Last Saturday's performance by the Coug offense was its best all season. Led by Jeff Tuel's breakout day, WSU was able to move the ball into Cal territory with regularity. The final number of points was not impressive, but that is also a product of the Cougs going for it deep in Cal territory in the 4th quarter, rather than kicking field goals and making the score look prettier.
Cal fans, who we have learned are similar to Coug fans in their expectations, have made sure to point out that their defense is not great and we should temper our enthusiasm a bit. They are right, we should temper our enthusiasm, it was just one game and we know all too well what happens when we look too much into the statistics from a single contest. They are also right that the Golden Bear defense is far from stout. They are at best, average. Hovering right around the middle in yards per play, giving up 5.4.
But before we let the Bear fans bring us down too much, let's take a look at how other team's offenses have done against the Cal defense:
|Season Yards Per Play
|Yards Per Play vs. Cal
Stats courtesy of cfbstats.com, goeags.com, and calbears.com.
Out of conference play, Cal was able to make some bad offenses look even worse. In conference play, it has been a different story. Oregon, UCLA, and WSU all exceeded their season yards per play averages. Interestingly enough, it appears that Cal's defense had its best performance against a dominant USC offense.
So what can we take from these stats? The Cougs performed as well as or better than any other team Cal has faced. Some may argue that Cal was coasting and that allowed WSU to make some easy plays against a prevent defense. That's not entirely accurate. First, the WSU offense did much of its damage in the first half. Second, that 68-yard bomb from Tuel to Forzani is exactly the type of play that a team is trying to stop when up big. Athletes may let up when the score is lopsided, but they still hate giving up more points. It's not as if Cal's players were simply letting WSU's receivers run around unabated.
This was step in the right direction. For the first time in conference play, this group looked like a competent Pac 10 offense. The offensive line was its healthiest in a while, Jeff Tuel showed maturity and pocket presence, and Johnny Forzani burned the Cal defense for a big play when they were dropping eight men back in coverage. For this game, the Cougs showed that there is talent on the roster capable of competing. Whether or not that will carry over for the rest of the season remains to be seen. At least for now we know that the possibility is there.