Initial thoughts on the game?
thedozen: This one looked like it could be a comfortable win early, but instead I spent the last minutes of the fourth quarter with my teeth clenched. Jeremiah Hawkins might have claimed the play of the game with a 53 yard kickoff return.
Henry Keenan: The defense, as usual, was able to do its job. A few good plays by a talented offense here and there, but the shorthanded defense was able to hold firm, a luxury we’ve come to expect. The offense, Garbers in particular, seemed to be both timid and complacent after the first quarter. While our other options at quarterback might be limited, it would not come as a surprise if the coaching staff is considering other options at the position.
boomtho: It was a game that went largely to script, yet was also very disappointing. Our defense largely dominated against a talented UNT offense, but gave up a little more than we might have expected before the game. And the offense, especially in the second half, was ineffective and unthreathening, which allowed UNT to come back and try to steal a win.
Ruey Yen: Bears were kind of lucky to escape this game with a win, even if this win doesn’t matter in the Bears’ pursuit of a Rose Bowl berth as a non-conference game. When you allow a team to have the ball and some time to make a game winning drive, you will get burnt some of the time. Cal simply left too many point scoring opportunity go after a decent start. I know that injuries was a part of this as several key guys were apparently not available by the second half - Cam Goode, who had a huge opening of the game, and Chris Brown are in that group according to postgame reports. Nonetheless, Bears will likely need to play well for both halves to win most other games this season.
Christopher_h: When Cal quickly went up 20-0 and Wilcox started putting in the backups on defense in the 1st quarter, I realized that a 20-0 score to Wilcox is basically a 50-0 blowout to any other coach because of the strength of our defense. Unfortunately, 20 points really isn’t that many, and Cal had to survive games like this last year when the other team started scoring in the 2nd half after Cal had looked dominant in the 1st (e.g. UNC, BYU), and this style of play leaves no margin of error and ultimately cost Cal (e.g. Arizona). When Cal had the backups in on defense and UNT scored to cut the lead from 13 to 6, I was terrified of a pick-6 or something disastrous happening. It was actually a relief to me when Garbers went 3 and out to put the game back in the defense’s hands.
Piotr T Le: As Rob wrote in his piece: It started great and then it descended into “oh god, oh why, oh no”. With the offense sputtering worse than a 1980s FSO Polonez (Look it up, the worst car of all time) and the defense getting injured left and right (Two players on the one huge catch and run by UNT).
The Bears exploded for 20 points in the 1st quarter and then only scored 3 the rest of the way. What did you see from the offense in this game that made you hopeful or depressed?
thedozen: Chase Garbers had a few nice rushes, but this was not a rosy offensive picture after Nikko Remigio made it 20-0. Gavin Reinwald’s fourth quarter drop hurt the passing stats slightly, but going 9/22 against North Texas is not exactly impressive. Christopher Brown broke free for a few double digit runs and Marcel Dancy showed off an impressive spin move, but both were arguably better in Seattle. Six sacks allowed is just too many.
Henry Keenan: Again, Garbers is still throwing off of his back foot, and seems to have trouble making quick decisions. I’m concerned that against the better teams a lack of offensive production will wear out an already battered defense.
boomtho: I came out of the game much more down on the offense than I was in the UW game. Against UW in the second half, Cal appeared to figure out how to run the ball effectively against a good defense without a consistent pass threat. And then we came out and our non-Garbers players had 30 carriers for 79 yards, which is putrid. Garbers, in contrast, was an effective runner - but often at the expense of the passing game. I remember at least two plays where Garbers took off and ran when he had wide open receivers on his side of the field (one of them was #84 Reinwald, I think the other one was #17 Polk). Garbers was, in my opinion, too quick to take off and run - although to be fair to him, UNT was getting to him quickly at times, and the WR’s were not consistently creating separation.
Christopher_h: Cal scored in the 1st quarter when Garbers was throwing the ball. Cal stopped scoring when Garbers stopped throwing the ball. I know Garbers isn’t the best passer, but Cal is not going to score much with such a one-dimensional offense, especially not with the offensive line as banged up as it is.
Piotr T Le: In the 1st Q, there was a lot of movement and well executed passes/plays. With no significant penalties Cal scored on short fields times in a row. Then: “Sir, what did you think about the execution of the offense?” “Execution? I’m in favor of it.” - Paraphrasing Bucs HC John McKay. There was something out of synch, both the play-calling was more vanilla allowing UNT to crash the run game, with the loss of CBJ and the lackluster passing of Garbers there wasn’t anywhere the offense could go.
The defense went into a full bend-but-not-break mode after the first quarter with A LOT of players getting playing time mixed in with the starters. What did you think about their performance? Did any of the younger guys impress you with their playing time?
thedozen: The defense did its job for the most part. Freshman Braxten Croteau got into the mix, which was nice to see. The Jaelon Darden touchdown resulted from a screen pass with nearly 68 yards after the catch. Jyaire Shorter’s TD reception occurred after a terrible pass interference call on third down against Trey Turner. Evan Weaver helped create Traveon Beck’s interception, while the fumble forced by Jaylinn Hawkins and recovered by Brett Johnson was important in hindsight. It all seemed less impressive than holding Washington under 20 points, of course.
Henry Keenan: Like coach Wilcox, I was impressed with the way that a lot of the second and even third string defensive players were able to step up and put in a shift. While there is clearly a lot of talent and depth on that side of the ball, the coaching staff has clearly done their part.
boomtho: I can’t say that any younger players stood out to me specifically, but it is encouraging that our bench players could come in and “hold their own” against a talented D-1 offense. The standouts overall, for me, were Weaver and Bynum - and it’s a true testament to Weaver’s consistent performance that even 11 tackles feels like a down performance for him!
Nick Kranz: Some of the guys in the rotation (Trey Turner, Chigozie Anusiem) were guys we’ve already seen play and perform before, so their solid play was a positive but not especially surprising. It was really at OLB where Cal had to stretch down the depth chart, and in that regard the play of sophomore Ben Moos, true freshman Braxten Croteau and redshirt freshman Joseph Ogunbanjo was a pleasant surprise. Of the trio, Ogunbanjo looked the best, making a few tackles and creating a couple of pressures on passing plays. Moos and Croteau did well merely by playing solid football, which is saying plenty for a couple guys who were almost certainly not expecting to play in this game. Whether or not they might hold up against tougher competition remains to be seen, but getting them a little game action against North Texas, and in situations where North Texas was actually trying and the game was on the line, isn’t the worst way to build them up.
Christopher_h: Well, I’m now mentally prepared for a drop-off in the defense next year once Evan Weaver, Ashtyn Davis, Jaylinn Hawkins, etc leave. I definitely make too quick of judgments of players only for them to improve later and prove me wrong, so I don’t want to be too harsh here. North Texas could not move the ball at all against Cal’s starters, but with the backups, we started to see them making big plays. I can’t remember the last time Cal gave up a big play the way they did to North Texas. I was impressed with Joseph Ogunbanjo, however. I also have faith in Wilcox on defense, as I am sure those backups will study the game tape and learn what they did right and wrong so they don’t make the same mistakes again.
Piotr T Le: I think they acquitted themselves well. On each run/pass the gang tackling was there, albeit a step late. With real game-time experience for the mix of 1st/2nd stringers a lot of issues in real time commutation were found out (per the Monday interview with Kouny Deng) and are being worked on by the defense.