Five Things: Big Game
So, the scorecard:
1) Urgency - YES. After the first possession, we took care of business, and when OSU scored their second touchdown to creep within upset range again, we responded with a five play march down the field to grab a lead we'd never surrender.
2) Cory Hall - YES. While it's a little hard to judge this category necessarily, it's hard to say Cory Hall had them at a decisive tactical advantage, beyond hanging tough for a few quarters. After that initial burst and trickeration, Cal kind of settled in and poked mercilessly at their roster flaws -- a quarterback that can't really throw, and a team already thin on depth.
3) Ryan Nall - YES. No 200 yard game for you! Nall was swarmed at every opportunity. He might still be seeing blue jerseys in his sleep right now.
4) Stifle - YES. Punts on half their drives, and a handful of field goal stops. 4.9 YPC. Yeah, we're good.
5) Seniors - YES. Automatic yes. The fact that we had two touchdowns from seniors is irrelevant. This was always going to be a win. Thanks for your time here, gentlemen. Let's try to get you one more game in a Cal uniform.
The Big Game...hasn't been ours since I've started being a writer. And I would...really like to see what a win looks like. I think for that to happen, they're going to need to...
1) Bryce Love - They say if you cut the head off the snake, the body will fall. Well, you can't really have a better test of that theory than with Stanford and Bryce Love, who is their head, body, shoulders, hands and legs, too. Given how Cal's struggled against other workhorse backs all year -- none of whom were as talented or fast; and we managed to miss Ronald Jones, who would be the only guy within a tier of Love -- the goal here really can't be to stop him. It's going to come down to the usual things we've written about this year: management, fundamentals, gap-soundness, and open field tackling. I'm sorry if that's boring to say. It's the recipe.
2) Chrystello - ...which means, again, forcing the ball into this man's hands. Either one of them. There's nothing to fear here. But of course, the last time I said that, Steven Montez wrecked us and what should have been our best match-up went sideways rather quickly. Whatever. Throw it if you want to, David Shaw. You know you want to. Yes you do.
3) Size - So in years past, we've always struggled to cover the Stanford size advantage, which exists yet again. The good news is that with a group of throws this generally untalented, that is somewhat mitigated, but just in case they do decide to take to the air, here are a few guys to watch for: Senior TE and 6'6 nightmare Dalton Schultz, 6'5 Sophomore TE Kaden Smith, 6'7 freshman TE -- and top recruit at that position in the 2017 class -- Colby Parkinson, who has only eight catches and four TDs at time of writing, not to mention JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who inside the red zone and particularly the 10 yard line is their preferred lob dude. They threw it at him on four straight plays to close out Oregon State, too. If they want, they'll continue to enjoy that advantage across the board, against a still small Cal secondary.
4) On schedule - There is even less opportunity than usual to waste possessions, seeing as Stanford will gladly maintain ball control in our stead and wants to play that type of game also. We need points. We can't afford not to have them on every possession. We don't have to average a ton of yards per play to win this one whatsoever -- just gotta keep the chains moving, and if that means scoring by way of 17 play drives, ala Colorado, then so be it. But wasting possessions, 3 and outs, etc, is an absolute no-no against this Cardinal team.
5) Rest - We aren't necessarily getting anyone back during the bye per se -- it came too late in the year and everyone who's hurt has already been shut down -- but it is a great time to rest up heading into our final two rivalry matchups. Use it well. Get fresh. Especially the backers and linemen. And of course, Patrick Laird. Gear up. It's going to be that kind of week, y'all.