10 by 10: The California Golden Bears in a Frustrating Loss to the TCU Horned Frogs
My ten thoughts by 10pm
It’s week two of my series of 10 thoughts by 10pm and this time I’m making sure I succeed. I’m writing this as the game is going so some of the early thoughts are written without knowledge of what happens later. I could look like a fool or like a genius (unfortunately for me, highly unlikely), but at least I’m not famous or controversial enough to be on @OldTakesExposed. I suppose you all could hold it against me in the future, but hey as I said last week, I’m new to football writing.
With a 12:30pm starting time, success was entirely in my control. That’s not necessarily the case for our California Golden Bears. It is a new week and, with that, a new opportunity to set the tone for the season. This game started as Oregon put its finishing touches on 3rd-ranked Ohio State, perhaps shaking the perception that Pac-12 athletes cannot compete with the titans of this sport. So, I’m hopeful that an inspiring Cal offense can discard the haunting terrors of the Cheez-I(n)t Bowl.
And without further ado, here are my ten thoughts as I watch the California Golden Bears take on the TCU Horned Frogs:
1st Quarter Home-Run Plays Barely 3 minutes into the game, Chase Garbers completed a 49-yard pass to Kekoa Crawford. The early indications of good pass protection, a healthy Crawford, and somewhat creative play-calling are exactly the kind of offensive play fans want to see early from the Cal offense. And while that excitement was short-lived, the next offensive drive saw Garbers attempt two more deep balls—one of which drew a defensive pass interference (on a fairly good looking throw) and the other was a 54-yard touchdown pass to Trevon Clark. All I can say is I am starving for explosive offense, and I just had my appetizer. I just don’t want a rotten entree and a sour dessert.
Daniel Scott in the 2nd Quarter After a tough secondary showing in the season opener against Nevada, the Cal defense needed someone to quite frankly and colloquially ball out. Scott appeared to be the early leader for the secondary with 4 total tackles, an impressive tackle for loss, and then a pick-six just two plays later. I’m definitely easily excited, but superb early production is just like when the free bread at the restaurant turns out to be quite the delight. It probably isn’t why you came to the restaurant, but it’s certainly a toasty feeling.
3rd & 2 It always baffles me in football when it’s 3rd-and-short and they go for a big play. I recognize that just running it up the middle is too predictable, but there has to be a solid short-ish route for the conversion. Instead, we had a way-too-close call with an interception after Garbers’ deep throw to Crawford. Despite converting a few of these earlier in the game, it just seems like a low percentage play with way more risk than reward.
4 Passing Yards in the 3rd Quarter TCU scored 14 unanswered points while Garbers had 4 passing yards in the 3rd quarter. I really don’t have much to say about that, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Is that all the offense could muster?
TCU’s First 5-Star, Zach Evans TCU running back Zach Evans certainly had an ummm... interesting recruiting story, but that’s behind him now as he has found his place in the Horned Frogs offense. In the first half alone, he amassed 14 receiving yards and 92 rushing yards, including the 51-yard touchdown run after the near-interception on 3rd-and-2 mentioned earlier. Evans changed directions without breaking stride on the touchdown run, which took full advantage of the Bears playing in a prevent defense mode. If TCU wants to win this game, they need to put the ball in the hands of the awakened Evans.
6 Penalties (and Counting) Cal has yet to prove itself as a team that can overcome negative plays. Oregon, in its game against Ohio State, had just 4 penalties for 35 yards in their win, and while it’s just two more penalties, the Bears need to consistently put themselves in a position of success. One way to accomplish this is by cleaning up the number of yellow flags being thrown onto the field as they always seem to come at the most inopportune times for the Cal offense.
7th Cal Drive Ignoring the kneel at the end of the first half, Cal started this drive down 2 to TCU, the Bears’ first deficit of the game. I’m not sure if this surprises anyone, but Cal had a quick 3-and-out, which gave the defense little rest in the 93 degrees Fort Worth heat. This is where I’ve been frustrated as a fan: Where is the consistency? One thing I’ve noticed recently is that the Cal offense struggles to find their rhythm after long drives by their opponents. Fading after a strong first quarter last week and a strong first half this week, it is clear the Bears desperately need to figure out how to inject a bit of zest into the offense after sitting.
Carry Number 8 Just as I was writing about injecting life into the offense, Damien Moore ripped off a 11-yard run on his eighth carry of the game, which was immediately followed by a 13-yard run for his ninth carry of the game. It’s precisely what the offense needed, but it still wasn’t sufficient for a stagnating Cal offense. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called for a deep pass on the left side on 3rd & 4—a second perplexing play call leading to a second missed opportunity on 3rd & short.
3 Sacks & 6 Tackles for Loss is 9 Awesome Defensive Plays Other than a half tackle for loss credited to Daniel Scott, the rest of the defensive production came from the front 7 that lost Kuony Deng early in the first quarter. For the majority of the game, it really looked like the Cal defense could get anything it wanted against the TCU offensive line. But as the game went on, the front 7 could not stop the TCU running game that accumulated 171 rushing yards in the second half.
10+-Minute Difference in Time of Possession I get that explosive plays like the 5 pass plays for over 25 yards means shorter drives, but let’s be clear here. The difference in time of possession in this game was due to the several short drives in the 3rd quarter. I’m not expecting touchdown drives every single time we get the ball, but the offense needs to at least put together a couple of plays to at least get within field goal range to at least put up 3 points on the drive. Cal didn’t attempt a single field goal in this game (granted they went for it on 4th-down a couple times), which, in a game that came down to 2 points and 2 missed 2-point conversion, just one could have made all the difference.
This was a frustrating loss. Instinctively, this feels like one where you question the decision-making by the coaching staff, but that’s certainly not the only place you look to when you lose by 2 points. A second double-digit lead of the season leads to our second loss of the season, which is the first time since 2001 when Cal, under Tom Holmoe, lost to BYU where Holmoe is currently the athletic director. In any case, I will sign off here and honestly hope that we don’t play TCU again because there just seems to be a weird curse when we play them.