Rating the Bears: Cal vs. Arizona
Finally, a win over the Wildcats.
In 2018 Wilcox and the Bears snapped a fourteen-game losing streak to USC. In 2019 they snapped a nine-game streak to the Lobsterbacks. In recent years they have also beaten nearly everyone else in the Pac-12 (let’s ignore ASU and Utah since they’ve only played Cal once under Wilcox). If I had told you in 2017 that it would take until 2022 for the Wilcox to end another ignoble streak, would you have guessed that losing streak was to…Arizona? The Wildcats were 13-24 over the last three seasons they played the Bears and yet the Bears managed to suffer agonizing losses each time. No more! The streak is over! Now let’s hope ASU’s misery continues next season and that Whittingham retires after leading the Utes to the national championship, so that Wilcox has a strong chance of completing the Pac-12 sweep next season…just in time for the conference to dissolve into a pool of jelly.
Rating the Bears
As yesterday’s The Good, The Bad, and The Rockfights demonstrated, Saturday’s game was an outlier under Wilcox. Today’s ratings reflect that aberrant assessment. Not only did defense earn the lowest scores of the week, but pass defense—the Bears’ anchor over the last six seasons—fared worst. The offense, meanwhile…
All those scores in the 80s are overshadowed by that spectacular 97.9 for the rush offense. That is the highest score we have seen in the thirteen years of running this series (runner up: 97.3 for Coaching in the Wazzu upset in 2017). And we still have at least two-and-a-half seasons of watching Jayden Ott terrorize opposing defenses. Is the future finally bright for Cal’s offense?
It has been a weird, weird bunch of games against Arizona since we started this series. Defensive masterpieces overshadowed by offensive ineptitude, offensive explosions coupled with defensive implosions, rockfights, pillowfights, and everything in between. After a decade of suffering, all these scores fare quite well.
In the above plot the horizontal line represents the median (exact middle of the data) and the box captures data between the 25th and 75th percentiles. After over a decade of inconsistency and futility, the Bears finally turned in a solid, well-rounded performance against the Wildcats.
Compared to the rest of the Wilcox Era, Saturday’s ratings compare favorably.
Everything is above the median and all the non-defensive categories are in the top 25%. It’s still jarring to see such high offensive ratings coupled with merely okay defensive ratings. After watching several defensive slugfests so far this season, it was nice to see a brief glimpse of the Bizarro Bears.
You know the drill: we have awards for optimists, pessimists, and realists.
First, the highest scores of the week.
Calamo has company this week! This is our first multi-100 game since the monumental beatdown the Bears delivered to the Lobsterbacks last season.
Lowest scores of the week.
Other than FS, everyone gave the Bears passing grades. Why do I keep appearing among the Old Blues? Maybe because I am reluctant to give too much credit to a solid win over a bad team (though the ‘Cats are leagues ahead of basement dwelling Colorado and ASU).
The Voice of Reason
Finally, those with ratings closest to average.
I praised goldenone for scoring in the 3s last week, and CoBears one-ups that with a 2.65! That is an exceptionally low deviation. We usually only see one or two 2s each season.
Next, your comments, helpfully gathered by our blogfather Rob.
Any comments on the gameday experience?
C98 - This 4:30am start is better than the last two (I’m traveling in SE Asia). Ott should get national attention for that performance today. Wow. Do we have any rich boosters who can buy him a Porsche or whatever so he doesn’t transfer to SC? I’ll chip in a few bucks.
TKE Prytanis 79 - Watched in comfort here in Mexico!
KJ1980 - I was at the game. A perfect day in Strawberry Canyon. Attendance was pretty good and there was not much red in the crowd.
Heyalumnigo - Tailgate Cuban sandwich was 19/19 WB. The new tailgate tent also 19/19. Good to see everyone since it will be over a month before the next full tailgate.
Texashaterforlife - Pac-12 Network gave me some pixelation problems at times. I am looking forward to Cal games being on at later times so I can watch it on TV Live. I am used to Pac-12 after dark.
Oski Disciple - Another small but boisterous crowd. Looked like a lot of students bailed at half time though some joined us in the shade. The time out "entertainment" continues to disappoint. The band excelled -- as always. Only one "hey alumni go" is not sufficient. Sad that the days of the imaginative yells, chants and taunts are gone.
Old Bear 71 - HOO BOY! That was a cathartic experience to see Jayden hit the jets on the second play. After soooo many years we are finally anticipating some big chunk plays BY OUR OFFENSE!
What are your thoughts on Cal's passing game?
Terence - After being stalled in the first half (and the first two games) it was nice to see both the TE usage, and some throws to both sides of the field. I still don't think Plummer is the best at short and wide passes (swings and WR screens) but hopefully the OL performance was an indication of things to come and he'll have more time to set up and throw going forward.
Oski Disciple - What a difference pass protection makes. Given time, Plummer is an excellent QB and we've got talent among our receivers and depth at TE. More please.
Wiata78 - The first three games were a smokescreen to throw people off. Even the Notre dame game.
Frisco Bear - Plummer started hitting his targets and we actually saw some YAC. Leads to more sustained drives, longer possessions, and keeping the defense off the field on a hot day. O line seems to be getting better. Musgrave adapted and the coaching didn't double down, but went with what was working (running game), which in turn, opened up the passing game.
Mallrat92204 - Solid, few mistakes by plummer hitting some of the speedsters in stride
What are your thoughts on Cal's running game?
Sacman701 - As Nuke LaLoosh would say, Ott announced his presence with authority. The 18-yard TD might have the been the most impressive, as he bulldozed the entire Cat defense. Even if you take out the 72 and 73 yard runs, the Bears had over 200 yards at six yards a pop.
Fire Starkey - Give the ball to Ott. Why wasn't he getting the ball in the 4th? He touched it once...and got a 72 yard TD
KJ1980 - Ott had a breakout day. Amazing second run from scrimmage. With a good offensive line, he could lead the Pac 12 in rushing. He added incredible energy to the crowd at Memorial. Amazing that he is a frosh. Hope he does not transfer to a team that might get him more exposure.
Texashaterforlife - Jaydn Ott will be gone/declaring after his true junior year; possibly All-American status and 1st round NFL pick.
ABVidale - Is Jaydn Ott very, very good? Yes. Is Arizona very, very bad at stopping the run? Yes. It may be impossible to determine which is primarily responsible for Jaydn Ott's performance.
Tangtpt - Wow. Just, wow. Ott is special. Hard to add to what's already been said, but 274 FOR A FRESHMAN?!?! He seems like a smart back, too. A third quarter run where he swept to the left side and gained about 12 yards or so was so patient, which you love to see in a young runner. He let the play develop until he saw his hole and took it. This kid is going to be fun to watch hopefully for a while.
What are your thoughts on Cal's pass defense?
KJ1980 - UA outshined Cal in passing yards. The pass kept the Cats in the game but the interceptions ended up putting the game in the win column for Cal.
Cleancutmedia - We gave up over 400 yards... but lot of it goes to Arizona's gunslinging quarterback. That guy has got zip. Throwing incredible fast throws for large yardarges, or interceptions. Our dbacks did a great job covering their receivers for the most part, especially the long ones.
Heyalumnigo - Ok, I lied! That's not all on OTT. That's why he's RB1. He was patiently waiting for the holes to show up and when they did, he planted his foot and ran for the endzone. Our pass defense was bend don't break. And it bent a lot. The pick in the end zone was a great play. The pick around the Cal 20 was just a bad overthrow. We did come up with some timely stops though.
Rose Bowl Oski - Gave up a ton of yards, but they were well disciplined and made some nice plays and got a couple of very timely picks.
Harmonpreservationsociety - We got shredded in chunk plays almost as long as JAYDN OTT's average carry
What are your thoughts on Cal's run defense?
Goldenone - Did not allow a 100 yard rusher
Rose Bowl - Oski At least they didn't give up two 70+ yard TD runs!
Oski Disciple - Leaky in the first half, solid in the second. More penetration from the D Line would help.
Old Bear 71 - first quarter/first half Meh. After halftime they got their mojo working.
Texashaterforlife - reminds me of videos of bears gathering together at waterfalls to snatch Salmon as they try to climb the falls. A bear swarm!
What are your thoughts on Cal's special teams?
Rose Bowl Oski - Great to see young Luckhurst out there. Unfortunate that his first kick went out of bounds, but then he got touchbacks even kicking into the wind.
Terence - Jameison Sheahan quietly having an excellent year so far.
Tangtpt - Nobody was offiside, unlike last week...oh, wait, we weren't offside then either?
Sacman701 - Hunter had punt returns of 21 and 11 yards. Otherwise nothing stood out.
Heyalumnigo - Most kicks went into the endzone. A few got hung up in the wind. We hit every extra point.
What are your thoughts on the coaching staff's performance?
Harmonpreservationsociety - Nice to see us return to the toss sweep / power run concepts to get JAYDN OTT more room
Oski Disciple - Is it time to re-evaulate Musgrave? His play calling ranged from good to excellent, particularly on the fourth down TD pass. The defensive adjustments made at half time speak for themselves. All in all one of the best coached games we've seen in the Wilcox era. Also, no turnovers.
Rose Bowl Oski - Shuffling the offensive line was brilliant. Resting Ott late in the game allowed him to come out with fresh legs and get that last long TD run.
Goldenone - Musgrave finally addressed our O-line issues, probably could have fed Ott the ball more but it's also understandable that durability must be protected in Conference play
Frisco Bear - Initial game plan (other than Ott's 73 yard run on 2nd play) didn't work as well as they wanted. Looked like it was going to be a long day. Game was closer than score indicated, but the coaches made whatever adjustments they needed to and the team got better as the game went along. Going from being outscored 24-21 in the first half to outscoring the Cats 28-7 in the 2nd, says it all.
Texashaterforlife - Better late than never for changes along the O-line. I hope the more practice and reps they get will make them better for the 2nd half of the Cal schedule (UW, UO, and USC).
Jakewebs - That 3rd quarter may be the best 3rd quarter of the Wilcox era (I'm sure I'll laugh at this in a few days but man it was fantastic). Credit to the staff for making adjustments after a first half with shockingly poor defense. Liking the adjustments to the O-Line as well, that play where they willed an Ott TD shows it is already paying off. Minus a few points for not bringing Ott in on a few possessions in the 4th.
Sacman701 - Looks like the halftime adjustments worked. Cats averaged 4.8 points per possession in the first half, 1.0 in the second. The Cat DL is no Irish DL, but it looks like whatever the OL did in practice paid off.
What are your thoughts on Cal's overall performance?
Sacman701 - Defense was a little ragged especially in the first half, but this was a decisive win over a decent opponent. The offense seems to be in a good place: Ott is the primary threat but the passing attack is good enough to punish opponents who sell out to stop the run.
KJ1980 - A solid Pac 12 win but not firmly in hand u til the last five minutes of the game. The last quarter was tense and few Cal fans left before the last few minutes. I stayed to enjoy the win. Cal is 4-1. That is great but nothing has come easy. I may be jaded but I still am worried about the upcoming games, included dastardly Furd.
Jakewebs - Any game in which the California Golden Bears end a long losing streak against a conference foe is a great game. One in which they also break the "first to 21" curse is even better. And 49 points? In the Wilcox era? For homecoming? It's a good day to be a Bear!
Mallrat92204 - one of the most complete conference wins in a while, I hope the offense can play on this level moving forward
Frisco Bear - Seems now we are getting acknowledgements in the media about how we got hosed at Notre Dumb last week. Regardless, our Bears are improving and it's nice to see them playing like they were pre-pandemic.
Rose Bowl Oski - The third quarter was the best quarter of Cal football I've seen in a long time. Three defensive stops and two long TD drives --very impressive.
Old Bear 71 - 49 points can cover a few Defensive glitches. Put up points and make your opponent play catch up (to Jayden if they can)! My nachos were twice as delicious today.
Tangtpt - Great offensive performance, mediocre defensive performance, good special teams all equal a good win. So glad that this wasn't a usual "weird" Arizona game. Let's see if we can keep it up.
Offended that rush offense didn't have a perfect grade!
WHEN THE SCREEN, IN A SCREEN PASS, COSISTS OF THREE GUYS, THEN YOU'LL SEE A LOT BETTER RESULTS THAN WHAT WE GOT. GERBEAR