REPORT CARD - CALIFORNIA 26 STANFORD 17QB - C- Longshore had another unimpressive outing. Cal's offensive struggles started when teams began cheating the run and daring Longshore to beat them. Nate didn't turn the ball over, but could have on three separate occasions - any one of those could have lost the game for the Bears. He didn't read blitzes very well, and his mechanics were all over the place.
RB - We're giving out split grades. Marshawn Lynch gets a D+. Maybe it was injury, but Marshawn didn't look like he wanted to be out there in the biggest (if not most important) game of the year. Lynch dropped a pass and put the ball on the ground, and he danced to the outside on far too many carries. Justin Forsett gets an A-, because he ran north and south in the fourth quarter and helped the Bears ice the game. This was his best effort of the season - he gets the offensive game ball because no one else deserves it.
WR - C A middling effort; the receivers dropped a number of catchable passes, but DeSean did a nice job of route-running. Hawkins' TD catch redeemed several drops. Stevens was a non-factor, unfortunately (see Coaching, below)
Pass Blocking - C- For the first time in a long time, Cal struggled to pick up the blitz. Stanford had two sacks and numerous pressures; an unacceptable amount considering the talent differential.
Run Blocking - D+ They get the plus for the fourth quarter, when Cal finally opened holes in the Stanford 3-4. Before that, Cal's O-line was handled by an undersized, sparsely talented group of Cardinal defenders. In one of the game's key matchups, Cal could not block Okwo or Maynor on a consistent basis. The run game is officially a Big Problem, and we struggle to imagine how the Bears will run the ball against Texas A&M, which is a hell of a lot better than Stanford.
Pass Rush - B+ Cal blitzed a lot, but also got pressure on a few occasions from its basic four-man rush. In the first half Ostrander made great reads and Stanford's receivers came back to the football. In the second half, the Bears were a second quicker, and Ostrander tried to force big plays instead of dumping off. Four sacks is a good total, but in context not all that impressive - everyone gets at least that many against Stanford's line.
Run Defense - C A team that had averaged 2.1 yards per carry averaged 3, and Stanford's run game controlled the 1st half of play. Some Bears brought their best to the Big Game - notably LB Zack Follett (your Defensive POtG) and DT Brandon Mebane. Others, like MLB Desmond Bishop, struggled to shed blocks and get a helmet on Stanford's backs. For the second consecutive game, our D has made a true freshman RB look better than he is (though both Gable and Gerhart will eventually be terrific players).
Pass Defense - C- Daymeion Hughes had much more trouble with freshman wideout Richard Sherman than he should have. Syd'Quan played a nice game - it's gratifying to see how much he has progressed since the horror-show in Week 1. Moore's TD was a push-off, but it's still unacceptable to get beat by a receiver with one good wheel (and complain to the ref before said receiver enters the end zone).
Special Teams - B Thank God for Tom Schneider - his 4 FGs were the difference in the game. Andrew Larson only punted three times, but netted 45.7 per kick. On the minus side, Cal's return game was non-existent and the Bears allowed a long kick return in the 2nd quarter that set up a Cardinal score.
Coaching - D We don't have problems with Tedford's decision to kick in the 4th quarter - it was a reasonable FG attempt and would have put the Bears up by two scores. We do have a problem with Cal treating the Big Game like a non-conference tilt with Minnesota. The intensity was not there, and that goes back to preparation by the coaching staff.
With respect to the offensive scheme, Mike Dunbar got schooled by A.J. Christoff, which is frankly hard to do. We've been pulling our punches a bit with respect to Coach Dunbar, who has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks for his play-calling. We'll jump on his back here, because we had exactly two smart play-calls for the blitz in the entire game - a bubble screen pass to DeSean, and the swing pass to Marshawn in the 1st half. Where was the quick hitter to the TE?
Overall - D+ Yes, we're giving Cal a D+ for a Big Game win. They deserve it for failing to play with any intensity in a rivalry game. Stanford was a horribly over-matched team, and Cal let them dominate large portions of the game. If T.C. Ostrander doesn't turn back into a pumpkin in the 2nd half, we might be talking about the biggest upset in Big Game history. As it is, we're left to discuss the least inspiring Cal victory in the recent history of the rivalry.