Tonight marked the debut of a new era for California Golden Bears as Sonny Dykes took the field for the first time as head coach against no.22 Northwestern at home. While there were moments where the team looked good overall it was a less than stellar opener and here are the reasons for that.
1. Play Calling
Cal got the ball first with Northwestern deferring to the second half. So, out came the offense and it started out conservatively by getting running back Brendan Bigelow involved and it worked as he carried the ball three straight times and picked up 55 yards. After calling short passes to get freshman quarterback Jared Goff in rhythm the drive stalled with Vince D’Amato heading out for a field goal.
That attempt turned into a fake as D’Amato found Jackson Bouza for a touchdown and the first lead of the season. After Northwestern scored a touchdown on their first possession it was another chance for the offense and it was a three and out with their best play of the series an eight yard run by Bigelow. Yet, that simple play calling remained throughout the first half and the offense went nowhere relying heavily on Goff throwing the football as there were 26 passing plays to 14 running plays.
So, it wasn’t surprising to see that five of the seven offensive possessions resulted in a punt by Cole Leininger.
While the calls got better in the second half the running game got ignored with Bigelow ending up with 65 yards rushing on 16 carries and overall Cal threw the ball 64 times and ran the ball just 28 times.
Goff went 38-63 with 445 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Bryce Treggs caught 13 passes for 145 yards and Chris Harper caught 11 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Freshman Mistakes
Goff definitely showed his inexperience as he had two passes returned for touchdowns on interceptions by Collin Ellis. The first he had made his mind up to throw even though he had no window and the second one pretty much another example of forcing the ball in. Yet, the biggest mistake came late in the fourth with the opportunity to tie game up at 37-37 after the defense forced a turnover. Unfortunately instead of working the clock and going for the tie he went deep forcing the ball into double coverage on Harper who had no chance of making the play on the football and resulting in the third interception of the game.
3. Too many penalties
On one series Cal had three false start penalties, D’Amato kicked the ball out-of-bounds on kickoffs, Chris McCain received a penalty for roughing the passer and got ejected for targeting though it was a questionable call and on the night the team had 10 for 79 yards.
4. No pass rush/pressure on quarterback
Early in the game the Bears knocked out starting quarterback Kain Colter, so Trevor Siemian took over and yet the defense hardly got any pressure on him. The team registered one sack and at one point Siemian went 14-18 and finished 18-29.
5. Played The Run and Option Well
Northwestern did a great job on their first drive running the football resulting in their first touchdown of the 2013 season and for much of the game holding their 1,000 yard running back Venric Mark from last season to 29 yards on 11 carries and Treyon Green did rush for 129 yards and helped seal the victory with a 55 yard run that setup his clinching six-yard touchdown run.