Game Four - September 20, 2003
Aaron Rodgers' first start was a success as he helped the offense get off to strong start. The Bears went predominantly with the pass - 31 of 40 plays - in the first half. In each of its first four games, Cal made more of an effort to establish the run, usually running 15 to 18 plays during the course of the first half. Cal was unsuccessful with the run in the first half, netting 15 yards in 9 carries. The Illini were struggling to defend Cal's wide receivers - as Geoff McArthur, Jonathan Makonnen and Burl Toler were able to able to catch short- and medium- passes with regularity. Rodgers' rocket arm was a big contrast for the Illini defense after facing UCLA's Drew Olson last week.
One key contributing factor to Cal's win was its 210-yard field position advantage. The Golden Bears were able to keep Illinois in bad field position for most of the afternoon; on five occasions, Illinois had starting field position inside their own 10 - four as a result of downed punts, one as a result of a Cal turnover.
In a game where a win was badly needed to save the season, there
were two plays that saved the game and may eventually be key in turning around Cal's
After falling behind 7-0, Cal's offense was sputtering for the second straight possession. Following a sack and a penalty, the Bears were 3rd-and-21 from their 46, when Aaron Rodgers completed a pass to Geoff McArthur for 29 yards. Cal went on to score a tying touchdown; the defense stiffened, and a 68-yard punt return put Cal up 21-7 at the half.
And at game's end, when Illinois had just driven 75 yards to kick a field goal to close the deficit to seven at 31-24, recovered an onside kickoff, driven to Cal's 9-yard line with time left for one play and Illini QB Jon Beutjer having thrown for more than 400 yards, linebacker Wendell Hunter raced in to make, at the risk of using a shopworn baseball cliche, a walk-off sack. While the victory wasn't a work of art, it makes Cal 2-3, which is infinitely more palatable than 1-4.
Note:Overshadowed by the gruesome 498 yards that Illinois gained, was an outstanding defensive effort by the Bears in the second quarter. They forced five consecutive three-and-outs all ending up in punts and held Illinois to 8 yards in 16 plays - easily their best defensive quarter of the year. The defensive effort played a big role in helping Cal take a 21-7 lead at halftime. Although Illinois gained nearly 400 yards in the second half, their last four possessions lasted 48 plays only three were for 20 yards or more and none was for more than 30 yards.
The Golden Bears' first half yardage total of 252 in Aaron Rodgers's first start tops their previous season high of 241 against Kansas State. Other first half efforts this season: 134 vs. Southern Mississippi, 144 vs. Colorado State, and 207 vs. Utah. Cal's efforts are especially impressive considering that Illinois held UCLA to 204 yards for entire game the previous week.
Cal's last three fourth-quarter efforts look like this: vs. Illinois - outgained 189 to 55, outscored 10-3; vs. Utah - outgained 131 to 34, outscored 10-3; vs. Colorado State - outgained 80 to 55, Cal outscored the Rams 14-3. Combined they've been outgained 400 to 144 but have only been outscored 23-20.
*Two 2-point conversions are included in the overall total and overall passing stats but not classified in the down stats.
Note:While Illinois did amass nearly 500 yards in offense, the Cal defense certainly made the Illini work for it. Out of Illinois' 37 first down plays, they were forced to face 3rd downs, 23 of those times (62.1%). Usually a defense is doing well if they force the opposition to 3rd down, 50% of the time. During the second quarter, Cal's defense forced the Illini into five consecutive three-and-outs. Illinois' first down average of 7.1 yards is misleading because most of their first down yardage came on three pass plays of 72, 44, and 30 yards - which were their three longest plays. The first down median gain (and you thought there was no use for that term after high school math...) was 3 yards. Put another way, if the three large plays are set aside, Illinois' totals are 34 plays for 118 yards for a 3.5 average.
In the first half, Cal ran sparingly. Of their 18 first half, first down plays, Cal passed 12 times for 102 yards and ran 6 times for -2 yards. In the second half, the Bears had 9 first down runs for 49 yards. One area where Cal struggled was 3rd-down passing. The Bears were 4-of-12 for 71 yards and four first downs, including 0-for-4 in the second half. However, four of those eight incompletions were due to drops. By comparison, Illinois was 13-of-17 for 137 yards, 10 first downs and 1 sack.
|Aaron Rodgers, CAL||30.7%||42||13||42||269||6.5||37||20||54.1%||259||12||1||0||2||-9||3||19|
|Jon Beutjer, ILL||34.3%||64||22||64||411||6.4||57||35||61.4%||429||20||2||1||5||-40||2||22|
|Game Note: Both Rodgers and Beutjer had radically different first halves and second halves. In the first half, Rodgers was 17-of-28 for 233 yards, 10 first downs and 1 TD. In the second half, as the Bear offense turned conservative, Rodgers was 3-of-9 for 26 yards with 2 first downs. Beutjer, on the other hand, was 5-of-11 for 55 yards. In the second half, he was 30-of-46 for 374 yards, 17 first downs and 2 TDs.|
|Note: The Success Percentage attempts to measure a QB's effectivess by looking at how often a quarterback achieves a successful result (a first down or touchdown) out of all pass plays attempted. Current QB rating methodology does not include either sacks or scrambles - this rewards QBs taking sacks instead of throwing incompletions. In addition, QB rating formulas reward the eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-12 (i.e, it's a completion, it's not an interception, and there's an above average yardage gain). Key: Succ.% - Touchdowns + First Downs/Total Plays, TP - pass attempts + sacks + scrambles, FD - first downs, TD - touchdowns, Yds - Yards, Avg - Average, Att. - Attempts, Comp. - Completions, Pct. - Completion %, Int - Interceptions, Pl. - Plays)|
Starting Field Position
|Pos.||Avg.||Yd. Dif.||Pos.||Avg.||Yd. Dif.||Pos.||Avg.||Yd. Dif.|
|Note: Cal made sure that Illinois always had to work with a long field. Over a span of 12 consecutive possessions, Illinois' best starting field position was the 30, and five times they hard start inside their 10-yard line. Four of those came from downed punts, and one came from a turnover. The 210-yard field position difference was a season best for the Bears, eclipsing a 136-yard advantage against Southern Mississippi and a 110-yard advantage against Utah.|
|Explanation: Defense and special team TDs are counted as a +100. If the player had been pushed out of bounds at the opponent's 1-yard line, the team would be credited with a +99. It makes more sense to credit the team with a +100 rather than disregard the number because the offense doesn't have to take the field.|
Scoring Success Inside 30
|Note: Illinois was on or inside the Cal 30 on its last four possessions yet ended up with only 10 points to show for it. After their first quarter TD, Illinois went on 10 consecutive possessions where they didn't advance the ball past the Cal 30. For the second straight game, Cal committed a turnover inside the Illini 30.|
|Explanation: Many announcers will refer to how often a team scores inside the red zone - the opponents' 20-yard line. This seems like a soft standard to use. Once a team is on the opponents 30-yard line, they would have a field goal in the 47- or 48-yard line range, which should be well within the range of most D-I kickers. The Max Pts.% figures out how many points a team scores out of a maximum 7 points per possession inside the opponent's 30. A team which scored six field goals out of a six possession inside the 30 would have a 100% Score% (6/6) but a MaxPts% of 42.9% (18/42).|
Passes to Cal Receivers
|Burl Toler||7||3||26||Hit while throwing/Thrown away||4|
|Jonathan Makonnen||6||4||68||Broken up||3|
|Hit while thrown/thrown away; receiver unidentifiable||2||0||0||Blocked at line of scrimmage||1|
|Note: The Bears threw 32 passes to their WRs, 3 to their TEs and none to their running backs...In the first half, McArthur caught 9 passes for 140 yards, prompting talk among the KGO broadcast crew that he might have a shot at the school single-game reception record of 15 currently held by Dameane Douglas. At the time, McArthur also appeared to have an outside shot of the Cal single game yardage receiving record of 289 yards set by Wesley Walker in 1976...Seven of Rodgers' incompletions were on target - with four being dropped and three being broken up by the Illini defense...Out of Illinois' 22 incompletions, they had three drops.|
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