Key questions surrounding Cal football team

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With Cal football losing Saturday to a San Diego State squad it blew out 35-7 last year, there are obviously questions to be answered across the board.

Was that all the defense’s fault?

Don’t get us wrong, allowing 45 points is usually egregious. And when looking at Cal’s losses in recent memory, it’s not too hard to immediately pick out the defense as the cause of them.

But on Saturday, the Bears’ defense was not to blame. 14 of the 45 points Cal allowed were not the defense’s fault whatsoever — the Aztecs returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and also ran back a pick-six while the defense stood on the sideline. The Bears have long known that defense is their biggest weakness, so giving up freebies like they did to San Diego State is unacceptable and just not a viable way to win.

Cal’s less-heralded side of the ball actually fared quite well Saturday. Sure, its attempts at stopping the run uniformly failed (giving up 289 yards to one running back is never ideal). But when it counted in the second half, the Bears’ defense stepped up to the plate. On four consecutive drives in the second half, Cal shut down the Aztecs, one way or another. The Bears forced two turnovers and two punts, but the much-hyped Cal offense could not come through. Cal managed to score only six points in that span and when the defense finally broke down late in the fourth quarter, San Diego State sprinted ahead to an insurmountable 45-34 lead.

What’s with all the turnovers?

Cal turned the ball over four times Saturday. That’s not just unsatisfactory — it’s deplorable.

Davis Webb was picked off three times, with one leading to the aforementioned pick-six. In addition, wide receiver Jordan Veasy fumbled in the first quarter. These turnovers, with the exception of Webb’s fourth quarter interception that ended all hopes of Cal’s comeback bid, put the Bears’ defense in hopeless positions.

Cal gave up 21 points off turnovers, and looked sloppy despite the bye week last week to recover from the Australia trip. Cal wide receiver and punt returner Vic Wharton III fumbled for the Bears as well, but they managed to recover, avoiding yet another disaster.

Can Cal still make a bowl game?

Well, technically, yes. But the road got a whole lot tougher after the loss to San Diego State. Cal’s schedule is not getting any easier. If the Bears want any chance at bowl eligibility, they’re likely going to have to win at least three of their next four games — against Texas, Arizona State, Utah and Oregon State.

Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hoomanyazdanian