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The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
Scouting the Cal Bears: they may be golden but the result is more likely to be grisly

Jared Goff throws from the shoulder. At 6-4, 205, he has a nice release and can get rid of the ball quickly, but it’s a three-quarter throwing motion. In their game against Northwestern the Wildcats tipped, deflected or batted down four passes, one of which was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Collin Ellis, who got another pick six when a pass bounced off a receiver’s hands and into his arms in the flat.

The two sudden-change scores were the difference in the game, Cal losing their home opener and Sonny Dykes’ debut as head coach, 44-30. Even with the miscues, it was close: Cal had the ball at midfield trailing 37-30 with 3:47 to go after a nifty over-the-shoulder interception by Alex Logan. 

On the very next play Goff threw a pick going for the home run, and the Bear defense, worn down by a long night, gave up runs of 55 and 25 yards in a 6-play, 91-yard drive for the clinching touchdown.

Taylor-made match up: Jared Goff is a true freshman first-year starter at quarterback for the Cal Bears, who throw the football 56 times a game. So far this season his offensive line has surrendered 12 sacks, while the Ducks have 8 on defense. Pressure from the Oregon defensive front is one of the keys to this game (Gary Breedlove, Eugene Daily News photo). 

First-year defensive coordinator Andy Buh’s unit is thin and beat up. Former Central Catholic linebacker Defensive end/linebacker Brennan Scarlett, 6-4, 260 is out for the Oregon game with injury. Wilsonville product Johnny Ragin is practicing in a red jersey after being sick last week. Defensive ends Sione Sina and Nate Broussard are out for the season. Except for junior cornerback Kam Jackson, the team’s active career leader in interceptions with four, they’re holding open auditions in the secondary. Against Ohio State true freshman cornerback Cameron Walker started at safety; he’d been practicing at the position for four days.

The Buckeyes cracked the Bears early, getting out to a lightning fast 21-0 lead with scoring passes of 90 and 47 yards to receiver Devin Smith. No doubt Josh Huff is studying that tape with interest.

With both teams running no-huddle, the PAC-12/Big10 match up was a furious offensive show. The game featured 86 points, 11 touchdowns and 1,111 total yards on 177 plays. The Bears moved the ball but didn’t have the depth to keep the pace. They showed improvement in both execution and discipline in this game, limiting themselves to just 28 yards in penalties and two turnovers after having 80 and three in week one.

Northwestern gashed them with inside runs and intermediate passes, getting yards in chunks in the middle of the field. Their starting quarterback left the game early with a concussion.

On offense, expect a lot of quick throws and runs that look like passes. Goff spreads the ball around to his backs and three outside receivers, using a lot of screens, flat routes, out routes and hooks. It’s a dink-and-dunk offense similar to what Arizona used to use with Nick Foles–not surprising, since Goff and Foles are similar in style, and Dykes is the former Arizona offensive coordinator. The Bears will run four or five of the quick routes on successive plays, trying to build rhythm and tempo, pressuring the secondary to suck in and come up quickly. Goff has decent touch and good arm strength, so then he’ll cross up the opponent with intermediate routes and shots downfield. 

Chris Harper is the fastest and toughest matchup of the outside receivers, 6-1, 180, a good leaper with a knack for timing on the fade route. He’s the most frequent target on deep balls. Goff can throw the deep out effectively, firing it out there before the break. They use Bryce Treggs on screens and underneath throws, he’s shifty and dangerous, at 5-11, 180, very similar to Bralon Addison. The third wide receiver is Richard Rodgers, 6-4, 245, a tight end-sized target they will use on possession routes; he’s a mismatch and a challenge to bring down, though he’s only caught nine balls so far.

When Goff hands off he carries through with a passing fake, setting up and making a throwing motion like it’s another quick throw, a move designed to create a moment’s hesitation from the linebackers and secondary. The three Bears at tailback are all quick. Freshman Khalfani Muhammad is a DAT-like speedster who also returns kicks; he ran a 10.33 100 meters in high school. 6-1, 200 Daniel Lasco, from The Woodlands High in The Woodlands, Texas, is getting most of the reps with the ones this week in practice. Thus far this season he has 19 carries for 102 yards and a td, a 5.4-yard average. Highly-touted junior Brendan Bigelow, a high school teammate of Oregon receiver B.J. Kelley at Central High in Fresno, has been relegated to second team despite rushing 44 times for 431 yards as a sophomore, a dazzling 9.8 yards a carry. He hasn’t gotten untracked this year.

The Bears run no-huddle spread almost exclusively with different looks and packages. One of their formations is a weird-looking set, the spread equivalent of a full house backfield with two big fullback/H-back types flanking the quarterback in tight and the tailback directly behind him. Though it looks like a power running formation they will often fake a hand off and throw quickly, or use the twin fullbacks for max protection and throw long, usually to Harper. He burned Northwestern twice with long post routes, another time with a deep out to the right sideline.

At Monday’s practice, Cal Bears offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had his quarterbacks practicing 3-step drops and getting rid of the ball quickly to prepare for the onslaught from Oregon’s deep, athletic defensive line. For spread teams negative plays are drive killers, particularly with a freshman quarterback in a hostile environment. Nick Aliotti’s opportunistic defensive scheme thrives on pressure and forcing mistakes.