TCU Football handled their business Saturday.
The Cal Bears did not.
Justin Wilcox’s team got off to a slow start in a season that was expected to be promising, blowing a 14-0 lead to Nevada on their way to a 22-17 defeat. The Wolfpack is a solid program; quarterback Carson Strong was the MWC offensive player of the year in 2020, leads an offense that can put points on the board, no doubt. But when none other than Gary Patterson says you’re one of the best defenses he’s watched on tape, you just can’t go around blowing two touchdown leads at home.
Chase Barbers is a guy that’s been in college football seemingly forever; the fourth year starter hit the 4,000 career yard mark in 2020 and has 25 career starts. After throwing ten picks in his freshman year, he’s thrown just six since, giving him a 34-16 touchdown to interception ratio through his first three seasons.
Against Nevada, Garbers went 25-38 for 177 yards, a TD and an INT. He led the Bears on touchdown drives the first two series of the game, but went three and out the next four gaining just 25 total yards. A string of five punts ended with back to back field goals, but an interception and a drive ending in downs did the Bears in.
The Bears used four guys to carry the ball last weekend, led by Damien Moore (15 carries for 79 yards and a score). DeCarlos Brooks had just two touches, collecting 46 yards with a long of 38. At receiver, Nikko Remigio led the team with seven catches but had just 22 yards, while eight other players had at least one reception.
“They’re probably one of the best defenses we play in Cal Berkeley. Cal is good on defense now, really good on defense. We’ve been watching them since last year. They would’ve been one of the better defenses we played last year, if not the best.”
Those were the words of Gary Patterson after the Duquesne game. And for someone who started watching Cal film a long time ago, well, he would know.
The Bears did not impress on that side of the ball Saturday; holding a team to 22 points isn’t bad of course, but allowing a 14 point lead to evaporate doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Strong tore the secondary up, throwing for over 300 yards with two touchdowns and connecting with seven different receivers in the process. Cal did shut down the run game, holding Nevada to just 61 total yards with a 2.3 average. The Pack was able to convert on some big third and long situations and were 1-1 on fourth down, and the Bears couldn’t stop the passing game when needed. Evan Tattersall and Luc Bequette had a sack apiece, while defensive end JH tevis led the team with six total tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. Senior CB Josh Drayden, a DeSoto native, had two passes defensed, and safety Miles Williams had the only pick of the night.
Ultimately, the Bears weren’t able to generate a ton of pressure on Strong, and that’s a good sign for Max Duggan and TCU.
It will be interesting to see whether the Frogs can get the run game going against Cal, and if they’ll need to use Max’s legs to do so. But Duggan and co should be able to attack a vulnerable secondary through the air, and if the start of game one was indication, expect them to go to the passing game early and often.
This will be a tough test for an offensive line that kept the jerseys clean Saturday, but they still shouldn’t face the kind of pass rush that will keep folks up at night. Defensively, I expect the Frogs to give Garbers fits: if he struggled against the Pack, well, this weekend is going to be worse. The Frogs will want to get Noah Daniels back on the field, but the defensive line could certainly make things easier for the secondary by staying in the backfield like they did in the opener.
This is a game that TCU has to win if they want to be taken seriously. The Bears had not lost a non-conference game since Wilcox took over, going 9-0 prior to Saturday’s L.
Well, they’re about to be 9-2.
TCU Football 33, Cal 17