Rating the Bears: Cal at TCU Football

A dramatic rematch in which nothing is the same except the final outcome.

I’m going to be completely honest: the Cheez-It Bowl is one of my favorite Cal games of all time. It was a wacky, incomprehensible display of football at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the wacky, incomprehensible displays of football under Sonny Dykes that led to the 45-49 Hill Mary loss to Arizona, the 59-56 win over Colorado, and the 60-59 win over Wazzu in consecutive weeks. I wasn’t even mad that we loss the Cheez It Bowl because it was such an incredible display of offensive ineptitude.

So naturally, after last week’s 45-minute hibernation for the offense many of us were expecting a Cheez It Bowl redux. Rather than a total of 2 TDs and 9 interceptions, we were treated to 10 TDs and only a single interception. Alas, just like last time, the Bears squandered a solid lead and fell agonizingly short in the end. And yes, I considered Cal’s 7-0 lead a solid lead in the Cheez It Bowl; it felt more like 35-0.

Rating the Bears

In a rare feat in the Wilcox era, the scores for Pass Offense and Rush Offense were the two highest categories this week. The defense scores were okay and special teams earned the lowest scores of the week, continuing a disturbing trend. Unfun fact: three of the team’s last four losses are directly attributable to special teams mistakes. The special teams scores were all over the place as indicated by the standard deviation of 29.3. Some of us likely punished special teams for botching an extra point and the ensuring series of unsuccessful two-point conversions while others of us rewarded the team for some spectacular punt coverage against a dangerous returner. Overall scores were okay thanks to the narrow loss on the road to a tough team, but the coaches were hammered due to some bizarre decisions (the two-point conversions, a surprising number of third-and-short passes, the failure to run out the clock at the end of the first half).

Due to the 0-2 start, predictions of a win over Sacramento State have dipped a bit. Can we finally notch a comfortable win over an FCS team under Wilcox?

Ratings Comparison

Next we compare this week’s ratings to all the other Power 5 games (OOC games and bowl games) since we started this series in 2010.

It’s utterly meaningless, but I am amused by how linear those points are from pass offense to special teams. The offense scores were about average compared to other games against Power 5 opponents (although look at how stellar those pass scores have been over the last eleven seasons--there are only 3 games below 60). Defense was slightly below average and special teams and coaching were comparatively abysmal. If these low coaching scores persist all season, we may be due for a shakeup among the assistants this offseason…

Next we’ll compare this week’s ratings to all the other games in the Wilcox Era.

Same story as above: offense was decent, defense was comparatively poor, and special teams were awful. Coaching and overall fared better than in the comparison to all Power 5 OOC games. This is due to our surprising success out-of-conference in recent years.


Time for awards: best, worst, and those who stick closest to the wisdom of the crowd.

Old Blues

First, the lowest scores of the week.

David Shaw is an asshole wins this week. I fully agree with that user name. How dare he deprive the rest of the conference another chance to face Clay Helton!

Sunshine Pumpers

Next, highest scores of the week.

Calamo wins for about the millionth time in a row.

The Voice of Reason

Finally, forget the wisdom of the crowd. Just listen to these folks.

SGBear leads the way this week. And I promise I didn’t fix the results as a thank you for hosting the Write for California tailgate in Fort Worth...


And now, the comments.

Any comments on the gameday experience?

  • Heyalumnigo - W4C tailgate with SGBear, FS + wife, HSB, GO + SO, Cugel + Cugelson. Probably over 2 lbs of brisket per person. We all sat with Newellbany and Jimmy Chitwood + friends. Stadium is pretty cool. We sat on the 2nd deck in the NE corner. It was probably low to mid 90s but without the humidity I was expecting. After the game we just hung out at the tent eating more brisket for maybe 2 hours before they kicked us out.

  • SG Bear - Was at the game w/ the DBD crew. Very few other Cal fans. I estimate less than 3k. Hot but not Maryland hot thanks to "low" humidity. Tailgate - which was set up next to TCU Song Girl's tent - was civil despite 3 gallons of Fire Starkey's Mexican Martinis. TCU has a neat stadium, but they stick visitors in the far corners. I couldn't tell down & distance very well. I won't be sad if I don't visit Ft. Worth again and the experience dulled my passion to visit North Texas. Thanks to the dozens of Cal fans who rolled by our tailgate and said they were fans of Write for California. Yes, that was us on tv in the 2nd quarter.

  • Goldenbear88 - Fantastic! Recorded the game so I could skip all of the commercials and inevitable heartbreak at the end.

  • TD_24 - Those commentators for the game were actual idiots. I could've done better than that garbage on ESPNU.

  • Wiata78 - Another game not on the Pac12 network, so I'm able to watch it. I put Starky and Palowski on the radio and ignore the ESPNU announcers.

What are your thoughts on Cal's passing game?

  • Haasbear - Shocking to see so many successful deep balls.

  • GlueAndBold - TCU was giving Garbers a lot of leeway in the first half and he made the most of it. They tightened up in the second half and Cal adapted poorly.

  • Texashaterforlife - Showed improvement from last week, but still needs work

  • ​​TD_24 - Hmmm its almost like good things happen when you actively attempt to throw the ball down the field. An actual 180 to how we played against Nevada.

  • MoochPunt - The deep ball looked like a real weapon. Short, on target passes need to be caught.

  • Heyalumnigo - Much better play calling, for the most part. We actually attacked downfield. I assume that the play calling in the Nevada game was conservative by design.

  • Goldenbear88 - Much improved. But as soon as that happens the defense and special teams take a step backwards.

  • Goldenone - We finally stretched the field and Garbers exceeded 300 yards passing on the day, so adequate in the context of the game plan.

  • BTown85 - Chase did what we've all been looking for Chase to do. Thank GAWD he showed his potential.

  • Terence - Hey! We can throw downfield! I applaud the big throws. I question those throws on 3rd and short situations though. Why try the low percentage bomb when we need 5 yards or less? Sure you might do that once if the defense is flooding the box and playing up and press coverage on the wideouts - but we ran the deep route 3 or 4 times on reachable distances.

What are your thoughts on Cal's running game?

  • SG Bear - TCU stacked the box by flexing their safeties forward to show an 8 man box. Cal ran admirably against a stacked box. Blocking was quite good.

  • Sacman701 - Decent, but we weren't able to consistently move the chains.

  • Terence - I think we're too talented to be sputtering like we are.

  • TFUNK911 - Worthless in the first half, effective in the second half. Complete opposite of last game.

  • MoochPunt - Lack of push by the O-line. Lack of vision by the running backs. Still there were sone good called runs. More consistency needs to be developed.

  • Haasbear - We need to run more.

What are your thoughts on Cal's pass defense?

  • Haasbear - The pick 6 was fun.

  • GlueAndBold - That Pick 6 was beautiful but the heat was clearly taking a toll as the game went on.

  • TD_24 - Losing Deng pretty much killed the defense and any hope along with it. They were bad on 3rd down in the 2nd half however I liked what I saw from Goode, Bequette, and Scott.

  • MoochPunt - No wide open receivers. No blown coverages. Better pressure on the passer. I’d like to see more creative blitzes. Only the one run after catch with poor tackling.

  • TFUNK911 - Corners are still getting burned consistently but at least it wasn’t as much as last week. Boy the bar is low for us.

  • Goldenbear88 - Except for Scott's pick-six, atrocious. It gave up too many deep balls for touchdowns.

  • BTown85 - Held up for the first half, but finally gave in to a good passer

  • Sacman701 - Not great. The pressure was decent, but the secondary sprung a lot of leaks.

  • SG Bear - TCU put a lot of pressure on the secondary with their air raid and spread concepts. TCU straight out beat us on several deep plays through good offense. But I cannot abide by the poor tackling/angles. That was horrible and lost the game.

What are your thoughts on Cal's run defense?

  • Heyalumnigo - I gave the run defense a 0 based on the two TCU plays scoring a TD when they got the ball back with 30 seconds left.

  • Goldenlikethebears - Lacking.

  • TFUNK911 - Played really well against a 5* running back and extremely mobile QB for a half but absolutely fell apart late in the game. Tacking is still a big issue.

  • Goldenone - Poor tackling killed us, which got worse as the game went on.

  • BTown85 - Held up for the first half, but finally gave in to a good runner

  • Terence - One of the constants, I thought, about the Wilcox era has been our tackling. But it looks like middle era Dykes defense out there.

  • Sacman701 - Here's where we lost the game. Positioning and tackling were poor, which isn't what you need to stop someone like Evans. Of course the heat was a factor, especially in the second half. Defenses tire out faster than offenses do.

  • SG Bear - It was good and then it would completely collapse due to awful tackling - especially the secondary. Sirmon also might have some spicy words in the ILB room when they review film. Two ILB mistakes directly created 2 TDs. D-line was pretty good at doing their job, which was absorb blockers with an occasional break through.

  • Wiata78 - Not great, but good enough to have won the game.

What are your thoughts on Cal's special teams?

  • Haasbear - Charlie Ragles unit has cost us wins in 3 of our last 5 games.

  • GlueAndBold - Failure to execute later was problematic but that mis-snapped PT at the beginning left us trying to catch up the entire game.

  • Wiata78 - Terrible. Even in college, you never see a snap that bad. Bad execution, bad decisions, bad coaching.

  • MoochPunt - A bad snap should not start a cascade of poor decision making.
    Don’t go for 2 until you know it will make the difference in the game, usually in the 4th quarter.
    Don’t take points off the board.

  • TFUNK911 - Still getting better and seeing improvement but with how bad they have been in the past, it’s hard not to.

  • Goldenbear88 - It blows! Last week I gave them a "meh" rating because at least they didn't do anything to cost us the game. Today, they reverted back to their 2020 form and blew it for us big time.

  • Goldenone - Absolutely atrocious in both planning and execution. Ragle must be shown the exit.

  • Terence - I don't know if anyone watches Ball is Life videos on Youtube (i swear this story has a point) -it's a lot of fights and trash talking and honestly not very good basketball. But there's a guy on there - Frank Nitty (Franklin Sessions) who is a moderately successful pro - he plays in the Qutari League - but he's also the 3 time MVP of the Los Angeles area summer pro-am league the Drew League. All these guys out here like to ISO and show off and throw crosses at everyone - and Frank always says "just play basketball and TAKE CARE OF THE LITTLE THINGS" and we are definitely not taking care of the little things.

  • SG Bear - The extra points stuff is point of debate that can go round and round. I will take the coward's way out and not weigh in.

What are your thoughts on the coaching staff's performance?

  • Northtunnelecho - They call long passing plays on third and short why?

  • Goldenlikethebears - Seriously, how do you score the same number of touchdowns than the other team and still lose?

  • TFUNK911 - Last week, even if the play calling was better, I still wouldn’t trust the players to execute well enough to win. This week the coaches lost the game, plain and simple.

  • Goldenone - A poor effort with predictable (and inadequate) decision making.

  • BTown85 - In hindsight a question going for it on 4th on the first drive, but at the time I was all in! So, can't cast any shade there........ But never take points off the board......ack.....

  • Winebear - Two missed 2pt attempts, lose by 2. Needless 2pt attempt early, on the coaches

  • Terence - I'm actually ok with the 4th down decision on the 7, 50/50 on the taking the point off the board. but the constant throws deep on short third downs and the odd decision to continue to go for 2 after a delay of game .. . we just didn't cross our t's or dot our i's.

  • Tangtpt - In 30 years of watching Cal football, I can't remember a play call that I disagreed with more at the moment than Cal's last play from scrimmage at the end of the first half. I'm by no means a football expert - more of an armchair guy - but it seemed to me that the amount of risk of throwing the ball deep in that situation far outweighed the benefit of getting a 2-yard first down run and/or keeping the clock running. That just made no sense to me, and I can't understand what Musgrave is doing. He seems to be trying to outsmart himself, which is dangerous against good teams.

  • Sacman701 - They came out prepared and did a good job of keeping TCU guessing, but the two deep thrown on 3rd and short really killed us. The first one gave TCU time to score before the half, and the second cut short a possession we needed to keep going.

  • SG Bear - No comment.

  • GlueAndBold - Run more when it's successful. Work on tackling and defense in general. Get a new special teams coach.

  • AlohaBear - I was actually quite happy with the coaching for this game. The team looked ready to play 4 quarters unlike last week. They made the sort of adjustments we wanted them to (hello downfield passing). The coaching really hurt us though when they chased extra points. It was painful to watch a point come off the board, you just knew we'd want that one later in the game.

What are your thoughts on Cal's overall performance?

  • Haasbear - If this coaching ineptitude continues, Wilcox won’t be the coach of cal in December.

  • GlueAndBold - The offense massively improved after the previous game and that's something. If Cal can stretch the field, we've got a chance. But playcalling and coaching in general just cost us a second game.

  • AlohaBear - I'd be happy too watch this team every week of the season, I just wish we played like this last week.

  • Wiata78 - Another painful Cal loss. Even so, all will be forgiven if we win the rest of the games…

  • Texashaterforlife - CAL played better than I thought they would on the road.

  • TD_24 - If I'm Sac State I smell blood in the water. And I'm not sure if Cal will be up to punching back to be honest.

  • MoochPunt - Cal has been in both games so far this year. There was definite growth from week one to week two. However the lack of consistency on offense, defense, special teams and coaching continues. Our opponents have made halftime adjustments and dominated the second half. I’d like to see Cal put together a complete game against Sac State and not play down to their level.

  • Heyalumnigo - We did much better on O than i was expecting after the Nevada game. We beat the spread so that's good? Wilcox needs to learn not to take points off the board and when to go for 2.

  • TFUNK911 - TCU wasn’t very good. We are just worse. Definitely saw improvement in pretty much ever phase of the game except coaching/play calling yet we still terrible. Soooo many issues to work out.

  • Goldenbear88 - It was gutsy, we didn't roll over but we just seem to have a knack for making boneheaded calls and mistakes and finding a way to lose. God, being a Cal Football fan is one of the most masochistic things that a person can do to themselves. Someday I will wake up and start rooting for Alabama like my brother does!

  • Old Bear 71 - Players are good enough to beat about anyone out there. Sadly Current Coaching is not up to it. I love a clean program, manned by genuine students who are also athletes, but our current level of game prep, and in-game coaching will never get us to the Rose Bowl. 7-5 in a good year. GO BEARS!

  • ​​Terence - Honestly, I'm slightly encouraged, but things better get better fast, or I'm just going to sleep through the game and check my phone in the morning.

  • Tangtpt - Better than last week.

  • SG Bear - I know people are lashing out wanting to blame someone. There were plenty of mis-execution that would have meant victory if they didn't happen - just like against Nevada. But there were plenty of bright spots. Good blocking. Decent QB play for 3 of 4 quarters. A resurgent running attack. No turnover. Fewer drops. Some great catches. We're upset because we're so close to winning, not because we're hopeless.

Thanks for participating! Ratings should be much better after a win next week. And if the Bears lose you can blame me for jinxing the team.