Instant analysis/reaction: Cal football’s free fall continues after 21-17 loss to Oregon State

Sam Albillo/Staff

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Key takeaway

The loss of quarterback Chase Garbers was a much bigger deal to this team than initially thought. While Devon Modster had a poor showing two weeks ago, Oregon fields one of the best defenses in the country and it was Modster’s first game as a starter. Even with the bye week to help build chemistry, the quarterback showed almost no improvement this afternoon, completing fewer than half of his passes only to be eventually taken out for true freshman Spencer Brasch in the fourth quarter. It is unclear at this time if Modster was benched or removed due to injury.

This offense seems to have absolutely no identity right now. The unit started the game, well, atrociously. In the first half, Modster only completed seven passes, and the Bears rushed for just 46 yards on 22 carries. Offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin seemingly refused to adapt to Oregon State’s defense, continually trying to run the offense horizontally rather than pound the ball downfield, which ended in rushes for zero yards more often than not. In the second half, Cal put together two touchdown drives but was helped heavily by numerous penalties called on Oregon State.

The offensive line continues to struggle; there are no standout receivers and now there may be a legitimate question as to who Cal will look to at the quarterback position down the line. For now, it seems as though there have been more questions raised than answered post-bye week.

 

Cal’s game MVP

For the sake of avoiding redundancy for our valued readers, I am going to pick someone other than the monster that is linebacker Evan Weaver. But just as an update, he had two sacks and 21 total tackles today, and has now topped 100 on the season through just seven games. At this point, it would be fair to keep him permanently penned in as Cal’s game MVP for any given game.

Cornerback Camryn Bynum made numerous impact plays, including a swatted pass against Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton. Bynum also delivered a big hit on a pass that was nearly caught by tight end Luke Musgrave, forcing the drop and incompletion. Despite allowing a goal-line touchdown, the cornerback also played a part in limiting elite receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who came into the contest averaging 118 yards per game, to just 36.

 

Eye-opening stat

Three consecutive losses. Cal’s 2019 has followed the same exact pattern as the two seasons prior: come flying out of the gates, then, in the words of Weaver, “fall off a cliff.” In 2017, the Bears started 3-0 and lost the next three contests. In 2018, they again started 3-0 and again lost their next three. This season, a team that was once 4-0 is now 4-3, albeit losing a starting quarterback that was just beginning to blossom.

Indeed, the Bears are currently in free-fall mode. Hopes of contending in the Pac-12 are quickly dying, and to be honest, are probably already dead. The conference schedule won’t get any easier, as Cal will head to hostile territory in Salt Lake City to face a Utah team that will be extremely tough to beat.

 

Looking forward

Despite an upset loss to USC, No. 13 Utah (5-1) is in a prime position to take the Pac-12 South behind stout units on both sides of the ball. The Utes’ offense is a model of efficiency, as going into an afternoon battle against No. 17 Arizona State this afternoon, quarterback Tyler Huntley has completed more than 75% of his passes without throwing a single interception. Meanwhile, star running back Zack Moss is averaging an incredible 7.6 yards per carry for an offense that is averaging 34.8 points per game as a whole. Cal’s defense could potentially be an antidote against Utah’s high-powered attack, but Baldwin will need to get something going on the other side of the ball, which will be tough against a lockdown Utes defense — they allow just 272 yards per game, which is 10th in the nation and 100 yards fewer than Cal’s own vaunted defense gives up on average. It’s truly now or never for the Bears if they want to keep this season alive.

Shailin Singh covers football. Contact him at [email protected].