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Cal Football

Five (Plus One) Factors: Cal Vs. Oregon State

October 20, 2019

Welp. That game sucked. Let’s take a few steps back and look at what the advanced stats tell us about Cal’s performance.

It’s really tough to call this an “explosiveness factor” when both teams averaged less than 3.8 yards per play. There isn’t much else to say here. Both teams busted a couple big plays but most of the time it was a struggle to move the ball much. Cal trailed in yards-per-play and points-per-play. Explosiveness advantage goes to OSU.

After the game, Head Coach Justin Wilcox called out the defense. And while the defense gave up some big plays at inopportune times, this was one of the least efficient performances by the offense this season. The only time the offense had a worse success rate this season was two weeks ago in Eugene when the Bears put up an anemic 30.77%. Heading into Saturday’s game, Cal had a season-total success rate average of 38.5%. So the offense underperformed on an already bad average.

Holding the Beavers to a 41.33% success rate was one of the better performances of the year for the defense and was below its average of 42.7% through the first six games. We’ll get to the defensive struggles below, but you’re not going to win very many games with a success rate difference of almost 10%. This factor was a massive advantage for OSU.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, here you go. Cal has struggled with field position all year. And while they didn’t start the ball in great field position on average, they at least kept OSU at a worse field position. This factor goes to Cal. Barely.

OK, for those agreeing with Wilcox that the defense was not up to par today, these next two categories are your arguing points. Coming into Saturday’s game, Cal has been very solid at keeping teams out of the end zone once they enter the Bears’ 40-yard line. On the season, the Bears have given up 3.06 points each time an opponent has made it inside the 40. That’s very good. Meanwhile, the offense has been scoring 3.59 points per trip inside the 40.

Today, both the offense and defense took steps back. OSU made it to the 40 four times and scored three touchdowns. Only once when they made it to Cal’s 40-yard-line did the drive stall out and end in a punt. Meanwhile, Cal made it inside the Beavers’ 40-yard-line six times, only scoring three of those times, for a points-per-inside-40 rate of just 2.83. 

Yes, the offense was pretty bad at finishing drives, but that unit was not as far off its season average as the Bears. The defense just didn’t get the stops late in drives that they’ve been getting this season and instead of having a touchdown and two field goals or two touchdowns and a field goal, the Beavers’ ability to score three touchdowns lifted them to a win.

Here’s the other point of contention for the defense. The Takers didn’t take. On the season, Cal has forced nine turnovers while also giving up nine. The highly-touted DB unit has picked-off opponents just three times. Forcing three first-half turnovers in Eugene made it seem like the Bears might be turning the corner, but Saturday was another setback as the Bears were unable to force any takeaways against the Beavers.

This high havoc rate isn’t much of a surprise. The Bears were constantly stuffed at the line of scrimmage in the run game, both Devon Modster and Spencer Brasch took numerous sacks, and OSU was able to break up multiple pass plays. 

Utah is looking tougher and tougher as the Bears seem to be trending in the opposite direction of the Utes. That will be a rough game, but the Bears have a chance to win all four of the last four games. They also have a chance to lose them all. Time to dig deep and see what this team is made of. If they can remain competitive in Salt Lake City, the Bears might be able to flip some momentum their way.

Five Factors:

Quarterly Report


Arizona State

Ole Miss

North Texas


UC Davis

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