Wildcats or kittens? Cal football looks for victory against 0-5 Arizona

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Can Jozef Saul/Staff

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The Bears are apparently back.

With wins against Colorado and Oregon State, the blue and gold have gotten a second wind. Starting off the season anything but strong, the Bears initially appeared as if they couldn’t get a single thing right. If the defense managed to be halfway decent during a single play, the offense left much to be desired. Conversely, if the offense showed prowess, a strong defense was nowhere to be found.

Well, Cal has found its footing, and fans are hopeful that it remains that way for the rest of the season.

The blue and gold will hit the road this weekend, journeying to Arizona to face a team that might take the cake for sitting at the bottom of the Pac-12. Because it does. At 0-5 in conference play and 0-8 overall, the Wildcats are more like kittens.

With absolutely nothing wild about how it plays football, Arizona has shown no glimpses of promise in its plays this season. After losing 0-34 to Colorado (which Cal held to a mere 3 points) when they met in mid-October, the Wildcats might have to start wishing on shooting stars right now if they want even a small chance at winning this upcoming game.

While Arizona has not lost to the Bears on its home field since 2006, it’s looking like that’s about to change. Earlier this season, the Wildcats managed to lose to Northern Arizona, a Football Championship Subdivision team, which shows anything but promise. The last time Arizona lost to the FCS team was in 1932, an indication the Wildcats are nowhere close to peak performance.

It’s not surprising that the University of Arizona football team held open tryouts in the middle of this season, trying to find anything or anyone to get its team back on track. The Wildcats have been playing all but Division I football this year, and head coach Jedd Fisch has been seen trying to rally support around a team that nearly everyone has lost faith in. After he was chosen to spearhead a team that had just lost to rival ASU 70-7 in 2020, fans hoped that Fisch would be able to pry out that last nail in the Wildcats’ football coffin.

However, that has clearly not been the case. Quarterback Will Plummer has not been one to write home about: His best game was against USC on Oct. 30, during which he only managed to complete 20 out of 35 passes — not stellar records from a supposed star quarterback.

Arizona revealed a lack of faith in its starter when backup Jamarye Joiner replaced Plummer in the first quarter, accomplishing a 75-yard touchdown pass. But Arizona will be without its second because of a right knee sprain, making Plummer the planned man of the match.

When it comes to the numbers, the Wildcats don’t look too good. Arizona’s staggering 192 rushing yards allowed per game is second to last in the Pac-12, while Cal quarterback Chase Garbers has surpassed 200 yards passing in each of the Bears’ last three contests.

“Whether I throw a pass for 65 yards in a touchdown or an incomplete pass, interception, run a touchdown, it is who I am as a person and a player, and that is why (the team) looks to me as a leader during the game and during the week,” Garbers said during a press conference.

The blue and gold gridiron is almost locked in, and as Cal has shown in the past two games, it’s never too late to start rooting for a losing team. Arizona, at this point, has nothing to lose. A bowl game is not even in consideration, and after losing all games this season, the Wildcats may very well throw a Hail Mary or two.

Another factor that could influence the game is Cal Athletics’ Thursday statement that several Bears have been placed into COVID-19 protocol. While there is no further information at this time, the potential absence of some key players could sway the outcome in favor of the Wildcats.

Arizona has hit rock bottom, and there is nowhere to go but up. The Pac-12 has proven time and time again that underdogs can still find success, even this late into the season. The Bears have evidenced this in their two-game winning streak, and the kittens could follow, finding a way to live up to their “Wildcat” moniker.

Maria Khan covers football. Contact her at [email protected].