ANALYSIS: Passing Fancy

Breaking down Jared Goff's many, many passes on opening night, plus VIDEO of Cal's freshman signal-caller following his first collegiate start.

BERKELEY -- Jared Goff's freshman debut went as expected: ups, downs, spectacular plays, questionable throws, and a bit of good and quite a bit of bad luck. All in all, while the Bears lost 44-30 to No. 22 Northwestern, Goff showed signs of a very bright future.

The pure numbers are quite impressive for any quarterback, let alone one making his first college start: 38-of-63 for 445 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 unfortunate picks. His 63 attempts are the most ever for a Cal quarterback. His 445 yards passing are the most by a freshman quarterback, and second-most all-time of any quarterback in school history.

"There were a few nerves," said Goff in the postgame. "But I got over it really fast. I was over it pretty fast."

The numbers look good, even for the system. However, the decision-making and command of the new "Bear Raid" offense is the true reason for hope and optimism.

For the game, Goff targeted 11 different receivers. To nobody's surprise, his primary targets were noted sophomore stars Bryce Treggs (starting at the X position) and Chris Harper (starting at the Z position). Utilizing their speed along the sideline and through screen passes, the two wideouts combined for 24 catches, 296 yards, and 2 TDs.

Targeting Treggs to his left, Goff was an effective 13-for-16 for 145 yards. Of his 13 completions, 8 went for first downs (an additional first down was picked up on a pass interference call). Targeting Harper on the opposite side, Goff was 11-for-18 for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. The last time a Cal duo at wide receiver both had over 100 yards for the game was in 2011, when Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen completed the feat against Fresno State.

In the first half, head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin -- who was on the sideline for Goff's first start, as opposed to in the booth -- kept a fairly conservative passing gameplan, utilizing a higher number of short hitch routes and easier passes for Goff to make. The results were modest, with Goff going 13-for-24 for 137 yards, but only a long of 26 coming directly off of a screen pass and 10 points at halftime.

"It was helpful," Goff said of having Franklin on the sidelines. "He made that decision earlier in the week. It was helpful being able to have him there and talk to me."

In the second half, the playcalling was noticeably more aggressive, with far more passes downfield to the same duo. In the second half, Goff had completions of 24, 52, 38, 20, 17, and 21 yards. His 52-yard touchdown strike to Harper was a thing of beauty, giving Cal its first offensive touchdown of 2013 (not counting the fake field goal call that resulted in a TD pass from Vince D'Amato to Jackson Bouza on the first drive of the game). In addition, the deeper post routes also created passing space in the middle for the likes of Richard Rodgers (4 rec for 38 yards), and tailback Daniel Lasco, who caught three balls for 16 yards, while also running nine times for 38 yards. During the last thirty minutes, Goff tallied 308 yards passing, with the 2 touchdowns.

"We didn't make too many adjustments," said Goff. "We knew we'd get the post to Chris (Harper). That was really it. We came out and just did what we've been doing."

The downside with the more aggressive playcalling was the three interceptions in the second half, though only one was a pass that can be directly credited to a bad decision. Goff's one bad pass on the night was the last interception down the middle -- a slightly underzipped ball down the field to Harper -- was picked off by safety Collin Ellis moving across the field. A more direct throw or a deeper pass could have resulted in a different outcome, but the mistake is one that takes experience to fix.

Goff's other two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns) were more a result of bad luck on a result of deflections. His first interception came on a ball batted by a defensive lineman directly to Ellis. The second interception was a dropped pass off the chest of Darius Powe. Take out those two fluke interceptions, and Goff's debut looks even better on paper than it already does. Frankly, his third interception was his one really bad throw on the night.

As for the rest of it, the coaches will review the film and make the adjustments on some of his decision-making, and help Goff continue to grow into the star he wants to be. As Dykes said, the Bears have 99 plays to study, come Monday. Oh, and by the way, those 99 plays represent the third-most all time in school history, and the most ever in regulation.

"I'm really excited for our offense," Goff said. "That was a lot of fun out there. It didn't work out the way we wanted it to, but it's a very fast tempo. You guys could see it in the third quarter how much rhythm we can get. That can happen anytime.

"I'm just excited for it."

Cal fans should be, too. Top Stories