The prevailing feeling I had last night as I made the drive from Pullman back to Spokane was that Cal had just beaten a very, very bad football team. Yes, the Bears look good. And yes, anytime you go on the road for a conference game and win that impressively, it’s a notable feat. But the Cougars simply didn’t provide much competition, and based on how they looked last night, I’m not sure they can win a game this season.
There’s no question WSU isn’t the most talented team around. And a few key injuries made the Cougars even more undermanned against Cal. But should they really be as inept as they were Saturday? Washington St. won five games last year and had two other narrow losses, to Arizona State and Cal. Is the talent level that much worse just one year later?
The Cougars’ problem Saturday wasn’t just about talent. They looked undisciplined. Penalties, mistakes, missed assignments, etc. all were on display against the Bears. Offensively, perhaps the Cougars still are trying to grasp new coach Paul Wulff’s spread offense schemes. Wulff has a huge task ahead of him, that’s for sure.
All that being said, Cal would have beaten a lot of teams yesterday. The Bears’ offensive line had another strong showing and Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen continue to be dynamoes out of the backfield. Defensively, the Bears simply outmanned the Cougars. They had no problem shutting down the passing game out of the spread, and WSU’s offensive line couldn’t make any headway in the run game. The Cougars rushed for 57 yards on 35 carries.
One of the highlights of the game was that the Bears emptied their bench and saw several players get their first collegiate action. Quarterback Brock Mansion, fullback Peter Geurts, offensive guard Justin Cheadle, offensive guard Richard Fisher, offensive tackle Donovan Edwards, offensive tackle Matt Laird, linebacker D.J. Holt and defensive back Sean Cattouse all made their debuts. Mansion scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. Geurts ran for 44 yards on six carries. Holt had four tackles.
So Cal now is 2-0 with a cross-country trip to Maryland next week. Many of you probably already saw the Bears moved into the Associated Press top 25 at No. 23 today. They also are No. 25 in the USA Today poll. Even though Maryland has had an uninspiring start — with a narrow home win over Deleware followed by a 24-14 loss at Middle Tennessee yesterday, Saturday still will be a challenge for Cal. The Bears will have to adjust to the time zone and play an early game (Noon eastern), and you can bet the Terps won’t make the same kind of breakdowns as the Cougars under respected coach Ralph Friedgen.
The game also will be on ESPN, so it will be a chance for the country to form its own opinion about the Bears. And it also could be a showcase game for Best, who is emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate early on.
We’ll start taking a closer look at Maryland tomorrow. Stay tuned…