Special teams is still an issue
A mishandled snap on the first PAT attempt of the day put Cal in the hole early and they never quite managed to recover. Failing to convert on three PATs (two of which were attempted 2-point tries) set the Bears up for defeat. Punt coverage, however, was excellent for the Bears, pinning TCU back deep several times. Unfortunately, it was all for naught. Figuring out how to consistently convert PATs will likely be a huge focus for Cal going forward, as this is more than just a one-time issue.
Defense is figuring it all out
The defense will need to continue to tighten up as the season progresses. Zach Evans, an admittedly very talented and very different kind of back, went for 183 yards on 22 carries over the course of the game. The potential long-term loss of Kuony Deng — who was spotted on crutches — would be a massive hit to a unit that has grappled with trying to stop big plays via the run and the pass in two outings this year. Today was all about tackling though, as big runs and huge catch and runs were available for the Horned Frogs all afternoon. TCU finished with more than 260 yards on the ground this game, and a missed tackle on a quarterback sweep at the end gave the Horned Frogs an opportunity to run out the clock. Getting the defense on the same page, which has been the strength of the team in recent years, will be instrumental in salvaging Cal’s season.
Bill Musgrave was holding back against Nevada
Rumors of Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Cal came out firing in its opening drives, with Chase Garbers totaling 235 passing yards in the first half — his most ever in one half. Averaging more than 19 yards per completion for the game, the blue and gold rolled through the not-so-thorny defense of the Horned Frogs. Wide receiver Trevon Clark had two separate receptions of more than 50 yards in the first half, setting up the Cal offense for success early on. Deep shots galore, the Bear’s offense ripped down the field for the majority of the game, with two more completions of more than 40 yards. The running game struggled at first but picked up steam on the back of Damien Moore’s hard-nosed style of football, and the team finished with 133 yards on the ground. Showing a massive range of playcalling styles, the Cal offense looked as diverse as anyone can remember in recent years, giving TCU and any defenses to follow a ton of looks to prepare for as the season progresses.
Cal’s game MVP
Chase Garbers silenced the naysayers this week and started 11 for 14 in the first half, finishing 16 for 27 with 309 yards and two touchdown passes. This was more than 11.4 yards per attempt for the senior, more than double what he had against Nevada (4.7 yards per attempt).
In the Justin Wilcox era, the first team to reach 21 points is 37-1 all time, and that trend continued Saturday. TCU hit 21 points in the second half and ended up with a 2-point win at the end of the fourth.
The Bears are looking down the barrel of having to play without one of their best players for the majority of the season, as star linebacker Deng left the game early with a lower leg injury and was spotted in street clothes and crutches as the game continued on.
Cal is planning to recoup against Sacramento State when it comes to town Sept. 18 and hopefully returns to full health when the Hornets visit Memorial Stadium. Former Bear Troy Taylor, now the head football coach in his second season at Sacramento State, will certainly look to bring the heat in his homecoming to bear territory. Remaining focused and not having lapses against teams that are expected to be handled will be key for Cal in that matchup. Sacramento State will face off against Northern Iowa on Sept. 11 after winning against Dixie State 19-7 the week prior.