Okay, the Oregon/California game was not a whole lot of fun to watch. Lets go through the daunting task of breaking it down.
Obviously, Dennis Dixon did not have a great game. He did complete 57% of his passes for 263 yards, but the interceptions were a killer. The first interception was one of those "what the hell were you thinking" plays where it seemed obvious that Dixon should have thrown it away. It was almost as if he came out nervous--maybe because the game was at home for him? The second pick was a tip that wasn't really Dixon fault. However, he made more bad decisions this game than he has in any game this season. Even some of the passes that wern't picked were not good decisions. The only other game where Dixon made this many bad decisions was the Oklahoma game, but they were masked by the fact that the Ducks came back to win. I also think that Dixon struggled because Hughes did such a great job on Jaison Williams. Without a go to man, Dixon didn't do the best job of reading his progression. We have to remember that Dixon has started less than a full season. What I came out encouraged by was that he didn't give up and kept playing. We must hope that he learns from this experience and learns to read his progression a little better.
One of the biggest keys to winning is running the football. 80 rushing yards, and only 25 by Jonathan Stewart, won't get it done. I was surprised by how well the Cal defensive line did in this game. As I posted my preview, I was very unimpressed by the Cal defense. However, I was surprised by just how fast they were, and this was by far their best game. Stewart just never got it going and had the worst game of his career. He just didn't seem as fast (you have to wonder about the ankle). And the offensive line obviously did not do their job. I was surprised that JJ didn't get any carries. After the first quarter, I thought they would go to him because his speed would be a better matchup against the Cal defense, especially as they were stacking the box all night long. I chalk some of this up to coaching as I would have liked to see a few more outside runs and a few more deep passes to stretch the defense. Instead, Bellotti seemed content early trying to pound the football. I think that Snoop will be fine. He needs to just forget about this game and move on. Well, and stop injuring his ankle.
They just didn't open up the holes. They only allowed one sack, but the run blocking was the worst all game. I really don't know what else to say. They have to work hard and try to forget about it.
Daymieon Hughes is just so damn good. However, if Jaison Williams is going to be a truly great receiver, he has to learn how to get his against premier corners. Hopefully, he learned something. Jordan Kent played very well and is starting to look like a football player. James Finley also had his best game in quite a while. However, other than Kent, they just weren't able to get open a whole lot against Cal's speedy defense. If you can't get open, its awfully tough to catch the ball.
Well, the injuries finally caught up with the defense. What we learned is that they have been playing over their heads. I said that a key to the game would be to get pressure on Longshore, but the defensive line didn't record a sack. And we knew that Longshore wasn't going to melt down the way that Rudy Carpenter did. Bottom line--they have to get to the quarterback, because the secondary isn't good enough to cover receivers when the quarterback has all day. The run defense was as terrible as it as been all season, and they made Justin Forsett look like Adrian Peterson.
The speed of the Cal wideouts killed our secondary. Its hard to remember that Thurmond and Ward are only freshman. They just couldn't keep up with Cal's speed. But they are good players--they still look a lot better than Aaron Gipson and Justin Phinissee did when they were freshmen. I was surprised that Bellotti didn't have the safeties help them out more. I just have to hope that they learned something from this. I can't really fault the corners for doing anything wrong--they just plain aren't that good yet. Our defense is just really banged up. They have played valiantly all year, and we just have to hope they can hold themselves together. They are not good enough beat an elite team when the offense isn't clicking.
Ick. Another return for a touchdown. What's really disappointing about the special teams is that usually Bellotti coached teams have great special teams. But the return coverage just looks lost out there. I don't know how to fix it, but something has to be done. On the positive side, Aaron Knowles looked good punting the football. If he can keep this up, it will be a clear upgrade from Dragich.
I bet you could play this game 10 more times, and the game wouldn't look like this. Oregon is not this bad of a team, they just didn't come ready to play. I liken it to 2003 when they beat Michigan, then just laid an egg against Washington State. They played bad. The coaches weren't on their game. But Cal is also a really great team, and they just shut the Ducks down and didn't let up. The best thing that Oregon can do is forget about this and move on to UCLA. That will not be an easy game, so the Ducks can't let Cal beat them twice.