Nate Longshore continued to show excellent form in his 5th game as the Cal starting quarterback raising his rating to an impressive 166.9 (1st in the Pac-10) with four TD passes and 270 yards. Key to this game was Longshores ability to read the ASU blitz and burn them with quick outlet passes for key yardage. He also showed great touch with downfield passes to Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson. The one blemish on Longshores sheet was a downfield interception on a 3rd down scramble that had little effect on the game but did demonstrate that his accuracy suffers somewhat when forced to throw long without setting his feet.
RATING: 9 (1-10 scale)
Marshawn Lynch and company had a relatively quiet day as ASU repeatedly stacked the line and the group failed to score a touchdown on the ground for the first time this season. Despite an ASU gameplan designed to limit his impact Lynch rushed for 127 yards on 17 carries and caught two passes for 33 yards including a touchdown. Even when not carrying the football Lynchs presence helped to open up the field for Longshore and the passing game who burned ASUs single coverage repeatedly.
Justin Forsett chipped in with a handful of carries and scored the Bears first touchdown on a 9-yard swing pass. He did fumble away a pitch on a 4th-and-1 play that ended a likely scoring opportunity in the 2nd half. He continues to impress on kickoff coverage with excellent tackling.
Marcus OKeith didnt see action at RB until the final possession with a pair
of hard runs but continues to excel at kickoff returns.
Production was evenly spread through the group with all three starting Cal receivers catching two or more passes as the group trio played a near flawless game (only one drop) making several excellent catches, most notably Lavelle Hawkins leaping touchdown catch down the left sideline. Robert Jordan had a season best 5 catches for 83 yards leading all receivers. DeSean Jackson had a solid day with 4 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown but his most impressive play came on an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Craig Stevens returned to the starting tight end position after being limited for the
last two games due to the concussion suffered against Tennessee. He caught two passes for
18 yards and contributed to a largely effective blocking effort. Unfortunately his extra
effort following his second pass reception resulted in a fumble ending a likely scoring
Nate Longshore might think about some Isotoner gloves for his offensive line as they put on a pass blocking clinic against an aggressive ASU defense allowing only a single sack, the only time his jersey was ruffled all day. Mike Tepper and Mike Gibson look like they may never relinquish their starting spots as they effectively controlled the edges for both the pass game. Run blocking was not as effective as interior running lanes were hard to come by with an ASU defense stacking and run blitzing to defend Marshawn Lynch.
The defensive lline had their most impressive day of the season defending the pass but perhaps their least effective day defending the run against an excellent Arizona State offensive line effort. Statistically productivity was up from the Portland State game with 10 tackles including a season high seven for a loss (5 sacks). Nuu Tafisi recorded two sacks, his first of the season, and along with the rest of the defensive line harassed Sun Devil QB Rudy Carpenter into numerous miscues. Against the run the defensiveline was turned away from the running lanes too often which left some gaping holes RB Ryan Torain. Some of this running room was due to the defense playing back off the line anticipating Arizona State would be looking for underneath routes to TE Zach Miller as well as some effective play action passes by Carpenter.
Career games by Mickey Pimentel and Zach Follett set the tone for the linebacker unit as each made several impact plays. Pimentel was all over the field making tackles (1 TFL) and finished off the scoring with an impressive interception and touchdown return of a Carpenter pass at a range of 5 feet. Follett led the defense with 10 tackles (tied with Hughes) including 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
The unit made a season-high 28 tackles (4 TFL) and were quite active throughout the
game both in run support and harassing the Arizona State passing game roughing up Rudy
Carpenter and making TE Zach Miller a non-factor in the game.
Is Daymeion "Donte" Hughes the best cornerback in Cal history? He is playing on another level, toying with opposing receivers and quarterbacks as he dominates the game from his cornerback position. Hughes intercepted two Carpenter passes, returning one for a touchdown, as well as breaking up another. He is looking like the type of cornerback that opposing coaches may have to gameplan around as Arizona State had no success going his side of the field.
SydQuan Thompson also played well, intercepting the first pass of his career and providing solid coverage to his side. Each game he appears to gain more confidence and displays improved judgment.
Safeties Thomas DeCoud (before leaving with a minor knee injury) and Bernard Hicks were
good in run support and did not allow any deep receptions. Robert Peele saw his most
extensive action of his career filling in for the injured DeCoud and allowed a deep TD
reception as he attempted to play the ball and not his man.
The highlight of special teams play was DeSean Jacksons 80-yard punt return for a touchdown which helped boost a tidal wave of momentum to the Bears during the three-touchdown second quarter.
Punting continues to be a strength for the Bears as Andrew Larson boomed six punts for an average of 48.4 yards including four inside the 20 yard-line.
Perhaps the lone soft point in the special teams play was the kickoff coverage which
was uneven as ASU managed two returns in excess of 30 yards.
This wasnt a flawless effort as the run defense could be tightened down and a pair of fumbles interrupted likely scoring drives but considering the level of competition it was the Bears' best effort of the young season. Arizona State brought some offensive weapons and a hard charging defense to Memorial and the Bears countered with some excellent execution and aggressive defense to turn the game into a rout.
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