Welcome back to Memorial Stadium, Cal Football! Opening at home against FCS Weber State, the Bears looked to continue their momentum after a heartening win in Chapel Hill. Cue foreboding mood music...
If there is something Cal fans are accustomed to feeling, it’s the inevitable sluggishness following a promising win. Yet after the Bears’ first march down the field in Memorial Stadium went 66 yards on 6 plays and lasted for 2.5 minutes ending in a touchdown, there was hope this game might be different. Oh how the tides change.
Of the first three drives, two resulted in 3-and-outs. Cal offensively seemed content to play down to their FCS competition, going for only 7 more yards in the quarter after the initial series.
Giving up two 45+ yard passes and not asserting themselves in the run protection, Cal’s defense wasn’t much more impressive. The Bears were fortunate their defense held the Wildcats early for a field goal or the game might have started spiraling.
Score at the end of the 1st: 10-7, Wildcats
Patrick, thank you! With a 51 yard pick up rush from Laird, the Bears hoped to open it up and take a lead going into half. But wait! Another blown coverage allowing WSU’s Rashid Shaheed a 55-yard reception! I want to say the “pesky” Wildcats just simply wouldn’t go away, but the Bears (on both sides of the ball) were doing everything in their power to keep Weber State in the game.
A strip-sack with 55 seconds left in the half quickly turned the tides in favor of the Wildcats. Flying frustratingly quick down the field, Weber State was able to convert a 45-yard field goal at the end of the half to take the lead into the break.
Sigh. Here we go again.
Score at the end of the 2nd: 20-17, Wildcats
Shaheed continued the punishment as the Bears began the 3rd by allowing a 42 yard return on the kickoff.
With a methodical march down the field ending in a failed fake 31-yard field goal, the Wildcats were vulnerable, yet we continued to play as if we were trying to avoid a loss. Bowers did appear to get more comfortable with his receivers, completing decent yardage to Veasy, Laird, and D-Rob.
The only real improvement the Bears exhibited in the 3rd seemed to come from simply holding the Wildcats scoreless.
Score at the end of the 3rd: 20-17, Wildcats
Cardiac Cal strikes again!
After settling for a field goal to tie the game at 20 after starting on the WSU 27, the game still felt very much in the air. The Wildcats oozed confidence while the Bears looked more like a deer in the headlights.
Fortunately, Raymon Davison had other ideas. Forcing his second fumble of the game into the hands of Luke Rubenzer, the Bears were able to unleash the “Wild-Pat” offense (apologies for the gratuitous pun).
Laird’s spectacular drive in the 4th helped bolster Cal at the time they needed it most. His propensity for explosiveness and ankle-shattering cuts effectively propelled the Bears to a 7-point lead.
Weber State then truly entered their “nothing to lose” mentality. The Wildcats once more (for old time’s sake) marched down toward the North end zone while Cal looked desperately to just put them to bed in whatever means necessary. It was Weber State’s lack of football inhibition, though, that would eventually lead to their downfall. Attempting a flea flicker and two 4th down conversions (only 1 successfully), the Wildcats’ luck finally ran out.
AND THEN MORE PATRICK LAIRD! It may have been garbage time, but hey, who doesn’t love a good 73-yard run to the house?!
Final Score: 33-20
As Cal fans, we come to expect these disappointing performances against opponents who have no business giving us such a difficult time. Nonetheless, this game seemed to accomplish what it needed to accomplish: expose areas of weakness and experiment with rotations.
For example, we learned that Patrick Laird is the real deal. In fact, my vote is that we officially rename a section of Memorial this season “The Bear’s LAIRD.” The former walk-on has proven himself a highly athletic receiver and refreshingly effective running back. Don’t be surprised if he enters the RB rotation more frequently moving forward.
Secondly, our defensive backfield needs to seriously shore up their mistakes before next week. Although the deep balls are not the go-to for Ole Miss, I am almost positive their scouting report for next week will include “exploit the secondary.” This was not a key point of improvement following North Carolina, but it is serendipitous that we have now discovered it early in the season.
Yes, the Bears underperformed. Do I think it will directly translate to a subpar game next week? Most likely no. Take the W, learn from your mistakes, and move on to Ole Miss.
What are your thoughts? Was this game a gaff or a red flag?