It has not been easy to be a Cal fan in the 2010s.
Cal has not beaten Stanford in the 2010s.
Cal has not beaten USC in the 2010s.
Cal has made two bowl games in the 2010s.
Cal has usually been one of the worst teams in the country to produce offense (2010-13) or defense (2013-17).
Cal either produced tons of NFL talent that came up short, or underrecruited major areas of California and left us bereft in the cupboard.
Cal is in huge, massive debt to build their stadium, then proceeded to lose nearly every major home game in that stadium for three years.
So you can say it’s been a rough time.
Cal has not put together a complete performance on both sides of the football since the 2009 Big Game. That’s eight years. Eight years of inconsistent, middling, mediocre football.
So yesterday was special. Just a special, wonderful experience. A 34 point win against a top ten team. That is something I never thought I’d write, even when I made my bold predictions.
The most complete Cal performance in a decade. I had to go deep into the archives for this one, but I have to think this is the best Cal performance since the Bears met a very talkative Texas A&M team and fanbase in the 2006 Holiday Bowl and beat ‘em down 45-10. In fact, 2006 was the last time Cal ever put performances like this together on both sides against good teams (Oregon, UCLA, Tennessee all come to mind that season).
The craziest part about this game is it’s coming off another Cal game where they practically didn’t score. Cal literally 180’ed in six days. History dictates that Cal isn’t going to play like this again this year, but the fact that they’re capable of this type of resiliency means that now we can’t just look at a Cal game and assume anything.
The last seven years, the Bears were fairly predictable. I have no idea what to expect from them anymore. In a good way!
The best Cal defensive performance in a decade. The last time Cal allowed 3 points to a Pac-12 team, it was a very, very different Washington State in 2008 (66-3). Washington State went 1-11 that season. This Washington State was an undefeated team with hopes of making the playoff.
Washington State had seven drives into Cal territory. They had more turnovers (four) than points (three). Cal’s defense did not allow Washington State to reach the red zone after their first drive of the second half.
Washington State had a first and goal turn into a 52 yard field goal.
Cal has not forced 9 sacks in a football game since the 2005 Big Game...which happened to be Justin Wilcox’s last regular season game as Cal linebackers coach. Cal also only allowed 3 points to the Furd that night.
The Cal defense has forced the most turnovers in the nation (20) and is 11th in the nation in forcing 20 sacks.
No college football team has forced 9 sacks and seven turnovers in the same football game since we hit the 2000s.
And it’s THIS defense, which was one of the worst in college football a year ago and gave up 653 yards and 56 points to the same Wazzu squad.
How quickly a coaching change makes things happen the right way. Just special.
The best coached Cal team in a decade. Cal did not have two of their top three running backs in Patrick Laird or Tre Watson. Cal could not stop running the ball down Wazzu’s throats in the second half behind Vic Enwere chugging away.
Cal lost Demetris Robertson for the season. No problem, Kanawai Noa is now the most unguardable slot receiver Cal has produced since Robert Jordan.
Cal lost their best pass rusher in Cameron Saffle. Cal sacked Luke Falk nine times.
Devante Downs left the game in the second half. Jordan Kunaszyk came in and played the game of his life.
This is coaching. This is Cal putting its players in positions to succeed and doing it. This is Tim DeRuyter going to nickel early and daring Washington State to run, and they never did. This is Beau Baldwin designing half roll-outs to get pressure out of Ross Bowers’s face. This is Justin Wilcox going for the jugular before halftime and putting Washington State into pass-happy mode in the second half. And all the position coaches getting the most out of a hungry group of players who want to improve and can bounce back like this.
But this is mainly this staff demanding excellence from its players in all aspects, something that has been sorely lacking the past decade. Wilcox has been no-nonsense in his approach to getting his players ready to play and being focused on the details. So they can bounce back from a horror show in Seattle to put up a performance like this in six nights.
(And the hangover effect seems to last on our opponents. All five teams that faced Cal lost the next week. We are everyone’s least favorite team to play again!)
Is Cal going to be as good the rest of the season as they were on Friday night? No. Are Cal’s opponents going to curl into a ball and rock themselves into the fetal position by the 3rd quarter? Unlikely.
But if Cal is capable of executing this type of game, how long until they start trying to show they’re capable of this type of game, every game?
Welcome to the new era of the Bears.