Cal coach Justin Wilcox faced more questions about losing during his Tuesday media session, and he isn’t making excuses for the Bears’ 1-5 record through the first half of the season.
“The win-loss column, that’s all there is,” Wilcox said. “We are all frustrated and disappointed in the way we’ve started the season.
“There’s been opportunities in every game to win the game. Ultimately, the stat that matters is winning and losing. . . . We’ve been close. They don’t count close in wins and losses.”
The Bears (1-5, 0-3) resume their season against Colorado (2-4, 1-2) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. The Buffaloes ended their own four-game losing streak last weekend with a a 34-0 rout of winless Arizona.
Wilcox said he sees no evidence Cal's players are giving up on this season. Both in practice and during games, he said, they continue to compete and play hard.
“Nobody expected us to be here in terms of what our win-loss record is,” Wilcox said. “We have a chance to play a lot more football and finish the season right. But it starts with what we do in practice. We have a very, very strong group of leaders on the team who care about their football experience, their teammates and their team.”
Wilcox said he understands not every player digests losing in the same way.
“There’s 115 guys and some guys, it’s a lot more difficult for them to go through some adversity. I think that’s life in general,” he said. “But the overwhelming majority of guys are choosing optimism and going to continue to work hard and drive on.”
Four of the Bears’ five defeats have been by seven points or fewer, including last Saturday’s 24-17 defeat at then-No. 9 Oregon. Cal had the ball at the 2-yard line for the game’s final play.
Prior to that, Cal led 14-0 against Nevada before losing by five points. The Bears fell by two points at TCU. They lost in overtime at Washington, fumbling the ball away on the game’s final play.
“We know we’re a better team than what our record shows,” said freshman linebacker Femi Oladejo (above), who had a career-high seven tackles against the Ducks. “We still have a lot of confidence. It’s not like we’re a bad team at all. Nothing like that.
“We know we’re on the verge of winning but we’re not taking that next level yet, so we’ve got to do it.”
Senior tight end Jake Tonges is trying not to be dragged down by the losing.
“From an emotional standpoint, it’s hard losing those close games. But I guess the one thing you can take away from it is we’re not out here getting blown out. We’re playing with every team,” he said.
“We really feel like we’re a couple plays away from we could be talking about a different first half of the season. That’s encouraging. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get it done in the second half of the season and pull off some wins.”
INJURY UPDATE: Wilcox said freshman cornerback Lu-Magia Hearns, who missed the Oregon game, should be healthy enough to start against Colorado. Likewise, he said offensive guard McKade Mettauer, who left the Oregon game with an injury, will be ready to play Saturday.
Wilcox said there is no change in the status of outside linebacker Kuony Deng, who will is expected to miss his fifth straight game with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
MUM ON ROLO: Not surprisingly, Wilcox declined to say much about Washington State’s firing on Monday of coach Nick Rolovich, who refused to meet Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate to be vaccinated as a state employee.
“Not much surprises me anymore in our profession,” he said. “I don’t know the details, other than what’s reported. And I don’t know that that would be something to have an opinion on.
“I know the obvious. But not being there, not understanding the details of it, I’m just going to stay away from that.”
PRAISING THE BUFFS: Colorado scored exactly the same number of points (34) against Arizona as it did during a four-game stretch where the Buffaloes lost to Texas A&M, Minnesota, Arizona State and USC.
“They played a very difficult schedule. I don’t know if their record is indicative of the kind of team they have,” Wilcox said. “So if you watch their games and who they’re playing, I think they have a good football team.”
In particular, Wilcox had praise for the Colorado defense, which is coming off its first shutout in a conference game since a 34-0 win over Oklahoma State on Oct. 1, 2005, when CU played in the Big 12.
“A very mature, physical group on defense. A lot of older guys who play very aggressively,” he said of a unit that is second in the Pac-12 in fewest points allowed (19.8 points per game) and first in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to convert just 70 percent of chances inside the 20-yard line into points.
That defense is led by senior linebacker Nate Landman, who played at Monte Vista High in the East Bay community of Danville. Landman has collected 337 career tackles, including 42 tackles for loss.
Cover photo of tight end Jake Tonges scoring a touchdown at Oregon by Chris Pietsch, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo