Pac-10 Week 3 Notes and Observations: Cal Bears

By Dave Consolazio, September 23, 2009 1:18 am

Cal Bears 3-0 Overall (0-0 Conference)

This Week’s Score: Cal 35 – Minnesota 21

Next Week’s Opponent: @Oregon

In a wide open conference full of question marks and uncertainty (even Washington State got a win!), one team has risen to have the look of the team to beat; the Cal Bears.

Saturday’s game against Minnesota showed us a welcome side to Cal that we didn’t see on the road last season. After getting off to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter, Cal looked to be in command; but a proud Golden Gopher team wasn’t going to give up that easily. Minnesota made it 21-14 by the half, and a late touchdown in the third quarter brought the game to 21 all.

TCF Bank Stadium was in a complete frenzy. Jahvid Best, who’d had an incredible first half, was all of a sudden being solved by this Gopher defense. Even the most optimistic of Bears fans was likely thinking “here we go again”.

But Cal wasn’t going to roll over this time. The Bears dug deep and went out there and played their game in the fourth quarter. Unfazed by the crowd noise and the momentum swing, Kevin Riley led the team on a couple of nice scoring drives both punched in by Jahvid Best.

The defense came up big when it needed to with Michael Mohamed snagging an interception to not only end Minnesota’s chance at a game-tying drive, but also give Cal good field position for the drive that would eventually put the game out of reach.

Kevin Riley was extremely efficient, going 16/25 with 252 yards (0 TD, 0 INT). He spread the ball around well, hitting eight different receivers. Verran Tucker and Jeremy Ross each made three catches for 78 and 74 yards, respectively. (Tucker, Ross, and the rest of the receiving core will have to continue to play at a high level with star wideout Nyan Boateng lost for 4-6 weeks with a broken foot.)

And then of course there was Jahvid Best’s day. 26 carries for 131 yards and five touchdowns. What else needs to be said? While he racked up most of his yards in the first half, he was able to make big plays in the 2nd half when they mattered most; deep within the red zone. Days like this sure don’t hurt his Heisman chances.

Now the real fun begins. Cal clearly has the tools to be a Pac-10 champion (and maybe more), but the path through the conference will not be an easy one; and it starts in Autzen this week. Cal broke a 7-game losing streak at Autzen when they beat Oregon back in 2007, but regardless of Oregon’s struggles this season, they will always be a tough out when defending the home turf.

The Ducks have plenty to prove, too; a win over Cal would get them right back in the discussion as one of the best teams in the conference. Cal needs to do the same thing they did in triumphing over Minnesota; play their game. It should be a fun one, and it will tell us a lot about how real this team really is.

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