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Cal Football

Bears vs. Bear Down: Arizona Preview

September 21, 2022
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Adversity defines team sports. Losing “circled games” happens to a lot of teams; it’s not the losing that determines their eventual success as a team --- it’s their response to it.

After being tied, or holding a lead, for almost 45 minutes of last Saturday’s contest against Notre Dame in South Bend, the Golden Bears are in their first week of practice all year following a loss. The way they lost, agonizingly close to a tying touchdown in the final seconds, may define their season.

Conference play opens Saturday, and if ever the Golden Bears needed a touch of revenge to motivate themselves, it will be right across the line of scrimmage. The Arizona Wildcats snapped the nation’s longest FBS losing streak last November in Tucson, defeating a woefully COVID-depleted Cal squad 10-3 on a touchdown within the game’s final three minutes. It was the Wildcats’ only victory of the season. Arizona has defeated the Golden Bears six straight years.

Different team, different year – but, same uniform, and just a little more reason to put in the extra effort this week. Revenge is a dish best served wrapped in paper at Memorial Stadium, not on a fancy plate at Chez Panisse.

Under second-year head coach Jedd Fisch, the Wildcats have gone 3-12, but they are 2-1 this year after dominating San Diego State 38-20 and hosting perennial FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, scoring a late touchdown to knock off the Bison 31-28. It was the first time an FBS team had defeated North Dakota State since 2010, during which time the Bison were 6-0 vs. FBS teams. Arizona had not scored 30+ points in multiple games since 2019.

Despite having only coached at Arizona for a year, Fisch is actually 2-0 lifetime coaching against the Golden Bears, as he guided UCLA to a win while acting as Interim Head Coach for the Bruins in 2017.  Under Fisch and defensive coordinator Don Brown, the Wildcats improved from dead-last in the conference on defense to #5 last season.

No conference opponent looks more different this year than Arizona, which has 50 new faces on the roster, including 9 players gleaned from the transfer portal. Perhaps the biggest impact player from the portal is sophomore QB Jayden pūkonakona ha'awi mai nā makua hā 'ele mai ka hiapo e wili 'ia me ke aloha de Laura.  A two-time state champion at St. Louis High School in Honolulu, de Laura played in a dozen games for Washington State last year, leading them to their first victory in the Apple Cup in a decade. De Laura threw for 2798 yards and 23 TDs in 2021.

His favorite target is junior portal transfer (from UTEP) wideout Jacob Cowing. Cowing already has 5 touchdown catches this year, tied for #2 in the nation. Cowing played three seasons for the UTEP Miners and led the team in receiving yardage all three years. He’s caught a pass in 35 consecutive games, which is the second-longest active streak in FBS. Cowing hauled in 8 balls for 152 yards and three TDs against San Diego State, and caught the winning touchdown against North Dakota State.

In addition to Cowing, keep an eye on Tetairoa McMillan (Servite HS, Anaheim, CA), who was the highest-ranked recruit ever to sign on in Tucson. McMillan was the 5th-ranked HS receiver and Arizona’s lone 5-star recruit. McMillan, a 6-5, 205 lb. true freshman, wears number 4.

The Wildcats demonstrated a surprising rushing attack vs. the Bison, running the ball 36 times for 192 yards, nine first downs, and a 4.6 yd. per carry average. De Laura was their leading carrier with 10 rushes for 58 total yards (50 net). Michael Wiley had 9 carries for 51 net yards. Wiley has 131 yards rushing to lead the team this season.

On the opposite side of the ball, their improved defense gave up a ton of yardage to the Bison. North Dakota State ran the ball 45 times for 283 yards, averaging well over 6 yards per carry and racking up 16 first downs. I’m sure the running back room is watching that film very carefully, as Cal is likely to want to establish their own running game and use it for clock management Saturday. The 283 yards allowed were the fourth-most in a victory in Wildcats history.

Arizona has shown excellent pre-snap discipline, having committed just one penalty for 15 yards against NDSU. Cal will need to play a clean game to avoid handing over an advantage to the Wildcats.

The ‘Cats defense has already equaled the 2021 team with 6 turnovers forced in just three contests. They rank 3rd overall in the PAC-12 on pass defense (11th in the FBS) but just 11th in rushing defense in the conference.

The Golden Bears are a 5.5-point favorite, with the over/under pegged at 50.5.  The game kicks off from Memorial Stadium at 2:30 pm Saturday and is televised on the PAC-12 Network.

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Discussion from...

Bears vs. Bear Down: Arizona Preview

1,337 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 day ago by Rushinbear
BearoutEast67
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Arizona allowed MissSt to pass for 320 yards and turned the ball over 3 times against them on 9/10, losing 39-17.
heartofthebear
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BearoutEast67 said:

Arizona allowed MissSt to pass for 320 yards and turned the ball over 3 times against them on 9/10, losing 39-17.
Something was wrong with QB DeLaura in that game. That was not the case Saturday and don't count on it this Saturday either. After DeLaura deconstructed us in Berkeley last year, I am not taking him lightly at all.
MoragaBear
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heartofthebear said:

BearoutEast67 said:

Arizona allowed MissSt to pass for 320 yards and turned the ball over 3 times against them on 9/10, losing 39-17.
Something was wrong with QB DeLaura in that game. That was not the case Saturday and don't count on it this Saturday either. After DeLaura deconstructed us in Berkeley last year, I am not taking him lightly at all.
DeLaura was 25-41 (61%), 213 YDS, 3 TD, 2 INT. 5.1 ypp.

That loss was more on the offense's inability to move the ball and finish drives and the line's failure to deal with WSU's pass rush

DeLaura does have talent though and Cal could easily lose if they're not on their game..
Rushinbear
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MoragaBear said:

heartofthebear said:

BearoutEast67 said:

Arizona allowed MissSt to pass for 320 yards and turned the ball over 3 times against them on 9/10, losing 39-17.
Something was wrong with QB DeLaura in that game. That was not the case Saturday and don't count on it this Saturday either. After DeLaura deconstructed us in Berkeley last year, I am not taking him lightly at all.
DeLaura was 25-41 (61%), 213 YDS, 3 TD, 2 INT. 5.1 ypp.

That loss was more on the offense's inability to move the ball and finish drives and the line's failure to deal with WSU's pass rush

DeLaura does have talent though and Cal could easily lose if they're not on their game..
What is it about AZ? I keep thinking they'll self-destruct. Who do they have? Then, along comes deLaura. But, still... Why do players go there? What distinguishes them (easy classes and women only go so far, don't they?). Maybe I better rephrase that.
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