The Bears followed up last week's brilliant offensive performance with another outstanding offensive display. Kyle Boller was scarily efficient with 266 yards passing on only 13 completions to go along with a career best 5 touchdowns. Joe Igber just missed another 100-yard game with 92 yards on 31 carries. The play calling was excellent and the offense managed to eat up quite a bit of clock and pick up crucial first downs to keep the potent Husky offense off the field.
Kyle Boller's stock has risen dramatically every week with outstanding performances and he could be California's newest millionaire once the NFL draft rolls around in late April of 2003. Kyle called his performance the game of his life, and I, for one, believe him. Kyle has always had the tools he just needed to have those skills harnessed in the proper fashion. It's clichéd, but big time players come up with big time plays in big time games. Kyle came up with those plays when it counted most.
The running game came up huge for the Bears against Washington. Certainly, the numbers don't show it but Joe Igber's 31 carries helped milk time off the clock and keep Cody Pickett and his explosive offense off the field. It also served as an excellent tool to wear down the Washington defense. However, Igber's fumble with less than four minutes to go was a critical mistake and nearly let Washington back into the game.
The offensive line has been nearly impenetrable having allowed only 7 sacks in the first six games. Holding penalties and false starts have been virtually non-existent. The offense doesn't click without the stellar performance of this line. They provided Boller the necessary time to beat Washington repeatedly downfield.
The wide receivers didn't see the ball that much but for the most part they did their job and then some. Big plays were the theme and Cal connected on three 20 plus yard pass plays (40,55,23) for touchdowns. Unfortunately, there were a couple of dropped passes in important situations, which made this game closer than perhaps it should have been. Otherwise it was another outstanding game by the receiving corps.
The defensive is still giving up a lot of yards. However, this week the defense made huge and timely plays and kept Washington out of its offensive rhythm. The defense continued its opportunistic ways by picking up two interceptions and a fumble. The "D" gave up a lot of yards but in the red zone they stiffened and came up with big play after big play.
The defensive line had its finest day recording five sacks. The pressure on Cody Pickett was constant and defensive line stuffed the run. They helped hold Washington to 42 yards rushing on 28 carries for a 1.5 average. They are improving by leaps and bounds week by week and could become the anchor for a defense that has struggled early.
The linebackers were solid. They stopped up the holes and made it virtually impossible for Washington to run the ball. Notice how the tight end didn't burn Cal for huge gains. The linebackers did an excellent job in their coverages and prevented the Bears from getting burned up the middle on tight end and fullback seam patterns.
The secondary has been much maligned for the Golden Bears. Again they were faced with the daunting challenge of one of the nation's top quarterbacks. They didn't completely stop Cody Pickett but they contained him and that's the kind of effort the Bears needed. Despite throwing for 399 yards Cody Pickett could not get a touchdown pass, which was a key to the stingy red zone defense of the Bears. Converted Safety Nnamdi Asomugha had an excellent day at the cornerback position, knocking down several balls and coming up with an interception.
The special teams had their usual solid performance. Kick coverage was excellent and the Huskies were saddled with poor field position for much of the game. There was one breakdown, which allowed Washington to begin a possession at the Cal 32 yard line, but outside of that one breakdown the special teams were solid.
An incredibly gutsy performance turned in by the Bears on the road especially against a team who had their number. I'm sure that this game loosened many alumni purse strings, which should amount to an increase in booster contributions but also ticket sales for future Cal home games. I don't think anyone in their wildest dreams could have expected the Bears to open season 4-2, much less beat two top 15 teams on the road with one of those two wins ending the Washington streak of 19 consecutive wins over Cal. This brings to my points of interest.
1) Cal is a bowl caliber team. Hopefully the ban will be lifted and the fans will be treated to a nice holiday present, a bowl game.
2) The psyche of this Cal team has been immeasurably altered for better. It's also impossible to imagine that this same team was 1-10 last year and got blown out in almost every game.
3) Improvement- it is amazing to see this team actually improve as the season goes along. The secondary made plays and the defensive line made a huge push. Offensively, Cal could be absolutely scary. The Offensive is improved and adding new tricks and wrinkles to the stable each and every week. Just imagine when they click on all cylinders.
4) Excellent coaching will usually beat excellent talent. Head coach Jeff Tedford has more than earned his keep and he is on his way to a national coach of the year award. More importantly, Cal is becoming a "program" rather than an annual version of mediocrity.
5) The "Seniors"- You have to give this group recognition. They've stepped it up and become leaders of this turnaround. They had to endure a very painful 1-10 season as well and many other failures just to get to this point. Now they are making their mark on the program and they will be leaving the program with asterisks next to their names as the gutsy group who ushered in the Tedford era at Cal. It would have been so easy for them to say forget it and give up, but they stuck with it and now each of these wins are their reward for their determination.
This victory will go down with the historic victories of years past: the 46-22 thrashing of #15 Michigan St., 32-31 comeback victory over USC, the 42-41 comeback victory over Oregon along with many others. This is the type of game that can change a program. The victory over Michigan St. told the country, "Hey, we're not dead yet" The victory over Washington told the country, "Stand up and take notice, the Bears are back on the prowl"