Oh those turnovers! A plaintive cry uttered by coaches across the nation. Cal’s 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 RJ’s first college touchdown. Quite frankly, it was too easy and one axiom in football is don’t 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 don’t 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 Guide’s "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 Cal’s 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 job.
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 Muncie’s 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 played impressively.
Harrison Smith’s 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 doesn’t 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 Maningo’s 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 anytime soon.
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 Binswanger’s 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 Lonie’s punts: four of his five punts were placed inside the ASU 20-yard line, including two inside the 10; Tom Schneider’s 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 week’s 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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