A winning hand is a winning hand, right? No matter how many corners cut, cards counted, shortcuts taken — a win is always a win. Be it dissatisfying or disappointing, or even in the form of a 42-30 victory over a team that should have left the field with a blank space on their side of the scoreboard.
As Cal begins conference play Sept. 25 against the University of Washington, it is irrational to assume that any sort of substantial victory is in the cards for the Bears after they opened their season with a double-feature in defeat, followed by a marginal victory over Sacramento State, a team that’s Division I only in name. The blue and gold’s defense is by all measures lacking, and the Bears have an offense that’s managed to scrape by only because of big players making a few big plays. It appears that the Pac-12 lineup is about to call Cal’s bluff.
The stakes are about to get higher and it seems that the cards are not stacked in the Bears’ favor.
While the faceoff against the University of Washington does not have the potential to be categorized as a showdown, if the Bears come out clutching a tragic loss there is good reason to assume that the rest of the winter will remain barren in points and abundant in absent morale.
The competition is looking tougher and tougher as college-football saturdays tally up. With Stanford’s recent 42-28 victory over USC, UCLA’s 38-27 triumph over LSU as well as Oregon’s undefeated record being topped off with a win against Ohio State, these next few months are projected to be anything but the walk in the park Cal faced against the Hornets this past Saturday.
There are several factors affecting the Bears’ ability to win games that have hindered them from reaching their full potential; offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is hesitant to volunteer big offensive plays, the defensive line is doing anything and everything but defending their end of the field, Kekoa Crawford and Kuony Deng are out because of injury and the blue and gold are facing a trying overall season based on their matchups for the remainder of the year — to name a few.
Halting the opponent’s running game has proven to be a problem for Cal, while its defense remains complacent in the opposition’s gaining yards.
The fact that a Pac-12 Division I football team allowed a subdivision school to achieve a singular touchdown is disappointing. The opportunities Cal took advantage of during actual playtime were few and far between. In order to even consider playing at the level of their conference competitors, the Bears have to make serious assessments regarding their back line, as well as their secondary.
It seems as though every game brings with it a new issue for fans to be upset with. Whether it’s a severely lacking offensive playbook against Nevada, a special teams disaster versus TCU or an eruption in the defensive line in the matchup against Sacramento state — even when Cal does manage to claim victory it’s as if it can never truly win.
Fans could be seen exiting Memorial Stadium during the third quarter on Saturday, leaving the stadium at minimum capacity throughout the game’s end. Post celebration, head coach Justin Wilcox looked just about to fold his hand.
“It was good enough to win but we have to be better than that,” said Wilcox.
Can the Bears do better than that? Cal does hold some wild cards in the form of 99-yard touchdown-er Nikko Remigio as well as multiple-TD completions by Damien Moore, not to mention the talented Daniel Scott,who has made a name for himself after snatching a pick-six earlier in the preseason and has performed excellently in preventing opponent advances into the endzone.
The potential is present in spades, however utilizing those abilities on the field poses another challenge in and of itself.
Conference play is going to up the ante for the Bears. Fans hope that this last win, however small, will give Cal a much needed boost in motivation heading into its conference schedule. If the blue and gold can’t fortify their plays, strengthen their defensive line or utilize their hidden aces — it might then be safe to say that all bets are off.
Maria Khan covers men’s soccer and football. Contact her at [email protected].