Annie-thing Goes: The Bear can’t quit now

Seven games down, five to go. It’s time for a midseason review, Cal Bears.

Based on record alone, the football team deserves a failing grade. A 3-4 overall stat line — and a 2-2 record in the conference — flat lines with no hope for revitalization.

But as any seasoned fan should know by now, Cal football can’t be judged on record or appearances. There’s always more than meets the eye.

Sometimes that “more” is pure heart, pure guts, pure glory. Sometimes it’s what Joe Kapp once said, that the Bear won’t quit or die.

Sometimes it’s simple perseverance, as evidenced in practically every near-upset Cal has brushed in the last few years: No. 2 Oregon in 2010, No. 8 Stanford in 2011, No. 12 Ohio State in 2012. An optimist might even jump the gun and proclaim that with this season’s overturning of No. 25 UCLA, the cycle is finally broken.

If the Bears are guilty of one thing, it’s continually playing to their opponents’ levels — an encouraging sign heading into the 115th Big Game against No. 22 Stanford.

It’s a little harsh to view the season as already written off, but the Bears’ 2012 schedule is bookended by grueling games. Cal fell victim to early-season tilts with the Buckeyes and USC and will close out the year on a one-two punch from Oregon and Oregon State. With no bye week, there’s also no hope for crucial midseason reassessment and recovery.

Call me disillusioned, but there’s no way that can end well.

So this is it for Cal. This week right here is the turning point. The stats don’t get better than this; the team hasn’t looked better thus far, either. This is the “go big or go home” moment that the team cannot ignore.

Add in a two-game winning streak, a polished run game and a career-high rushing performance from Zach Maynard last weekend, and the Bears could maybe pull this off.

This week the Bears possess something precious, something they sure as hell better guard with their lives. That’s momentum. For a team that still possess a losing record and, realistically, won’t make a bowl game this year, momentum isn’t just everything; it’s the only thing that matters.

Cal needs to carpe diem and carpe Cardinal this week. At this juncture in the season, with the best (and probably only) momentum the team will possess all year, the Bears can’t afford to slack off or screw up against their biggest rivals.

The team can’t give up throwaway errors in the first half, because this contest isn’t versus Southern Utah or a lagging UCLA. It’s Big Game Week, which means anything can happen.

The Cal-Stanford matchup is a lot like Cal football itself: nothing is ever quite what it seems. Not a team’s performance and certainly not a final score. (Obligatory tip of the hat to The Play.)

It’s been a tough seven weeks for the Bears. September was a month that harbored an abysmal 1-4 record and a poisonously hollow feeling that spread like cancer through the stands of Memorial Stadium.

But October doesn’t have to be a part two, a waste of another month.

I’ve changed my mind. Halfway through the season, the Bears don’t need a review. They need some inspiration.

Reclaiming the Axe could be that inspiration. So could whipping a ranked team for the second time in three weeks. So could rewriting an entire season.

As long as the momentum doesn’t shift or die. As long as play isn’t dead. As long as there’s still more than meets the eye.

Contact Annie Gerlach at [email protected]