Kyle Terada - USA Today
It was the focal point of week one, quarterback Ross Bowers getting destroyed by a North Carolina defensive lineman on a called targeting penalty, one that shifted the direction of the game. It was a monster hit, after which Bowers noted it'd probably be the worst he'd get.
"After that first one and really the targeting was kinda like ‘well that’s probably the worst one you’ll get all day,’" Bowers said back after North Carolina, "so smooth sailing from this point on."
On 3rd and 7 in the 3rd quarter last Saturday, Ole Miss dialed up a seven man pressure. Cal had six blockers. Bowers lofted a perfect post pattern to his favorite target Vic Wharton. A split second later, Bowers took a massive shot under the chin from the uncovered man.
"Well it's nice when it goes for a touchdown, that sure helps, and we still had time left on the game clock, so we had to finish...I've got to be tough for my guys, because they're tough for me every single play.
Yeah, it wasn't too bad."
The play stood as another turning point, as the Bears made it a one score game, kicked a field goal in the 3rd quarter, then shut down Ole Miss for the rest of the second half.
From the look of the play, it looks like a targeting call that was missed. Justin Wilcox noted Wednesday that they send off plays to the league after every game that may be questionable. While he didn't say it outright, this looks to be one of them.
What it also was was a play that Wilcox showed during the team meeting at the beginning of the week. The Cal coaching staff puts up eight plays or so from the previous week's game as examples of what they want points they want to get across. This week appeared to be toughness and resilience, as plays like this, Malik McMorris's spine compressing block on 4th and 1, and Cam Goode's pick six, were up in that meeting among others. You can see a little bit of that resilience in Bowers reaction after the hit.
"He got killed by two guys," freshman tight end Gavin Reinwald noted,"but coach Wilcox pointed out too is that he didn't care, he literally rolled over and looked for Vic to see if he caught the ball. That's just the type of quarterback he is."
Bowers appears to be cut from a different cloth. He takes shots and pops right back up. As the son of two coaches, he's had resiliency ingrained in the early going, and he doesn't like to take credit. When asked what the most important position to a team in all sports was, he went outside the expected answer of quarterback.
"Head coach or strength coach, one of those two," Bowers said, "(the strength coach) establishes the culture, along with the head coach, it’s 50-50, we spend more time with (the strength and conditioning staff) honestly."
He's not Jared Goff or Davis Webb, whose lofty numbers are hard to live up to, but he's been resilient, a core component for a team that's outscored opponents 57-13 in the second half. Don't get it wrong, Bowers taking monster hits is something that no one on the Cal sideline wants to continue to see happen, but it's shown that he can make plays under adversity and come back stronger, and that's exactly what this Cal team needs going forward.