Rating the Bears: Cal at UCLA Football
Another incredibly frustrating blowout loss to the Bruins
This past month has really captured the 21st century of Cal football, hasn’t it? Tremendous highs: upsetting an OSU team at its peak, absolutely destroying a Lobsterback team at the nadir of the David Shaw era. Incomprehensible lows: scoring three points against an inept and winless Arizona team, suffering yet another blowout loss to a UCLA team that has a disturbing history of blowing out Wilcox’s teams. These joyous wins and agonizing losses have led to amusing (in retrospect) discussions about firing everyone followed by nervous hand-wringing about coaches being poached by other programs. It has been quite a month, and we’re not done with the season yet...
Rating the Bears
I suspect we’d see stark differences if we rated the Bears for each half. The first half was a mostly decent effort, although below the standard set by the Bears over the last month. The second half saw a surprising return of the team from the first half of the season with no answers on how to adjust to its opponents’ success. Other than special teams, no unit played consistently well all game. And for that reason, scores are mostly in the middle—in that 40s-50s range. With two notable exceptions: 1) the pass offense’s utter inability to do anything productive and 2) the coaches’ utter inability to respond to UCLA’s high-pressure defense (which is a hallmark of Azzinaro’s defenses and ought to be the foundation for crafting a screen- and misdirection-heavy offense to counter its aggression).
Due to the covid postponement, we have one game left to play. And if you filled out the UCLA ratings, you probably noticed an error in the responses to predictions of Cal’s chances of victory over USC. Rather than accommodating the usual 0-100 range, responses were bound between 0 and 12. While that is a plausible range after Saturday’s ineptitude in Pasadena, that question was originally going to ask how many regular season games we expect the Bears to win in 2022 (where 0-12 is a perfectly cromulent range). But with the USC game becoming the new season finale, I moved that question to the USC form and forgot to change the response format of the USC predictions. Fortunately, we asked for predictions of a win over USC after the Arizona debacle before we found out that the USC game was going to be postponed. And there the predictions dropped considerably from our pre-season expectations. I suspect the results would have been pretty similar after the UCLA loss.
It’s been a bizarre dozen games against UCLA since we started this series, from blowout wins in 2010 and 2012 to eye-gougingly bad losses in 2011 and 2013 and 2015 and pretty much every time the Bears visit Pasadena.
That Saturday’s game is middle-of-the-road for the team’s performances against UCLA is quite depressing.
Compared to the rest of the Wilcox Era, Saturday’s game fared…poorly.
No single category stands out as atrocious, but it was all pretty unpleasant (except special teams—a lone bright spot for most of the second half of the season).
Anyone who attended that game deserves a participation trophy. We also have our usual slate of awards recognizing the best, worst, and most reasonable ratings of the week.
Even if we exclude Calamo’s ratings (btw I bet Calamo had a heart attack when win predictions against USC were capped at 12), that is a huge spread.
The Voice of Reason
Let’s see what you all thought of the game, especially you poor lot who made the trip to Pasadena.
Any comments on the gameday experience?
BearsWillEndMyLife - My router died a few hours before the game so I had to hardwire internet to my laptop for a tiny viewing experience. I would have been better off just not watching at all. What a joke.
Hassbear - I ruined a perfectly good Saturday and drove from Newport Beach to Pasadena to watch us get demolished.
Goldenone - Chip has Wilcox' number and Azzinaro made our life miserable. Musgrave needed to adapt the offensive scheme, which he mostly never did. Since the Bruins completely shut down the passing game we should have run more.
SD23 - Glad I had a bottle of wine
FuzzyWuzzy - Put our annual Bear miles in for the year. My buddy slogged his way South from Sacto, and I north from the border, all to watch our Sturdy Golden Bears poop themselves, live, beneath the oft-flickering lights of the Rose Bowl. Been there a couple of times, but that's the first time I heard what sounds like a buoy outside of the Golden Gate on 3rd downs - it's the battle of LA victory bell, which our baby bears have recently acquired...personally, I think it should be something more representative of LA, like a glammed-up puppet full of botox or an Oxygen bar mouthpiece. Anyway, many thanks to the LA alums, guests, Straw Hatters and bartenders for throwing a nice little tailgate party, as well as the UCLA fans near us for not being as obnoxious as they may have wanted to be. The boozed-up Bear fan sporting jersey #16 in front of us conked out just after our defense did.
1988goldenbear - Fun to be at a road game, loved the tailgate with the (Great) Cal Band! Got pretty cold once the sun went down...
What are your thoughts on Cal's passing game?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Completely non-functional. The scouting report about their constant blitzing was well-known and yet we were still surprised, out of position, and calling constant deep dropbacks with empty backfield. Why is Musgrave so inept? Garbers also generally looked very bad.
BTown85 - We knew they were gonna bull rush…..why weren’t we ready for the bull rush?
Goldenone - No recognition of the havoc created by the defense, Chase was pressured and hit all game long.
Sacman701 - Putrid. Terrible protection, terrible decision making, poor accuracy. Four yards per attempt, two picks, and four sacks makes it nearly impossible to win regardless of what else happens.
1988goldenbear - Bad Garbers almost all day long. O-line was dominated, so there was little time to set up for throws, but even when he had time he wasn't accurate. One really bad pick, one fairly bad pick. Disappointing after a great game vs. Furd last week.
What are your thoughts on Cal's running game?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Marginal. Just a consistent waste of wonderful talent behind a dreadful offensive line and horrific playcalling. Slow-developing swing passes and deep pitch backs? Cmon.
Goldenone - We abandoned it too early because UCLA was lining up as many as 7 guys near the line of scrimmage. However, we should have used misdirection and the option, or utilize pulling guards to neutralize the pressure.
KJ1980 - Flashes of competence
FuzzyWuzzy - Same thing = a few nice runs, but nowhere near enough. The steam kettle ran dry after the 2nd qtr.
1988goldenbear - Brooks still looks beastly at times - really happy for him - but they couldn't get much going. ucla dominated the line and hit the RBs in the backfield all too often.
What are your thoughts on Cal's pass defense?
Goldenone - OK but a couple of key breakdowns. Rutchena covering the TE was a bit of a mismatch but he managed to stay within the catch radius. It's just that the TE made a superb grab.
Hassbear - Better than the run defense?
KJ1980 - Pass defense?
Aloha1906 - Fantastic. Kept the bRuins under 200 yards through the air
Sacman701 - The statline wasn't too bad, but we had two horrific busts on the 2-yard TD passes that actually served to reduce UCLA's yards per attempt. Also, no sacks and very poor contain on DTR.
1988goldenbear - They played pretty well for a half, but I think they were so tired as the game went on the defense got a step slow in the 2nd half and gave up some pretty big plays.
What are your thoughts on Cal's run defense?
BearsWillEndMyLife - I don't even have the words. So much for being the top run defense in the conference.
TD_24 - Mo Iosefa can stay on the tarmac as far as I'm concerned. That was heinous effort out there from him. Defense eventually wore down but it was crap anyway.
Hassbear - We forgot how to tackle.
Aloha1906 - Did about as much as could be expected against Charbonnet. They just got tired.
FuzzyWuzzy - Up the middle - awesome. Containing DTR? Not good. I think they had almost 200 yards rushing or something like that , 1006 for Charbonent alone.
1988goldenbear - A great first half, giving almost nothing to Charbonnet, but then the second half happened. Too tired to keep pace, and ucla found a large number of gaping holes in the line.
What are your thoughts on Cal's special teams?
FuzzyWuzzy - Other than Remigio's returns, which was pretty much half of our offense...We've all seen better punting…
1988goldenbear - Special teams was the best phase of the game for the Bears. Good punts, nice recovery of the turnover, and a couple of great returns by Nikko (and neither one was called back!).
Sacman701 - The one bright spot. Some good returns and a recovered fumble.
Goldenone - Recovered a fumble, two nice returns for Remigio. Fairly good.
TD_24 - When this is the best bunch, this is a problem.
BearsWillEndMyLife - I guess the fumble recovery was nice, and we didn't do anything to actively hurt ourselves here. Still, overall this unit cost us games the last two years and the whole operation needs to be restarted.
What are your thoughts on the coaching staff's performance?
BearsWillEndMyLife - Fire Musgrave now. I've said it all year - he's slow to adapt both in-game and schematically across two seasons, and he operates with an arrogance and a mind-numbing stubbornness that actively holds our talent back. Sirmon and Ragle need to go as well. Tonight was a prime example of how badly we have fallen off the recruiting trail, and Wilcox/Knowlton absolutely blew it by letting DeRuyter go.
TD_24 - We knew what Kelly and Azzinaro would do to us, and yet we did nothing about it. No block checks, no screens, lack of power running and blitzing. You name it we did it wrong.
KJ1980 - This Bears we’re not prepared to compete at a high level.
Aloha1906 - Questionable play calling on offense to try to stem the over aggressive blitz packages.
SD23 - When teams constantly blitz, you throw screens. Our first screen pass was with 7 minutes left in the game. Musgrove can't adapt when his game plan goes awry. Terrible play calling, did not set up the guys for success.
FuzzyWuzzy - When your team gets beat like that, the coaches have to be blamed somehow.
Kevin - How does last week's team become this week's team? I still like Wilcox (and I'm also not confident we could do any better), but these wild performance swings can only be attributed to coaching.
1988goldenbear - ucla made good adjustments at halftime. We did not. If the domination was due to talent gap, then so be it. But we didn't look prepared to play 60 minutes.
What are your thoughts on Cal's overall performance?
BearsWillEndMyLife - It's nice to have the Axe, but I guess the team decided that was the last game of our season. Do they think we needed to lose for draft position?
KJ1980 - Most disappointing performance of a most disappointing season. What have the Bear fans done to warrant this punishment?
Aloha1906 - The fact is Cal was in this game until the last few minutes. UCLA’s defense is very, very very bad, and with competent playing the Bears would have hung 50+ on the bRuins. And it wasn’t over even when we were down 42-14: the ucla defense is truly that bad. So I question the offensive play calling that allowed Garbers to be so affected by the blitz. And I truly think Cal should launch an investigation into Musgrave and whether he was bought off by the bRuins because there’s literally no other explanation for what happened last night.
Sacman701 - Yuck. The first half was sloppy, the second half inexcusable. They need to at least play 60 minutes against SC.
RememberTheCalamo - To be clear, I think we have a 100% chance of winning against $C, but the form won't let me put anything in higher than 12.
FuzzyWuzzy - I think this was our "true colors" game. UCLA certainly has a lot of talent, but they're beatable. Beating up on Furd and Colorado was warm and fuzzy, but they stink like last month's chicken; the Oregon State win showed what this team could do, but that just gave me hope of a bowl game berth...they just can't seem to bring it every week. This late into the season, a good team is more competitive, I would think, and can at least make games like this - against a talented team with a winning record p0 close. They got beat pretty bad.
Kevin - Turned it off in the 3rd quarter after it became clear we couldn't do anything with the ball. In many ways (game pacing, ineptitude) this was the same game as last week's, except we were on the losing side this time.