As you may or may not (but probably the former) know, the three other guys I started this blog with are Cal students and are all in some way involved with Cal football. Because of this, my Twitter feed was often clogged with mentions of the same faceless players night after night; Treggs, Sebastian, Goff, Kline and Harper are a few examples of such names.
Naturally, I began to take a special interest in the Golden Bears. In no way did I become a fan, – my fandom across all sports was set in stone by the time I was eleven – but I certainly paid attention, both to the team and the fan base. Part of my interest could be attributed to the fact that Cal is currently in rebuilding mode. As a fan of fairly shitty and oft-rebuilding teams (Yay, Rams and Mariners!), I’ve come to respect the work and patience that is required of everyone involved during these trying times. Mostly, I understand the work and patience that is required of the fan base of a rebuilding team. You’re not sure what to think. Instincts make you want to overreact to every stat, play, piece of news and comparison you can get your hands on. The frustration consistently mounts and the turning of the corner feels ever elusive.
I’m not a guy with all the answers, and I don’t claim to be an expert on Cal football, but there are a few things I can most assuredly tell your frustrated soul:
- One of the most common things you see during rebuilding years is the calling for the firing of coaches. They take far more blame than the players or circumstances, and the situation at Cal has been no exception. A quick search of ‘Andy Buh’ on Twitter shows fans are lining up and calling for the first-year DC’s head. While anyone can see Buh has a long ways to go as a defensive coordinator, saying he should be fired is beyond idiotic. I don’t have an exact number on the amount of starters and second stringers you’re currently without, but I know the number is absurdly high. There are only two or three programs in the nation that could take that big of a blow and still field a somewhat passable defense. Building off this, the problem doesn’t appear to be Buh’s defensive scheme. From what I’ve observed, guys are in the right place, but the lack of experience/instincts/development/take-your-pick has them one step behind at all times. This is typical of teams fielding a defense that has been bombarded with injuries. I’m not saying Buh is a quality defensive coordinator, but I am saying that, as of now, Buh is not the problem. If Cal returns to full health and still gets ran over left and right, then you can start addressing whether or not a change is needed.
- Goff is awesome. Anyone that thinks Kline should start over Goff should be institutionalized. This is a belief I held long before he threw for nearly 500 yards against Washington State. He is a big kid with a strong arm and a bright future. Yes, I get that the Oregon game was, both naturally and fundamentally, a disaster, but developing a new quarterback, just like rebuilding, is going to hurt like hell at times. There will be mental lapses and there will be growing pains, but, also like rebuilding, you’re going to have to endure it. Goff is going to be a hell of a quarterback. His pocket presence and ability to extend/create plays have impressed me, considering he is playing behind a fairly broken offensive line, and it is scary to think of how much better he’ll be after getting a season or two of the ‘Bear Raid’ under his belt.
- This season looks so much like Sonny Dykes’ first season at LTU, and things turned out pretty damn well over there. The 2010 Bulldogs pulled out their first victory of the season in ugly fashion against an FCS school, Grambling State. The 2013 Golden Bears pulled out their first victory of the season in ugly fashion against an FCS school, Portland State. Every somewhat legitimate offense the 2010 Bulldogs faced lit them up. Every offense the 2013 Golden Bears have faced (which have all been pretty damn good) has lit them up. The only teams LTU managed to beat were miserable, lifeless squads, and even those victories were tough to come by. They weren’t good, at anything, at all. The same will be said about the 2013 Cal team. Know what happened in the second year, though? After getting a year of Dykes’ system under their belt and gaining a more established defense, they flourished. After a rough 1-4 start that included three losses by a combined nine points, they proceeded to beat the living and deceased shit out of the college football world. They went to Fresno and crushed Fresno State. They went to Oxford and embarrassed Ole’ Miss. They went to Nevada, exercised some demons, and walked away with a win against the Wolf Pack. Ending the regular season 8-4, the Bulldogs went on to the Poinsettia Bowl, where they nearly pulled off the upset of #15 TCU in front of a national audience. Obviously, rebuilding in the Pac-12 will take longer than it did in the WAC, but Dykes never took a step back in the rebuilding process at LTU, and I see no reason why anything different should happen at Cal. The offense is almost guaranteed to be dangerous, and the defense can only get better (by a mile) and healthier (by even more miles). You ever see the numbers from his third season at LTU? A 9-3 record, 51.5 PPG, and a near upset of the Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M Aggies. Where Cal football is at right now is exactly where LTU was in Dykes’ first season, give or take a few details.
- My final point is simple: support your team. Whether they’ll admit it or not, players take it to heart when they run out to an empty stadium. You, as a fan base, are so much more important to this rebuilding project than you realize. No matter how ugly it gets, show up, stand up, and cheer your fucking heart out. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did when this rebuilding project finally turns the corner.
I’m rooting for you, Golden Bears. Get healthy. Get hungry. Get Roses.