Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Second-and-goal from the five-yard line, Cal down 21-20 with the clock winding down in the fourth, the ball is snapped ... to Shane Vereen? And he ... throws a sloppy lob, which is almost picked off?
That has to go down as one of the worst play calls in the Tedford era, if not the worst.
Here's the thing, Andy Ludwig and Jeff Tedford: the bad execution-not your fault. The ball should've never left Vereen's hand. However, it did. And Vereen more or less offered it up to the heavens.
But he shouldn't have been in that position in the first place-and that's your fault. If you're going to risk a throw in that situation, use the guy who routinely does it over 30 times a game.
You have a quarterback who just led your team on two improbable drives in the fourth quarter, throwing darts all over the field like he's never heard of Kevin Riley before, and you line him up as a receiver? To paraphrase former Texas football coach Darrell Royal, "You gotta dance with the girl who brung ya."
Kudos for creativity, but your timing needs work.
Why not try out the throw from the Wildcat on, oh, I don't know, maybe one of the other 75 offensive plays in the game?
The Wonderbear (because that play call made you wonder what the hell the Bears were thinking) came as a surprise to everyone.
Except for Vontaze Burfict, who almost had a little surprise of his own when he nearly came down with an interception. The play call was mostly a shock because no one in their right mind would think that Tedford would risk a fumble, an interception and a clock-stoppage on an incomplete pass.
The Wonderbear play allowed Arizona State to save its last timeout to use after third down, giving it another shot on offense after the field goal.
Running it up the gut or off-tackle with a guy who analysts have called the most explosive back in the nation seems like a logical option. Maybe get some yardage, maybe a touchdown, but it doesn't matter as long as the Sun Devils are forced to burn that timeout.
Then run the Riley kneel to set the ball in the middle of the field, call a timeout with three seconds and walk off winners on Giorgio Tavecchio's boot.
Even though the Wonderbear toss was a pinnacle of stupidity, it should have never happened. The game would've already been out of reach if it weren't for two drops.
On Cal's first possession in the third quarter up 17-14, Riley spiraled a gem over the top and right into Verran Tucker's breadbasket. And he dropped it, with a sure six points down the line.
For maybe the first time in his career at Cal, Riley shared the Bear Backers' disgust. Not even his hot pink mouth guard could make his pain look bearable.
A touchdown there puts Cal into protect mode with a two-possession lead. That drop puts the defense back on the field with a three-point lead. That drop is as bad as a turnover.
Jeremy Ross' drop at the beginning of the fourth was just as bad in a different way.
With the Bears up 20-14 at the start of the fourth quarter-thanks to an out-of-body kick from Tavecchio-Ross came on the inside of the screen and Riley hit him in the numbers.
The announcers on ESPN thought he had the space, and I think Ross did too. Ross just didn't catch the ball.
That play was not going to turn into a touchdown, and it would be overly speculative to say that the drive was going to turn into six. However, that catch and two-yard gain would have given the Bears another four downs, allowing more time to fall off the clock.
Instead, the Sun Devils started from their own 39-yard line after Bryan Anger's punt, and it took them only 3:44 to pick apart the Cal defense for a touchdown.
Cal ended up winning, so these aren't end-of-the-world mistakes. But against a better opponent, the Bears aren't going to get the amount of chances to finish it like they got on Saturday.
Next time, it's on the wide receivers to decide the game before the coaching staff call another Wonderbear and leave Cal fans wondering, again.
Is Vontaze Burfict the best name ever? Tell Joseph at [email protected]
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