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In 2020, Cal kicked off an unprecedented season with high expectations – some even listed the bears as Dark Horse contestants to claim the Pac-12 North crown. A disappointing 1-3 record dashed those hopes, but fans and experts were quickly written off as an anomaly last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cal started 2021 with high, if slightly subdued expectations full season. A deflationary loss against Nevada at home at the season opener on Saturday quickly flattened these expectations. Sounds familiar?
The question now is how the bears will react. Will blue and gold roll over and experience another 0-2 start into a season, or will they finally meet expectations? That question will likely be answered on Saturday when Cal competes against the TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.
« It’s one thing to practice with great energy and effort. But as we know, effort and energy alone don’t win, ”said Cal Football head coach Justin Wilcox. « We have to go out and play really good football against a really good team to get the win. »
The last – and only – time these two teams met was at the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl, one defensive exchange of blows, in which the Horned Frogs defeated the Bears 10: 7 in overtime. Cal quarterback Chase Garbers, then a Redshirt novice, threw just 93 yards with three interceptions before being pulled out of the contest. For the TCU, four interceptions thrown meant a shift in focus to the running game as the Horned Frogs slashed the Bears 262 yards on the ground.
Sure, a lot has changed in the three years since, but the TCU will likely be on this one Follow a similar strategy at the weekend.
The Horned Frogs have some talented running backs, led by sophomore Zach Evans. In a 45-3 season opener win over Duquesne, TCU stormed for 178 yards and four touchdowns. Evans, the very first five-star signatory to the Horned Frogs, averaged 7.7 yards per carry on the team last season – good enough for second place among real newbies to the Football Bowl subdivision in 2020.
The Bears resisted the run last week but will have their hands full against Evans. And if Evans gets going, it could be a long day for Cal against a TCU offensive that often takes advantage of the run-pass option. very dynamic at the perimeter at the recipient. You have different types of recipients, ”said Wilcox. « It’s a complete team, a complete offense.
If you read this, some might suspect that Wilcox was talking about the bears’ offense. Cal came out of the gates in last week’s loss to Nevada and found success through a relentless assault en route to touchdown on his first two possessions. And then it didn’t work.
Blue and gold have inexplicably strayed from their winning formula – a decision they ultimately lost on what a statement victory should have been. If Cal hopes to win on Saturday, lean on Damien Moore sophomore and get back to great style of football. « We want to be better offensively across the board and we have to be, » said Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
But offensive mismanagement isn’t the only problem the bears face. Cal’s special teams have problems this season. Against the wolf pack, the Bears failed to fix their opponents behind the 20-yard line and averaged less than 40 yards per punt. This level of play will simply not keep up against senior speedster Derius Davis, who ranks 5th in the punt return average and achieved Paydirt twice last season.
As if the situation couldn’t get worse for Cal, this is History not on his side. Under head coach Gary Patterson, the TCU holds a record of 119-5 when it allows 17 points or less. For context, the Bears scored 17 points last week and haven’t hit that mark 16 times since Wilcox took the reins in 2017. Not to mention the Horned Frogs are 7-0 against Pac-12 opponents under Patterson.
Cal was scheduled to host the TCU last season before the pandemic shifted Pac-12 to a conference-only schedule. In 2020 fans apologized for the change and ultimately the result of the season. If the Bears lose on Saturday in 2021, it would be much harder to excuse.
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