It's Friday Night Lights, Berkeley style. In a rarity for Cal football, the Bears play on a Friday night. And for the first time I can remember, Cal is playing a home game on a Friday night.
For a long time, Cal fans had today's date circled on the calendar as the Tosh Bowl: after former Cal defensive line coach (and a former Cal defensive lineman himself) Tosh Lupoi left the Golden Bear coaching staff for Washington, there were many hard feelings, especially when Cal's ballyhooed recruiting class took a hit after Lupoi's defection. The day is finally here and, for some, the feelings of vitriol against Lupoi still linger. But for many other Cal fans, this game may have lost a little bit of its oomph due to the underwhelming results of Cal's season. The Bears are a dismal 3-6 (2-4 Pac-12), have already lost the Big Game, and must win out to even have a chance at a bowl game. (Insert snickers and laughter at mention of "bowl game" here.) The season has gone so poorly that it is all but a foregone conclusion that these next three games will be Jeff Tedford's last three as Cal's head coach. Indeed, just this week, there has been no shortage of discussion on CGB about Tedford's would-be successor.
Add to all of that the latest bit of bad news learned this week: Cal WR Keenan Allen is out for tonight's game and possibly the rest of the season after suffering an injury late in Cal's 49-27 loss to Utah last Saturday. It's like the hits just keep on coming this year, doesn't it?
With all the negativity surrounding the Cal program, will tonight be opposite day? Can the Bears somehow circle the wagons in a nationally televised game, overcome the loss of Allen, rally behind the "goldout" at Memorial Stadium, and get an improbable win over a Washington team that is itself trying to find consistency? The Cal faithful can hope.
This is your pregame thread. Talk, vent, whatever until game time. Watch for the link to the first quarter thread as kickoff draws near. More game information below. Go Bears!
Friday, Nov. 2, 6:00 p.m. (PT)
Cal (3-6, 2-4) vs. Washington (4-4, 2-3)
Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
TV: ESPN2 - Carter Blackburn (Play-by-Play), Rod Gilmore (Analyst), Jemele Hill (Sideline Reporter)
Cal Commercial Radio: KGO 810 AM (San Francisco) - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst, *Pregame Show), Todd McKim (Sideline, *Pregame Show), Lee Grosscup (^Postgame Show), Matt Foley (^Postgame Show) Postgame Show: Claremont Hotel Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA
IMG College/Cal Radio Network Affiliates: *KFPT 790 AM (Fresno), KGO 810 AM (San Francisco), +KLAA 830 AM (Los Angeles), KRAK 910 AM (Los Angeles), KAHI 950 AM (Sacramento), KESP 970 AM (Modesto), KFIG 1430 AM (Fresno), XEPE 1700 AM (San Diego) ^Primary, *Secondary
All-Access Radio: The Cal commercial radio broadcast of the Golden Bears' game vs. Washington can be heard on the Internet through the All-Access channel on CalBears.com. All-Access can be found under the Multimedia tab at the top of the page at CalBears.com.
Well isn't that nice? We're 3-6, we've already lost the Big Game, and we have Furd alum Rod Gilmore as our analyst tonight. Think there will be any Axe or Big Game mentions? (Groan...)
In last year's 31-23 Washington win over Cal in Seattle, Huskies' quarterback Keith Price torched the Bears for 292 passing yards and three touchdowns. Price ended up having a fine 2011 season and was expected to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12 this season. It has not gone quite as well in 2012 for Price as it did in 2011. ManBearCal previewed the Washington offense and assessed Price in particular:
Price has been up and down this year, but looked better last week. He's struggled with finding the open receiver, and his accuracy isn't near where it was last year. Sark has resorted to using lots of motions and even a diamond formation to try and get receivers into space for Price to find. And he has some very good targets in the receiving game. Many of his issues would seem to stem from having little time to survey the field. With improved OL play, Price should have more time to make better reads. It'll be on our front 7 to ensure that doesn't happen. I'd like to see us bring pressure whenever possible. Price's yards per attempt has dropped from 8.5 last year to 5.7, meaning Washington has reverted to more of a dink and dunk passing game. If we employ a conservative zone coverage and keep their wideouts in front of us while also disguising pressure, we should be able to force a turnover or two. At the very least, get some sacks and put Washington into less manageable downs. Can we? Sure. Will we? LOL.
As for the Washington defense, Nick Holt is gone as the Huskies' defensive coordinator. These days, the DC is a familiar name for Cal fans--former Cal linebackers coach Justin Wilcox, who is highly regarded as head-coach-someday material. Can the Cal offense move the ball and score points against Wilcox's D? norcalnick previewed the Washington defense and didn't sound optimistic:
The last time I wrote a 100% doom-and-gloom preview, Cal went out and stomped UCLA. There are always reasons you can conjure up for why any given team might be successful, however unlikely. Here they are for this game:
Zach Maynard is not a perfect quarterback. But, on the right day, given the right circumstances, he can play well. Facing a team that can't constantly put him on his back, Zach has one of those days. He hits Keenan for a few big plays and he doesn't throw any interceptions. Meanwhile, Cal's offensive line plays well enough against UW's still inexperience defensive line, opening up holes in the running game. Cal's backs have trouble getting past UW's talented collection of safeties for big plays, but it's enough to keep the sticks moving.
That's not a crazy thing to expect. But it isn't the most likely scenario. It's more likely that Washington's secondary forced a turnover or three. It's more likely that the occasional mistake or negative play puts Cal in 3rd and long, and Maynard won't be able to convert plays like that. It's more likely that Cal can't control the ball, allowing Washington to control field position and wear down Cal's defense.
With that, have I left you thoroughly without expectation of victory? I hope not. Because it's Friday, the end of a long work week, and I want you to be happy. So be optimistic and happy tonight.
Toward that end, I leave you with a Keenan Allen highlight from last year's UW game. Thank you, KA.
Now that's the way to convert 3rd and 20!