REPORT CARD - CALIFORNIA 38 UCLA 24Quarterback Play - A+
Nate Longshore turned in the best performance by a Cal QB in my viewing lifetime (since about 1978). I don't think anything else needs to be said.
Receiver Play - A
It was nice to see Robert Jordan step up with 2 TD receptions since, as I predicted, he became a focal part of the offense. Only a handful of mistakes from a receiving corps that really struggled against Washington. Lynch was tremendous as usual out of the backfield - I wish Heisman voters would look at that part of his game.
After watching DeWayne Walker's defense for 60 minutes, I really do feel Bruins Nation's pain. Walker's defensive strategy was no strategy at all, and his DBs just aren't coached properly. Their corners gave our wideouts five to eight yard cushions against the most accurate QB in the conference. And when they couldn't generate a rush out of their four man and were forced to blitz in the 3rd quarter, they became even more conservative in their cushions and the game was no longer a contest. I don't want to take anything away from Cal's receivers, because they played a whale of a game. But UCLA might have the worst secondary in the conference right now.
Pass Protection - A-
In the matchup of the game, Cal's tackles largely shut down Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman. Longshore was hit after delivery on a few occasions. The Bruins did force a fumble against Longshore in the second quarter, but that was more of a coverage sack. I can't say enough about the entire OL in pass protect, but especially Andrew Cameron and Mike Gibson, who get game balls. Hell, give 'em all game balls.
Running Backs - B
Pretty good performance overall - in the 1st half they didn't have much to work with but created what they could. Things opened up in the 2nd half and Lynch really wore out the Bruins LBs, who had played an excellent thirty minutes. A word needs to be said aboutFB Byron Storer, who had a typically outstanding game as a lead blocker, especially in the 2nd half.
Run Blocking - C
As efficient as Cal's OL was in the pass game, we struggled to move the interior of UCLA's DL, or put helmets on their quick linebacking corps. Things improved in the 2nd half when UCLA's defense either got gassed or quit a little bit. By the 4th quarter our OL was controlling the line of scrimmage. I continue to think we need to run wide or use counter action a bit more in the 1st half of games, because we haven't shown we can execute the power run game as well as we have in years past.
Pass Defense - C+
OK, this game tested my patience for Bob Gregory's bend-but-don't-break defense. I know that there is a method to this madness: we're facing a dink-and-dunk offense with an unproven QB, and we're likely to score 40, so the first goal is no big plays. I know we have a RS freshman with a bullseye on his chest at corner. But once we figured out that Pat Cowan was channeling Tom Ramsey and was going to eat our zone alive, I thought we might have adjusted a little bit more quickly.
Contrary to expectations, our LBs had a very difficult time catching up to their backs and their tight end (this was generated in large part by UCLA's run game). Hughes almost got burned in the end zone, but made a terrific recovery to tip the pass away (that's what All-Americans do). Overall, an uninspired performance but they get the C+ for not giving up any really big plays and allowing UCLA to beat themselves in the 2nd half.
Pass Rush - C+
We got some hats on Cowan out of a straight four-man rush, but as usual we needed to blitz to generate consistent pressure. It was Zack Follett who effectively ended this game by drilling Cowan on a blitz late in the 2nd quarter - after that play he was a completely different QB.
Run Defense - D
OK, now the bad news: if we tackle like that against USC, we can probably make reservations for San Diego in December. Desmond Bishop is a fantastic linebacker, but he tries for the knockout on almost every play. It's troubling that we gave a very ordinary set of backs lots of YAC. Chris Markey will never look so good again.
You might be asking why I'd rate the Run D lower than the Pass D, in that we surrendered 329 yards in the air, and 187 on the ground. The reason is that our inability to stop the run, especially in the 1st half, opened up the middle of the field for Cowan. Our LBs had to respect their run game, which I didn't expect at all.
Special Teams - A
A game ball for Pete Alamar - every facet of our special teams was terrific Saturday. The punt return TD was a lot of DJax, but it's worth noting that he wasn't even touched on his way to the end zone. That's good blocking, and it was led by Thomas DeCoud's brutal de-cleater. Kick coverage was solid as usual.
Coaching - A-
Tedford corrected everything that had gone wrong on offense in the previous two wins over WSU and Udub. The Bears came out at the perfect emotional pitch - not so high that they made mistakes. Ball security was very good, with the exception of Longshore's blindside fumble. JT/Dunbar reacted nicely to the unexpected generosity of Walker's defensive scheme. Gregory's game plan wasn't pretty, but it did make sense - and would have made much more if we could have stopped the run and prevented YAC.
Overall - B-
After two uneven weeks, Cal's offense is officially back. Now the defense is breaking down, and needs to get back to fundamentals before the trip to Tucson.