They rolled in. At a pace that mortals should not be able...
Lessons and Questions from the UC Davis Game
Three strikes and I was out. So I thought.
Being on the road with limited Internet connection trying to watch a football game via wifi took me on a journey last night. After failing to get a sufficient connection at the hotel where I’m staying (strike one), I went into town on a search for free fast wifi. The East West Grill had wifi that was fine for checking email, but wasn’t any better than the hotel for a video stream. Strike two.
The third strike was the equivalent of going down looking to end the game. The crunchy coffee shop with a social purpose turned me into Adrian Gonzalez for a night. The place was theoretically socially conscious — pictures of atrocities, mass graves, etc… lined the walls. College students played checkers. An old man harassed them. The guys behind the counter both had blond dreads and one of them had a hat on like this.
They had ice cream, which I ordered, but when I sat down to hook my computer up, the wifi wasn’t even connected to the Internet. I sat there, listening to Tom Barket through my iPhone, and tried to enjoy my ice cream as Cal Poly quickly turned a 10-point deficit into a 4-point lead.
By the time I got back to my hotel, I had an epiphany. Even though my iPhone is 3G and even though the wifi is bad, what if the cell network (for the record, Verizon) isn’t as bad. Low and behold, I turned wifi off on my cell phone and began to stream the game through my phone with very little trouble. I watched the entire second half on the screen of my iPhone. Unlimited data is a wonderful thing.
So the lesson for me was: When all else fails, trust the iPhone. It can do more than I give it credit for.
What lessons did we learn about the Mustangs during their 28-20 win over UC Davis on Saturday night? What questions do we still have?
Akaninyene Umoh is getting better. Before the season began, the tall, rambling fullback might have been considered a weakness. The contrast in style between the sometimes-shifty Umoh and the bruising Jake Romanelli, who graduated after last year, caused many to think that the Mustangs’ offense couldn’t be as effective on the ground as it was a year ago. Umoh had 87 yards against Davis, including an explosive 51-yard touchdown run. Umoh is 2nd on the team in rushing behind Deonte Williams with 192 yards and one touchdown this season.
The defense can flat out hit. Can they cover too? During the first two games, Cal Poly’s defense has shown they can tackle with purpose and strength. Safeties Alex Hubbard and Dave Douglas are scary and linebackers Kennith Jackson, Nick Dzubnar, and Cameron Ontko seem like they are everywhere. Even the cornerbacks are good tacklers. The question for me is still whether they can survive in the pass-happy Big Sky Conference. When a 1-4 UC Davis team can get guys open against the Mustangs, how will the defense fare against other opponents? Davis receivers dropped A LOT of balls. Other teams probably won’t. If some combination of improved pass rush and tighter coverage doesn’t happen, Cal Poly could be playing from behind more often than a triple-option offense wants to.
One way to avoid this is to be opportunistic and turn the ball over, which Nico Molino has done during each of the last two games. I would argue that Molino’s interception against UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright was the turning point in the game on Saturday night.
Can the Mustangs maintain a “comeback kids” mentality? Do they want to? As stated above, Cal Poly runs the triple option. They don’t want to have to come back from any kind of deficit. While they overcame a one-point deficit to Wyoming and a 10-point deficit to UC Davis, coming back is not something they want to depend on. They aren’t built to come-back from a big deficit in the second half.
Can the defense get more pressure on the quarterback? For much of Saturday’s game against Davis, especially in the 4th quarter, the Mustangs rushed four and dropped seven into coverage, allowing Wright to find open receivers down field from the pocket and on scrambles. The defensive line containing and getting to opposing quarterbacks will be something to watch for throughout the rest of the conference season.
Bobby Zalud — is he healthy? I made a comment to someone after last week’s game at Wyoming that Zalud took on blockers and may have saved/slowed down at least two punt returns that could have gone for touchdowns. During the Davis game, Tom Barket mentioned at least four times that Zalud was suffering from back spasms. I wonder if the two have any connection.
Zalud had proven reliable over the first two games — his 51-yard field goal over Wyoming being the difference in a 2-point game. But he missed two field goals that were well within his range last night and with Barket’s comments, I have to wonder whether the injury played a role. Tim Walsh has called Zalud a “football player,” not just a kicker, but maybe Bobby (and the special teams coverage units) need(s) to effort toward not compromising his health for the next few games. His misses didn’t cost Cal Poly this game, but there will be at least 1-2 more games that will ride on whether he can put the ball through the uprights.