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USC 30, Cal 3 - Mark Sanchez gets the last laugh on Zennie

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At the 2009 NFL Draft, after USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was selected 5th by the New York Jets (and finally had a terrible game against the New Orleans Saints today), I opened the media interview by cracking on USC:

Mark Sanchez just gave a chuckle when I said that the reason he left USC was because he knew Cal would beat the Trojans this year.

Well, forget that.

Cal, er, we, lost big time Saturday, 30 for them, to 3 for us, and frankly it wasn't that USC was that much better but that we just didn't execute well or call the right plays. Or as my Cal buddy Greg Heywood put it the following today, "When USC safety Taylor Mays catches Jahvid Best on a reverse, you know it's gonna be a long day." It sure was.

Mays is 6-3, 230 pounds of hitting machine. So why call a reverse and not a double reverse since USC's so fast?

Cal's best effort of the day was an opening drive that was the best I've seen all season thus far and because Cal Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig channeled Zennie Abraham (er, me) and had Kevin Riley throw short, timed passes from a three step drop.


We drove down to the eight yard line, then Riley decided that rather than operate within the play called, he was going to make something happen. He did: an interception.

Ludwig also used Cal's version of the Wildcat Formation, with Javid Best lining up at quarterback, with some success. I loved the change-up.

After that Cal's performance was an exercise in footballic suckatude. For the second straight week, Riley proved to President Obama that he could, if called on, overthrow Iran. Normally I get on the coaching staff, but this time, Kevin Riley was just plain awful – 15 of 40 for 199 yards. Receiver were open when Cal tried to return to its middle-range passing game, but Riley missed them.

That's why I want Riley to throw short – one and three step passes - almost exclusively. He's just plain missing receivers, most of the time on the deeper passes. There's no shame in dinking and dunking – the objective is to win.

But it doesn't leave the coaching staff untouched.

First, Ludwig, for some reason, got totally away from the masterful first set of passes Cal opened the game with. If Ludwig stuck with the short passing game, Riley's numbers would have been much better.

Second, what was it with lining up to kick a field goal with 12 seconds left? I don't get that. It's funny about a contest like Cal – USC: one can get so into it that they forecast events before they happen. That was true for the man I was sitting next to, who said "Oh, now they're going to line up and kick a field goal, and miss it." Cal did just that.

The Berkeley stadium crowd booed like nobody's business. Some Old Blues are starting to actually wish for Tom Holmoe!

I'm not one of them.

I continue to believe that Cal can salvage this season. It's possible to win all of our games from here on out, but the Golden Bears have to make some schematic changes as soon as possible. I have some suggestions:

1)Use the flea-flicker. If defenses are prepared for Jahvid Best to carry the ball, that's the perfect play to use. A simple version: one based on a dive play; the other on a sweep.
2)Go five-wide receivers early to spread the defense but throw three-step passes.
3)Use the no-huddle offense to open the game.
4)Install roll-out and sprint passes to move the "launch point" of the passes and keep Riley from being a sitting duck when throwing deep.
5)Install a throwback pass off the roll-out series.
6) Use "bubble passes" - but not screens because the defense follows the pulling offensive linemen right to the ball. USC killed us because of that when we called that form of pass.

Finally, GO BEARS. We still have a chance to make this a great season, but we can't have any more losses. Cal must run the table. First, we have to beat UCLA. If we need any incentive, Stanford did it, winning 24 to 16 last Saturday.

Stay tuned!
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