Initial thoughts on the game? Did it play out the way you expected in order for Cal to get the win?
boomtho: The game mostly played out how I would have expected knowing that we won - we won the turnover battle, it was a low scoring game, and Evan Weaver played like an All American. The only big difference from what I would’ve expected is Cal’s run game - I never seriously thought we would be able to run the ball so effectively against UW given the lack of a threatening passing game. 5.1 YPC with meaningful volume is a super impressive accomplishment, especially given the OL shuffles... Coach Baldwin and the offense should be really proud about that.
ragnarok: I think if you were going to draw up the generic “keys to the game” for a double-digit road dog to pull off the upset, it would look something like this:
1. Win the turnover battle - Check. The offense committed 0 turnovers while the defense grabbed an interception and a fumble, as well as created the sort of chaos that could have led to a couple more, and forced a turnover on downs as well.
2. Limit mistakes and big plays - Check. Besides the offense not turning the ball over, the defense gave up just two plays of 20+ yards (one of which was UW’s lone touchdown), meaning the Huskies had to work hard for everything, with drives of 11, 14, 17, and 10 plays all ending in field goals.
3. Execute in the red zone - Check. The Bears only had four good drives all night, but they got two touchdowns out of them, and might have had a third on their last drive, had they needed one. Contrast this with UW, who had to settle for four field goals, three inside the red zone.
4. Shorten the game - Check, in the second half especially. UW scored on all of their second-half possessions (excepting the desperation one with 8 seconds left), but since they only got 3 possessions, they scored just 9 second-half points. Generally, the longer a game goes, the more chances there are for talent to win out, so all else being equal, underdogs should seek to shorten the game.
5. Get lucky :) - I wouldn’t exactly say the Bears were especially fortunate -- they made their own luck with forcing turnovers, for example -- but
Rick Chen: I am not an Old Blue, but I was sorely convinced Cal would lose—and not even cover the spread—against the Washington Huskies. I was so sure, I nearly didn’t watch the game because I was in Washington, D.C. for the weekend. I still cannot believe I stayed up until about 4:30 a.m. while in Washington, D.C., to watch this game!
DaneStopper: My initial thoughts are, simply, “Let’s ******* go!” I really don’t remember, at least recently, being that happy after any Cal game. Maybe USC? But even so, this 2019 team is still undefeated after a big win unlike last year. Being undefeated just adds a new dimension and makes dreaming about the future that much more exciting. The win pretty much went as needed for it to happen too. A solid running game, no turnovers, and a multitude of inflection points going our way.
christopher_h: This game did not play out at all the way I expected. I expected a lot of stalled drives, field goals, and maybe another defensive touchdown. I was ecstatic the way the game went, obviously.
Henry Keenan: This one really took “Pac 12 after dark” to the next level, although it was certainly worth the wait. Having experienced a lengthily rain delay during a football game in high school, it was impressive how the team was able to maintain game-readiness; another reflection of our stellar coaching staff.
thedozen: We all joke about Pac-12 After Dark, but especially considering the long delay that was one of the strangest games I’ve ever seen. I did expect a solid defensive effort to be necessary in beating Jacob Eason and the Huskies, but not exactly the way everything played out.
Rob Hwang: JUST WIN BABY.
Thoughts on the offense?
boomtho: The overall thought is “did just enough to win”... I talked about the run game earlier, but the passing game was pretty brutal save for the last drive. In the first half, it seemed like the OL couldn’t buy Garbers enough time, and even when they could Garbers missed throws or the WR’s couldn’t get open. Garbers takes off a lot when plays start to break down, which is probably good for minimizing TO’s but also reduces the chances we have to get chunk yardage. Overall, though, I’m quite impressed by what the OL and RB’s were able to accomplish on the ground, and I think that bodes really well for future games (until teams decide to sell out even more against our run game).
ragnarok: The O-line is still a challenge, and we haven’t seen any real breakouts from WRs yet, but the 2nd-half gameplan played away from the offense’s challenges, giving Garbers make-able throws early in the play. Brown and Dancy are probably the stars of the offense at this point, but the keys going forward are probably planning around the offense’s weaknesses as much as playing to its strengths.
Rick Chen: Chase Garbers threw for just a little more than 100 yards on the night, and maybe that is the key to our success. Move over Bear Raid and #drop50. Let Christopher Brown Jr and Marcel Dancy #rip200.
DaneStopper: Cautious, but it worked out perfectly. For most of the game, on the rare occasions Garbers threw past five yards, he missed badly or held the ball way too long. On that last drive, though, multiple times, he connected with the right timing in the right locations. I’m a firm believer that what Garbers needs most is confidence (he’ll start throwing it downfield accurately, and his ball will gain more zip), so hopefully, he’s got it now. Still though, I was quite disappointed with the playcalling. We have, dare I say it, a talented running game, so let’s open up the play action! It’ll help Garbers get more open receivers and prevent the defense from stacking the box. Yet, we barely ran any. Baldwin still continues to baffle me on his gameplans. Also, very unrelated, but Nikko Remigio did not have a great game mentally. At one point, on the goal line, Garbers escaped the pocket and looked for Remigio on the left side. Remigio had every opportunity to improv away from the coverage, but he just stood in the corner, and Garbers had to throw it away. Later, on Kekoa’s big catch on the last drive, Remigio runs the complete wrong route (I think he’s supposed to go up the seam, and he cuts outside after about five yards). It’s only sheer luck that Remigio’s accidental positioning sets a perfect block for Crawford to run around and get us on the goal line. If I’m Burl Toler, I’m making Remigio sit down with some flashcards all week.
christopher_h: Garbers led the offense down nearly the length of the field on 3 drives in the second half; the first two for touchdowns, and the third one also for a touchdown (I don’t care what the refs said). I was beyond impressed with that final drive with the game on the line. I have been a Cal fan for far too long to get my hopes up, and I expected doom all the way until those final 8 seconds ticked off the clock. Cal doesn’t need Garbers to carry the team on his back, Cal just needs him to lead a semi-functional offense while minimizing mistakes so that the defense can do its job, and that’s exactly what he did. The offense exceeded all of my expectations for this game. I’m also super excited to watch Chris Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy develop.
Henry Keenan: The offense was lackluster, although at this point, I’m used to it and don’t expect too much. At least we aren’t turning the ball over. Dancy and Brown are a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield, a little reminiscent of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints for the past few seasons. Garbers still has potential, with a nice play to get down the field late, although he’s still throwing off of his back foot and not driving the ball down the field, which he’ll have to work on in order to take his game to the next level.
thedozen: I didn’t predict that Marcel Dancy would score both Cal touchdowns. He was explosive and really impacted the game despite getting just seven carries total.
Thoughts on the defense?
boomtho: This defense is SO IMPRESSIVE and I just feel lucky as a Cal fan to get to experience it. Evan Weaver was the best player on the field for both teams - hugely disruptive and didn’t make mistakes. Our CB’s made great plays on the ball and also tackled soundly. In addition, there was at least one play late where our CB jumped the potential screen pass so effectively that Eason couldn’t even throw it. The DL struggled at times (both to generate pressure and and against the run), but they were still solid for most of the game.
ragnarok: After week 1, I was disappointed in the lack of turnovers created, so seeing the #takers step up week 2 was big. If the offense can do more to hold the ball and not give up poor field position (the Huskies’ only TD drive was only 40 yards), I can see this group pitching a shutout at some point this year.
Rick Chen: The defense has a lot to be proud of, especially Evan Weaver’s stellar play. Jacob Eason is a great quarterback, and the defense denied him any touchdowns on the night and forced him to turn over the ball twice—one as a result of Weaver’s handiwork!
DaneStopper: 10/10. No complaints. Our biggest weakness is the inside run game (evident in that we had a 4-man DL rotation the whole game), but with rumors swirling of Maldonado’s return, Bequette can shift back outside and basically solve everything. Plus, we really don’t face any more top-tier run games until Utah (Oregon maybe too, but we got a lot more to worry about against them).
christopher_h: For all Washington fans’ talk of their 5-star quarterback playing the best in the SEC, and playing the “best defense” every day in practice... it sure looked to me like QB Jacob Eason was scared to throw on that Cal secondary. Every game I’m impressed by the defensive plans Cal comes up with to completely neutralize opponents’ (typically) high-powered offenses. Washington, Washington State, USC... Wilcox and the defensive staff have written the blueprint on how to stop each of them.
Henry Keenan: This defense is rock solid. Jacob Eason looked like a shadow of himself from the previous week. A lot of these guys will be pros in April.
thedozen: Evan Weaver continues to push himself to new heights and opposing quarterbacks need to worry about Luc Bequette on a weekly basis.
We have to somewhat flip the script. Cal was 14 point underdogs to UW. Now we’re 14 point favorites against North Texas. What do the Bears need to work on this week for the game on Saturday?
boomtho: Two big areas for improvement stand out. First, the passing game: this is going to be the difference between a potential 10 win season and a more middling ~6 win season. Garbers and the offense need to figure out what our “winning formula” is for the pass game. We know that we don’t have the QB or WR talent to consistently stretch the field vertically - so we need to find another way to more consistently attack and stretch the defense, whether it’s more screens, quick passes, etc. The other big area for improvement is the punting game - getting Coutts back healthy will go a long way there.
ragnarok: Continue to work on pass protection and protecting the football in general. If the Bears lose, it will almost certainly be because turnovers undercut the offense and put the defense in a hole all day.
Rick Chen: We need to flip the script, but not because of any gambling odds. Cal has two wins, including a fun upset against a ranked team, but we need to play less sloppily. Garbers needs his wide receivers to run their routes precisely, and because he doesn’t have a great arm, make steady passes to keep drives going. You can still succeed if you own up to your weaknesses and play to your strengths. Garbers and our receiving corps can’t make explosive passes and that’s okay. Go for and get the five to ten-yard passes we can make, and then do it consistently.
DaneStopper: Honestly, stay focused, but even that might not be necessary. North Texas’s defense is atrocious, and we should move the ball better than even against Davis. Their only weapon on offense is Mason Fine, but like, do you really doubt this secondary anymore?
christopher_h: Honestly, probably throwing the ball. After Washington, I have all the faith in the world in the Cal defense. UNT replaced their starting linebackers and corners from last year (who were burned to the tune of 49 points and 503 yards in a 49-27 loss to SMU last week), so it’d be nice to develop the passing game a bit and build Garbers’ confidence a bit before he starts facing tougher defenses.
Henry Keenan: This week is a great opportunity for Garbers to build some confidence. North Texas has a pretty leaky defense, so let’s see if Garbers can step up and drive the ball down the field. While the game is by no means a sure thing, it might also be an opportunity to try out a Newman, Modster, or Rowell, especially if Garbers struggles early.
thedozen: Limiting mistakes is the biggest key against an opponent that is inferior on paper. Nobody would be panicking about the UC Davis game were it not for the turnovers.
Rob Hwang: JUST WIN BABY.