For Cal Bears, bowl game is Big Game against Stanford

For Cal Bears, bowl game is Big Game against Stanford

Jack Plummer has never played in the Big Game. But the Cal senior quarterback, a transfer from Purdue, has heard all about the Bears’ rivalry game against Stanford, which will celebrate its 125th edition next Saturday.

“I know for damned sure I’m coming to play,” Plummer said.

The renewal at Berkeley is the 40th anniversary of the game that produced Cal’s game-winning, five-lateral kickoff return that became known as The Play.

For the Bears, the Big Game is perhaps the only remaining source of motivation.

Their 38-10 loss at Oregon State on Saturday night was their sixth straight defeat and leaves the Bears at 3-7, 1-6 in Pac-12 play. Their fragile hopes of rescuing bowl eligibility dissolved at Reser Stadium.

“It obviously very disappointing,” Plummer said. “Quite frankly, the way we’ve played we haven’t earned to play in a bowl game.”

Here is a first look at the Big Game and takeaways from the Bears’ loss at OSU:

125th BIG GAME: For the second season in a row, both the Bears and Cardinal will enter their rivalry game with matching 3-7 records. Cal won 41-11 last year at Stanford.

“We recognize the importance of the Big Game to the university and our alumni and our student body,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “We need to make the most out of next week’s opportunity.”

Freshman cornerback Jeremiah Earby, who accounted for Cal’s only touchdown at OSU with a 33-yard scoop-and-score fumble return, grew up in Stanford country and attended Menlo-Atherton High.

This will be his first Big Game debut, but he has attended a couple of them. “Always a great game,” he said. “Really looking forward to it and being able to play in it. It’s a blessing.”

Amazingly, the road team has won the past four Big Games — the first time that has happened since a streak of six road winners from 1939-1947 (no games played in 1943-45 during World War II).

UNACCEPTABLE SHOWING: Cal has not won a game since a 49-31 rout of Arizona on Sept. 24, and Wilcox is running out of ways to express his disappointment.

He was displeased with every aspect of the Bears’ performance after the offense accounted for just 9 rushing yards and three points, the defense allowed the Beavers to keep the ball for nearly 37 minutes while converting 3-for-3 on fourth down, and the special teams surrendered a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown by Anthony Gould.

“We haven’t played up to the standard that we’ve set as a team. We haven’t coached well enough, we haven’t played well enough,” Wilcox said. “It’s just totally unacceptable. I don’t know what else to say.”

The Bears had just 53 yards at halftime while trailing 21-7. Subtract a 40-yard completion from Plummer to J. Michael Sturdivant, and Cal had 13 yards on 23 plays in the half — an average of 20 inches per snap.

Freshman running back Jaydn Ott, who rushed for 274 yards in Week 4 against Arizona, totaled 29 yards rushing and receiving on 12 touches.

“Kind of same ‘ol, same ‘ol,” Plummer said. “We’ve got to do our freaking job on offense and score points.”

NO EXCUSES: The Bears played without five injured defensive backs, including two starters, and their offensive line remains a fluid patchwork that included just two players who started in Week 1, neither of them at their original position.

“Everybody out there, maybe other than special teams, those guys are on scholarship and that’s what we brought them here to do.” Wilcox said. “They signed up and we need them to step up and perform.”

Plummer, who was sacked twice more and now 30 times for the season, refused to blame young O-linemen.

“That wasn’t the deciding factor with the offense, I’ll tell you that. Those guys held their own,” he said. “It comes down to us executing and we did not do that today.”

NEW KICKER, FAMILY NAME: Senior placekicker Dario Longhetto entered the game 9 for 14 on field goals and after he missed from 48 yards against the Beavers, Wilcox gave freshman Michael Luckhurst a shot.

The son of former Cal football/rugby star Mick Luckhurst converted a 36-yard field goal and added a pair of tackles on kickoffs.

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