REPORT CARD - CALIFORNIA 45 TEXAS A&M 10QB: A. Nate is back. After a shaky 1st series when he threw an out pattern into the turf, Longshore displayed the type of accuracy and good decision-making we grew to expect over the first half of the season. His pass to Stevens on Cal's answering drive in the 1st quarter was simply beautiful. His one interception - a miscommunication with the receivers - was like quick kicking on first down.
RB: A. Marshawn, thanks for the memories. Justin, welcome back to your 2005 form. You're the man now, dog. Will Ta'ufo'ou, welcome to the starting lineup. You blocked pretty well last night, though we need to work on your route running a bit before Tennessee.
Run Blocking: A++. We have slagged this unit something fierce over the past two months, but they absolutely dominated Texas A&M. Everyone played well, but special kudos to Erik Robertson, who was a beast, and Mike Gibson. Alex Mack was terrific too except for his bad snap to Longshore in shotgun. We worried that A&M's option would wear down the Cal defense; in reality, Cal's OL broke A&M's will on their second possession of the 2nd half.
Pass Blocking: A. No sacks, and not much pressure on Longshore. Nothing more to say, really - an almost perfect performance. We were surprised that A&M didn't gamble and blitz more to generate some sort of pressure. Their passive defensive game plan was a mystery to everyone but the A&M coaches themselves.
Receiver Play: A Good receivers find holes in the zone and sit down. That's exactly what our wides did all night against a mushy zone from the Aggies. Hawkins showed great concentration on his TD reception on 4th down. Stevens had a very nice game.
Run Defense: B- In the first quarter, Cal looked as though it hadn't practiced against the option. Our DEs were almost invisible, and our backers - Mickey Pimentel in particular - kept biting on the QB keeper, leaving pitch men wide open on the perimeter. Then Bob Gregory made the adjustment of the game, switching to a 6-2-3 with Justin Moye and Pimentel/Williams standing up at DE and Bishop and Follett in the middle. This worked like a charm, and drained the momentum from A&M's run game. The Bears moved away from this 6 man look at times but seemed to always have at least five across the line. In so doing, Gregory masked the true weakness of our defense - Tafisi and Ma'afala - against the triple option.
Desmond Bishop played his finest game as a Golden Bear. He was all over the field, and his ferocious hitting intimidated the Aggie backs. Thanks for everything, Desmond.
Pass Defense: B+ Our packages looked pretty good, with a few hiccups as Syd'Quan was at time unaware of down and distance and gave a generous cushion. DB tackling in the 1st quarter was awful - Hicks missed at least a couple of clean shots - but the Bears tightened up as the game progressed.
Special Teams: C Schneider missed a FG; our return game never got going (the one nice return by Forsett came back on penalty); and A&M easily converted on their fake punt in the 1st quarter. It looked like the Bears were ill-prepared for the fake, despite the fact that the situation and A&M's formation both suggested it was coming.
Coaching: A As noted above, Gregory made very good adjustments in the run defense. The play-calling showed much better balance, and Tedford/Dunbar were willing to take what the soft Aggie zone gave them, instead of forcing the run in the 1st half. The 4th down call to Hawkins was the type of aggressive play-calling the Cal nation has been seeking for weeks. Special thanks to Coach Michalczik - whatever he did for the past month certainly worked, as our OL had its best effort since the Oregon game.
Overall: A This was a statement game - a statement that the 2006 Golden Bears will be remembered for much more than debacles in Knoxville, Tucson and Los Angeles. This is how good Cal can be - good enough to physically whip a strong team on both sides of the football. Tedford will spend the offseason plugging holes and figuring how to coax consistency from his charges in 2007.