In the midst of midterm season, students may find themselves wondering: when will I finally catch a break? Luckily for Cal football, the team finally caught the break in question as it took a bye week after five straight weeks of play.
However, for Cal football, a week off did not mean one of rest and relaxation, far from it, in fact –– it was a week of hard work and hardening the o-line, something that proved fatal to the team in their last faceoff against Arizona. Coming off their first Pac-12 loss — and a brutal 9-28 at that — the Bears went to work to prepare for the coming game against Colorado.
“We got four practices in and then a heavy workout on Friday, so it was not by any means a week off, for anybody,” said Coach Justin Wilcox.
So while the blue and gold finally caught a break from unrelenting weekly games, that was the only break they caught. Cal wasn’t the only one who went to work –– with no games won yet thus far, the Buffaloes engaged in some in-practice competition between its offense and defense with a particular focus on turnovers and takeaways.
Despite a winless record, Colorado bears talent that has proved useful over the last couple weeks. In his debut game against UCLA, freshman TB Anthony Hankerson ran for 25 yards on seven carries, anchoring himself as a strong player worthy of becoming part of the regular rotation.
Safety Isaiah Lewis, who led the Buffaloes with 68 tackles last year, records the Buffaloes’ sole interception of the season. Veteran TB Deion Smith is consistent, rushing 195 yards this season –– the most of his career. Colorado plays a decent offensive game, something Cal should keep that in mind as it prepares for Saturday.
“They do a really good job offensively, in terms of formation motion, shifts… We’ll expect their best game,” Wilcox said.
Despite Colorado’s offensive prowess, it’s common knowledge that the Bears’ defensive game is strong — it’s one that boasts both veteran experience and head coach specialty. After all, it was none other than the blue and gold defense that halted the momentum of Arizona’s Cameron Ward last week; it’s the defense that should continue to stay consistent during this next matchup.
What should become apparent this weekend is Cal’s work in the running game. Two and a half weeks ago against Arizona, the Bears saw “exceptional” play in the run game, but struggled to produce that same power against Washington State.
“We don’t want to be a team that does it every once in a while, we want to be a team that does it every week,” Wilcox said. “It starts up front with the offensive line, tight ends, receivers, everybody’s involved, but we’ve got to do a much better job in the run game than we did against Washington State.”
And that’s precisely what Cal intends to do not just in the upcoming game, but throughout the remainder of the season.
Following the Cougar matchup, there was speculation surrounding QB Jack Plummer and a potential sustained knee injury. It was unclear as to whether the injury was serious, but according to Wilcox, Plummer received treatment and is expected to be on Folsom Field this weekend.
While the Bears’ 3-2 overall outmatches the Buffaloes 0-5, it is worth noting that both of Cal’s losses have taken place at away games. Whether that’s pure coincidence or out-of-home jitters, it should be considered as the weekend nears. Cal should expect a positive outcome this weekend, but the underdog story is never one to underestimate.
Regardless, the Bears have had both explosive and disheartening plays this season –– it’ll all come down to how the team shapes up before continuing the rest of the season.
“We’ve seen glimpses of what we’re capable of, but we need to do that much more consistently,” Wilcox said.