I am getting this recap out so late because I had to really think about this game. Actually, scratch that…I had to think about my stance about this team after the way this game went down. Cal losing isn’t so much my problem with this game. I expected them to lose the game. I expected this season to be a rough season. That said, for this team to look like they had no fight, no desire to be on the field has given me me great pause about whether I should change my stance on this coaching staff.
Cal lost to a very good, very underrated Oregon State team 49-17 last night. Aside from being disappointed in the end result, the small crowd and the overall performance of the team, I was disappointed with the decision making. I understand that nine of the team’s 11 defensive starters are out. I get that Oregon State sports one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and one of the best tandems in the Pac-12. I also get that rebuilding teams are supposed to lose games. However, the players looked spirit-less out there, and I don’t blame them for that. I wouldn’t want to continually get pummeled by teams that they should at least be in close contests with. That, my friends, is a problem on the coaching staff.
There are a lot of things I refuse to blame on this staff: the depth, the injuries, the lack of talent at certain positions and the inconsistent play. These things can’t be tethered to this staff this season. But when your team says they expect the other team’s best players (Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks) to put on a show against them, it is a defeatist attitude and shows a lack of confidence on the part of the players. That one is on the staff. Going out there, expecting to give up big plays to the best players on the other team should be blasphemy in a locker room. That is something the staff deals with.
The players are supposed to believe they are the best set of players in the nation, on the best team in the nation, with the best staff in the nation. They should go out there with the belief that they will win every game and end the season hoisting up a championship of some sort. If they don’t go out there with that mentality, they are setting themselves up to take a loss.
Last night, that mentality came through. I’m not saying that Oregon State would have lost had Cal come out playing with the confidence of an Alabama, but there is no reason they should have been held to 17 points and given up the massive amount of yards they did. Sean Mannion will play on Sundays, as will Brandin Cooks, and the two played as such. Mannion destroyed Cal for 481 yards and four touchdowns. Cooks torched the secondary for 232 yards and a score. Those numbers, while not completely surprising, are numbers that shouldn’t be on the stat sheet.
Then, earlier today, cornerback Kameron Jackson was quoted to say (to SFGate blogger and Chronicle journalist Hunter Hewitt) that Cal played their same defense.
“We just played our regular defense,” Jackson said. “The corners played left and right. We didn’t treat him any differently, that was the gameplan.”
Sonny Dykes tried to refute that. I believe Jackson. He has no reason to lie. In fact, it could be argued that he’d make himself (and the rest of the secondary) look a little better if they said that it was a new game plan they were unfamiliar with. Instead, he said that it was just the same game plan, one which hasn’t worked against anyone this season.
Then, the most disappointing part of the night was the decision to once again throw Zach Kline into the game. I am not upset that Kline went out there, and I have to admit he looked good (though it seemed as if Oregon State was playing a little softer in the second half). What I am upset about is this staff’s quick trigger when it comes to the quarterback position. Jared Goff can play. In fact, he has been the reason that certain games have even been contested. To toss him (for the second time this season) because he’s struggling is not the way to deal with a freshman quarterback.
Already, the word is that Zach Kline is going to be in the mix to start next weekend against Washington. I think that’s a mistake. You are opting to split first team reps and (possibly) start someone who has looked good (in two games) after the game has been settled. On the other hand, you are deflating the confidence of a quarterback who really has been the best part of the team’s performance so far this season. I think the decision to do such is terrible.
Ultimately, I can’t be like the crazy fanatics who are ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater after half a season. I knew this team would be excruciating to watch, and once the injuries and dismissals started to roll in I knew this would become like a scene out of The Exorcist… I just didn’t realize it would feel so damn rough to watch this team. That said, after sleeping on it and brooding over the game for half a day, I decided that the best thing is to wait and see. This staff, for the most part, needs to be given at least two seasons. Not too many coaches will be holding up a championship after one season, let alone after being given a team that came with parts broken and disassembled. I don’t agree with the game plan, the decisions or how the recruiting has been going – or lack thereof.
I’d rather wait to see whether this team can improve and flourish under this staff going forward than assume this won’t work and do the same thing we did last offseason again, leaving Cal behind the eight ball once again. Until we know what this staff can do (which won’t be until at least midseason of next season), I’m just going to keep muttering the words “The power of Christ compels you” over and over again during game day.