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Cal Bears' Final Season in the Pac-12 Will Have No Cinderella Ending

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SEPTEMBER 28, 2023

While many sports fans had hoped that the Cal Bears would leave a lasting impression in their final season in the Pac-12, recent performances suggest that their exit might be less than triumphant. 

With a move to the Atlantic Coast Conference looming and the memory of a harrowing defeat by the Washington Huskies still fresh, Cal’s future encounters could prove to be a significant challenge. 

This article delves deep into their recent game, the areas that need urgent attention, and what lies ahead for them.

Cal vs. Washington Recap

In what many saw as an essential clash for the Cal Bears, their encounter with the Washington Huskies ended in a heart-wrenching 59-32 defeat last Saturday. Though aspirations were high, several missteps led them astray.

The Initial Blunder 

It was a nightmarish start for the Bears in Seattle. Within the first six minutes, they inadvertently bolstered the Huskies by 14 points. Cal quarterback Ben Finley’s pick-six in the initial drive was a severe blow, and what followed was equally distressing—an 83-yard punt return touchdown by Washington’s Rome Odunze.

Quarterback Issues 

Ben Finley’s performance was far from his best. Completing 17 of 32 for 207 yards and two touchdowns sounds decent. However, his three interceptions in the first half and poor special teams play made this game an uphill climb for them. Edefuan Ulofoshio’s interception of a poor throw from Finley in the sixth play of the game marked a downturn in Cal’s performance.

Non-existent Running Game

Jaydn Ott, who made a comeback after missing the Idaho game, found himself stifled by Washington’s defense. His usually impressive runs were constrained, with only 40 yards achieved from 14 carries.

Backup QB Enters the Fray 

Things took a further sour turn for Cal when Finley was injured in the third quarter during an interception return, which was nullified due to a penalty. This switch in quarterbacks saw Sam Jackson V take the helm, a player who had already started two of the first three games this season.

The Transfer Portal’s Burn

There are times when past decisions come back to haunt teams, and for Cal, this weekend exemplified that sentiment.

Plummer’s Stellar Performance 

To add insult to injury, former Cal QB Jack Plummer had arguably the best outing of his collegiate career, completing 18 of his 21 passing attempts for 388 yards and five touchdowns, while also rushing for an additional touchdown. BetMGM Kentucky is sure to see a lot of action after Plummer’s great performance. You can bet Justin Wilcox is no fan of the transfer portal after this weekend.

At one point, Plummer had completed 15 consecutive passing attempts for Louisville, a streak that was good for fourth-best in program history. Louisville crushed Boston College 56-28, improving to 4-0 on the season.

The Defense’s Struggles

A team’s defense can often be its backbone. However, for Cal, it seems their defense might be an area of concern based on their recent outing.

Inability to Contain the Huskies 

Washington’s offense seemed unstoppable against the Bears, racking up a mammoth 529 yards. Receivers Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk were particularly devastating, with their combined 13 receptions for 237 yards and two touchdowns each. These stats underscore a pressing need for Cal to reevaluate their defensive strategies.

The Road Ahead 

With one challenge behind them, the Cal Bears face a daunting path forward, with a series of formidable opponents awaiting them.

Upcoming Challenges 

After this weekend’s game against Arizona, Cal plays Oregon State, Utah, USC, Oregon and Washington State in a row, all ranked teams and it could get very ugly for them.

Unsettled Quarterback Play 

The inconsistency at the quarterback position is a looming question for Cal. As they approach their home game against Arizona State next Saturday, decisions about who starts under center will be pivotal. The running game and the defense also left a lot to be desire. Cal basically must be much better at every position.

“There’s going to be 8,000 things,” Wilcox said after the loss against Washington, perhaps  exaggerating a bit. “We’re going to look for the things we can build upon. It’s hard to see those right now.”


The Cal Bears’ journey in their final Pac-12 season is proving to be a roller coaster. With formidable challenges on the horizon and pressing issues to address, the team must summon their best to ensure they leave a legacy in the Pac-12, even if it’s not the fairy tale ending many had hoped for.

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SEPTEMBER 28, 2023