On a hot Texas afternoon when Cal scored 30 points for the first time since the 2019 RedBox Bowl, there was discouraging news on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage.
The Cal defense, which has done most of the heavy lifting since coach Justin Wilcox arrived for the 2017 season, simply did not play to its usual standard.
In its 34-32 victory, TCU had rolled up more than 500 yards of offense before taking an intentional loss as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Cal hadn’t lost a game in which its offense rang up at least 30 points since a 45-44 setback to Arizona way back on Oct. 2, 2017 - Wilcox's debut season.
The Horned Frogs started slowly, totaling just 37 yards on 16 plays in a scoreless first quarter. Cal safety Daniel Scott pushed Cal’s lead top 12-0 when he scored on a 9-yard pick-six early in the second quarter.
From there, the Frogs built momentum, especially in the ground game where they gouged the Bears for 264 yards.
“We started to bleed on the inside run game,” Wilcox said. “They run some speed option, so they attack you with numbers once they involve the quarterback. When you start evening out the numbers in the run game, now you stress your (pass) coverage.”
No one hurt the Bears more than running back Zach Evans, who rushed for 183 yards and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt. He routinely ran through the first would-be tackler.
“The No. 1 thing that sticks out to me is yards after contact,” Wilcox confirmed. “When we look at the tape, it’s not going to be good.”
Quarterback Max Duggan orchestrates the TCU attack. He passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 71 more with another score. Duggan was particularly effective on third down, helping the Horned Frogs convert 10 of 18 opportunities.
Said outside linebacker Cameron Goode, “We’re always trying to get to third down. Once we get to third down, we’ve to to find a way to get off the field.”
Goode had a mixed day in his return to his home state of Texas. The sixth-year Golden Bears had five tackles, including three for losses. Two of those were sacks of Duggan that totaled losses of 27 yards, and he was credited with a quarterback hurry on another play.
Goode also was penalized twice, once for a barely late hit on Duggan after he pitched the ball to Evans on an option play, the other where he was flagged for a horse-collar on Evans.
Neither was flagrant.
“I’m not too sure about the first pitch. He had the ball and he pitched it right before I hit him, so I thought it was a clean hit,” Goode said. “The horse collar, I really thought I grabbed him on the shoulder. Yeah, those are tough calls.”
The Bears made no excuses. They weren’t fatigued, Goode said. They didn’t wilt in the heat, Wilcox said.
Cal played the final three quarters without senior outside linebacker Kuony Deng, who left with an undisclosed injury. His status for next week against Sacramento State is not known.
Cal traveled to Texas without backup inside linebacker Trey Paster, again for undisclosed reasons.
Cover photo of TCU's Max Duggan scoring a touchdown by Jerome Miron, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo