There was the Big Bang . . . and then nothing
The warmth of homecoming weekend was more than enough to rouse the Bears from hibernation, not to say that they needed any rousing after that nail-biting Notre Dame matchup. Under the watchful eyes of a stadium littered with blue, gold and perhaps a speck of red, the Bears opened the game with momentum as freshman running back Jaydn Ott blitzed 73 yards to score a touchdown on the second play of the game. While the crowd was roaring, Arizona received the ball for the first time. And since then, big plays have been few and far between for Cal. At least for the first two quarters.
The first half was defined by stellar running from both teams — an attestation to the running backs and their offensive line. Cal’s offense was heavily reliant on the rush, boasting a proud 179 yards at the end of the second quarter thanks to Ott’s 164 yards on 12 carries. This alleviated the pressure on Plummer, who had a total of -2 passing yards at the end of the first quarter.
“Woe is me”
Defensively, Cal was allowing Arizona to march up and down the field at will in the first half. They struggled to pressure Arizona’s quarterback Jayden de Laura, providing him ample time to find junior wide receiver Jacob Cowing five times for a total of 109 yards. Though the score stood at a close 24-21 Arizona at halftime, the Wildcats maintained the upper hand, or paw, always dictating the tempo and pressuring Cal to match their offensive energy.
Revenge is a dish best served warm-ish at a “brisk” 80 degrees on homecoming Saturday
With the swift exit of the marching band, however, the Bears entered the gridiron with a newfound energy. Cal’s defense locked in and stepped up to meet the looming expectations of this homecoming match. They played a shutout third quarter as they forced Arizona to punt the ball in consecutive three-and-outs, caused de Laura to fumble at Cal’s 32 yard line and held the Wildcats to a scoreless 15 minutes. Though the defense yielded a touchdown to Jacob Cowing three minutes into the fourth quarter, a pivotal interception by safety Daniel Scott led to a 72 yard touchdown run by Ott, effectively sealing the game. Talk about déjà vu.
Cal’s Game MVP
Momentum is everything — and Ott made sure the Bears were never lacking. Despite Plummer’s throwing troubles in the first quarter, Ott kept the Bears in the game, rushing for 127 yards and scoring one touchdown — the most rushing yards by a player in the country this season. When it seemed like Arizona was pulling away, the freshman running back dug his heels in the turf and held his ground. Ott ended the game with 274 running yards on 19 carries and 3 touchdowns.
Not to be outdone, Plummer was the epitome of leadership in his third home game of the season. Instead of forcing risky throws into tight windows, Plummer relied on Ott to move the offense when needed and stepped up when the timing was right. While trailing 7 to 14 midway through the second quarter, Plummer put his throwing woes behind him as he completed a 16 yard touchdown to redshirt freshman wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant. He ended the game with 245 passing yards and a 64.3% completion percentage, throwing for 3 touchdowns, one of which was the electrifying 4th and 1 touchdown pass to Keleki Latu five minutes into the third quarter.
The Bears look good this season, accruing their only loss last week against the highly touted Fighting Irish. The offense remains multi-faceted, with Ott remaining elusive on the ground and Plummer making big plays in the air. As the season progresses and Plummer builds more and more chemistry with his receivers on the field, he may just bring what many Cal fans have lost in seasons past: hope. It will undoubtedly take more than a game to win back the scarce commodity that is fan optimism in Cal football: Washington State presents Cal with its next opportunity.