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Evans Hall: Defensive Production Over Expected Value
Cal football inspired "Born to Run" levels of optimism in a very "Nebraska" bleak season.
Of course, I am referring to the two types of moods Bruce Springsteen elicited in his music in the late 70s and early 80s. “Born To Run” elicited optimism about finding hope and the American Dream at the end of the road with a rousing “wall of sound” mixing that brought the whole band into a mighty sound. “Nebraska” on the other hand was a 1 man performance on a 4-track recorder that depicted the bleak lives of folks nearing the end of their stories.
Anyone looking at the Cal football season could say that tales of dead-ends, failed dreams, and moments, where the coin falls on the wrong side, is the right theme.
“Everything dies, that’s a fact.”
However, the last game gave me chills and made me holler like I was at a “Born To Run” tour concert just as
“The highways jammed with broken heroes
On a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight”
Blears into the air and it’s the defense’s performance that dictated the play.
Defense, Bears, Defense
Cal snuffed out the Oregon State 1st down run and stifled their 3rd down passing. That’s the story of the game. Beavers came into the game as a quintessential run first, run again, and then pass offense. See below snap distribution by down and play type.
We can see an evident 60/40 1st down run/pass split and a 75/25(!) run/pass split on 2nd down. This ex-ante expectation was proven true looking at the splits at the game here Oregon State insisted on their run on early downs.
Taking the prior, and after, and the outcome Cal knew what Oregon State wanted to do, was shown to be right and faced with the best of Oregon State had to offer and
Looking at the FBS non-Cal gains by play call and down we can see the Oregon State offense relying on the run to set up short 2nd and 3rd downs.
Cal defense held the Oregon State 1st down run short by a staggering 3 YPC!!!!! Tack on the median gain of 0 yards by the passing offense on 3rd down, and turnovers, is a recipe for victory.
Even if the Oregon State offense avg. higher on 1st down passing against Cal vs. rest of the field, the lower median means that the distribution is skewed towards just a handful of explosive outliers and was mostly shut down as well.
Defensive Win on the Margins
When Clarence “Big Man” Clemons played his solo in “Born to Run” I knew I would like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, by the time the solo on “Jungleland” finished, I was in love. The hope and energy of the former, and the pure distillation of the emotion of yearning for the latter this is how I felt about the Cal defensive performance against Oregon State.
We knew what they did well, we knew they knew that this is how they can beat anyone west of Tuscaloosa, and we shut it down.