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Roundtables: The Rise of California

A win to end the year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Cal at UCLA Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Domination of a game. What did you think of the performance. When did you feel the game was in the books?

Christopher_h: With Cal, the game is never in the books until the final whistle blows, and I admit to sweating a bit when backup QB Austin Burton came in for UCLA and started driving them down the field while only down by 10 points. I understand why Cal fans were so reluctant to believe in Cal’s chances after last year’s meltdown against UCLA, but the more I watched UCLA (and I started watching their games a lot more closely later in the season), I just couldn’t see UCLA winning again if Garbers was playing. I have to say I am a bit relieved myself, because I spent the entire year trashing UCLA in the weekly power rankings, so I would have felt pretty dumb if we lost again.

Alex G: I thought the team did well on both sides of the ball, and was especially pleased with the running game (it makes sense Cal named Chris Brown Jr. as its offensive player of the game). The o-line did admirably, which is encouraging given injuries and that pretty much everyone returns next year. Of course, as a Cal fan, I didn’t think the game was locked in until Cal’s final possession. Huge comebacks have happened before - and UCLA pulled off a ridiculous one in Pullman - so it’s never over ‘til it’s over. Finally, I was ecstatic when the game wrapped up, super happy for the guys and the direction of the program. It’s moved toward a little sadness though, now that the season is over spare for one game, and it seems like 2019 passed by in an instant. It’ll be a long off-season knowing the potential of Cal Football in 2020.

DaneStopper: I felt good, but not great. It became clear early that we were better than UCLA, but we never seemed to capitalize on our advantage. It was a 3-point game going into the 4th quarter, not exactly a shining model of domination.

thedozen: The Bears conceded the first touchdown again, but I had a feeling that things would be all right when Makai Polk’s long touchdown reception tied it. Ashtyn Davis’ interception with the Bears up 28-18 certainly felt good for Cal fans.

Rob Hwang: Just win baby. We played a good game and when we got to 17 points it seemed pretty much out of reach with how the UCLA team was playing that night. The final drive in the 4th while up 10 did give me a bit of a mild rise in heart rate, but once again a goal line stop. A goal line stop to end OOC play and now a goal line stop to end Pac-12 play. Kind of poetic isn’t it?

Solid performance by the offense against a team that did not look to want to be out there. How do you grade them? Does the unit give you optimism heading into the bowl game?

Christopher_h: I’m never going to be super confident with the Cal offense, and many of the offense’s best performances (Washington State, UCLA) have come against flawed defenses, but I think a fully-healthy Cal offense has just enough horsepower to sputter out a win against almost anyone. I’m pretty optimistic about all of Cal’s potential bowl opponents because the offense should be fully healthy with a month’s rest. No secret practice injuries, please, or I might sustain an “upper body injury” hitting my head on the desk.

Alex G: Offense was great overall, beating UCLA by a respectable margin and running a balanced attack. The line is coming together, an encouraging sign and testament to coaching. My MVP was Brown, who absolutely destroyed some guys and resembled Marshawn with less high-stepping. The receivers have also improved on the dropsies they had mid season. Optimism abound for next year.

DaneStopper: That was a B- level performance. We could (and probably should) have hung at least 40 on that shredded cheese of a defense. However, I have extreme optimism. If Kekoa Crawford returns by the bowl game, and everyone else heals up, the offense will hit sustained mediocrity (which is far beyond my expectations a couple months ago).

thedozen: Both the offensive line and skill players certainly took advantage of the UCLA defense. I’ll give them an 8 out of 10 for the long touchdown drives, although it’s also true that several possessions stalled out early.

Defense showed up and balled out. What were you biggest takeaways there?

Christopher_h: I’m happy Cal stopped a mobile QB for once. I was most impressed with how thoroughly Cal shut down RB Joshua Kelley to put the game in DTR’s slippery hands.

Alex G: The defense did well and the line especially showed up. DTR was escaping the pass rush all over the place, doing some of the backwards running that was highlighted in the CGB offensive preview. A worthwhile note if that the defense got the job done with some backups in the secondary playing, and they did well in their time on the field.

DaneStopper: If the offense was a B-, the defense was a solid A. The two touchdown drives were on the opening drive, after which we made adjustments, and on a drive that only happened because Weav made one dumb mistake. Deng continues to develop and improve. My defensive hype for 2020 rests in the D-Line, which looks to be monstrous once BRETT JOHNSON gets a full offseason. Remember, turnovers happen when there’s a strong D-Line, so next year’s defense might even improve upon this year’s.

thedozen: Despite his unnecessary penalty, I have really been savoring Evan Weaver’s final performances in blue and gold. Jaylinn Hawkins made a definite impact with honorable mentions to Kuony Deng and Cameron Goode.