Five weeks of frustration, unleashed.
That was what we all expected to see from the Bears from the first snap of the first game in the new stadium (players and coaches included, I'm sure):
Sharp execution combined with passionate play, creative use of personnel on both sides of the ball and a sense of urgency by all involved.
(Bruins coach Jim Mora's description of the Bears as "maniacal" was spot on.)
The challenge now is to build on the performance and make something of the season. Any team can rise up for one game. Do the Bears have the fortitude and leadership to play like that again, and again?
If so, they could very well find themselves with a bowl berth in hand by the time December rolls around -- there are plenty of winnable games left.
At the same time, Saturday's performance makes you wonder what the heck was going on in the locker room, on the practice field and in the meeting rooms during the first five weeks ... and during training camp ... and summer workouts ... and spring practice ... and winter conditioning.
Result: Beat UCLA 43-17
Comment: Cal played with a physicality that was missing in the dreadful loss to Arizona State -- that was missing in the vast majority of the first five games.
The backs and receivers broke tackles, the offensive linemen finished blocks, and the defense produced some punishing hits. Players even ran on and off the field with
Tedford criticized his team's lack of physical play against ASU. Whatever he did (or said) during the week of preparation had the intended result. (Perhaps it was the Joe Roth video.)
* The defense played faster than I've seen it -- like the Bears had 12 men on the field -- and did a nice job limiting UCLA's use of the downfield seam passes out of the spread option.
With his quickness and long arms, outside linebacker Chris McCain (2.5 tackles for loss) is a load for offensive lines to handle when playing out of the three-point stance.
Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley is not easily corralled, yet the Bears sacked him six times.
The result was a string of positive gains on first down, which kept the Bears out of second-/third-and-long, kept the Bruins guessing, relieved the pressure on the offensive line and let Zach Maynard settle into a rhythm.
The Bears converted 6 of 11 third-down attempts, which is significant not only because of the percentage (54.5) but because they only had 11 third downs in the first place.
(Compared that to the number from previous weeks: 15 vs. Ohio State, 14 vs. USC, 15 vs. Arizona State. A reduction of just three or four per game makes a big difference.)
The sophomore tight end, who had been limited by a foot injury, produced seven catches for 129 yards and added a needed dimension to the passing game.
His numbers: 25 of 30, 295 yards and four touchdowns.
If he was capable of being involved to that degree Saturday, he was capable of being involved to that degree against ASU, when he had zero touches.
Whatever the coaches did to get him ready, they could have done earlier.
Next up: at Washington State
The matchup: Other than playing WSU at home, it doesn't get much better for the Bears in terms of an opportunity to build their momentum.
The Cougars are struggling -- their only wins have come against Eastern Washington and UNLV -- and the atmosphere in Martin Stadium can hardly be considered intimidating.
The Bears must tackle well in the open field and keep everything in front of them.
(A little pressure on Jeff Tuel/Connor Halliday wouldn't hurt, either.)
If the Bears control the line of scrimmage, everything else should fall into place: long-yardage situations are kept to a minimum, Maynard finds his rhythm and WSU's defense wears down.
Simply put: Cal must impose its will.