Tale of the tape: Cal wide receiver Nikko Remigio goes up for his season’s longest reception

Jocelyn Huang/Senior Staff

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Whatever you do, don’t check the scoreboard from Cal’s game last week against UCLA.

The final score from the Rose Bowl was ugly for the Bears, but there were a few moments of life from their offense that were enough to make any offensive aficionado cry. The first half of the ballgame was especially great for Cal, as it exploded for 151 yards and 14 points in the period (a pace of 420 yards and 56 points when drawn across a full game). Talk about an offensive showcase.

And it all kicked off with a big-time pitch and catch to wide receiver Nikko Remigio.

A couple of minutes into the second quarter, we saw what is called a “scissors” concept in action with a dig on the backside. The idea is to beat a “two high” defensive look (meaning two safeties deep) by picking one safety and running a post and a corner right at him. It’s impossible for one player to guard those two routes, and therefore it is a great play call against those two high defensive shells. Normally, the outside receiver cuts to the inside and runs the post while the inside receiver cuts under the post to run the corner. This creates misdirection in the defensive backfield and allows for one (or usually both) receivers to come across wide open.

If for whatever reason both routes get covered up, the quarterback would be able to pin the ball into the dig working across the middle of the field, or he could check it down into the flats.

Pretty sweet, right?

OK, so the offense was set on this play, but what about the defense? UCLA showed six men on the line of scrimmage, but only two of them are what are considered “down linemen.” This made it tough for the offense to know which of the four possible “stand-up rushers” were going to pressure the quarterback.

During the play, there were only five offensive linemen, so if UCLA brought in all six rushers, either Cal’s tight end or running back would have had to stay in and help pass-protect. But because of the possibility of the Bruins bringing pressure, the Cal offense was forced to plan for the defense to bring the most that it was showing, just in case.

This is called a “simulated pressure.” UCLA only ended up bringing three of the possible six rushers, but by forcing Cal to plan for more, the Bruins bought half a second (or more) of time to mess with the quarterback. Simulated pressures, mixed with real pressures (and the Bruins were blitzing early and often) can make it really hard for an inexperienced quarterback to sort out the real from the fake.

Luckily, Chase Garbers is not exactly an inexperienced quarterback. As soon as he saw the rush drop into coverage, he knew exactly where to put the football.

The Bruins dropped into a coverage called “Tampa 2,” made famous by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the ’90s and early 2000s (but really originating from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s). This defense features two high safeties and a middle linebacker who drops far back to take away some of those deep middle-of-the-field throws.

UCLA executed this defensive call almost flawlessly. But with no pressure in his face and years of experience under his belt, Garbers stepped up in the pocket and made a big-time throw right underneath the safety, just over the top of the Bruins’ linebacker. Equaling his teammate’s effort on the throw, Remigio went up and over the opposing defense and caught his longest pass of the 2021 season so far at 26 total yards, springing open an explosive second quarter for the Bears.

It’s unfortunate for the blue and gold faithful that the rest of the game didn’t follow suit. But Cal will have one more shot at offensive redemption against the other Los Angeles team this weekend when USC comes to town.

Jesse Stewart covers football. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @jessedstew.