The Wildcats fell 24-16 last night to Cal in Berkeley. It was a hard fought game and one that the Cats should have pulled out had it not been for Foles' mistake. In case you missed it, Arizona was trailing 18-16 with 2:06 left in the game. The Cats had driven to the Golden Bears 25 yard line and were poised for a go ahead field goal on the next play. Foles dropped back to pass and the ball was deflected by a defensive linemen right back into his arms. Foles scrambled to his right and threw the pass AGAIN. The call on the field was an illegal forward pass. Loss of down. Spot foul, resulting in a 14 yard loss, putting our FG from a manageable 42 yards to an impossible 56 yards. All of that in an instant.
Give credit to Cal for blanketing our receivers all night and making every pass a tough one for Foles. Even when he did complete one, it was tough and had to be on the money. Rarely were our receivers "wide" open last night. Cal also did an impressive job stuffing our running game. All night it seemed as if our offensive linemen were the ones getting blocked. Defensive linemen were in the backfield and linebackers from Cal came to fill the holes immediately, making it tough for Antolin to get anything. He finished with 78 yards on 19 carries. 34 of those yards came on one play.
The Outcome was: Disappointing and Shocking. Foles made a bad mistake. It all happened so fast. At one point, I was thinking about Gameday in Tucson next weekend and the next thing I know, Shane Vereen is reeling off a 61 yard touchdown to extend the Cal lead. (Not to mention busting my +2.5 bet on the Cats.) The good thing is that Arizona still controls its own destiny and can still clinch a Rose Bowl trip by winning out.
The Offensive Player of the Game: Nick Foles. Foles did what he had to do to get his stats. The play calling did not open up anything for him all day and he still made great plays. The running game didn't help him much either. Forget about the mistake at the end of the game. He still was the offensive MVP. His strike to Simmons in the 4th quarter was money. He finished up 25-41 for 201 yards a TD and an INT.
The offensive Offensive Player of the Game: The Offensive Line. Absolutely no push yesterday. The linemen were continually beat to their spots and failed to move any DL defenders from Cal. Over and over again the replays showed that Cal was underneath our OL pads all night. I don't care if Grigs was in there or not, he wouldn't have had anywhere to go. The pass protection was decent but Cal made us one dimensional and that killed us. We better get it together before Oregon.
The Defensive Player of the Game: Earl Mitchell. Earl provided a push all night long and was a monster in the middle yesterday. He ended up with 9 total tackles and a sack on the night. Take away Vareen's long run in the 4th quarter and our run defense was decent thanks to Mitchell. I'd like to give a shout out to Horton who I have been dogging all year. He absolutely played a knock out game on the inside as well. His stats weren't that impressive (4 tackles) but he created havoc as well.
The Offensive Defensive Player of the Game: Vuna Tuihalamaka. Notice any trends during Cal's success in the passing game? They picked on Vuna all night long. He is absolutely terrible in dropping back in coverage and has no clue how to shut down the passing lanes to receivers coming across the middle. I think every single play over 8 yards in the first half (passing) was targeted at Vuna. He also got blown up trying to fill the hole on a counter play that it was sickening to watch. He has had, statistically speaking, some great games this year but I am not a fan. Our middle needs to be locked down by someone else who can do it all, run and pass defense.
Next Up: Oregon. Saturday, November 21, 2009. Guess what? Gameday is coming to Tucson!
Joe did a good job recapping the game, and that stomach-punch of a final drive, so I won't go into details about that. Here are a few observations from the game overall.
Special Teams: Atrocious on the day for Arizona. Bonano's kickoffs were terrible. Crier's punts were worse. Crier averaged 36 yards per punt, but that was inflated due to his 59-yard-out-kick-the-coverage bomb he let go. The 17 yard punt was particularly frustrating. Crier is generally a very reliable punter, but the field position battle was gifted to Cal due in large part to Crier's poor punts.
Game Plan: Cal had a great defensive game plan Saturday night. The Cal defense was well-coached and prepared for Arizona's offensive attack. Arizona's screen game was flustered all night, many of the short routes that are always there for Foles were stifled all night long by Cal's zones. Cal's secondary has been torched all season long, but last night they held strong against a potent Arizona passing offense.
Penalties: Say what you want about good calls, or bad calls, but eight penalties was about four too many. Arizona is not going to win any tough road games in the future when they commit so many stupid fouls.
The Deep Pass: Hey receivers, feel free to go back and get the ball while it's in the air (looking at you Terrell Turner). Stop waiting for it to arrive, and attack the ball.
Nick Foles: No one is accusing Foles of being a mobile quarterback. With that said, he made some good moves in the pocket to avoid some big sacks. I agree with Joe above. The playing calling did nothing to help Foles. At some point last night, Dykes needed to make better adjustments, because what he was calling was not working. With Arizona's offensive firepower, they should win every game the defense gives up 24 points or less.
Matt Scott: I liked him taking a few snaps, and running the read-option. It was a nice wrinkle to the offense, and it was pretty effective the three plays he was featured on.
Going Forward: No need to panic. Yes, last night was extremely disappointing. The rest of the schedule has zero games more winnable than that. But, nevertheless, Arizona still controls its own destiny, and that is all a team can ask for. No one is going to give Arizona its first Rose Bowl berth. They must earn it. What better way than going through three of the most irritating teams in the Pac-10. Come out next Saturday, be loud, be proud, and show the Quacks why Arizona has been so successful at home.
Full Box Score: Arizona vs. Cal