- Shailin Singh argues that Cal must win the Redbox Bowl to redeem the Cheez-It Bowl and mark the next step of the program.
Although the eye test suggests that head coach Justin Wilcox’s program has improved every year of his tenure, on paper, the 2019 regular season has been the same as the 2018 season. Both teams were 7-5 heading into the bowl game, meaning that Cal must win its matchup against Illinois to continue its improvement in the record department.
Obviously, there have been some marquee wins that highlight the upward trend of the program — namely upset victories over Washington and Stanford — but Wilcox has yet to win a postseason game with the Bears. To prove to the Pac-12 that Cal is going to be a force over the next few years, Wilcox needs to win games when they count — and there’s no better opportunity to prove this than at the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 30.
- It can be hard to be a mother of a sports player, especially when that player keeps getting injured, but Chase Garbers’ mom Angelique has been there for him. (The article is mainly about Chase himself)
This season was especially painful for Angelique, and her son.
Chase Garbers was injured twice — breaking his right collarbone on vs. Arizona State on Sept. 27, then sustaining a concussion 50 days later vs. USC in his first game back on Nov. 16.
“It’s pretty scary to see your kid out there when you know he’s not right,” Angelique said.
Garbers overcame both injuries and has helped the Cal offense play its best football of the season heading into its Dec. 30 matchup against Illinois at the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium.
- Trace Travers chronicles Evan Weaver’s storied Cal career.
Weaver finished the year with 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but was injured heading into the offseason. Justin Wilcox and Tim DeRuyter came in soon after, with a 3-4 defense that would move Weaver to outside linebacker. Weaver didn’t practice in spring of 2017 due to an injury, but returned for fall camp. He looked to somewhat buried on the depth chart there, so the Cal staff moved him to inside linebacker, where depth was lacking.
Watching those first couple of days of practice in 2017 was like watching a switch flip. Granted, Weaver was playing against second and third string guys, but the then-sophomore was running straight through gaps and making stops two or three yards deep in the backfield. Weaver, who played mostly as a backup, got some playing time after Devante Downs was injured, and racked up 55 tackles and two tackles for loss in 2017.
- Cal and Illinois are two very similar teams, more known for their defense and struggling to break away from near .500 seasons.
The Fighting Illini (6-6) haven’t finished a season at .500 or better since going 7-6 in 2011 and hadn’t qualified for the postseason since losing to Louisiana Tech in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Illinois had a four-game skid in September and October that dropped its record to 2-4. The Illini responded with a four-game winning streak that included upsetting then-No. 6 Wisconsin and winning at Michigan State.
“When you’re building a program, you have to go through adversity, and that was,” Smith said. “We had to really look ourselves in the mirror and decide what we wanted to do. I like how our guys handled that adversity. ... It kind of spring-boarded our program to a different place.”