It’s important to knock on wood

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The Cal football team did a lot of things right in the game Saturday. It just forgot one key part of the game plan: It forgot to knock on wood.

At halftime, the game looked like it was over. The Bears led 28-6, and Arizona didn’t look like it was going to threaten the Bears. The Wildcats’ freshman quarterback, Anu Solomon, who only had one interception in three previous games this season, had two going into halftime against the Bears.

I know several people who decided that the game was so over it was time to turn it off and go do other things. One friend of mine actually went to bed after halftime and woke up thinking the Bears had won.


It’s easy to understand the reaction from Bears fans. Jared Goff had a heck of a night. The Bears’ run game looked better than it has all season, even though Arizona was the toughest team the Bears have faced to date. Safeties Avery Sebastian and Griffin Piatt had a pick apiece, and at least for the first part of the game, the defense looked solid. The game seemed like such a certain win for the Bears.

But it wouldn’t be football if weird things didn’t happen. When the fourth quarter started, the Bears’ defense, looking worn down, let the whole game slip away.

It started off well when the Bears held the Wildcats to a field goal. But then, on the Bears’ next drive, Goff threw a fluke interception, his only interception of the game, giving Arizona the ball back on Cal’s 17. The Wildcats scored, making the game 31-23, but Cal fans still weren’t worried, especially because the Bears’ next drive resulted in a touchdown. The Bears led 38-23 with 10:56 to go.

Time to start knocking on wood.

The two teams started trading long touchdown drives, producing a score of 45-37 with 3:27 to go. Cal fans still weren’t freaking out. In fact, where I was watching the game, there was the confident sentiment of “Eh, Cal’s still got this. There’s no way Arizona is coming back.”

Knock on wood.

After the Wildcats scored another touchdown and missed the two-point conversion, the room was still sure the Bears would generate enough offense to run out the clock. Sure enough, Cal started on the Arizona 43-yard line because of a failed Arizona onside kick attempt, and after a pass interference penalty on 2nd down moved to the Arizona 32 with about 2.5 minutes left in the game. People around me kept saying that if Cal got a first down, the game was over.

Knock on wood.

Khalfani Muhammad ran for a loss of a yard. Arizona timeout. Muhammad ran for five yards to the Arizona 28. Third down and six.

Then, a play I still don’t understand was called: Back-up quarterback Luke Rubenzer was put in. Goff had been on fire throwing the ball, so putting Rubenzer in essentially told Arizona the Bears were going to run. There was no way Rubenzer would go in the game to throw instead of Goff.

Still, those around me kept saying: “If the Bears get this, game’s over.”

Knock on wood.

Rubenzer didn’t get the first down. In fact, he didn’t even come close. As soon as the ball was snapped, the Wildcat defense swarmed him and swallowed him whole. The Bears lost a yard on the play.

To make the Wildcats need at least a touchdown to win the game, the Bears’ field goal unit trotted out.

“Cal’s got this.”

Knock on wood.

James Langford’s 47-yard field goal attempt veered left.

The Wildcats got the ball back on their own 29-yard line, but an offensive pass interference call pushed them back to their 15-yard line. First throw was a nine-yard completion. The next throw was incomplete. The next pass was a nine-yard completion, but the Wildcats still had a 4th-and-seven on their own 33-yard line.

“The defense has looked so good all game. They’ve got this.”

Knock on wood, knock on wood.

Solomon then completed a 20-yard pass for a first down, moving the Wildcats into the Bears’ territory. After an incomplete pass, there were four seconds left on the clock. All that was left for the Wildcats to try was a Hail Mary pass from 47 yards away.

“There’s no way Arizona gets this.”

Knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood.

“Well, at least the Bears will win next week’s game against Colorado.”

Knock on wood.

This article originally appeared here.

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