The numbers illustrate the ghastly state of Cal football, all about mishandled budgets, stadium debt, paltry graduation rates and a string of discouraging losses. On Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the visuals took over: thousands upon thousands of empty seats.
And that, for athletic director Sandy Barbour, might be the cruelest development of all.
It’s one thing to take a series of body blows to one’s reputation. If the fans give up – and this couldn’t have been a more perfect Saturday afternoon in Berkeley – you don’t need media reports to get the bad news. It’s out there for the world to see.
As kickoff approached for what would be a 33-28 loss to Arizona, I wondered if the Cal student section would become even half full (it did, just barely). I wouldn’t have been surprised if the band turned up a few tubas shy. Even Tightwad Hill, where people can watch for free above Strawberry Canyon, was decidedly short on tightwads.
The announced crowd was 41,874, but the more accurate number was zero, as in expectations for this program as the season plays out. The Bears did show some improvement Saturday – they actually got a lead, for the first time since Sept. 7, and made things close at the end – but they are now 1-8, facing almost certain defeat against USC and Stanford and with no guarantee to win that Nov. 16 game at Colorado (3-5).
– Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle
The 49ers had six wins in the first half of the 2013 season, a total that doesn’t include their triumph over some serious obstacles.
On Sept. 23, the team was 1-2, had lost its previous two games by a score of 56-10, and troubled All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith was about to enter a treatment facility after the team’s controversial decision to let him play the previous day in a loss to the Colts, two days after a DUI arrest.
“We’ve got some adversity, there’s no question about it,” coach Jim Harbaugh said at the time. “And we’ll also have the rare opportunity of staring adversity in the face and whipping it. That’s our goal.”
The 49ers have since reeled off five straight victories, winning by an average of 22.6 points, and are just one game behind Seattle in the NFC West at the midway point of the season. The anticipated returns of Smith and wideouts Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree over the next few weeks have added to the optimism surrounding the team.
A reason not to get too giddy? The 49ers have beaten just one team with a winning record (Green Bay), and the teams they’ve toppled have a combined mark of 17-28. Their lone losses have come against Seattle and Indianapolis, who sport a combined 12-3 record.
The 49ers will soon have a chance to prove that they can beat some of the NFL’s better teams: Their next two games are against Carolina (4-3) and New Orleans (6-1), with a date against Seattle (7-1) looming Dec. 8.
–Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle
Cal’s blocking and tackling — the two basic building blocks of football — both were better Saturday in a 33-28 loss to Arizona.
Coach Sonny Dykes said the offensive line had its best day and the defense tackled better than it has all season.
He chalked up the improvement to continuity. “We’ve had some consistency in some of the players,” he said, referring to the fact that the Bears haven’t been forced by injuries to make lineup changes the past couple weeks.
Quarterback Jared Goff, who was not sacked, called offensive line’s performance “probably their best game so far. They did a great job of protection.”
The Bears’ often woeful running game, which averaged 3.0 yards per attempt through eight games, picked up yards at a 5.0 clip against Arizona. Sophomore Daniel Lasco, back after missing two games with a shoulder injury, had 12 carries for 71 yards.
“Once we got our running game going a little bit, it allowed us to get a little more of a rhythm,” Dykes said.
Earlier, Darren Ervin was thrown for a three-yard loss, resulting in the first safety the Bears have allowed since 2003. Dykes said the Bears missed an assignment, failing to pick up a blitz from the edge.
Defensively, the Bears keyed on Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, who is on pace to become the NCAA rushing champ for a second straight season. Carey ran for 152 yards — just about his season average — but needed 32 carries and never took over the game.
– Jeff Faraudo, Bay Area News Group