What The Cal Is Happening To Those Golden Bears In Berkeley?

To begin the season, the California Golden Bears were the only unranked team in the Pac-12 North. Four games into the campaign, Cal is the only undefeated group left in the conference. 

How did this happen? Let’s explore together. 

One thing is for sure: Whatever Head Coach Justin Wilcox brought to the table is working. Before Wilcox, the Bears were in a state of disarray. Prior to him taking over, Cal finished three of their previous four seasons with losing records. To be fair they weren’t terrible during the Sonny Dykes era but inconsistency plagued the program. In Dykes’ final year in 2016, the Bears finished 5-7.

In 2017, Wilcox took the helm and finished 5-7 as well, but then things started to change. The following year Cal finished 7-6 and played in the Cheez-It Bowl, losing 10-7 to TCU. Yes, the Cheez-It Bowl is a real thing.

Which brings us to 2019.

The Golden Bears flew out of the gate and are currently sitting on a 4-0 record, good for the 15th ranking in the AP Poll. They beat Washington on a game-winning drive and field goal, in a late-night delayed contest that ended after 1 am in the morning, followed by a cross-country trip to Ole Miss where they pulled out a victory courtesy of a goal-line stand.

These are program-defining wins that have Wilcox’s name written all over them. Cal held the Huskies to 19 points defeating the Dawgs for the second year in a row. His biggest strength may be his defensive mind.

Prior to accepting the head coach role at Cal, he built his roots as a defensive coordinator with a number of different teams, including the aforementioned Huskies where he was the dc in the 2012-13 season.

Under his tutelage, the Bears defense is playing well holding their past eleven opponents to under 24 points. This is a cornerstone in which Cal can build their program around for years to come.

And it’s proving critical in key moments.

Their last-second goal, last stand against the Rebels is not only a huge win for the Golden Bears—it is a huge win for the entire conference of champions. Their victory is the first Pac-12 road win over an SEC team since 2010.

But there is more to football than coaching; the players have to make plays as well. One key contributor to Cal’s hot-start is Senior linebacker Evan Weaver. In the two contests against UW and Ole Miss, he totaled 40 tackles, including 22 against the Rebels. This mark is the most against a SEC team by an opposing player in over a decade.

He is also the man who stuffed the quarterback sneak attempt by Ole Miss signal caller John Rhys Plumlee to win the game. It is plays like these that turn around the fortunes of a program.

Another key aspect to the Golden Bears’ success is how few turnovers they’ve committed this season. In 2018, the Bears led the entire nation in with 31. Yes, they finished dead last.

This year they’ve committed five turnovers in their first four contests. Against UC Davis in the opener they lost three lost fumbles and threw one interception; anything can happen the first game of the year so this is understandable. Since then, they’ve only committed one turnover in the following three games.

The Golden Bears don’t have the athleticism to out-strength, size, or speed some of the more talented teams in the conference, so protecting the ball is a must if they want to win on a consistent basis. So far It is proving paramount in 2019.

Moving forward, Cal’s home crowd may need to provide the added boost to push the Bears to the next level.

They face ASU in a home matchup tonight that could sent Cal to a 5-0 record and an early lead in the North. This is an opportunity that the Golden Bears must capitalize on if they want a shot to compete for the league championship.

Since 2009, Cal’s attendance numbers have been decreasing. Last season the Bears drew an average of 42,866 fans per game. This number fills up roughly 70 percent of Memorial Stadium’s 62,467-seat capacity.

This is a perfect opportunity for students to come together in an athletic setting, in a school that is education-focused.

Transfer student Irtaza Mehdi said, “you feel the vibes on campus” when asked about the team.

While education is important, school comradery is an invaluable part of the college experience and the Cal football team may be providing the students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Cal’s 4-0 start is the story of the Pac-12 this season, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

“Everybody’s looking at Cal. They’re 4-0, they’re doing very well,” Mehdi said.

Yes, all eyes are on the Bears and their next chapter unfolds tonight.


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About Nick Bartlett 177 Articles
My name is Nick Bartlett, and I am a Senior Writer at SuperWestSports.com as well as a Senior Writer here at OregonSportsNews. My work has been featured in the Seattle PI, OregonLive, and various other publications. I've also served as a guest on Sirius XM radio as a "Pac-12 Football Insider" For business inquiries, you can reach me at - Email: NB206wsu@gmail.com Phone Number: 425-366-9711