Not All Victories Are Created Equal

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PULLMAN, Wash. - The victory formation has gotten so rare outside of Memorial Stadium, that Cal must have forgotten when to use it.

With 1:27 left on the clock in Pullman, Washington State had just one timeout remaining.

Cal had a fresh set of downs ... but decided to hand off to Isi Sofele, rather than commencing with kneel-downs.

Eventually, quarterback Brock Mansion ran out the clock ญญ- and was he ever lucky to do so.

A game that was supposed to be Cal's guaranteed win, its tune-up before the nation's top squad visits Berkeley, turned out to be anything but.

Afterwards, coach Jeff Tedford maintained that "all wins are great wins."

Except when they're not.

Instead of abiding by recent college football custom and dispatching the Cougars early on, the Bears kept their opponent in the game for four quarters and had to hang on for dear life.

No victory against a team that has dropped 16 straight conference games should ever qualify as "great," but the Bears' Houdini act inside Martin Stadium was underwhelming at best and disconcerting at worst.

Cal may have finally clawed out that elusive road victory - the team's first in six tries - but the game was still filled with symptoms of the team's futility away from home: dropped passes on potential touchdowns, untimely penalties, poor field position and spotty special teams play.

The result?

The Bears were shut out in the opening quarter and mustered one first-half touchdown, making college football's most porous defense look like world-beaters.

They even gave much maligned coach Paul Wulff his first ever halftime lead over an FBS opponent.

Luckily, no more history was made in Pullman at Cal's expense, as the Cougars suddenly remembered their true identity.

The team cannot expect such fortune to strike again - even as the Bears conclude their 2010 campaign inside the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium.

Against a conference doormat, a performance like Saturday's yielded a nail-biting seven-point win. Against BCS-caliber squads in Oregon and Stanford on consecutive weekends, Cal will be lucky to make it to halftime in one piece.

I can guarantee that the Ducks and the Cardinal will not settle for just two field goals if given three possessions in Bears' territory.

Bryan Anger won't be able to chase down Kenjon Barner or Chris Owusu in the open field if the team's punt coverage breaks down again.

And Mansion definitely can't be expected to pull more 95-yard drives out of his pocket against Nick Aliotti's defense.

Senior wide receiver Jeremy Ross said that Cal's close victory at the Palouse will "give (the team) momentum in (its) next home games."

Perhaps. Let's hope that it ends up being a caution flag, rather than a blueprint.


Avoid embarrassment with Ed at [email protected]

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