hill,
preventing Hill from scoring, was easily the play of the game. It was a terrific effort.
In addition, Smith was credited with the only pass break-up tallied by the Bears. Smith is
a tough, confident player who continues to improve weekly.
Donte Hughes doesnt receive much publicity because quarterbacks
simply do not throw to his side of the field. If the Pac-10 awarded honors to an
"under the radar" player of the year, Hughes would win in a landslide.
Joe Maningo logged his first two sacks of the season. The ASU offensive
scheme played right into Maningos style of play. Against an iron-footed QB, Maningo
is at his best and no one can suggest that Andrew Walter will be confused with Mercury
Tim Mixon played textbook cornerback. Early in the second period, he forced
Walter to throw the ball away when it was evident that he had Derek Hagan covered on an
out pattern. Later in the third period, on the same pattern, Walter threw an ill-advised
pass and Mixon picked him off. On the return, Tim made a nice move near the goal line to
clear the way for a touchdown.
It was a day of credits and debits for the Bears. On one side of the
ledger, Cal can make the following entries: Tony Binswangers kickoffs: A couple into
the end zone and the balance inside the 10, excluding a pooched kickoff at the end of the
first half; David Lonies punts: four of his five punts were placed inside the ASU
20-yard line, including two inside the 10; Tom Schneiders 48-yard field goal that
hit the camera mounted behind the cross bar.
On the other side of the ledger were two missed field goal attempts, one of
which was inexplicably short from 36 yards.
This weeks game ball goes to #11. Both Harrison Smith and Robert
Jordan "did the number proud" with their play. Congrats to both #11s.
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