Cal rugby steamrolls SDSU, prepares for double-header

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One, two, three; one, two, three, four — how many tries can the Bears score?  The answer, as it turns out, is 20 — 20 tries scored by 15 different players.

On Saturday, Cal was on the road facing the San Diego State Aztecs on their home turf. In the end, it wasn’t much of a fight for the Bears, who hammered the Aztecs again and again for 126 total points.

In previous matches against similar quality teams this season, the Bears have started second-stringers. This close to the season, however, it appears Cal is close to solidifying a starting lineup. Cal started some of its standout upperclassmen, including Jack Manzo, Damon Wiley, and Ken Kurihara, as well as a very solid group of underclassmen — including sophomore Nick Bloom and freshman Max Schumacher.

The force of the Bears simply overwhelmed the Aztec defense, which had its worst game of the season. Moreover, the Aztec offense could not get anything going – literally nothing; the Aztecs scored zero points. It seems safe to say the offense also had its worst game of the season.

In the final road game before this weekend’s double-header at home against Cal Maritime and UCLA, Cal exhibited some outstanding domination, including notable performances from sophomore Jason Severance, who scored 3 tries, and Schumacher, who was 8 for 10 on conversions in the second half.

Despite the win, the Bears are not satisfied. Previously, the coaching staff has voiced some concern over Cal’s progress thus far in the season, suggesting the Bears need to catch up. Cal head coach Jack Clark, in a statement to Cal Bears, reiterated this cautious optimism after the SDSU blowout.

“There is real purpose in our desire to improve,” Clark said. “I’m not sure we’re among the very top teams, but we are getting better.”

One may wonder why a 126-0 win wouldn’t bolster the Bears’ confidence a bit more. Coach Clark is famous for giving modest statements — after winning the 2018 Pac 7s, he simply said, “It’s good to win.” But given his team’s success, the question still remains: Why do the Bears seem cautious heading into the 15s season?

The answer, it appears, is that the dynastic Cal team has some of the most famously high standards in college sports — and the record to prove it. Indeed, for the Bears, just “good” is not actually good enough.

And this coming weekend’s double-header against Cal Maritime and UCLA will be an important test for this Cal team, especially after the loss of important players to injury during the fall. Cal Maritime will most likely not be a huge problem for the Bears — the blue and gold beat Cal Maritime 60-3 last season.

Against UCLA, however, the Bears will be hoping to improve their performance after an imperfect victory over the Bruins during the Dennis Storer Classic two weeks ago.

On the first day of the preseason tournament, the Bears easily beat UCSD and UC Santa Cruz. On Sunday, however, Cal had a tougher time; at half, the Bears were trailing by 3.

They were able to surge ahead with a second-half rally and beat UCLA 19-8, but for a team that beat UCLA in the same tournament 33-3 in 2019, it was troubling. Especially given that the team is looking to continue its dynastic legacy far into the postseason against great collegiate rugby programs — clearly, this weekend, the Bears are hoping for a more reassuring result.

Jem Ruf covers men’s rugby. Contact him at [email protected].