It’s hard to know exactly what to take from No. 6 Washington on Saturday night 38-7 blowout of Cal football. Making too much of any individual’s play when the entire Bears squad was so clearly overmatched seems like a mistake, but I can say one thing for sure: the expectations for Cal in its remaining schedule need to be heavily adjusted and not in a positive direction.
I originally thought, clearly naively, that the Bears could survive the injuries sustained on offense. Demetris Robertson is a stud receiver, but Bowers was clearly never on the same page as Robertson, and offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin would find ways to stretch the field with or without Robertson. Missing out on Tre Watson’s contributions at running back was a disappointment, but with Patrick Laird’s explosion onto the scene, his workload was likely to be reduced even if healthy.
Helping the matter was a thought shared by a few Cal players: if there’s one thing the Sonny Dykes era made sure of, the Bears were deep on offensive players.
But after the pitiful effort against the Huskies on Saturday night, there are no longer any signs of hope, the Bears offense is dead and gone. I truly don’t use pitiful as a criticism either, I felt genuinely bad that the offense had to line up for 52 snaps after it took less than a dozen to see how overmatched they were.
The numbers hardly seem real. Finishing with -40 rushing yards on 26 rushing attempts made the previous weeks total of eight yards look like the work of Herschel Walker. Nine first downs, eight sacks and a QBR of 4.9 for Ross Bowers paint the picture of a game that should have simply been called off midway through. Did I mention Cal’s sole score came on a defensive fumble recovery?
The offense can’t continue to put up box scores this ugly, but the dramatic downturn is hardly a fluke. Kanawai Noa, who looked to be coming along excellently in the midst of Cal’s losing streak, missed this week’s action, and with Cal head coach Justin Wilcox’s penchant for cagey injury reports, your guess for when he’ll be back is truly as good as mine. There’s no reason to expect the underlying product to improve anytime soon.
I certainly think it will take a few weeks for the offense to come back to some sort of equilibrium, if they ever do truly rebound this season. At the beginning of the season I thought this would be a basement dwelling squad, so although the first few weeks with everyone at full strength and surprising unprepared teams was fun, this reversion is hardly a shock. Regression to the mean is a cruel mistress.
I still believe the 3-0 start shows what Wilcox can do with more roster talent, and is absolutely the man to lead the program going forward. In fact, I’m bullish on the Bears going into 2018!
The defense continues to come along nicely. Linebackers look more and more comfortable with their new assignments, and Alex Funches, filling in for the injured Cameron Saffle, has gone from liability to point of strength.
I’m far from Bowers’ biggest fan, but the arm talent and moxie make him an intriguing prospect going forward.Laird’s massive early season numbers were no fluke and I expect him to have a big 2018 season. But for the remainder of this one, I expect him to be continually hampered by an offensive line that is easily worst in the Pac-12 and likely the worst at run-blocking in the Power 5 conferences.
But the three game losing streak is going to be much more indicative of the Bears going forward than the 3-0 start. Cal’s matchup with Oregon State will likely be a contest to decide the last-place team in the Pac-12. Buckle your seatbelts — good things are on the horizon, but the next few weeks are likely to stay ugly.