Tale of the Tape: Ryan Glover’s duds highlight Cal’s quarterback’s lack of depth
The Bears entered Tucson shorthanded and came away with nothing but loss.
He’s dominated the news cycle for the past two weeks, so you might have heard him before, but Cal’s football has an ongoing COVID-19 issue. This issue ultimately led the Blue-and-Gold players to miss 24 players and five staff against Arizona on November 6. Despite the loss of key talent such as fourth-year incumbent Chase Garbers, who entered last weekend as the leader of the Pac-12 overall. offense, many pundits expected the Bears to dominate the Wildcats for no other reason than Arizona struggling – to put it lightly.
Under head coach Jedd Fisch, the Wildcats were leading a 20-game losing streak leading up to their clash with Cal. It was the longest such streak in the country, and before Arizona’s unprecedented 10-3 win over the Blues and Gold, the Wildcats hadn’t won a game since Oct.5, 2019. So where did it all go wrong for Cal?
Well, the lack of points scored can mainly be attributed to the Bears’ exhausted roster. But Cal’s lack of preparation raises a bigger question: How are the Bears going to fill the void left when Garbers decides to quit college football? Benefiting from an additional year of eligibility due to the pandemic, Garbers can either return for another season at Berkeley or try his luck in the NFL Draft at the end of the season. Whether or not he returns, Cal must have a plan of action to move forward.
Transfer graduate Ryan Glover got the nod for the Bears in Tucson, making his first career debut at Cal since joining the team last summer. Glover struggled, completing 11 of 29 attempted passes for just 94 yards and rushing for -12 yards. To be clear, Glover was put in an extremely difficult position: on short notice, he was asked to find receivers he hadn’t had a chance to train with or establish a relationship with. But one game in particular highlighted Cal’s quarterback’s immediate lack of depth.
Standing 12 yards from the end zone on third and 10, the Bears fired a shot. Cal had just converted his first third of the afternoon a few games earlier on a short run from sophomore Damien Moore, and losing 3-0, the team had a chance to take control of what announced itself as a defensive battle. The attack of blue and gold had stalled all day, so it was hard to expect the unit to chain another drive.
The Arizona defense knew that, added to the distance, meant the Bears were likely to pass up what would end up being their last trip to the red zone. In the red zone, everything tightens up and the defense has less ground to cover, so callers like Cal’s offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave have to get creative. But when you’re without your regular starters and younger players like wide receiver Justin Richard Baker are inserted into the starting lineup, you can only be so creative.
The third and 10 game started with Glover starting shotgun training and Moore to his left. It was a three-receiver set, with tight end Jake Tonges lined up just under the right tackle, an indication he would likely provide additional blockade. As the lone receiver on the left streaked to the end zone but faced heavy media coverage from the Wildcats, Glover immediately turned to his right after taking the shot.
Glover had three potential targets to his right, but with the outside receiver and Moore on short routes, it quickly became apparent that this game was designed for Baker to open up. Moore’s exit into the flat created a moment of hesitation for Arizona cornerback Isaiah Mays, which meant Baker – who was running a deep post path to the right corner of the end zone – n ‘had only to go through security Jaxen Turner. Baker’s quick stuttering step gave him some space in Turner, allowing Glover to place a dime over the shoulder in Baker’s outstretched arms.
Or at least that was what had to happen.
Unfortunately for Cal, Glover put too much weight in the throw, and he sailed a few yards beyond Baker’s reach. So close. It’s a game that should have resulted in a touchdown and, more importantly, a throw that Garbers probably would have made. Granted, it was just a dud, but it was a dud that couldn’t be afforded, especially given how difficult Cal’s offensive against Arizona was.
Shot at fourth base, the Blues and Golds were forced to score a basket and tie the game – it wasn’t an ideal situation when they could have put pressure on a Wildcats offense that itself had problems pushing the ball down the field. What could have been a game-changer ended in a whisper, and Cal never saw another chance to reach the end zone.
Kabir Rao covers football. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @ kabirr26.