What a win last week for the Bears – this time it was the defense that stepped up and delivered some last minute magic to beat the 18th ranked Utes. The buzz around this team is undoubtedly growing in Berkeley. The Bears have arguably exceeded expectations – most pundits assumed that all the departing offensive talent coupled with recent defensive woes meant a rebuilding year for the Bears. To everyone’s surprise however, Sonny Dykes and company have unseated two ranked teams this year and at the very least have proven to have the talent to be a disruptive force with the potential to shake things up in the Pac-12. The win against the Utes has to give the Bears defense some much needed confidence and more importantly, puts them back in good shape to go bowling this post season.
This week we’ll run through the huge win in Memorial last week and look ahead at what should be a rare easy contest against the rebuilding OSU Beavers this weekend.
Defense Bears, Defense!
The one thing that the Bears have shown this season is that they are gritty, and that grit showed up in a major way last Saturday against Utah.
They haven’t played perfect football, especially on the defensive side of the ball – Cal is near the bottom of the FBS in all major defensive statistical categories – but timely stops, big plays and a bend don’t break strategy has kept them competitive in every contest so far this season. In both losses this season, the defense kept the game close enough for the offense to have a late shot at victory – against Utah however, the game rested solely in the defenses hands at the end. Surprisingly, the defense delivered. The Utes spent an eternity in the red zone and had three plays from the 2 yard line to punch the ball in, but the Bears defense didn’t break. James Looney’s final tackle to seal the Bear’s victory has to be one of the greatest moments in Memorial in recent memory and knocking off the second ranked team of the year in dramatic fashion with the defense leading the charge bodes well for the Bears, both for this season and the future. This team, its coverage and its identity have all been about the Bear Raid – this week Cal fans have to salute the unheralded other side of the ball for sealing the biggest Pac-12 victory of the Sonny Dykes era and putting the Bears on the inside track for bowl eligibility.
Looking Ahead – Onward to Corvallis
The Bears can’t bask in their dramatic victory too long as their next test comes this Saturday when they hit the road again to face the Oregon State Beavers. The Bears haven’t fared well on the road this season, with both of their losses coming on the road to San Diego State and Arizona State – Expect them to kick the road losing streak this weekend as they face a Beavers squad that is planted firmly in that basement of the Pac-12. These are tough days in Corvallis as the offense for the Beavers has been abysmal, ranked at 125th in the FBS. They are averaging just about 300 yards per contest, and have been equally ineffectual in the air and on the ground. QB play has been inconsistent and the green offensive line has been unable to get a push up front to gain yards on the ground. Although the Beavers defense is statistically the better unit, they will undoubtedly be overmatched with the talent that the Bear Raid will bring to Corvallis this weekend.
The Bears should win this one easily on the road, as long as they don’t completely overlook the Beavs. Look for the Bears to have a big day on offense and for the defense to make some big plays. Cal Fans should be feeling confident the Bears will be 4-2 going into their bye week.