Cal flooded out of Autzen in 55-16 blowout loss

1,000 words - Steve Dykes

We had to carry Harry to the ferry We had to carry Harry to the shore And the reason that we had to carry Harry to the ferry Was because we needed to get to a boat before we all drowned in the monsoon.

There are two extremes to take regarding this game, and I'm curious as to where on the spectrum you all fall:

1. This wasn't a football game. The weather made this game a joke, and by the time conditions stopped resembling something out of the Old Testament, the game was sealed and all that mattered was playing out the string. There is little point in trying to devine any useful information about this game because Sonny has built a football team, not a water polo team.

2. No excuses. Oregon played in the same weather, and they destroyed Cal in every phase of the game. The rain didn't put multiple Oregon defenders in the backfield or stop Cal defenders from finishing off a play. If we're not prepared to hold onto the ball in all types of weather, that's on us.

Personally I'm leaning towards option 1, mostly to retain my sanity as a fan. Because if it's option 2, this season might be over before it began.

Regardless, the result was a completely demoralizing blowout. And if you're a Cal fan, your chief concern is that every game Cal plays makes it harder for Cal to win the next one. You can add Kameron Jackson (thanks to Josh Huff and an asinine NCAA rulebook), Khalfani Muhammad and potentially Michael Lowe to the injury list, and I'm sure other names will be added to the list as the Bears take stock and recover from a truly bizarre game.

And if the physical well-being of our players isn't enough of a concern, the mental well-being has to be an issue as well. After a painful but respectable loss to Northwestern, Cal struggled to beat an FCS team and has now been blown out twice in a row, and there are serious questions about the effort level occasionally seen on the field against the Ducks. This is a young team only one year removed from a 3-8 season in which the entire team collapsed down the stretch. The number one concern for the coaching staff is to convince these players that a fresh season starts now, and to somehow wring maximum effort from their charges the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, do we now have a Quarterback Controversy™? Nah, probably not. After a nightmare 1st quarter, Sonny Dykes pulled Jared Goff in favor of Zach Kline. That decision, in and of itself, was probably the right one, as Goff had multiple fumbles, two of them unforced. Continuing to throw him to the wolves wouldn't have been productive. But Goff never returned to the game, and while Kline hardly set the world on fire (18-38, 165 yards), he might have done enough to make every Cal fan pause and wonder.

What else can we take away from a game so absurd? Mostly that your deity of choice still hates Cal. The first quarter featured eight fumbles. Five Cal fumbles resulted in four Oregon defensive recoveries. Three Oregon fumbles resulted in just one Cal defensive recovery. And that lone defensive recovery was on the last play of the first quarter, and by then it was already 27-0 and the game was functionally over. When the game was early and in doubt and turnovers could have put Cal in position to start strong, the bouncing ball always seemed to end up in the hands of the Ducks.

I don't know what value there is in trying to break down the game further. Thanks to the weather, neither team could effectively pass the ball - even all-everything Marcus Mariota only averaged 4.6 yards/attempt, which is Maynard-esque. Oregon won because they are pretty good at running the ball and Cal is not, and because they didn't turn the ball over five times. It's a simple game most of the time.

If you're looking for positives, you might note that Cal's much maligned defense held Oregon to just 381 yards and 5.2 yards/play, both well under Oregon's average. Of course, the weather played a huge part in that. Plus, when you get the ball with an incredibly short field you don't have much space to rack up huge yardage totals. And two punt return touchdowns took the ball away from the Oregon offense. Is that enough caveats? In honesty, the defensive performance was mildly encouraging but the conditions make it hard to reach any real conclusions.

After a game so desultory, it's best to forget and move on. Next week, Washington State visits Memorial Stadium coming off of an equally embarrassing beat down, and with injuries all their own to recover from. And I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Cal's season is on the line. If the Bears want this season to come even close to what they were hoping to achieve, then they beat a reeling Wazzu at home. If Cal loses, then it's going to be really hard to look at Cal's remaining schedule and see wins.

Cal has 'survived' their insane early season schedule. Will this trial by fire give Cal experience in facing strong opposition and dealing with adversity? Or are the Bears so beat up physically and mentally that they give up on the rest of the season?

We'll see what kind of character these players have, and what kind of motivational skills this coaching staff has. Starting next week.

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