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The Cal Offense

This week, I'm going to do things a bit differently.  Why?  Well, last week I slacked off and that didn't go so well.  Being the superstitious person that I am, I won't be making that mistake twice.  This post will serve as an introduction to the Bears, and offensive preview.  The plan is to do a defensive preview and an analysis later.

First, a little Bear linkage to the California Golden Bear Football News.  This seems to be the most regularly updated Cal blog.  

Make no mistake about it, this is a big game, and Jeff Tedford is treating it as such:

From what I understand the game is closed to being sold out, so there is going to be a great crowd there. It is going to be one of those games. I told the team this when we met on Monday, `this is why we play this game.' It doesn't get any better than this - two Top 20 teams playing one another in the Rose Bowl in front of a near capacity crowd. It is pretty exciting."

CFN has been a bit wonky, we'll link the Press-Enterprise scouting report on Cal.  The basics: Cal's schedule has been weak (5-19 combined record).  Of course, UCLA's opponents haven't exactly dominated the competition at 5-13 (SDSU 2-4, Rice 0-3, OU 2-2, UW 1-4).  The PE's "players to watch" are RB Marshawn Lynch, DB Daymeion Hughes, and C Marvin Philip.  Meanwhile, Coach Jeff Tedford dares the Bruins to stop the run:

We've had a lot of success running the ball, and until someone stops it, we're going to keep running it. It's not anything new that we're running the football.

The guy doing most of the running will be Marshawn Lynch, who is profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle.  

Photo Credit: Ben Gallup/Daily Californian

Lynch rushed for 107 yards against Arizona, and reportedly was not much bothered by his injured pinky.  But the Bears also have Justin Forsett and Marcus O'Keith.

And here's an earlier profile on Lynch from the Contra Costa Times.  According to Tedford, "'Marshawn is very strong, very tough. And very rarely does he take a real good shot. Most of the hard shots he takes come when teams are gang tackling him as he gets held up.'"  

The Bears have relied on the running game because Joe Ayoob has been a bit shaky at times.  However, that didn't stop the Chronicle from determining that Ayoob is indeed a QB, whatever that means.  Ayoob, who began dubiously by going 0-10 against Sacramento State, made up for it against UW, where the Bears blew out the Huskies in Seattle.  This game

marked the arrival of Ayoob as a bona fide quarterback, capping a week in which Ayoob repeatedly said he was a better player than he'd shown last Saturday.

Ayoob was good at his word, too. He was 17-for-27 in throwing for 271 yards.

And No. 16 Cal (2-0) beat Washington (0-2) with ease, 56-17 at a subdued Husky Stadium.

Photo credit: AP/Elaine Thompson

Here's a story on Ayoob today in the Chronicle:

for Ayoob, it's one more step in the transition he has had since transferring from City College of San Francisco, where he was a JC All-American.

Things haven't come as easily at Cal, where coach Jeff Tedford can be a demanding taskmaster for his quarterbacks.

"I think he's comfortable," Tedford said. "This will step it up another notch."

Ayoob has been showing steady improvement. He is 56-for-100, throwing for 813 yards and eight touchdowns. He has been intercepted twice.

Ayoob said he would give himself somewhere between a B and a B- on his current play. He said he's not happy with the way he's throwing the ball, admitting he was troubled by his over-throwing open receivers on deep routes in Saturday's 28-0 win over Arizona.


He said that at City College, he didn't think, he just threw. At Cal, where he faces more sophisticated defenses, he sometimes hesitates on a read. For example, he said, he might pause a beat to look for the safety before releasing the ball.

"I've got to get that unconscious level back," he said.

He also acknowledged that the over-throws could be a sign of nervous excitement, saying, "That's when it comes out real hot."

And that's where his offensive linemen come in, taking it upon themselves to keep the quarterback relaxed.

Specifically, guard Aaron Merz and tackle Ryan O'Callaghan -- 700 pounds of fun -- do their best to keep it loose.

Ayoob laughs as he recalls Merz kidding him about his cultural heritage, which he describes as Lebanese and Mexican. O'Callaghan might offer a line stolen from the latest episode of "South Park.''

Ayoob's top targets have been Robert Jordan (17 receptions for 268 yards and 4 TDs) and DeSean Jackson (14 receptions for 190 yards and 2 TDs).

The Bears lost a fair number of players from their offense to graduation, not the least of whom were high NFL draftees QB Aaron Rodgers and RB J.J. Arrington.  But Tedford can coach, and he's adjusted his gameplan to suit the players he has, and the Bears will attempt to run the ball, as Tedford has frankly stated.

The Bears are 7th in the nation in rushing, at 259.4 ypg, while the passing offense has dropped of to 83rd at just under 200 ypg.  However, the Bears still have a top 20 offense in terms of total yards, and are 12th in scoring offense at over 40 ppg.  

Given that the Bruins' defense has been the weak point, particularly the rushing defense, there is ample reason to be concerned.  We have cautioned against putting too much stock into any one game, but this will be a real test defensively.  However, it's worth noting that the Bruins limited All-American Adrian Peterson very well, but the Sooners were fairly one-dimensional.

The key for the UCLA D versus the Cal O will clearly be stopping Cal's running game.

More to come.