Running your offense on a short field always seems to remedy all that ails you. This was the case for the Cal Bears. The Cal scoring drives were of 33,47,14, 49,11,80, and 30 yards. While this wasn't the most efficient performance by the offense it certainly got the job done. Still serious questions remain about the ability to maintain long drives. The Bears were however able to mount a long grinding drive to kill any momentum by the Sun Devils and ice the football game. The offense took advantage of great opportunities and that's about all you can ask for as a head coach.
Cal fans will be lamenting the loss of Kyle Boller after this season. Kyle turned in yet another outstanding performance going 16-35-213 with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. Some might question the completion percentage but realize that Kyle has continually thrown the ball away when situation has prevented itself in lieu of taking a sack. Kyle has also been the victim of dropped passes. So while his 45.7% completion percentage doesn't seem great he could have easily completed 60% of his passes while taking 4-5 more sacks and throwing 2-3 more interceptions. Ask any coach and he'll tell you that he'll take what it takes to get it done rather than look good. Funny thing is half of Kyle's passes were sheer brilliance into tight coverage. There is a reason why Kyle will be playing on the next level and simply put very few quarterbacks can make the throws Kyle makes on a game-to-game basis.
The Bears had to have a stellar performance from Joe Igber in order to beat Arizona St. A stellar performance is exactly what the Bears got. Strangely enough Joe had a quiet 144 yards on 30 carries. It wasn't that his carries weren't important but the large number of big plays overwhelmed all the small plays. Sometimes great performances get lost in the shuffle and for Joe Igber it's just the same because the Bears won.
The offensive line came up huge for the Bears against one of the nation's most sack happy defenses. Terrell Suggs, the primary concern for the Bears, was effectively neutralized, as was the Arizona State defense. Any time Kyle Boller has time to throw for 5 touchdowns and Joe Igber rushes for 144 yards the offensive line has done an excellent job. The offensive line has been solid all year and continues to be the most consistent unit offensively or defensively.
Kyle Boller must wonder sometimes why the ball hits the turf. He throws the ball on a line it hits the receiver in the hands and then rolls harmlessly to the field. It's times like these that Kyle must cringe. However, this season the receivers have made a habit of redeeming themselves after crucial drops on critical drives. In the win against Arizona St. Jonathan Makonnen made up for his drops with two touchdown grabs. If the Cal receivers hang on to the catch able balls Cal may have scored 70.
It is hard to judge the performance by the defense because it was so inconsistent throughout the game. The defense began the game like a house on fire sacking Walter a couple of times and completely shutting down the Arizona St. running game. However after the initial moments of a staunch defensive effort the wheels seemingly came off the wagon. The defensive line was unable to come up with any pressure and the secondary couldn't stop the Arizona wide receivers. However the mark of a good defense is to recover from previous errors and toughen up during critical moments. The Cal defense stiffened up in the 4th quarter and clamped down when the game was on the line.
The defensive line had a strong but inconsistent effort. The Bears got to Andrew Walter early but were unable to maintain pressure until the 4th quarter. However the defensive paved the way for six sacks of Andrew Walter and the pressure late in the game allowed the Bears defense to shut down the explosive Sun Devil passing game. Tully Banta-Cain led the way with 2 sacks bringing his season total to an impressive 10 sacks.
The success of the opponents running game usually determines the performance of the linebackers. In this case Arizona State could only manage 44 yards on 21 carries. Marcus Daniels and Paul Ugenti had excellent games. Daniels was key in stuffing the run while Ugenti came up with the game turning sack and forced fumble, which enabled to take a 41-38 lead. Matt Nixon was solid and provided the Bears with excellent front seven leadership.
At times it was painful watching Shaun McDonald and Daryl Lightfoot getting behind the secondary with ease. While the secondary struggled for most of the evening the bright spot was the Nnamdi Asomugha interception return for a touchdown. This seemed to be a momentum changer until 29 seconds later the secondary was torched for an 85-yard touchdown. Definitely and up and down game for the secondary but it was a good learning experience for the final two contests.
This was the defining special teams game for the Bears. The performance by the Special Teams unit was magical. The highlight was the blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Wale Forrester. The kickoff and punt coverage was incredible often locking the Sun Devils inside the 20-yard line on kickoffs and punts. Mark Jensen nailed a 48-yard field goal into the wind. Jemeel Powell was able to provide the Bears with excellent field position with his excellent punt returns. The only blemish was an early missed field goal by Mark Jensen. The special teams were responsible for approximately half of the Bears points.
Overall Grade: A
What an incredible victory for the Bears. The Bears had struggled against Arizona St for quite a few years but this was a signature victory for Jeff Tedford and company. While the defense yiel
Arizona St. Performance Review