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Cal Football

Wednesday Report: Rush to Improve Ground Game

October 20, 2021

Cal’s running game has not been a disaster this year, but given the number of quality backs and the experienced offensive line, the Bears had hoped it would have more of an impact.

The average of 158.7 yards per game screams mediocrity (sixth in the league). The leading rusher (Damien Moore, 59.87 yards per game) is only ninth-best in the league and the second-leading ground gainer is the quarterback. All told, it does not look good statistically. 

This from the school that produced Jackie Jensen, Chuck Muncie, Russell White, Marshawn Lynch, and Justin Forsett and had a host of quality runners at its disposal this year.

“I would say there are a number of areas where we would like to improve in our running game,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said in his weekly media session Wednesday. “We are working hard on it. Yesterday was a physical day in practice full pads. Playing against the California defense in some really overt scheme periods. And then worked on our Colorado looks which we anticipate seeing from the Buffaloes.

“The running game we are constantly working on, but we need to get it ramped up in terms of more explosive runs, converting more third downs, getting down the field that much quicker.”

Musgrave said the Bears are always going back to the drawing board in search of improved plays.

“We do need to have better concepts,” he said. “We are continuing to self-scout and we are putting our guys in a position to be successful. We are continually working on not only replicating our good concepts but weeding out the ones that aren’t so effective and replacing them with things that may be complementary to the good things we do.”

With Garbers posing such a rushing threat, opponents are plotting ways to contain him.

“I think they watched the films from our previous games and have seen he is a threat with his legs,” Musgrave said. “One would think they’d be practicing those plays, especially when he was effective running from the scrambles early in the season. and the orchestrated QB runs up in Seattle. One would think the opponents are trying to stop those plays because they have been effective for our offense. We want to run him when we can and also keep him out of harm’s way and not get him injured.”

Garbers himself noted that he is no longer taking teams by surprise.

“I have definitely taken notice of teams later on in games throwing a spy or two in there in passing situations. But that doesn’t change how I play the game. I am confident in my running ability so that If I do have to scramble or break pocket, I can outrun whoever is spying me.”

As a footnote Garbers has 929 rushing yards in his career, two shy of the school record for a quarterback, held by none other than Joe Kapp (1956-58).

“It definitely is (a cool thing) but it will be a lot cooler if we get the win while I am doing it,” Garbers said of the record. “It is cool to see the hard work that you’ve been putting in show up in some records.”

Head coach Justin Wilcox said in his evening update that nothing was new on the injury front. Guard McKade Mettauer and cornerback Lu Hearns are “good to go.” Running back DeCarlos Brooks will be a “game-time decision.”

He also said that if the weather is rainy, it would not affect the Bears’ game plan. “Football is a game meant to be played in the elements, that is one of the great things about football,” he said. “We practiced in the elements today. There are always considerations given if it is overwhelming. I have been in some of those games where the elements really dictate what you do, offensively and defensively because it gets so extreme. I don’t know that it is going to be the case this weekend, we’ll have to wait and see.”

On defense, although the results have not been what Cal hoped for, one area that has improved since the start of the season is tackling.

“We are tackling better,” defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said. “I would say the amount of misses is down from early in the season. In that regard there is improvement. But we are always striving for the least amount possible.

“But we also know the game of football ...The offense is trying to create space, trying to create matchups that provide no leverage for tacklers and get their athletes in space.”


Tuesday Report: Wilcox, Oladejo and Tonges on the Mic

Discussion from...

Wednesday Report: Rush to Improve Ground Game

3,399 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by Nasal Mucus Goldenbear
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What's with the hero image? It looks like Damien Moore running the ball, but some kind of Euro-League Football going on in the background.
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Is there really a rush to improve the ground game or is the headline a play on words perhaps? The team had over 2 months to prepare for the 4th and goal situation at Oregon. Double tight ends? Man in motion? QB under center with a single back formation? Nope, it was Garbers under shotgun.
The difference between a right wing conspiracy and the truth is about 20 months.
kal kommie
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This team's 4.9 yards per carry are the highest since Tedford and even though it's only 6th in the Pac-12 this season, it would have been tied for 1st in the Pac-12 in 2019. Garbers being the 2nd-leading ball carrier at 4.2 yards per carry is actually bringing the team average down quite a bit; the RBs are averaging 5.4 yards per carry, with everyone above 5 yards per carry except Dancy.

Last season the team averaged 3.4 yards per carry; Baldwin's last season they averaged 3.6 yards per carry. So there's been massive improvement this season. But while there's been a big improvement in the rushing game, the pass game has severely declined from Baldwin. In 2019 Garbers averaged 8.9 yards per attempt, down to 7.0 yards per attempt this season. Two years more experienced with a more experienced offensive squad and a more reliable run game, Garbers should be more efficient rather than less. This is what's so disheartening about the offensive coaching on the team since they have a level of experience which should yield a good offense and they're still bad.

I'd like to see more carries for RBs especially Brooks and some playing time for Chris Street. I expected Street to get at least one touch vs Oregon after looking great against WSU. I was happy to see Brooks get 16 touches vs Oregon and I think he should usually be getting at least that amount. He should be fresh in the second half of the season after only getting 42 touches in the first 6 games.
Jeff Lucas
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I agree with kal kommie. We should run the ball more than we do, right at the defense.
Big C
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Jeff Lucas said:

I agree with kal kommie. We should run the ball more than we do, right at the defense.

Heck yes. A little bit more, anyway. OTOH, we also did right to throw it over the top against TCU, when they loaded the box against us. I just think Musgrave abandons the run a little bit too early in the second half, when we still have enough time to win with a balanced attack. Our RBs are averaging something like 5.4 ypc, which tells me we ought to give them the ball a little more.

When Musgrave is calling a "bad game", I feel like I can always tell what we're going to do before we do it. Kind of obvious, when we go with an empty backfield: All the defense needs to do is put a spy on Garbers and then defend our inconsistent passing game.
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Musgrave is on the sidelines for games, the box probably looks stacked all the time.
The difference between a right wing conspiracy and the truth is about 20 months.
Nasal Mucus Goldenbear
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I too agree with the communist. A run-heavy unbalanced attack 2:1 run:pass ratio is probably a must in this season's Big Game especially. See how the Turd defense responded to that gameplan vs K.State, Ucla, ASU.


I just think Musgrave abandons the run a little bit too early in the second half, when we still have enough time to win with a balanced attack.

He seems to almost abandon the run whenever it starts working well. Sometimes that's as early as the middle of the 1st quarter. Ofttimes it's when the run got the offense to the red zone. He keeps the ball from Brooks & Street when they're the ones more recently in the game with the hot feet. His idea of a "balanced" attack seems to be to abandon what's working until what's not working starts working, or to always strive religiously to be as close as possible to a final 50:50 ratio of pass:run regardless of what's actually working in a game.
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