Today’s Joe Roth Memorial Game between Cal and U$C comes down to a simple question: Who Shows Up?
U$C gave a strong indication of their answer last week in manhandling #3 Utah. After finally ditching their problematic HC, Steve Sarkesian, the Trojans have found their true identity as a team. And that’s not good news for Cal. They’ve emerged as a talented, physical, smashmouth team — just the type that Cal has struggled against.
And which Cal team will show up? There’s enough film on Cal now that the recipe for stopping Jared Goff and Cal’s receivers is simple (but not easy):
- Physical man coverage on Cal’s WRs, with the best shutdown corner on Kenny Lawler, and the speedy Su’a Cravens on Stephen Anderson
- Don’t worry — Pass Interference won’t be called
- Take away the quick slants. Force Goff to hold the ball longer.
- Penetrate the backfield; disrupt the running game.
- Overwhelm Cal’s pass protection; bull rush, force their OL back, collapse the pocket, don’t give Goff a lane to escape
- Take advantage of the Bears’ pass blocking scheme: 2-point stance, take the first step back, let opponents’ DL gain momentum
- Get hits on Jared Goff, early and often.
U$C’s defensive plan, in short: Don’t stop at making Cal’s offense one-dimensional. Make them zero-dimensional. And U$C has the raw talent on defense to do exactly that.
If the Bears come out and play anything like they did last Thursday against UCLA, it’s going to be a very long afternoon, especially for Cal’s defense. If, and only if, the Bears come out inspired, fighting, and infused with the fearless spirit of Joe Roth, will this be a competitive game.
Note: After decades of being a Cal fan, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern: every time I feel like giving up on the team, and writing them off, they come up with one of their best games of the year, and play well enough to win. Last week’s listless performance against UCLA had me at the brink of giving up hope… So is this the game when the Bears pull it all together, and play as well as they can??
Prediction: Cal comes out inspired, but loses to U$C, 41-27.