Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions here, but I think I’m at least partly responsible for Cal football’s upset of UCLA on Saturday night.
And maybe this is my flawless 20/20 hindsight coming into play, but I really can’t believe I wasn’t at Memorial Stadium to witness that turnaround.
Because here’s the thing: Cal football, it still isn’t that stellar. And one win against one barely ranked team doesn’t change that.
Cal’s track record is still suspect. The Bears are still a team that can challenge top opponents but fall apart in guaranteed victories.
But something finally clicked on Saturday night. Rather than crumble under the immense pressure of a 1-4 record devoid of an FBS win, the Bears rose to the challenge.
And this time Cal went one step further. The team didn’t just challenge the superior Bruins; the Bears actually whipped them, 43-17.
Law of averages says that this team would earn the “W” sooner or later. Law of fed-up frustration all but guaranteed that it would be in the homecoming tilt against then-No. 25 UCLA.
No way would the Bears let another home game slip from their grasp. It’s been said before, but the Bear doesn’t quit, and it certainly doesn’t die.
The team didn’t just watch tape this week; Cal examined the film under a Lawrence Hall of Science-worthy microscope, and Kameron Jackson exploited a small gesture from UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley for three interceptions.
Zach Maynard didn’t just get his act together; he turned in one of the best performances of his career with 25 completions and five touchdowns.
And Cal didn’t just reward its fans; the program took the embers of a bowl dream and reignited hope that rang out through the crisp night air.
That’s all enough to melt the darkest cynic’s heart. But it’s still not enough to erase an entire month of mistakes and heated disillusionment.
This team is still 2-4 on the season — and it’s not even the best 2-4 team in the nation.
And the triumph over UCLA could very feasibly be Cal’s last win of the season.
The team has to survive the Big Game against a skidding but still clawing Stanford; a home tilt with Washington that brings to mind ghosts of walk-in touchdowns past; and an insurmountable challenge in the form of a bowl-eligible No. 2 Oregon.
Flames no longer lick Tedford’s hot seat, but that doesn’t mean we should douse the man in cold water quite yet. Let’s follow his mantra for the next few weeks; let’s take it one game at a time.
“We can’t feel relief, we gotta feel motivation,” Tedford said on Sunday. “We have to use this as motivation to continue on the path or preparation or focus it’s gonna take to win this week.”
Cal had a great night, no doubt about that. But what if it’s an anomaly? Don’t get ahead of yourselves, fans. Don’t assume that this game points to a Hollywood-esque comeback. That’s what we call watching too much of the wrong tape.
There’s still a very real possibility that Cal won’t make a bowl. The Bears could easily take a few final missteps and go 2-10 on the season.
So revel in the vivid memory of Saturday night, Cal faithful. Take pride in the fact that you were a witness, a member of the deafening crowd that could be heard all the way from People’s Park. I should know — I was walking past at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The stadium’s distant din was a comforting reminder of how much I love Cal.
But it was also hard to remind myself that I probably won’t hear such noise again.
Contact Annie Gerlach at [email protected]