By Jack Ross
It wasn't just, "Roll on you Bears." It was roll, and roll, and roll and so on. Steamroll on you Bears. Football games (or any competitive contest, for that matter) simply do not get more lopsided than Saturday's 66-3 destruction of Washington State. Numbers tell one side of the story-Cal muscled nine touchdowns by seven different players, forced four turnovers leading to 28 points and rushed for a ridiculous 391 yards. The Cougs? One was their lucky number-one measly field goal, one third-down conversion and one depressing day for anyone in red at Martin Stadium. The one thing Washington State could win was time of possession.
Even some young Bears that most haven't yet heard of got in the mix for their first fill-in-the-blanks. Receivers Michael Calvin and Nyan Boateng caught their first receptions, linebacker Mychal Kendricks wrangled a sack, safety Brett Johnson hauled in an interception and quarterback Brock Mansion scored his first points. It was a first for me, too-my first Cal football game away the confines of Memorial Stadium and into enemy territory.
Though the trip forced us to miss two equally big stories-the earth below Berkeley shaking and the trees hanging over our heads finally getting the Axe-it was well worth it, for more than just the 66 reasons that initially come to mind. I left with only one regret-that I couldn't bet on the game. The Bears as a two-touchdown favorite was definitely a line worthy of firing at. ESPN writer Ted Miller said the game would be closer than expected. They covered the spread by 49 points. Aside from that, I gained a wealth of experience and the other side of the story. Not only did I get to see the sizeable promise of Cal football, but I also saw first-hand just how far apart we are from our conference neighbors of the northwest. It's more than just an hour-and-a-half plane ride from Oakland to Lewiston (for the record, fully-stocked with Dove Bars) that separates us. On the field, those differences were made numbingly clear. Off the field, they were less obvious, but just as present.
They start with something as small as our dance and spirit teams (who were far more experienced and talented than their red counterparts, by the way). They include our mascots-everyone knows Oski, but few know Butch, Washington State's hybrid between Wiley Coyote and Evel Kneivel, who leads the Cougars out of the tunnel on a ATV with an American flag waving behind. They run deeper when one of the most liberal leaning campuses in the free world travels to one of the west's conservative linchpins where the fans, ironically, are fully clothed in crimson red. My biggest hope is that Cal fans never go the way of the Cougar faithful. Not politically, but in terms of how they treat their own. At halftime, as their team tried to take shelter after the 42-point downpour, the Cougar student section rained boos on their team. After it was over, a few stragglers of the 27,000 in attendance stuck around for more free-speech directed at their fellow Cougs. Some cheered, many booed and a few chided, "You're an embarrassment!" If the Bears' program takes a turn towards Wazzu's downward spiral (something seemingly improbable with Tedford at the helm), hopefully Cal fans will resist that urge to throw their own under the bus. Let Washington State's savageness serve as a reminder to us. Try to keep a little perspective-and when the Cal quarterback with the second most wins in school history throws a couple picks, maybe cut him some slack. After all, it was less than 12 months ago that every student in Berkeley believed we couldn't win without him.
Now, his page has turned and it's the dawn of another day. This new day is one worth getting excited about. No matter the cautions that will soon come from the Bears' front office, know that this team has a true chance to be special. It's not every year you dismantle a conference foe by 63, nor is it easy. This team looks for real, and as their post-game locker room yells indicated, they sound for real, too. With a double-barreled backfield, savvy QB and swarming 3-4 defense playing with a chip on its shoulder, they're the 23rd-best team in America right now and, by season's end, could be even better. Does it mean we will beat USC or smell roses for the first time more than 50 years? Who knows. For now, jump on the wagon and relish having a relevant and exhilarating team that has a fighting chance at doing both of the above.