After the season-opening loss to Nevada, the mood around here was...not good. Whatever optimism Cal fans had about the 2012 season took a major hit just one game into the season. But Cal got just what it needed in week two -- a visit from Division I FCS member Southern Utah. Or so we thought. While Cal has had a history under Jeff Tedford of pounding FCS opponents on it schedule, Saturday's 50-31 win over SUU was not a pounding. The Thunderbirds were game, the Bears were mistake-prone, and Cal needed a 30-point fourth quarter explosion to overcome an unexpected challenge.
Yes, it is a win. So Cal will not go winless in 2012! But after watching Cal "dispatch" Southern Utah, do you feel better, worse, or the same about our prospects for the rest of the year? CGB's writers and mods sat around the roundtable and waxed poetic on this question.
TwistNHook: I feel kinda worse, actually. These C-level OOC games are designed to give the fans a little boost. You pay a FCS team to come in and get blown out, so there is a lot of cheering, band playing, etc etc etc. It's a salve to heal all wounds. And the fans know it doesn't really mean MUCH, but it is fun nonetheless.Looking at it from the Fun-O-Meter, I'm not sure how much team derived fun there was (until the 4th quarter). Don't get me wrong, I always have fun at the games. I love the tailgating, the atmosphere, seeing all my friends. That's great! But until the 4th quarter, we didn't have the blowout that so many of us were looking forward to. When the expectations are immediate blowout, going into the 4th quarter 20-17 is going to be stymieing. Based on that, it doesn't give you a lot of confidence going forward.
As NorCalNick put it to me after the game, this will be a Rorschach test for fans. The final score read blowout. The first 3 quarters score said embarrassing. The stats at pretty much all times said blowout.
Rushing: SUU 79, Cal 289
Passing: SUU 292, Cal 229
Total: SUU 371, Cal 518
Even though the numbers say blowout, it didn't quite feel like one. And if you look at the first downs, it is actually only a one first down difference (reflecting the fact that most of Cal's scores came on explosive plays or turn overs).
Berkelium97: Worse. The fact that it took us 50 minutes before we put away an FCS team is disconcerting. Then, after watching Oregon State, UCLA, ASU, and Arizona take care of business, I felt much, much worse about our prospects for the rest of the year. While the Bears appear to be steadily falling, the bar is being raised throughout the rest of the Pac-12. After Saturday, I can't find any reason to say we're any better than the 10th-best team in the conference right now. Unless we make a massive turnaround before the ASU game we're going to be in a dogfight just for bowl eligibility.
(Well, this is off to a predictable start. Do any of the CGB writers mods feel better? Or even the same? Find out after the jump.)
Ohio Bear: I feel worse. After the Nevada loss, I wanted to see Cal play with a bit of a chip on its shoulder and with a sense of urgency on Saturday, even though it was a lesser opponent. I wanted to see a team in a bad mood after a bad loss. But most of all, I wanted to see Cal shore up its mistakes and improve greatly from week one to week two, keeping in mind the school of thought that a team makes its greatest improvement between the first and second games of the season (a school of thought I've seen attributed to Bo Schembechler, Tom Osborne, and Lou Holtz). I really didn't see any of those things and especially didn't see a team that corrected its mistakes. The penalties were particularly maddening. Wow - 12 penalties for 106 yards? Those are the kind of numbers we were accustomed to seeing during the Holmoe and Gilbertson years.
It's hard to see how Cal played on Saturday and expect this team to win very many games in the Pac-12, especially after we have seen the impressive starts that teams like UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon State have made. (Good thing we're not playing Arizona, amirite?!?) Pessimism abounds for me right now. I just hope we turn this thing around. I'd like to think we'll stop making mistakes and execute like our talent suggests that we can. But if this continues, we'll have to face the uncomfortable truth that what we saw against Nevada and Southern Utah is what we are.
LeonPowe: This game didn't make me feel better, but the optimist in me says that plenty of teams have played poorly in the beginning of the year with seemingly no cause for optimism and have improved as the year has gone on. See every OSU team for the last decade or at a different level Oregon vs. Boise State. Does this mean that I think we will turn it around? No, but I also don't think the season is already lost because of our less than stellar showing. I know everyone says "I didn't see any reason that Maynard/the O-line/the d-backs/the linebacking would improve" - but I think that's just a lot of pessimism. Players improve game to game - see Maynard last season. So I guess I'd say I wasn't ecstatic about the game we played, but I don't think it added to a potential hot seat for Tedford or throwing in the towel on the season either.
atomsareenough: I feel mostly worse. I think we showed flashes of our talent, which was nice to see after being held in check against Nevada. However, we're incredibly sloppy and undisciplined, and that's simply not going to cut it against any of the remaining teams on our schedule, because we won't simply be able to out-athlete them like we did against Southern Utah. They'll make us pay for our mistakes, and we made them in pretty much every phase of the game. Fortunately, it's easier to clean up sloppiness than it is to get more talented over the course of the season. However, the trend over the past few years has been increasing sloppiness rather than the other way around, so color me skeptical about the prospects of a quick turnaround. Boy, those tight, disciplined, well-executing Tedford teams of the past seem so long ago, don't they? I thought Michalczik was going to at least restore order to the O-line, but they had their share of false starts and holding penalties too. I am expecting to see several more of those in the Horseshoe this Saturday.
unclesam22: I definitely feel worse. After week 1, I revised my ceiling from 9 wins to 7 wins. After seeing Cal bumble and stumble through the first 3 quarters against an over-matched and undermanned team, I'll push that number down again to 6. There needs to be drastic and immediate improvement in focus for this team to have any chance against the mid-level Pac-12 teams, let alone the top tier teams that are on our schedule this week. Penalties and turnovers have got to stop and the team needs to take responsibility for their performances and start stepping up instead of blaming other people/ yelling on the sidelines. It really worries me to see that kid of stuff. There's a possibility they could put it all together and pull a monumental upset in the next couple of weeks, but given what I've seen so far from this team, I just can't see it happening.
This is something to make you feel a little bit better, right? Come on, just a little bit. Admit it.
Vincent S: I'm going to exclusively cover reasons that make me feel better.
1. Young receiver play. While Chris Harper has had a couple of fumbles (and all of them have had a few drops), our incoming receivers have stepped up and made some big plays (e.g. Treggs, Harper catching passes for TD's against Nevada). Their downfield blocking skills also look very promising, and that bodes well for the running game. I feel comfortable saying Keenan Allen is no longer the only receiver threat on this team.
2. Bill Tyndall's play. Although MSG was out, Tyndall stepped up against SUU and filled in quite well. Of course, SUU linemen are different from the linemen of Ohio State and USC, but it was a good sign that Tyndall was at least holding his own yesterday.
3. Running game got going again. All of the running backs were busting off big gains through wide open holes yesterday, capped off with a great Daniel Lasco scamper. Again, SUU's defense is a far cry from our next two opponents', but it was encouraging to see a staple of a Tedford team back on track.
4. Kickoff return/coverage improvement. kickoff returns seem to have improved. We seem to be starting with much better field position than in years past; now if only we could sustain a drive using that advantage... On the other side, maybe this is a function of the rule change, but kickoff coverage looks relatively solid, though we have had one or two heart-stopping moments.
5. Cornerback open-field tackling. This is a very specific item, but I've lost count at how many times I've seen our cornerbacks - Steve Williams especially - make a great stop in a one-on-one matchup in space. Williams almost looks Syd'Quan Thompson-esque in his ability to wrap up and stop forward progress sometimes.
(So there you have it. Leave it to that eternal optimist Vincent S to focus on the things that made him feel better. As a result, he'll probably enjoy Saturday's game at Ohio State more than the rest of us! What do the rest of you think? Better, worse, or the same? Share in the comments. I have a feeling I know that the consensus will be.)