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Rating the Bears: Cal at Notre Dame
There's the Highland Dutch and the Lowland Dutch and the Rotterdam Dutch and the Irish.
I bet there are at least half a dozen games over the last 5 seasons where I could copy+paste the results and text, and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Cal takes a first-half lead in an absolute rockfight before ultimately giving up that lead amid an onslaught of 5-yard runs as the opposing offense finally wears out the Cal defensive line. A sputtering offense is compounded by an offensive coordinator who insists on cramming a square peg into an electrical socket. And, for additional insult, some questionable refereeing leaves countless Cal fans wondering “What if…?” In 2017 or 2018, this would have been a moral victory. During Year 6, it’s another frustrating, wasted opportunity for Cal to earn a marquee win.
Rating the Bears
In a vintage Wilcox performance, pass defense leads the way while run defense earns acceptable scores. Meanwhile the offensive ratings drag down the team. Special teams remain a pleasant and consistent bright spot despite the lack of a dedicated special teams coordinator.
Predictions of a win over Arizona have slipped slightly, but that’s within the margin of error.
Below is a comparison of Saturday’s ratings to ratings for all recent OOC games against Power 5 teams.
The boxplots above represent our past ratings: the horizontal line is the median, the box represents the middle 50% of data, the lines outside the box (aka “whiskers”) represent unusually high or low scores, and the blue dots represent extreme outliers. The gold dot represents the ratings from Saturday’s game.
The offensive scores were…bad. Pass offense was much, much worse than previous OOC P5 games while run offense was only moderately worse than prior games. Pass defense was the only category that finished higher than usual. Run defense struggled along with coaching and overall. Let’s move from comparing this to Power 5 games to all games under Wilcox.
Although the ratings compared rather poorly to previous P5 games, the comparison isn’t quite as unfavorable to the bulk of games under Wilcox. That, in part, reflects how well the Bears have performed in many OOC games in recent years. How many times have we seen 3-0 and 2-1 starts lead to a 5-7 finish? Not that I’m suggesting anything about this season’s outcome…
Three sets of awards, fifteen winners.
Since we lost, we’ll start with the worst grades of the week.
Crystallograbear left the worst ratings by a good margin. The rest of us all dipped just below the 50% mark. I’m surprised I’ve finished with an Old Blue three weeks in a row. Perhaps my optimism about the Wilcox Era is beginning to dim…
Next up, highest grades of the week.
Long after the inevitable heat death of the universe, there will be one final source of light in the universe: Calamo’s endless sunshine pumping. After that, there’s a big gap to the next-best scores.
The Voice of Reason
Finally, those whose ratings were closest to the average in each category.
goldenone posts a 3.07, the best score of the season so far. Nice work!
Any comments on the gameday experience?
1988goldenbear - Took the trip to South Bend and it was totally worth it. Beautiful stadium, nice fans, awesome food in Chicago. Loved everything about the trip except the result.
Crystallograbear - An old blue here. I haven't tuned into a Cal game for a few years. This morning, I actually looked for this blog at SBNation before finding may way over here. This game met my expectations for a Cal game. Predictably porous defense and a non-existent O-line. Somehow the team holds it together to put a last-minute drive, and mars positions itself for a hail-mary tie. Hope is the enemy of all Cal fans. That interception is cancelled due to targeting? That fumble-return is canceled because the knee was down? I knew better than to count on those chance twists of fate. I knew better than to count on the first, second, or third receiver to touch the ball in the final play. That pass was incomplete before it was thrown, precisely because it was thrown by a Cal QB.
Heyalumnigo - Got up early to drive from my hotel by ORD to South Bend. Losing an hour meant leaving around 7:30. Parked at JC's AirBnb and walked to the tailgate (not the CAA one). Tailgate was fun. Good BBQ (brisket, pulled port, smoked sausages, mac and cheese, and Raising Canes tenders for the kids). It was mid 80s but not a lot of humidity. Sun was blazing all game long though. The green out atmosphere was really good. I don't think they passed out free t-shirts. Fans just knew to wear green to the green out. Incredible experience and I would do it again. Even after spending 1.5 hours with SGB trying to get out of the loop Fri night due to the Mexican Independence day carmageddon. ¡Viva Mexico! I'd say the stadium atmosphere ranks up there with Tennessee and Ohio State.
Tangtpt - Couldn't have asked for a better away gameday experience. First thing a Notre Dame person said to me and my family as we were walking towards campus was "Welcome to Notre Dame. I hope you enjoy your stay." Never heard a hostile word from a single Notre Dame fan. People couldn't have been friendlier. The campus is beautiful. It was a very entertaining game, notwithstanding the actual quality of the football on the field and the fact that we lost. I'm so glad that I was able to check ND off of my bucket list.
Oaklandishbear - Early morning rise to catch the Bears Without Borders bus, then a nice tour of the ND campus. Huge amount of space for 8000 students! The Basilica was beautiful, and cool to see Touchdown Jesus. The stadium exterior was kinda bland though. During the game, the Cal contingent was GREAT! The ND crowd was nothing special (complaining about a Plummer throw-away that clearly not grounding, for example) and the amplification of constant noise was annoying as all hell. ND Band's halftime show was pretty cool.
What are your thoughts on Cal's passing game?
GlueAndBold - Plummer generally did a decent job of keeping plays alive and avoiding pressure but his downfield accuracy was painful.
Sacman701 - ND has a very good pass defense that held tOSU to 21 points, but we just couldn't block them at all. Plummer was running for his life all game.
BearsWillEndMyLife - Plummer was clearly amped up trying to make up for last year's performance while at Purdue, and he was airmailing everything. Why the coaching staff failed to calm him down and call easier/quicker throws was beyond me. If we even complete one of those hot routes, slants, or screens, we maybe turn the tide. Our O line still needs serious work - when our second half offense is predicated on Plummer trying to reincarnate Garbers, we are doing many things wrong. Musgrave's playcalling was also s***, slow, and overcomplicated in its blocking schemes.
CoBears - Had solid moments and really bewildering ones. How does Plummer sail passes so often if he has such crisp passes on a line other times? The lack of consistency is concerning.
59RoseBowl - Musgraves did Plummer a real disservice by not calling more two-step drop short passes and screens (where the hell are the screes for Ott?). He continually put Plummer in a terrible position given the O-line and ND pass rush. In-game adjustments were horrible.
What are your thoughts on Cal's running game?
GlueAndBold - Ott struggled. Brooks ripped off three rushes for 45 yards and then didn't touch the ball in the 4th quarter. These guys need to step up and establish presence when Plummer is struggling.
Sacman701 - The backs got 82 yards on 18 carries (4.6 per), suggesting that there should have been more than 18 carries especially considering that our line could not block ND's pass rush. In a reversal from previous games, Brooks found more success than Ott did.
BTown85 - Gotta get Ott some space……misdirection, please!
Oaklandishbear - Well we asked for more Ott and we got him, but the OLine couldn't make enough space for him. A nice run by Brooks, but Plummer being the leading gross yardage rusher is NOT good.
What are your thoughts on Cal's pass defense?
Sacman701 - Not bad, although we got torched over the middle by backs and tight ends a few times.
BearsWillEndMyLife - Their wideouts didn't do much all game, which is a testament to our Takers 2.0. The screen game started to gouge us in the second half, mainly because our D was on the field way too much and we had to start collapsing down to help in run support. I feel bad for Daniel Scott getting faked out of his shoes on the last TD to Mayer. What can you do when their dude is better than your dude? I also wish we would blitz a bit more, and or maybe rush four instead of three once in a while. This was an O line ripe for the picking, and we had a bit of success in the first half.
Heyalumnigo - Just one bad play was their first TD. The other passing TD was a pretty good playcall. I gave the D a pretty good passing score, but much of that was the ineptitude of their QB.
1988goldenbear - ND had NOTHING open deep because our DB's played an awesome game. Not enough pressure by the D-line, but that wasn't surprising. ND took a bunch of short completions into the soft spots, and we couldn't pressure enough to make much of a difference.
What are your thoughts on Cal's run defense?
RememberTheCalamo - Who was offsides? That call changes the game. I'm a Spurs disciple so I guess I think it's normal for a coach to argue until they get they get thrown out but Wilcox should have argued until he was thrown out.
BearsWillEndMyLife - Bend, bend, bend... I don't really think I'm angry about giving up 6-7 yards on every first down in the fourth quarter, so much as I am disappointed in the rest of the team letting them down.
CoBears - Not good enough. They started running it down our throats, and that is really how ND won this game. If we could have held them a bit more, we win the game.
1988goldenbear - ND started dominating in the 2nd half as we got tired. Too much beef on their side compared to our side. But we made some really nice stops in the first half.
What are your thoughts on Cal's special teams?
GlueAndBold - The missed FG stings. The phantom offsides stings even more. Can't fault our guys for that one.
Sacman701 - Missed FG = lame. No deduction for the 'offside' on ND's FG attempt, because that call was asinine.
BearsWillEndMyLife - What the actual unholy f*** was with that offsides call? That and the targeting call were the only reasons ND scored at all in the first 36 minutes of the game. The missed field goal hurt but ultimately wasn't game-changing. I feel like Hunter is close to breaking one.
Tangtpt - Missed field goal was not good, but very Cal. Can't put any blame on anyone being offside, BECAUSE THERE WAS NOBODY OFFSIDE!!!
CoBears - I don't know where the refs expect our guys to line up, but since the "offsides" lost us possession and then they got 7, I have to say ST hurt us. Add the miss from 45 (the boink), and in a close game we missed too much. If that 45 yarder had gone in, we could have hit the field goal late (as we would have been down only 4) and still had a chance, maybe, for a win at the end.
What are your thoughts on the coaching staff's performance?
GlueAndBold - Rushing was working. Passing was struggling. Why would we shift so hard into a pass-first offense with so much of the fourth quarter to play? Inexplicable changes for the sake of change are the reason we want Musgrave gone.
BearsWillEndMyLife - Like I said all of last season, Musgrave is incapable of reacting to what is happening in front of him and adjusting. Get more creative in the run game to get Ott and Brooks more opportunities out wide and in space. Why did you keep thinking our completely reshuffled O Line was going to win 60 minutes of power football against an NFL front seven? Why are you not simplifying the blocking schemes and route concepts for Plummer, when he is running for his life and airmailing everything? But also, dear G-d, teach this kid some accuracy.
BTown85 - Seems Musgrave really needs to figure out in game adjustments when the playbook isn’t working.
CoBears - I don't know how to feel here. The team played ND to a near stalemate, after all, and ND was ranked 5 pre-season. But we could have won this game with a few tweaks and, I think, a little better preparation or better adjustments mid-game. Not sure the guys were put in a position to win, to be honest. And the whole second half felt like we had not made the right adjustments and ND had.
59RoseBowl - Again, I have real questions about Musgraves' ability to make in-game adjustments. It was clear that Plummer wouldn't have the time to throw downfield given the woeful O-line protection and ND pass rush but the didn't adjust to shorter routes and screens. Cal has some talent on offense but Musgraves simply seems unable to devise game plans to maximize that talent,
Oaklandishbear - Frustrating that we couldn't find a 2nd half answer for the constant pressure on Plummer or ways to stop the Irish ground game. I would have also gone for points on the 4th and 10 from the ND 22 down 7 with 6 minutes left. That's not a great percentage 4th down given the constant pressure, and we'd need a defensive stop, anyway (which we got).
What are your thoughts on Cal's overall performance?
AAHQ - You never want a game where the winning margin was provided by a ghost penalty.
Old Bear 71 - This was so winnable. Our Bears cannot continue to produce just barely enough and win games in the future. FG attempts must be converted and drives to the red zone or near it have to produce six. Other wise a long season awaits the Bear faithful.
Texashaterforlife - Notre Dame's bigger and stronger offensive and defensive lines really showed. The next two weeks against Pac-12 members WSU and Arizona will determine if Cal goes Bowling.
BearsWillEndMyLife - If we played ND 10 times, we'd probably lose seven, but they'd feel really uncomfortable every time. In many ways this game came down to two plays made by their stars in the fourth quarter: the TD to Mayer and the fourth-down sack by Foskey. Every other positional battle was a stalemate at worst. I don't know how much I can rail against an outcome that literally came down to millimeters and they won because, well, they have 1-2 more DUDES on their team. I want to believe most of these things are fixable - Plummer calming down and developing some rapport and accuracy with the receivers, the O line settling down and gelling, Ott and Brooks finding balance and touches in space, continuing to limit penalties, etc. I have to think this bodes well for the other non-functional offenses we'll face this year. <checks notes around the Pac-12>. S***.
CoBears - Proud of the fight the Bears put up. But really sad for this missed opportunity. We need to take it to AZ this week and get back on track. Our guys need to believe that this can still be a great season with a bowl game at the end. With our Pac-12 North looking more solid than expected after week 1, we have work to do to gain the consistency and confidence necessary to take us there. But I'm confident we can get there.
1988goldenbear - Cal got $2,000,000 to play this game? How much did Notre Dame pay the officials? Yeah I'm salty - that was a huge penalty that may very well have swung the game. Who knows what happens if ND is down at the half - maybe they come out even stronger than they did, but that was a terrible call and everyone knows it.
Oaklandishbear - We knew going in our lines were probably out-manned, at that proved to be the difference. Almost overcame horrible, horrible calls on the phantom offsides and Sturdivant celebration. But in the end we couldn't stop the Irish running game, couldn't generate anything on the ground ourselves, and ND just teed-off on Plummer without really needing to blitz. We had to be almost error-free, but we weren't. And despite it all we almost pulled it out. What a wild, wild final minute of the game. Sad Bear.
See you next week. Let’s hope Arizona Week isn’t as exceedingly weird as it has been in recent years.