Cal fans, pass over Garbers’ passing: Why Cal deserve its No. 23 ranking

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In Cal’s most recent game against North Texas, the Bears scored a substantial 20 points in the first quarter, the most that they have been able to put on the board since they earned 21 in the 1st against Colorado last season. Quarterback Chase Garbers threw 67 yards in the first quarter, including an airmailed 36-yard touchdown pass to Nikko Remigio to put the Bears on a roll.

For a moment there, Cal really did look like a team that had just defeated then-No.14 Washington on the Huskies’ own turf the week before, a feat that no team in the country has achieved since 2016. And then, they started playing like the Bears of yore — not the Cal when it was good, the Cal of the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl. Or the UCLA game. Or the Big Game.

For the second half of the matchup against North Texas, Garbers had more scrambles than a Denny’s breakfast menu, ending almost every play by throwing the ball, getting sacked or gaining a yard if he got lucky. He completed only 9 passes of 22 attempts, and it’s OK if you cringed while you read that.

The entire game shifted out of Cal’s favor based almost entirely on the utter lack of offensive efficacy, and the Mean Green got uncomfortably close to staging a full-blown comeback. But instead of North Texas, it was the Bears that rebounded and secured the win.

This Cal team has shown flashes of brilliance already this season — the defense has lived up to its expectations. Christopher Brown Jr. has been one of the most dangerous running backs in the conference so far and Garbers engineered a game-winning drive during the Washington game. These Bears are a talented bunch, and they have demonstrated as much in only three games, all of which they won and all of which earned them their spot at No. 23 in the AP Top 25 poll.

Good teams have bad quarters. If this wasn’t the case, the Falcons would be the 2016 Super Bowl Champions and the Georgia Bulldogs would have won the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship. Or maybe that state is just cursed.

Without overselling the Bears, the high hopes for this season shouldn’t be dismissed as pipe dreams just because of a poor offensive showing. Rather, the North Texas game should be an indication that even given a poor offensive showing, the Bears have enough savvy on both sides of the ball to mount wins and rallies from behind against a whole range of teams, from nationally ranked conference competitors to FBS teams from across the country.

Abilities aside, the Bears — Garbers, in particular — have taken a massive amount of flack for their performances as of late, being dismissed by fans and other programs alike. Amid it all, though, the Bears have kept a high morale and used the indignation of cynics only as fuel to improve their game. Garbers especially has displayed impressive demureness and maturity in the face of such bitterness — after getting booed by the home crowd in Cal’s season opener against UC Davis, Garbers went to Washington unfazed and played the game of his life to lead the Bears to a season-defining victory.

While Cal still has much to prove, the team should by no means be overlooked just because it played two bad quarters. Critics and Cal supporters would both be well advised to focus more on the victories the Bears have earned thus far instead of assuming that this season is doomed to end as last year’s did.

The Bears travel to Ole Miss for their next game, which will kick off at 9 a.m. PT Saturday. It will be the first matchup that Cal will play when ranked this high since 2015. As you should be tuning in, maybe instead of a tailgate you could host a pregame breakfast.

Me? I like my eggs exactly how Chase Garbers plays — scrambled, runny or on the sunny side. I like my pancakes how I like to see the opposing team’s defenders after a stiff arm from Christopher Brown Jr. — flattened. I like my to-go doughnuts how I like to see the other team’s quarterback once Evan Weaver breaks past their offensive line — sacked. And, most importantly, I like my hash browns how I like my Bears — golden, hot and nationally ranked.

Emily Ohman covers football. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilyohman34.