Following a bye week, Cal returns to action Friday night in Eugene, Ore., against No. 9 Oregon.
The Bears (1-4, 0-2) posted a 21-17 victory over the Ducks (4-1, 1-1) last Dec. 5 in Berkeley for their most recent victory over a Pac-12 opponent, but they aren’t leaning on that outcome to fuel confidence for this week.
“Last year was last year, and we’re focused on playing better as a team,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “I don’t feel like the guys are lacking confidence. We just haven’t finished games.”
Since losing to Washington State 21-6 on Oct. 2, the Bears have focused on individual improvement. The bye week also provided players with the chance to get healthier, especially veterans whose work load in practice was reduced.
Cal also sent coaches on the road at the end of last week to watch high school and junior college games as part of their recruiting efforts.
Wilcox said the players continue to respond during workouts. “I sound like a broken record here but the guys practiced well,” he said.
Seniors Elijah Hicks and Nikko Remigio echoed Wilcox’s sentiments that very little time was devoted to last year’s game against the Ducks.
“We were glad to get that win last year but this is a new year. During the bye week we really dialed into the things we need to improve on,” said Hicks, the Bears’ safety and leader of the secondary.
“In the DB room specifically, I feel like we’ve been getting better each week. But we’re hungry. We know we can play a lot better than we’ve been putting out there. We’re excited for this week.”
Remigio, who had the go-ahead touchdown catch midway through the third quarter last season against the Ducks, won’t be thinking about that on Friday night at Autzen Stadium.
“Referring to games that we’ve played in the past, I don’t think it has too much of an effect on how we approach the games this year and out overall outlook on Oregon as a program currently,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s something we’re relying on too heavily.”
Remigio said the Bears benefited from hitting “a hard re-set,” and regrouping during the bye week.
“The whole week was an opportunity for each and every one of us to not only collectively as a team but individually just kind of flush the mishaps that we’ve had and really look into the finer details of what we messed up.”
Hicks stressed that while the Bears aren’t trying to lift their spirits by reflecting on last year’s game, the performance does have meaning.
“What last year’s victory tells our team is we don’t need any kind of special plays, we don’t need new players, we don’t need anything different than what we already have,” he said.
“We can win with what we have and we’ve done it before.”
Here's more from Hicks, talking about the Bears' disappointing season so far. "It makes us hungrier," he says. "It's time to win."
INJURY UPDATE: Outside linebacker Kuony Deng will miss his fourth straight game, Wilcox confirmed, with a lower-body injury. He characterized Deng’s timetable as being “an extended period.”
Likewise, reserve running back DeCarlos Brooks will miss his second straight game at Oregon. Remigio and offensive tackle Will Craig both will play, Wilcox said, after being injured against Washington State.
COLORADO GAME TIME SET: The Bears will return home to face Colorado on Saturday, Oct. 23, with the game kicking off at 12:30 p.m.
The Pac-12 Network will air the game.
The Bears and Buffaloes have not met since Cal won 33-21 back in November 2018 at Berkeley. Cal is 4-0 all-time vs. CU at home.
Cover photo of Elijah Hicks by Jerome Miron, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo