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Cal vs. UNC Report Card

What did Cal fans think of the performance in the season opener?

California v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Berkelium97: The Justin Wilcox era has begun! Offense! Defense! Special teams! Who knew that it’s possible to have a team composed of three functional units? We haven’t seen that combination in ages. Of course, there will be growing pains. We saw a few of those imperfections on Saturday as Bowers had some bouts of inaccuracy and one very ill-advised pass, the run defense struggled to keep outside contain during the first half, and we missed a makeable field goal. But the good vastly outweighed the bad and the report cards overwhelmingly demonstrate this. Not only were the report cards mostly positive, we had a huge turnout of report cards this weekend. Let’s see how you all felt about our first game of the new regime.

The format for these report cards is pretty simple. We break down the team into multiple categories and give them scores ranging from 0% to 100%. I also provided the standard deviation to show how much variation there was in our scores. Finally, we look ahead to the next game to see how likely the Bears are to win (and, in parentheses, how much our predictions have changed since the preseason).

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 74.7% 13.1
Rush Offense 59.9% 17.9
Pass Defense 74.6% 13.8
Rush Defense 60.6% 17.3
Special Teams 70.4% 14.8
Coaching 88.9% 10.7
Overall 82.2% 13.0
Win Probability vs. Weber State 97.5% (+4.6) 5.3

SO CLOSE! The run game was 0.1% away from ensuring that all categories earned a passing score (which is a very rare occurrence, especially over the past few years). The defensive grades barely surpassed the offense and, combined, those scores demonstrated a well-rounded team. On the ground things were decent, but not stellar: the run game was underwhelming against a team that struggled to defend the run last year and our own run defense gave up too many yards to an inexperienced ground game. The passing game and pass defense were great, a welcome result for our new QB and our defensive backfield that finally has some depth.

Coaching earned the highest grade of the week with 88.9%. Fun fact: never in the 49 games of the Sonny Dykes era did coaching earn a score that high. We’re clearly very happy with the start of the Wilcox regime. And that happiness should continue through next week as we’re even more confident of a victory over Weber State.

Speaking of happiness, it’s time to hand out some awards.


A new regime means new award names, but the categories remain the same. We’ll highlight the most optimistic graders, the most pessimistic graders, and those whose report cards were closest to the community average. And occasionally we’ll hand out some editor’s choice awards; but not this week.


Name Grade
1. rocksanddirt 7.00 (100.0%)
1. Jacobs. 7.00 (100.0%)
1. Goldenbears02 7.00 (100.0%)
1. David Shaw is a hack! 7.00 (100.0%)
5. GoldenBear88 6.30 (88.6%)

FOUR-WAY TIE FOR FIRST! Keep on pumping that sunshine!


Name Grade
1. 1.47 (21.0%)
2. young_bear 4.15 (59.3%)
3. j.lee 4.20 (60.0%)
4. BrooklynBear 4.25 (60.7%)
4. Mr. Unit 2 4.25 (60.7%)

alpha, what happened? Did you only watch the first 28 minutes of the game? The rest of you handed out some pretty fair grades for a bunch of pessimists. You know it was a strong performance when even the doomsayers are still handing out passing grades.

The Voice of Reason

Name Deviation
1. ABVidale .0472
2. Oaklandishbear .0584
3. Bearable .0611
4. NinjaNed .0619
5. Bleed Blue & Gold .0620

Finally, we recognize those whose scores were closest to the community average in each category.

Now let’s turn it over to GBB to see how you all felt about the game in words. So many happy words.

GoldenBearsBandwagon: Exciting win to start the season, spirits are up!

Gameday Experience

Calpaladin: Wife is upset I got drunk on my couch in my pajamas for a 9 am start.

Gumibears: Woke up and excited I could see a Cal football game on regular tv (I live in the Bay).

FireKeithGilbertsonNow!: Happy to stay in and watch football on TV on a hot day

Rocksanddirt: A bit of a challenge to watch, too many errands, and stream.

GoldenBear88: Fantastic Win! So exciting. Just finished watching with a bunch of San Diego Cal Alums and there was LOTS of high-fiving! GO BEARS!!!!!!

FrmrG8r: Painful having to watch on the ACC homer network but satisfying to hear begrudging praise for Cal during wrapup.

Alex Ghenis: First test of the new TV, and it was glorious!

Whiskeytangofurd: I don't think I've watched KOFY (TV 20, SF) since I was in high school 30 year ago. Is it always like this?

Also, starting my Saturday drinking at 9am has unfortunate consequences.

ABVidale: A win on the East Coast in a game starting at 9am PDT? Even if Cal hadn't played well I'll take the result.

Heyalumnigo: Shout out to SGBear for organizing the tailgate. Hung out with FireStarkey, OhioBear. clapdoc, fiat, and ehe came by after the game. Good Carolina bbq.

Old Bear 71: So much fun watching NC fans leave the stadium before the end. Also So much fun walking into Red Robin and watching all all the hangdog expressions when NC folks checked out my Cal sweatshirt! Ah sweet experience.

Texashaterforlife: Just happy it was on TV; thank God for independent channel KOFY 20.

The Ghost of the Play: It may have been hotter and more humid in West LA than it was in NC. But a win like that in the morning was the perfect way to start the Labor Day festival!

PRD74: I woke up nervous and excited. Was it because this was the most hopeful I've been for a new and improved Cal football squad in many, many years? Sure, but it is also because of my superstitious belief that my family has been blessed with an unusual amount of good luck and that it would be tested on Saturday. On rare occasions I have been successful in passing our good luck to others. The previous weekend at the Fanfest was the first time I passed this good luck to a couple of Cal football players. Ross Bowers was one of them. He laughed, but shook my hand twice. So, I was nervous hoping that my belief would not be dashed. It wasn't. Sounds silly, but that was my gameday experience.

Pass Offense

highly improbable: Ross Bowers for Heisman. The hype starts now.

2004-present: Got better as game went on. Considering this was Bowers' first start and everyone's first game under Baldwin's offense, not too shabby. Plenty to correct of course. Really impressed with Bowers. Very slow start but he ended up playing a great game. A few stupid passes led to picks but he looked great, especially in terms of pocket presence. The big play for McMorris was awesome and loved Wharton and Veasy's production. Would have liked to see Demetris a lot more but a win is a win.

Oski Disciple: Bowers threw a terrible interception and a couple of other questionable passes but overall in his first collegiate start, indeed his first playing experience in meaningful time, he was very good. Bowers does not have a big arm but he's got a big heart and loads of courage. He scrambled when he needed too and hung in the pocket when that was required. I'm very optimistic about his future.

NC shut down DRob but we have plenty of depth at WR and Wharton is a gamer.

Pass protection was solid.

NinjaNed: We got a couple amazing shots downfield and yards after completion. Decent protection in terms of sacks, but would like to see the pocket exist for longer. Big improvement on recent years though. Bowers made a really bad decision that led to an int in the first half but I didn't see that many mistakes in the second and actually a few clutch 3rd down plays. He isn't playing scared and experience can only make him better. The team's success will be dependent on his growth as a passer, decision maker, and game manager.

Heyalumnigo: For the most part, very efficient. Bowers seems to have trouble throwing the long ball. Most of them were either overthrown and one was underthrown when DRob had at least 3 steps on the DB. His one good throw was the long wheel route(?) for the TD. maybe the 2nd TD.

The OL had pretty good protection. Only remember a handful of times Bowers had to go out of the pocket.

Coysy: Bowers was shaky at times, but a lot better than expected. A down-to-the-wire QB battle among players who a) had no experience and b) were passed over in favor of a grad transfer (and regular transfer for next year) didn't inspire any confidence at all, but Bowers really showed some great stuff. Poise under pressure (near-pick six notwithstanding), ability to move in the pocket, and good arm strength/accuracy. Really happy with how he played.

Harmonpreservationsociety: D Rob was completely neutralized

Cal still has a lot of weapons thanks to the efforts of the Dykes regime, and Bowers spread the ball around to them nicely.

Bowers looked uncomfortable and youthful in the early going, but I think he settled in really nicely on the final drive.

BearMD: What can you ask for from a new QB? Despite being a junior, this was his FIRST snap. I'll take 4TD and 2INT any day from a first starting QB, especially for one coming off of two years of NFL draft QBs in Goff and Webb. Obviously, the two interceptions were unfortunate, and that will likely improve as his game slows down for him. But the reason I didn't give a 1 was because some of the throws seemed to be scrambling type plays. Makes my heart skip having to wonder how they'll next draw up a play out of a hat.

Nor-Cal Scott: Ross is the MAN! Showed great poise overall. Looked like a guy who knew what he was doing by stepping up into the pocket, waiting, passing, aking the hit and bouncing back up.

BrooklynBear: Concepts looked varied and sound. Bowers, for a man making his first ever collegiate passes was pretty solid. My biggest issue was his persistent desire to get the ball to #8. His second pick really troubled me. Overall very solid.

Sup_doe_library: Well that's settled: the BB pass offense is just as thrilling as the bear raid. Both of Bowers' picks were terrible choices, but for a guy making his first career start, those are easy mistakes to fix. To think we put up these numbers with DRob being severely limited, P12 DC's have just been put on notice. And lots of credit to a green OL unit for solid pass pro.

Run Offense

Vegasbear: 4th & short almost guaranteed? Taking over 5 minutes off the clock in the last drive? What's not to like? Got the yards we needed when they knew we were going to run. Isn't that what Dykes used to preach but never could make happen?

Alex Ghenis: We need to figure this out better, and also build more creativity. It seemed like we were just trying to run it up the gut over and over if we did do any rushing. Stats were a bit paltry. On the other hand, seems like there is a good mix of players and their abilities for different situations.

Uthaithani: I like these running backs. Would have liked to see more production out of the run game, but this is a brand new OL, so maybe that's expecting too much. Too many times the offense couldn't run *one* yard, that's frustrating. Need more efficiency on this end, but overall good.

JTorch: It did what it needed to do to keep a balanced attack

Would love to have seen some breakout runs

Mr. Unit 2: No big plays, but the ability to run successfully on 4th downs was impressive

NinjaNed: A few really good runs by Enwere and Watson, but many of them were individual effort after breaking a tackle or cutting back into another running lane. The running lanes were consistently clogged all game, and although we can rely on getting 3 yards a game, against stouter run defenses, it'll be harder to move the ball at will. While the O-line is still getting beat here and there, I see the improvement and hopefully they'll get better under coaching.

Coysy: Bleh. Not great. Expected it to be the strong point compared to the passing game, but 3YPC doesn't inspire confidence. That being said, tended to get the yardage when necessary.

Harmonpreservationsociety: The OL is green and undersized. We have talented RBs, but we don't have the lineman to punch big holes into the second level. The hope is that we can create just enough run game to keep opposing defenses from selling out on the pass.

Bear87: The run offense was very solid. Very few negative plays. Managed to pick up yards on most plays, especially when they were really needed. It felt great to have a running game that looked reliable.

Joey3Holes: Run game should improve during the season. Ran just well enough to keep UNC guessing.

BrooklynBear: Oh boy, we struggled to get push within the guards. Struggled mightily.

Sup_doe_library: Balance was nice, but the OL looked better in pass pro. The short yardage work late in the game by Vic should be acknowledged as being a welcome sight.

Pass Defense

Mistergarth: "Improved" is the understatement of the decade. Aggressive DBs? Just tired of Franklin's PF's for mouthing off. Great strategy to hold at the end of the game.

Oski9397: I was pleasantly surprised. This was one of the highlights, except for the intentional holding at the end.

Nedbear: I know those holds at the end were within the rules of the game and intended to run the clock down, but they looked really bad. And Hicks sure looked like a freshman out there. He got smoked! Everyone else looked great. Lots of tight coverage and pass break ups.

CamHand: Love it! Seemed like a lot pressure on QB overall. 2 picks and only 1 TD. Not a ton of yards or high percent of completions. I worry about better passing teams but it was only the first game, on the road, decent opponent... what's not to like?

SeaBearly: Perhaps against a more veteran qb, we will struggle. But we looked good for many series.


Whiskeytangofurd: It exists! This is soooo exciting.

The guys were in position on most plays and weren't just getting run over like last year.

JTorch: A little bit of pressure on the qb

Seem to cover well and I love the bear hugging for pass interference at the very end the game to protect the game and the win

smart! It was great to have at least one game where we didn't get torched through the air. I felt reasonably confident that we could avoid giving up big plays and make stops on defense. I even felt confident that we could force turnovers. The only things that I have to criticize are third-down defense and lack of pressure.

Oski Disciple: I had forgotten that Cal was allowed to play pass defense. What a revelation to see opposing receivers covered and their QBs pressured. A Bear fan could get used to this.

J.lee: We has something that looks like a defense.

So much better than the last few years.

Heyalumnigo: Not great but not bad. Got lucky because Harris can't throw the ball. Had the WR wide open in the end zone by probably 10 yards and overthrew min. Didn't really give up any big plays except for the 3rd and 20+.

Coysy: Relative to the last few years, amazing! That being said, UNC clearly had no confidence in either QB to throw the ball downfield and it was clear why. Cal generally had solid coverage when the ball was put in a good spot, and they looked...not lost, so I'm giving it a .8 based on previous standards set.

BearMD: One thing seems to keep popping into my mind this year compared to the previous years: MISSED in I didn't see much of that at all this year! Can't tell you how many times I wanted to throw the TV out the window whenever I would see a defensive player spot the ball carrier, but somehow manage to miraculously miss and let the carrier slip past! Must have been the sound fundamentals they returned to during the off season, because what I saw least I can say that I can expect what I saw from the defense. Bend, but really do not break.

Texashaterforlife: Happy to notice much improvement that seemed to come from technique and scheme, aka IMPROVED COACHING. There was also a little luck with some awful throws from the NC QB.

The Ghost of the Play: It's so new ... are we supposed to be able to break up passes, get sacks and hurries, and interceptions? I thought that was for others, and not us.

Nor-Cal Scott: It's so new ... are we supposed to be able to break up passes, get sacks and hurries, and interceptions? I thought that was for others, and not us.

BrooklynBear: SACK! CB Blitz SACK! Saffle was great in the first quarter especially.

Run Defense

Gobears157: Concern for the year... I feel like strong run teams will expose us... but forget that thought for at least a couple weeks - the bears won!!!!

Jacobs.: People forced to try to go around our defense and not just straight through? Madness!

GoldenBear88: Definitely improving but Carolina's option QB seemed to give them fits at times.

CamHand: Not bad, but it felt like Cal could not get full stops when really needed. Contained most plays to limit explosiveness so NC had to keep eating clock so it feels like run D contributed to overall win. Feels like a concern against better teams but better than I feared, less than I hoped, and a bit better than I expected on road vs. decent team.

Uthaithani: Run defense was MUCH improved! Apparently scheme and coaching matter a lot, because the same personnel who couldn't stop anything last season were making big plays in this game.

Mr. Unit 2: Better than I thought.

Oski Disciple: Gave up a few chunks but NC is a decent team. Most of all I was impressed that we were getting some penetration and not giving up big first down yards.

NinjaNed: First half run defense was really good. Seems the linebackers are hitting their run fits and everybody was swarming to the ball. They did look like they were getting tired late game, so maybe strength and condition might be a factor as the season goes on.

Old Bear 71: We need to take away the sweep or it will by ugly down the road.

Go Eat A Taco: A lot better than a year ago. Some run fits were still missed and contain, by key players, were missed. Great to see Downs show up & his chasing down the RB to prevent a TD was a great effort play!!

PRD74: Up the middle for the NC runner wasn't happening all game. Awesome. The outside? Needs improvement, but hey, it's the first game.

BrooklynBear: SOLID TACKLING save 3-4 plays. WOW!

Sup_doe_library: Strong start to the game, but the pace may have worn down the Cal front 7. May highlight depth issues. But, still, the plays that were made against the run were such pleasant surprise.

Special Teams

DancingBear96: Meh, Cal still misses kicks unexpectedly.

Hardtobecalfan: missed that FG, but no big mishaps in kickoffs or punt returns. no big excitement either.

Lacenaire: Overall improvement from Dykes' teams. Looking forward to bigger impact in games as season progresses.

CamHand: Lack of punt returns, nothing special on kick returns. Punting good esp. Coutts' OOB at NC 15. Missed one 40+ yd FG not so bad...Would have liked to see better on return coverage... overall good, does not look like will be winning or losing games

Mitchgobears: Kickoffs into the end zone? That's a good start!

GoffgoffgoffGOFFgoffgoffgoffGOFFgoffGOFFgoffGOFFGOFFGOFFGOFF: Missed field goal sounded like a fluke (bad hold/timing?). Expecting competence on kickoffs a new thrill.

Harmonpreservationsociety: Glad the missed field goal didn't end up haunting us. Almost blocked a punt, which is cool. Otherwise unremarkable, which is a move in the right direction.

BearMD: Hohum day

Bear87: Except for the missed field goal, special teams did well.

Go Eat A Taco: This phase of the game must improve. Missed FG, no return yards on the punt returns & marginal KOs.

The Ghost of the Play: One missed FG away from a perfect score. Very happy with the deep kicks, competent coverage, and lack of ALAMAAAAAARRRRR!

PRD74: Kicks into the endzone. Solid tackling. When was the last time we almost saw a punt blocked? Okay, a couple of minor miscues, but seriously, yesterday showed what great ST coaching can do.

Nor-Cal Scott: Only "con" is a missed 45-ish yard FG in the 1stQ. Matty hit 5/5 EPs. Klumph kicked well, and our KO returns were good too.

BrooklynBear: A kick-off nearly threw the end zone. My heart rejoiced. Anderson's missed FG was a little tough.


Calpaladin: Defense has improved, offense held in there, O-line play is great. Loved how we drained the clock on that final TD drive. Did not like the extracurricular activity at the end - no need to play defense like that.

ironiCALly: Welcome to the Wilcox era. Expectations are raised.

Wiata78: So much fresh air. AAAAHHHHH, so nice.

Jacobs.: We have clock management? What wizardry is this? Huzzah!

Bearsupporter: Give coach Azz a game ball. Outstanding line play.

GoldenBear88: Outstanding! Good clock management and GUTS going for it TWICE on fourth and one! Nice to have a coach who knows the importance of playing defense!

SeaBearly: Very happy with all the coaches. Our guys responded well when under pressure. We switched tempo well.

JTorch: Smart coaching

The bear hugging of the receivers at the end the game for pass interference shows that they were super well-prepared with a two-score lead they knew they couldn't lose


Sacman701: The offense was largely inexperienced, the defense was mostly ineffective last year, and both units looked like solid veteran units. Some of that's on the coaches.

J.lee: I'm satisfied.

They looked like they knew what they were doing.

NinjaNed: I'm incredibly impressed with the game plan. In years past, Sonny would want to come out at try to manage the game on the ground but not really know how to accomplish that. Then when we realized that we couldn't run the ball, we'd just chuck it 100 times and get 600 yards. I was really impressed at the management of play calls in the 4th quarter, killing clock and punching in a TD with the lead. The delayed blitzes, and corner blitzes that were called on defense helped a lot in rushing passes by their QB that led to some crucial incompletes and interceptions. Not many egregious penalties across the board. I like what I saw in terms of scheme and personnel improvement. I have faith that the coaches will be a positive factor in the growth of the team rather than teachers implementing a specific system and playing the meta game and that very exciting for years to come.

Harmonpreservationsociety: Nothing to second guess. Could this be the end of the CGB comments section?!

BearMD: I just love the fact that the players seemed to respond promptly to the coaching. The last plays of the game in which player conducts could have certainly degenerated...I saw the Cal players listening to the coach and quickly subdue any of the showboating that I was beginning to see. I like to see discipline as in players listening and obeying the coaches...and I think I saw that today.

CalfanBerkman.: Great job coach.

PRD74: The holding penalties at the end of the game showed how well we are being coached. If a WR is wide open for a TD and the CB does something that is a penalty and prevents the TD, no one says anything. Why anyone says anything about our end of the game tactics the Bears employed are being ridiculous. Almost no one does this which makes people riled up. This team is light years better than last year's team.

MV Bear: Loved that hysterics weren't part of the sideline ritual. Wilcox and staff really seemed to get the Bears back to fundamentals. No more opposing WR's open without a defender within 15 yards of them.

Nor-Cal Scott: It's worth repeating, its amazing what new (and better) coaches can do with the same players. Wilcox gets an AAA+++ for assembling his staff. Good balance of run/pass from Baldwin at 35/38, and enjoyed seeing some blitzes from LBs & DBs.

Overall Performance

Wiata78: This game will make me OD on sunshine. Next game I will likely pass out from sunshine. Go Bears!

Vegasbear: You young men have given me hope for this season. Even though I understand just how dangerous that is.

Jacobs.: Winning an early game East Coast game? Kings of both North and South!

2004-present: Considering the road trip etc. I was ok with just staying competitive in this game. But to actually have a chance to win AND THEN EXECUTE ENOUGH TO DO IT has me very very excited. I can see the groundwork being laid for this team to establish its winning identity: tough, physical, disciplined, smart, with a little bit of moxie mixed in. The best identity a team form this school/city could have.

Rocksanddirt: only one stat matters. W's

FrmrG8r: It's a WIN baby.

2-0 hosting the SEC at home on a big stage.

Hope springs eternal!

Alex Ghenis: A great first showing for a new coach and new QB. There is a ton of Talent on this roster if our starters can stay healthy, and even the backups seemed to hold their own. I'm very excited for the season!

Whiskeytangofurd: Expectations for this team have increased dramatically. A bowl game is not out of the question as I'd assumed until this morning.

Mr. Unit 2: Delighted to see a win. Was far more hopeful than expectant. Could be a fun year.

Sacman701: Looks good. The offense picked up where last year's left off, and the defense looks like an actual Pac-12 defense instead of a bunch of overmatched guys desperately trying to avoid giving up a big play.

Oski Disciple: A California Golden Bear win on the road and an upset at that. This figured to be a pivotal game for the Bears in terms of eventual bowl eligibility. How can victory-starved Bear fans not be infused with optimism after starting a season like this?

J.lee: We win! We win! We win!

Chapel Hill is now Bear Territory.

GoffgoffgoffGOFFgoffgoffgoffGOFFgoffGOFFgoffGOFFGOFFGOFFGOFF: Bears are going to the Rose Bowl. You heard it here first.

Heyalumnigo: We got the win!! Got lucky that Fedora kept trying to go with the 2 QBs. There's a reason Brandon Harris didn't get much playing time at LSU his last year. He looked horrible. Kept us in the game. D tackling looks improved for the most part.

CalfanBerkman.: Tear jerking.

Texashaterforlife: Watching the game was a surprise enjoyment. My little bit of hope has turned into a medium bit of hope. If we go 3-0 in non-conference, I will admit I was wrong to not expect bowl eligibility this season. GO BEARS!

Go Eat A Taco: Solid performance and there is a lot of upside for this team as they grow and become more consistent. I suspect we will see a lot of improvement in the Ole Miss game where Cal will shock the World again!!

The Ghost of the Play: How wonderful to see a Cal team that was at least minimally competent in all three phases of the game. And how sad that minimal competence across the team is so exciting for us? If nothing else, this confirms my relief that we ditched Dykes, and even though I am eternally grateful for his ability to turn around our academic mess, it really shows just how much he was not the guy to be our coach.

Sup_doe_library: The thing I keep going back to is that Justin Wilcox was hired late, hired a very good staff, and installed a brand new offense AND switched to a 3-4, lost his starting LT, RG, had a QB competition, flew all the way across the country for a 9AM kick off, and pulled off the double digit upset. There is some goddamn magic in the Cal Football offices, or this staff is very, very good at what they do. And, that's even before we get to the players, many of whom have changed positions, found themselves in unexpected roster battles, all while dealing with the pressure of being student athletes. Even if it's just one game, all of that is worthy of a salute to our sturdy golden bears.