Big Game aftermath: Cal, Dykes have a lot of work to do

By Morris Phillips

The 116th Big Game needed to be Cal’s last stand, their final opportunity—win or lose–to show that their football program was headed in the right direction with major improvement coming in 2014.

Instead, the Bears suffered the worst loss in Big Game history, allowing a Stanford-record 42 points in the first half alone.  Combined with Oregon’s loss to Arizona, Cal found itself trapped in the Cardinal’s big moment with nowhere to go until the final horn sounded.

Talk about a violent manner in which to swing an Axe.  According to Coach Sonny Dykes, his program is currently under reconstruction, in large part due to what transpired on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

“Actually, we’re going to learn how to pick up our locker room.  We’re… going to learn how to go class. We’re going to fix our graduation rates, graduate.  We are going to appreciate being a Cal student, be supportive of other Cal students.  We’re going to get faster, stronger in the weight room.  We’re going to get bigger and improve our diet.  We’re going to be more committed to getting sleep, rest, recovery.  We’re going to learn how to play on offense and defense,” Dykes said.

Less than a year after accepting the job at Berkeley, Dykes admitted that he’s starting over.  And typically, that means there’s nowhere to go but up.  But when you hit rock bottom this hard, typical doesn’t apply.  When asked who among his staff would return next season, Dykes was brutally honest.

“I’ll take a look at it all,” Dykes said.  “I can’t guarantee I’ll be back next season.”

Given the millions of dollars invested in Dykes, former coach Jeff Tedford and the rebuilt Memorial Stadium, don’t expect Dykes to go anywhere but back to work.  Cal can’t afford to start over like they did in 2001 when Tom Holmoe was shown the door after a one-win season. In fact, Dykes said that process would begin soon after the bus ride back to Berkeley, saying that it couldn’t wait until Sunday afternoon or Monday to commence.

The Bears came into Saturday’s game knowing that Stanford’s physical attack could embarrass them as it had other opponents.  So Dykes and the Cal defense loaded up to stop to run only to see Stanford take to the air and take advantage of the Bears’ young secondary.  The transition for the Cardinal was seamless as star receiver Ty Montgomery racked up five touchdowns and the Stanford offense over 600 yards.

The highlights—seen by far more than the 50,000 in the stadium and those that sat through the broadcast buried deep in the recesses of expanded cable—were noticeable for the lengthy plays produced by Stanford with Cal players trailing in their wake.  Not only has Cal sunk this low, but at the same time, hated rival Stanford has reached its zenith, possibly on its way to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances, and all of that was neatly summed up in a brief video package of Cal quarterback Jared Goff taking hits and Montgomery running into the end zone.

When you take into account that 17 and 18-year olds have short attention spans, watch television and are impressionable, you start to get a sense of what a win-win the whole afternoon was for Stanford, and just the opposite for Cal.

First, Dykes and the Bears have to learn from their mistakes and improve.  The Cal depth chart this season was littered with inexperienced first-and-second year players even before numerous injuries robbed the team of its veteran players.  In a Pac-12 conference that’s bigger than it’s ever been and likely more talent-heavy than it’s ever been, the combination proved to be pure disaster for Cal.

In addition, Dykes’ Bear Raid system is a high-risk operation with its spread sets and frequent passing. But it’s not anything new to opposing coaches and defenses.  Repeatedly, those defenses bent but didn’t break against Cal, by dialing up pressure that Cal’s offensive line, labeled as lacking physicality by even its’ own coaches, couldn’t withstand.  On Saturday, the Bears were awful on third-down, failing to convert on 11 of 13 opportunities.  If the Bear Raid can’t gain rhythm, can’t stay on the field and wear on opposing defenses, little if anything is realized.

In summary, Cal’s got a long way to go.  Dykes appears forthright and committed, but he needs help from his players and coaching staff.  Even with all the pluses afforded Cal through the university and athletic department, it won’t be easy, and it won’t be any less lengthy a process given that the competition in the Pac-12 is as steep as it’s ever been.

Michael Duca on Cal

by Michael Duca

Cal football: In the new Cal system with old players and that’s pretty old for people who are seeing this team (1-9) but that’s just how it is. It was the team that former head coach Jeff Tedford left behind and it was not covered at just that and the skill set is somewhat underneath it. So current head coach Sonny Dykes has spent the entire year trying to shave the edges off round things so they’ll fit square holes.

Jared Goff is well on pace to throw for 58,000 yards in his career and it maybe well beyond that. Again it’s a true freshman stepping up and running a system that’s somewhat new to him, not totally new. Goff played spread in high school but he didn’t play spread for Dykes and he didn’t play it with this group of players who were drafted for pro set offense. If you look at last Thursday’s game Cal’s offense played USC pretty even.

Cal hoops: Obviously everybody figures you schedule cupcakes a certain time of the year and I don’t think St. Mary’s scheduled a cupcake at Akron last night and Cal scheduled a cupcake at Coppin State. Coppin State went up the coast up a ways and smoked the Oregon State Beavers at Corvallis. That’s a win that Cal could be pretty proud of.

It gives them an idea of what they’ve got this year, the Bears have to figure out a win without having Alan Crabtree to lean on and they could do real well without him because he was so streaky and so prone to disappearing on defense when he wasn’t hitting on offense so if he had a good game it was a great game and if he had a so so game it turned out to be a poor game.

Cal is going to need David Kravish to produce a low post presence they don’t have a lot of height, they’re very limited on who they have on the team. Head coach Mike Montgomery might go small and by small he basically means playing a four guard offense to draw the other team away from the basket. When they go to the four guard offense Kravish is the man on the island, you’ve come to the lighthouse at the opening of the harbor.

Kravish has developed greatly over the years, he came in a skinny kid with a lot of ball hocking ability and could never tell where the ball winds up on a rebound. He’s beefed up a little bit, he doesn’t get pushed around in the low post like he did a couple years ago. He’s got the potential to be a solid good ball player. It really anchors that low post offense for them.

For Monty coaches are coaches they are always excited about their team and their always looking forward to their next game and their always respectful to their opponents. This is how they are they don’t believe in whacking hornets nests and, they don’t believe in over selling their kids and in front of their kids and underselling them and they have kids playing with a chip on their shoulders and Monty is great at that.

He’s one of those guys whose never satisfied because you can only approach perfection you could never reach it.

 

Michael Duca covers Cal for Sportstalk radio

Michael Duca on Cal football

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–What was it that there are only 14 players on the Cal Bears squad from the last two years recruiting classes. You can not say that this is a Mother Hubbard situational where the cupboard was left totally bare but it wasn’t left Golden Bear that’s for sure.

The Bears are a work in process and I’m not sure it’s a work in progress but the Bears hope it is the spread offense the Bears knew from that Holiday Bowl a number of years ago that Cal couldn’t defend against and apparently based on going against the spread offense in practice every week their defense is pretty depressed about that whole concept.

The Bears have not been aggressive and their going to have to be on the defensive side of the ball, the offensive line is young and needs to develop and Jared Goff is their number one quarterback for the next number of years and he’s very well suited to the system, very well suited to the school, he had a full year of credits under his belt before he played his first game.

The Bears don’t have any issues on that side Brandon Bigelow has to develop a little bit more as a running back and that comes from the line developing ability to run block and in particular to pass protect it seems to me like I’ve seen Goff make a number of freshman like decisions out there on the field and it’s often because three or four non distinctly non freshman like human beings are trying to pulverize him.

One thing that people really don’t understand about the transition this why I kept focusing on the offensive line when I was talking is that former Bears head coach Jeff Tedford played pretty much a standard pro sets scheme and in that scheme your line blocks straight ahead or zone blocks within arms reach of you. When your playing the spread it’s not about zone blocking and it’s not about blocking straight ahead it’s about gap control.

It’s a whole different way of thinking about the offensive line responsibility it’s a whole different way of thinking of neutralizing defense in particular when you consider how inexperienced Cal’s own defense is it’s hard to imagine and being a very good scout team to train that offense in running the spread.

The last word on Cal is they have no place to go but up.

Michael Duca covers Cal football for Sportstalk Radio

Cal just playing out the schedule to see if they can pick up a win

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by Michael Duca
BERKELEY–The only way you can win a football game is you keep the other teams from scoring more than you do and while it may seem to some have already suffered through watching the defense is only a concept. Defense is only something that requires high quality players who are able to compete with each other and it seems each week. Cal has not had that luxury.
They’ve had so many injuries, they’ve lost seven of their original starters, 11 projected players on defense, yeah it’s just going to be like this for the rest of the year. I would be surprised if they’re able to actually put another game in the victory column before this year ends which would mean that one could take the position that this might be the worst Cal football  season in memory. There only win would have come not against a BCS team.
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes knew that he was going to run the spread and he knew it was going to take certain kinds of players to run the spread it’s not that easy to convert a fairly standard pro set team to a spread offense because a spread is all about gaps, control much more than straight ahead blocking to open wide for a running game. While Cal has finished with a lot of pro quarterbacks if you take a look at the years you have former Cal coach Jeff Tedford whose well known to be a quarterback developer.
He had 1000 yard rushers every year Cal was a run oriented offense but passed off the run and with the spread to run off the pass and establish the pass the first thing you have to do it with is that line literally spreads that’s why it’s called that. It takes a different kind of player and a different skill set and you inherit players who are recruited for one system there’s likely not the best suited players for the other kind of system.Their not smart football players but it doesn’t mean their not good athletes which there are different skill sets involved.
Dykes knew in last Saturday’s game versus Washington that Cal quarterback Jared Goff is the future quarterback and he wants to make sure that he doesn’t get injured either physically which is not that big a risk in a blow out game because as the game goes on you want to finish healthy. Physiologically more important you want to maintain a quarterbacking concept which is being in an attack mode and Goff is a true freshman.
You have to be a little bit more careful, Dykes knows what he’s doing at quarterback.
Michael Duca covers Cal football for Sportstalk Radio

Weak scores on and off the field for Cal football

Michelle Richardson on the NCAA by Morris Phillips

SEATTLE–It’s real sad news that Cal’s graduation rate is at number 72 out of the major colleges in the nation and the team is not winning and their supposed to win in the classroom that’s what the university is all about. That’s why universities in the Pac 12 conference which is an academic conference but not at the highest level unfortunately but near the highest level.

The football team is not performing well on the field and it hasn’t been a good first year for Cal head coach Sonny Dykes in his program and that’s some bad news. I don’t think the Bears are going to win this weekend either as they get ready to face the Huskies in Washington so they would fall to 1-7 on the season.

The academic news is disturbing because if guys can’t perform in the classroom they can’t get on the field, they can’t help the school. It’s surprising but I’m sure they’ll get it worked out while it’s depressing you have to assume the school is going to work it out with the group they have now with guys going to class.

Back in 2009 Cal had some of the worst graduation rates in the NCAA until former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford got his students to turn around their academic scores in the classroom and got the team to start winning. Tedford won a bunch of recruiting battles. He had successes with his students, with recruiting and getting them good test scores even though Tedford was heading out the door.

Tedford bears a great deal of responsibility of getting the program off the ground at that time but Dykes is the coach now and these are his kids and this is his team he needs to get on the football field and to coach his problem. Dykes is not going anywhere there’s so much money involved in getting Tedford out and paying the new coach there won’t be any changes.

Cal must clean their problem up, they have to internally, they have to get it fixed. It’s not what the university is all about. Once again Tedford is the origin of the problem but it is truly and squarely on Dykes at this point. Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour did not comment on the story only to say that she will look into the low academic situation of the graduation rates and “put systems in place that we believe will raise for under preforming teams.”

None of the players with graduating issues were recruited by Dykes and a majority of them were not on the Cal Men’s basketball team, “a top priority for this program since this staff was formed has always and will always be for our student-athletes to complete their undergraduate degree.” said Cal men’s basketball head coach Mike Montgomery.

Tedford said about the low graduation rate, “(it was) very concerning, it makes it seem like we weren’t dedicated to academics, no matter what anybody says that’s not true, people have good intentions but life goes in a different direction, they rarely come back. Looking back the lesson I learned was to have them graduate in four and half years.”

Morris Phillips is filling in for Michelle Richardson on NCAA commentary this week

Michael Duca on Cal football

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–One reason why the students at Cal Berkeley are walking around here with their mouths open after the loss to Oregon State which is not very polite by the way they were completely unprepared for the fact that Oregon State plays pretty good football in their 49-17 win.

Sean Mannion the Beavers starting quarterback was another reason why the students left with their mouths open he’s the leading quarterback not only in the Pac 12 he basically the FBS 1-19 highest rated quarterback in the country he came in the Cal game with the top quarterback rating.

Mannion could deliver the long ball, he can deliver the short ball, he’s got a nice touch, I’m sure that somewhere in between stacking poker chips and just saying how high three million dollars is former Bears head coach Jeff Tedford has to wondering how he missed this kid.

Mannion put in a good day’s work considering he was not paid for it, we can sit here and rag on the Bears all you want, you have to remember this is a team that has lost seven of the 11 original starters on defense, six to injuries, and one due to dismissal from the team. The Bears lost their best defensive end, they lost their best linebacker, they lost their best cover cornerback, they lost their best safety, and they lost their best defensive tackle.

Not only have they lost a ton of players and of course if you lose seven your going to lose some tough games automatically. On the defensive line if your rated the players one, two, three and four they manage to lose one player. It’s been a very hard season for the Bears over at Strawberry Canyon.

Bears quarterback Jared Goff couldn’t find the handle on the football a couple of times he got separated from the ball after a couple nasty hits. They took him out in the fourth quarter as much as anything else to make sure that his confidence didn’t get destroyed by being out there and being punished.

Honestly for the rest of the year I just see only one game out of the remaining six on the schedule that they have that they might have a shot at to compete and have a fighting chance to win it and it’s against Colorado. The Bears are going up to Washington against the Huskies a team that’s jockeying for position in the Pac 12 and will be overladen with emotion because long time head coach Don James who passed away at the age of 90 on Monday morning.

James’ entire family will be out on the field at Husky Stadium Saturday as part of the opening coin toss and you know that stadium is just going to be rocking.

Michael Duca covers Cal Bears football each week for Sportstalk radio