Hot Out the Gate

 
For my birthday this past weekend, my lovely wife gifted me tickets to the Cal-Sacramento State football game. Because this was the home opener and my very first time going to a Cal game, it will forever have a special place in my heart.
To top things off, Cal (2-0) certainly didn’t disappoint, drubbing Sacramento State 55-14. Honestly, the game was over before the first quarter even ended, leading 28-0. I remember hearing the roar of the crowd mere minutes into the contest as Jared Goff hit Kenny Lawler for a 4 yard touchdown, making it 7-0. Now, I say hearing the crowd, because I was stuck in a bottleneck line (along with 400 other folks) trying to get into the stadium. Not to be deterred by that minor annoyance, I was please Cal struck first.
Once inside and settled in, it was clear that Sacramento State was in for a long afternoon. Cal’s offense functioned like a well-oiled machine. Jared Goff was exceptionally accurate, finishing off the day 17-22, for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. He sat out the second half with a commanding 45-7 advantage.
Although this was Sacramento State, I was pleased to see the commitment to the run game. Cal amassed a surprising 255 yards on 48 carries; 94 yards coming from junior running back Daniel Lasco. Although Cal benefited from the long runs against a subpar opponent, they still struggled to gain yards between the tackles. As Cal gets into conference play, this weakness will be exploited immediately. My concern is Cal will revert back to leaning too heavily on Goff if they don’t find a way to keep defenses honest.
Going into an early bye week, Coach Dykes and staff have to address this issue. They have been able to side step this deficiency with a strong pass game against suspect secondaries.Cal’s September 20th match up against the Arizona Wildcats definitely put the 2014 season in proper perspective-given that 5 of their remaining 10 opponents are currently ranked in the top 25 of college football polls.
Hypothetically speaking, if Cal were to split the final ten games of the season, this, in my mind would be a huge success. A 7-5 record is a monumental improvement over last year’s 1-11 record. Historically speaking Sonny Dykes has experienced dramatic improvements in his program’s records the following year. So in theory, there is likelihood of that occurring, right?
Something not mentioned as much as it should, is Cal’s defense. They are a pretty solid unit out there. Both games played, their defense has shown up. Aside from the uncommon 60 yard quarterback scramble that lead to a touchdown for Sacramento state, Cal hasn’t given up too many big plays. They’ve been able to keep offenses in front of them. Granted, Cal’s defense has yet to face a top flight offense. But, these past two games serve as great confidence boosters.
Based on what I’ve seen thus far, I am impressed with the 2014 California Golden Bears. They’ve shown resolve in the face of adversity against Northwestern; and, they have exercised their will on Sacramento State-dictating the outcome long before the final whistle sounded. This season is only two weeks young. I don’t want to build a castle on shaky ground. But, given Cal’s recent track record of performance, one has to be pleasantly surprised with this group. When it’s all said and done, Cal is a better team this year than last. Forgive me for being an uber-optimist with this, but, Cal has already doubled last year’s win total. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?
Although we won’t see the Golden Bears for a couple of weeks, Cal fans can rejoice in that their Bears are undefeated; a feat that hasn’t been done since the 2011 season. Once the bye week passes, Cal has to gear up for one hell of a ride through what is arguably, the 2nd, if not the toughest conference in college football. If the Bears can continue to play with intensity on defense and efficiency on offense, I have no doubt that the nation will have to take notice and give a little love to the Cal Bears. I’m not talking shaking up the world, but a subtle poke will suffice…for now.