The sense of desperation that had provided the only remaining emotional boost for Cal disappeared on Friday when the Golden Bears lost to Washington 21-13 in a disheartening and mistake-filled home game in front of a national television audience.
At 3-7, the Bears are left with no tangible motivation, other than to avoid an utter collapse, and they probably will be without their best player and their starting quarterback to finish up the season.
No longer do they have a shot at a bowl game, which means they will be staying home for the second time in three years after playing a postseason game seven years in a row.
Cal is also guaranteed its second losing season in three years, after having winning seasons in Jeff Tedford’s first eight years as coach. It raises serious questions about whether Tedford will return for the 2013 season, even though he had built the program from nothing to a national player before the recent slide.
The final two games may influence whether Tedford is retained, but those two games shape up as the toughest of the Bears’ season — a Saturday home game against unbeaten Oregon, which entered the weekend No. 2 in both polls, and a Nov. 17 road game against Oregon State, which entered the weekend No. 11 in the BCS standings.
Cal will be a clear underdog in both games, and two more defeats would mean the Bears would end the season with five straight losses and a 3-9 record.
Plus, there is the issue of mounting injuries to key players, the most important being wide receiver Keenan Allen, who is the school’s all-time leader in career receptions, and quarterback Zach Maynard.
Allen’s knee injury kept him out of the Washington game and is expected to sideline him for at least one more game and quite possibly both.
Meanwhile, there is no immediate prognosis for Maynard, who left the game against Washington with about four minutes left with a knee injury. But he had to be taken to the locker room on a cart.