The Cal football team took out Hawaii by 20 points in Australia to open the college football season. While only one game is out of the way thus far, there are still some takeaways to be made about the Bears after Friday’s win.
- The defense is still bad
Sure, Cal won by 20 on Friday and, once the second quarter got underway, the game was never really in doubt. But the Bears’ defense still stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise solid performance.
Giving up 482 yards to an opponent is never ideal, but against a team like Hawaii — which had one of the worst offenses in the country last season — it’s downright worrisome. But it’s not just the numbers that are problematic. Watching Cal’s defenders try to tackle was like watching someone hold soap for the first time.
The Bears didn’t bring down the offensive players they were supposed to corral, instead allowing them to turn broken plays into small amounts of positive yardage and turn those plays into touchdowns. Not only did they try to arm tackle too often, but Cal’s defenders took bad angles when in pursuit for a takedown. This allowed an offense that was outside the top 100 in nearly every major category last season to put up 31 points Friday without the help of defensive or special teams touchdowns.
As Cal moves forward to face stronger offenses, #drop50 may enter the lexicon for all the Bears’ opponents unless they tighten the ship.
- Bad announcing can really harm the viewing experience
The ESPN announcers for Friday’s game, Mike Bellotti and Allen Bestwick were, well, uninterested. As Cal’s lead grew, the announcers — who weren’t actually at the game, by the way — talked less and less about what was happening. Instead, they seemed to hit on every single other topic of relevance in the sport of college football.
“Alabama’s playing USC? Cool! Oh and Cal just scored again.”
With the bored announcers and the quiet crowd, the college football season opener had trouble rousing much enthusiasm for the year to come.
- The receiving corps has a different makeup than expected
With so much of the hype in the leadup to the season surrounding freshmen wide receivers Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall, the passing game actually turned to some more veteran options. While this is not inherently surprising — it’s the first game of their college careers after all — the freshman standouts barely had their names uttered for the majority of the game.
Stovall, however, managed to salvage his lack of playing time some by catching his first career touchdown in the third quarter.
The more surprising turn may actually be found in Chad Hansen’s performance. Just a year removed from a Bear Raid passing attack that spread the love, Hansen nearly tied the program record of 16 receptions with 14 Friday night. He had more catches than the next three Bears combined.
And while it was mostly assumed that Hansen would be one of Davis Webb’s key targets, seeing him not only play such a big part but excel in it was surprising and encouraging for both Cal and the former walk-on.
- Cal needs to run the ball
After winning a game on the back of a four-passing touchdown, 441-yard performance from the quarterback, it almost seems asinine to suggest that running the ball more is the way to go.
But that’s exactly what the Bears need to do.
With the passing looking flat for much of the first quarter, Cal turned to the running game. And it paid off. Khalfani Muhammad looked not just like a track star but like a bowling ball, bouncing off tackles and running past safeties. Vic Enwere lacked the explosiveness but was still picking up yards pretty consistently.
Cal ended the game with its running backs having rushed 31 times for 202 yards and a touchdown. As the opponents get tougher, having a strong running game to fall back on is certainly beneficial.
Then again, when an offense is literally dubbed the “Bear Raid,” it may not be realistic to expect the running game to ever find equal footing with the passing game — the Bears passed 54 times Friday even in an easy win.
- The Bears are unlikely to make a bowl game
See: No. 1 on this list, Cal’s schedule