Arizona aftermath

Well, believe it or not, the regular season is one-third over. Where does Cal stand? That’s not an easy question to answer.

Certainly, the reality looks good for the Bears: 4-0, No. 6 national ranking and a win in their Pac-10 opener. But has Cal looked like the team that many fans and observers expected to be in the running for a BCS berth? Only at times.

The productivity of the offense is undeniable, even though it seems to go in brief funks at times. Still, you can’t argue with the type of numbers the Bears are putting up on the scoreboard.

The bend-but-don’t-break defense has been inconsistent. Teams have been able to put together sustained drives agianst Cal, but the defense also has made big plays in every game, plays that can have momentum-altering effects.

I thought the Bears were on their way to playing a complete game Saturday. Not only was their defense overpowering the Wildcats, but Arizona’s spread offense looked lackluster against Cal’s defense. But the offense came up empty on a handful of possessions in the second half and the defense allowed Arizona to move the ball and score 17 unanswered points.

It wasn’t an escape for Cal, but certainly the Bears didn’t walk away feeling like they had delievered a knockout blow.

Of course, one of the reasons for the offense’s shortcomings in the second half was the absence of running back Justin Forsett, who was forced out earlier with a quad contusion. It’s no coincidence that the moment he came back in the game in the fourth quarter, the Bears put together a scoring drive to ice the game. Forsett rushed five times for 39 yards during the possession, including a 2-yard touchdown run in which he took the snap directly.

I knew Forsett was good, but until Saturday I don’t think I truly realized his value to the Bears. I had got caught up in the depth the Bears have at tailback, especially the playmaking ability of Jahvid Best. But Forsett is the heart and soul of the offense, maybe the entire team. Before Saturday, I thought Lavelle Hawkins was the early-season MVP of the Bears. Now I’d say it’s Forsett.

If the Bears want to finally play a complete game, this would be the week to do so. They’re going to especially be up to the task on defense. Oregon, which also runs the spread offense, has been almost undefendable. Cal could really use linebacker Zack Follett in a game like this, but coach Jeff Tedford said after Saturday’s game that he was still doubtful. Cal will somehow have to get pressure on Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon to take him out of his comfort zone. The Bears showed they can pressure the quarterback effectively but blitzing linebackers against Arizona, and they didn’t suffer in coverage most of the time when they did so. This could be an important game for the defensive backfield.

Obviously, there will be much more to come on the Oregon game in the coming days. The Ducks moved up to No. 11 in this week’s AP poll while the Bears stayed at No. 6.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • JSL

    Oregon is favored by 4 1/2! I hope the players get wind of this and also all the talk up in Oregon right now about how they’re going demolish us.

    I am confident our bears will come through! Let them underestimate us.

  • Go Bears82

    Good analysis J.O. You’re right, they have yet to put together a complete game. One of the positive notes, I thought Longshore played better this week than in the previous ones. He had fewer throws that were behind the receivers. He completed a pass on a roll-out, where he’s typically put those passes short of the receiver.

    The frustrating aspect is on defense where they gave up several 3rd and long first downs.

    Finally, they need to get the ball to DJ more than 4 times per game. That is glaring problem.

  • AustinBear

    I don’t think anything abou this season has been a surprise. The offense is very good (to great) and the defense is okay.

    I think the offense is so good and they make it look so easy, we’re dissapointed in them when they don’t score on every drive. No one does… If Cal had a stronger defense (see first half of AZ game) we’d see scores in the 50’s each week.

  • Zdub

    You hit the nail on the head, Forsett is key to success. Longshore looked sharp at time, but then struggled for a bit in the 3rd quarter. He still reminds me of last years Nate, great at times, but always good for a lapse. The success of the time will fall on his shoulders. He has to play a complete game in order for the Bears to beat the quality teams. Gregory will have to come up with a more attacking scheme against Oregon in order to win, otherwise Dixon will shread them.

  • TrumanHugh

    The home team is always given 3 points when figuring the spread, so really Oregon is favored by 1.5 points. Basically, its a gimme.

    Oregon’s eighth-ranked defense (in the Pac-10), will go up against with our seventh-ranked offense (seems low to me and FAR BELOW their talent and potential). Cal’s fourth-ranked defense will play against the Duck’s first-ranked offense.

    On paper, it’s pretty close, with Oregon getting the edge–and the 1.5 favorite–but Cal has a way of coming in to BIG GAMES ready to roll.

    Remember, too, that Oregon let Stanford score 31 unanswered points in the second quarter. They have flaws. They are vulnerable.

    I trust Tedford to scout every advantage against Oregon and come up with a game plan that allows the Bears to uses all its weapons. Add to that the fact that Tedford REALLY wants to FINALLY get his first win at Autzen…

    You’ve got a strong Bears team that has the ability/potential/talent to have a BIG win on the road. It’s the next logical step for the Tedford-era Bears, and its crucial if we expect to be a nationally respected, BCS contender.

    Go Bears!

  • TrumanHugh

    Sorry…Stanford already had three points when they began to force turnovers and run or pass their way into the end zone…Oregon only allowed 28 unanswered points in the second quarter last Saturday. My mistake.

  • LaughingBear

    The thing that is keeping me up nights about this weeks game is one simple fact:

    Remember how Cal felt about Tennessee for the year between games?

    …the Ducks have been thinking the same thing about the Bears.

    HUGE TEST for the Bears this week, they will need to play to their full potential to get the W.

    But if they do, the Bears will have taken and beaten the toughest shot they will get all year until USC comes to town.


  • CalAlum90-RichardH

    I still worry about Nate. When he’s on, HE’S ON! When he’s off, however, he makes some rookie mistakes. He threw some inaccurate passes into thick coverage some 2-3 times, almost had 2 interceptions instead of the 1. He’s really got to step up his consistency to take the team to the next level.

    Forsett, however, is freakin awesome! He carried the offense on his back in the 1st, 2nd, and especially 4th quarter. That guy is a workhorse who just won’t give up. I love him and actually like him better than Lynch (ok, let the arrows fly!)

    I still maintain that the defense looks pretty good overall, minus the crappy 2nd-half pass-rush. Is it just me or did it seem to disappear completely after halftime? The only thing that was working were the blitzes, but with a QB like Dixon, we’re really going to need a solid d-line rush in addition to blitzes!

    One last thing, what’s up with all the penalties, especially late hits?!! 14 for 121 yards!! WOW. Ok, a few of those were kind of bogus calls from the refs, but we still made a lot of mental mistakes which seems very uncharacterisc of the Tedford era bears. I wonder what’s been going on lately? We will definitely hand better opponents the game if we continue with this many penalties.

    All in all, however, I think the Bears have a above-average shot at winning the Oregon game by 10 or more points. 20 or more if they all play a complete, spotless game!


  • moreNCsarecoming

    Take Oregon and the points. This is a gift from the betting gods. Oregon will expose this team as a pretender and they will drop down to #15.

  • milo2

    Absolutely, J Forsett is the MAN. The offense was floating and he jumps back in..takes names and kicks butt.

    Re: the spread, my understanding is home field advantage is usually worth 6 points in college…so the 4.5 shows a very even match up.

    My guess is the game will be close and special teams or turn-overs will win the game.

  • wearecb4life

    JO, do we have any more word on our 3 wayward defensive players (Follett, Malele, and Davis)? I really hope we can get at least one of these playmakers back for this week’s epic game.

  • calfan

    What is Oregon’s injury status? I heard they lost one of their top WR’s already. Anyone else hurting up there? Don’t want anyone to be hurt but I know our injury status and want to know what they are dealing with.

  • moreNCsarecoming

    I cry in the shower everyday because it lessens the pain of having been rejected by Cal.

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Weare, I’ll find out more about the injured guys today. My hunch is Malele has a chance to go Saturday but I wouldn’t hold your breath on the other two.

    Calfan, Oregon lost starting wide receiver Brian Paysinger to a knee injury last week. He’s out for the season. I’ll get the full injury report later in the week.

  • Gabe

    The Bears haven’t played a complete game yet because they really haven’t had to in order to win so far. I think this Sunday’s tilt should be that complete game everybody’s been looking for. If it isn’t it could be bad news for the Bears.