Compounding matters for the Bears is the fact that the Ducks just lost their annual rivalry game to the Oregon State Beavers, and are almost assuredly going to be entering this game against Cal with a vengeance.
Cal is sitting at 0-3 and have the Ducks followed by a trip to Pullman to face Washington State left on the schedule. Sure, there’s the Pac-12 Championship Week game that is yet to be determined, but if the Cougars aren’t hit by COVID-19, then that seems to be the last winnable game on the schedule for the Bears.
But it didn’t have to be this way.
The Bears shot themselves in the foot against Stanford and arguably were the better team on the field that night. Special teams woes and defensive lapses in the form of ill-timed penalties did Cal in. Overall, this team is still very good.
On defense, they’ve been led by the duo of Camryn Bynum and Elijah Hicks, who just about everyone would have picked to do so this year. But the surprisingly great play from the interior defensive linemen as well as a few more secondary players may be the best feature for this 2020 team.
Brett Johnson and JH Tevis have patrolled the middle of the defensive line very well and have been causing fits for offensive linemen on both the run and with their pass-rush. Johnson leads interior pass-rushers in total pressures and has been a menace with five defensive stops in the run game. Tevis has recorded six stops in the run game impressively.
Daniel Scott and Josh Drayden have also been solid plus-players this year for Cal and Drayden has locked down some tough challenges at receiver in front of him. Drayden didn’t allow a catch against Oregon State, allowed just one reception on three targets versus UCLA’s Kyle Phillips and was targeted a whopping 10 times against Stanford, only to allow five catches for 35 yards with one pass breakup. He added another pass breakup against UCLA and had an interception against the Beavers.
That’s all equaled to a paltry 20.6 passer rating when he’s the main target in coverage.
The fifth-year senior has absolutely exceeded expectations this year and is riding high into the Oregon game.
On offense, the Bears finally seemed to get the running game going against Stanford, and that should mean good things for Cal. True freshman Damien Moore was the highlight of the Big Game for Cal, and arguably the biggest single-player highlight when he threw down a man much bigger in himself with a dominant stiff arm.
He needed just 10 carries to break the 100-yard plateau, reaching 121 yards for the game. Cal has found the end zone just twice on the ground this year, but with more time in the backfield, it’s almost certain that Moore will find paydirt sooner than later.
Once Chase Garbers has found his rhythm in games this season, the dependable duo of Kekoa Crawford and Makai Polk have been impressive as well — hauling in 17 and 11 catches for 210 and 146 yards, respectively. Crawford is the lone full-time receiver with any dropped passes this year, and even he has just one.
As good as all of this seems above, the Bears have yet to put it together in one full game, and that’s led to the 0-3 record. Odds are, they do put it together for a complete game, and if they do, you can surely bet the Ducks or the Cougars will be the ones walking away with a one in the loss column.