If you spent the afternoon wondering aloud if Cal is good or not, you’re not alone.
For three quarters the Golden Bears toyed with the minds of college football fans who could always count on an easy win in Berkeley. While No. 5 USC struggled to stay in rhythm, Cal made the smart plays, worked the clock and found themselves in a 13-13 tie heading into the fourth quarter.
Which is when it all came crashing down for the Bears in their 30-20 loss to USC.
After giving up a field goal to open the frame, Cal took over with the ball near its own goal line and reminded everyone just how far the Bears have to go to compete in the Pac 12.
Why yes, that is Cal quarterback Ross Bowers placing the ball right into the the arms of USC’s Uchenna Nwosu. And that’s what it looks like when progress becomes pain. The Trojans promptly scored off the turnover en route to 17-7 run to end the game.
This isn’t simply to bash Cal and Bowers. What head coach Justin Wilcox has done with the Golden Bears in little time is impressive. You just don’t go from beating North Carolina, Weber State and a depleted Ole Miss to toppling a conference powerhouse like USC. Especially if your team is prone to self-inflicting wounds like the ones that doomed Cal on Saturday.
The Bears turned the ball over six times on Saturday with Bowers throwing four interceptions. Even with a defense that holds USC to just 13 points through three quarters, putting extra pressure on a unit already doing its part hardly ever work outs well. That Cal out-gained USC 416 yards to 359 yards will be one of those numbers that stands out until factoring in the favorable field position the Bears kept giving the Trojans.
It’s easy enough to write this off as a trap game for USC with a trip to No. 21 Washington State looming in Week 5. It quickly became a statement game for a Cal team looking to upset a playoff hopeful. And then it didn’t. Bowers’ interception near the Cal goal line essentially ended any chance of a Bears victory. Before you can compete in any power five conference, you have to make sure you don’t defeat yourself.
Cal couldn’t do that on Saturday.
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