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Cal Football: Bears Bludgeon North Texas
In which UNT wasn't mean and the Bears found a lot of green
Coming into the 2023 season, the identity of Cal Football was full of question marks. On Saturday in Denton, it was the all too familiar prolific Jake Spavital offense that re-cemented its place in Cal fans minds. After some early, uneasy back and forth between Cal and North Texas, the Bears not only broke away but battered down the Mean Green enroute to a 58-21 victory.
The 58 points are the most scored by Cal during the Justin Wilcox era. Their 669 yards of total offense was the fifth highest output in program history. The last time the Bears scored 50 points was against Oregon in a 2OT game back in 2016. This was nothing short of a statement game for Spavital and the Cal offense.
Early on, there was some uneasiness as North Texas moved the ball with ease, especially through the air. Ja’Mari Maclin burned both Lu-Magia Hearns and Jeremiah Earby in the early going for two touchdowns. In the same vein, Cal also moved the ball extremely effectively, with Jaydn Ott and Isaiah Ifanse combining for five touchdowns. Ifanse’s pin-ball, mack truck run on 4th down and 2 during the middle of the second quarter was a sight to see and a symbol for the how the rest of the game was going to go.
One of the other scares of the first half was when QB Sam Jackson V was injured on a scramble where he was rag-dolled to the ground and struggled to get up. Post game, Justin Wilcox said that more information will need to be gathered to determine the severity of the injury and designated it as an “upper body injury”. Matthew Cindric and Nate Burrell were also ruled out of the game after injuries and their statuses are unknown. Despite that, the falloff between starters to backups/other units was minimal and was one of the keys to Cal’s dominance today.
The aforementioned running game was the start of the day, gashing UNT for 357 yards on the ground. Ott, Ifanse, Ashton Stredick, all got into the endzone; Jaivian Thomas and Andy Alfieri also recorded carries and effective ones at that. During spring ball and fall camp, a lot of eyes were on the offensive line. Test number 1? Passed with flying colors. Several running lanes were opened up, even as backups came into the game. There were ZERO sacks given up throughout the game. Cal averaged 6.8 yards on first downs against UNT. Just an all around dominant performance for a group that needed a good start with a big test coming next week vs Auburn.
That groups effectiveness helped backup QB Ben Finley to a respectable 24/34 day with 279 yards and one touchdown, along with one interception. Finley’s poise throughout the game was a nice change of pace from backup quarterback futility in recent seasons, especially as he took some big hits. 10 different players caught a pass, in a bevy of situations from checkdowns to stop routes to contested catches in the red zone.
Outside of the early inconsistent secondary play and some jitters on kicks by Michael Luckhurst, the Bears played as well as they could’ve. They held North Texas to one first down in the final 40 minutes of game action. In addition, Cal outgained North Texas 343-7 in yardage to close the game. A second half clinic where the Bears outscored the Mean Green 25-0.
Welcome to the show, Cal fans. Act two vs Auburn next Saturday at 7:30PM. Go Bears.
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Epilogue: Thank you to all of you who came out to Dokkaebier for the inaugural Write For California watch party, it was a pleasure meeting you all! A big fat no thank you to the referees for throwing flags on all 4 Trond Grizzell catches (even if they picked one up), they clearly don’t want my agenda to expand.