Cal Bears need to improve to challenge Buckeyes 

click to enlarge Running back Isi Sofele #20 of the California Golden Bears scores a touchdown past defensive back Brennan Fjord #23 of the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and linebacker Zak Browning #35 during the first quarter. - JASON O. WATSON/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
  • Running back Isi Sofele #20 of the California Golden Bears scores a touchdown past defensive back Brennan Fjord #23 of the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and linebacker Zak Browning #35 during the first quarter.

Although the Cal football team got its first win with a 50-31 victory over Southern Utah on Saturday, the Golden Bears will have to play significantly better than they have in their first two games to have a chance in either of their next two games, against Ohio State and USC, both of which are on the road.

Although Cal ended up scoring 50 points and winning comfortably, the Bears led by just 20-17 entering the fourth quarter against a Football Championship Subdivision team that had lost to Utah State 34-3 the previous week. The numerous mistakes — both in terms of penalties and missed assignments — indicated a lack of discipline that is troubling.

The Bears were vastly superior in terms of talent, which was reflected by the fact that Cal outgained the Thunderbirds 353-83 in the first half. Nonetheless, Cal led just 20-10 at halftime. Two Cal turnovers and 10 first-half penalties kept the Thunderbirds in a game in which it seemed outclassed.

One of those penalties was particularly harmful. On the final play of the first half, Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen launched a Hail Mary pass from his own 47-yard line. The ball landed incomplete in the end zone, but pass interference was called on Cal, moving the Thunderbirds up 15 yards and giving them one more play.

Southern Utah used that extra play to hit a 38-yard touchdown pass, and when Southern Utah used a long drive to score a touchdown in the third quarter, Cal led by just three in a game it should have been dominating.

Cal scored 30 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away, but it was not indicative of an offensive rebirth. One fourth-quarter touchdown came on an interception by Marc Anthony, another came on a punt return by Keenan Allen and a third came on a 77-yard run by backup tailback Daniel Lasco in the closing minutes after the game was decided.

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