IN-DEPTH: When the Pressure's On

Belying his young age and inexperience, Jared Goff's passer efficiency breakdown from Saturday shows where he and the Bears can improve, but also where the freshman quarterback is at his best as he heads into his second test this weekend.

BERKELEY -- The numbers are there for all to see: The record-setting 63 passing attempts. The historic 445 yards in his true freshman college debut. The three interceptions – two for scores.

But, looking behind the raw data from Jared Goff's first career start for California, a very curious picture begins to emerge.

Goff's calm and Nimoy-ian level of stoicism – not to mention a hearty streak of laconic diction – belie his age, but, then again, so does his first game.

Since the advent of the forward pass, one number stands out among the rest as the best indicator of success: Passer efficiency rating. Looking at Goff's situational PERs from Saturday's season opener, he looks like anything but a true freshman.

"The only thing I ever look at is winning," says Bears offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. "The only thing about those numbers that ever match up is that usually, when those numbers are bad, you don't win, unless your defense just shuts them down."

On first downs, Goff had a PER of just 85.55. When the Bears showed a more balanced attack in the first half, running on nine of 16 first downs, Goff sent 4-for-7 for 49 yards, logging a PER of 115.94. In the second half, when Cal ran on 10 of 28 first downs, Goff went 9-for-18 for 77 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, for a PER of 70.93. The fourth quarter was particularly gruesome for Goff, as he went 6-for-12 for 51 yards and two picks (52.37), completing just two of his final seven passes for 10 yards. Could fatigue have been a factor?

"Jared's arm was fine," says Franklin. "He throws it more than that every day in practice. That wasn't the issue. The problem was that we just couldn't run the ball."

[READ MORE: IN-DEPTH Running Game Preview]

"I thought we could have run the ball better, but at the same time, [Brendan] Bigelow started the game off with 55 yards, so we had some good momentum," says Goff. "We played a hell of a game, and I know the running backs are going to bring it hard. They did their thing. We just missed some blocks, and the running backs just needed to find holes big enough. That's something we're working on, and it's something we're going to get a lot better at, and it's going to help the offense as a whole."

The biggest change from the first half to the second was the fact that Cal elected to throw the ball down field more on first down than before the break.

The short, easy timing routes that are the bread and butter of the Bear Raid offense double as confidence builders, particularly for a young quarterback. While the numbers may not show it, what with three first-half completions for seven yards or more on first down, most of Goff's early passes were to players in space either on screens or crossing routes, allowing the receivers the chance to turn up field for yards after catch.

"A lot of that is, as the game went on, we took shots on first downs and some of that's my fault, not putting him in the situation where he's got a lot of second-and-shorts," says Franklin.

On second downs, Goff's PER jumped to 138.73, and on third downs, his PER took yet another leap to 150.69.

On the surface, it certainly looks like when the defense knew Goff would pass, it didn't matter. He got better.

It is in those classic, throwing situations – third downs – where Goff truly separates himself.

On third-and-short (1-3 yards to go), Goff's PER was a pedestrian 72.53 (1-for-3, 14 yards). On third down with between four and six yards to go, Goff's PER rose to 142.20, as he went 3-for-4 for 32 yards. On third down with seven to nine yards to go, Goff went 2-for-3 for 39 yards and a PER of 175.87. Goff was at his absolute best in third-and-long situations (10+ yards to go), going 3-for-4 for 59 yards. Thanks to those heroics in arguably the toughest situations, the Bears were 10-for-21 in third down conversions.

"The neat thing for us was, that we were almost 50 percent on third downs, and we were in a lot of third-and-longs," says Franklin. "I was pleased with that. I'm not a big numbers guy, but that is the one number – the third-down deal – that I did look at, and was very happy with that. It was a lot of third-and-longs, so that's two things happening: He had enough time, and he threw the ball well."

This week's opponent – Portland State – ranked 116th out of 121 Football Championship Subdivision teams last season in passing defense. The Vikings were 111th in PER defense, as opposing signal-callers posted a 153.46 mark against them.

The Cal coaching staff has focused the scout team defense on playing more bail technique, which could open up the shorter routes early on against an inexperienced secondary, which, unlike the starting defensive line – which features two former high-Division I players – brings less to the table, as far as talent is concerned.

Senior cornerback Dennis Fite is the most veteran defender in the secondary, and last season, ranked fourth on the team with 42 tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss. He added three break-ups and three passes defended. But, Portland State lost its best pass defender – linebacker Ian Sluss and his team-leading four picks – to graduation.

Goff, though, is not taking them lightly.

"This past weekend, there were seven [FBS teams] that had lost to the FCS teams," he says. "Really, it's any given Saturday, it can happen at any time. We're preparing for this team just like we prepared for Northwestern."

Starting senior free safety Michael Plummer only accounted for three tackles last season, and the starting cornerback duo of Mishawn Cummings (junior) and Aaron Sibley (sophomore) benefits only from Sibley's experience. Last season, Sibley – who received recruiting attention from only Georgia State and Vanderbilt – was stout last season, registering 15 tackles, 1.0 TFL and one fumble recovery.

Cummings spent 2012 with Oregon State, tallying just one tackle in 11 games.

Senior strong safety Dean Faddis recorded no stats last season.

Like Goff, though, Franklin doesn't see an opportunity to run up the score on what appears to be a lesser opponent, which beat up on NAIA Eastern Oregon to the tune of 57-17 last week, tallying three picks for 108 yards and a touchdown.

"First of all, I don't expect that to be this type of game," Franklin says. "I don't see one game on our schedule this year where I expect it to be that way. I don't even think about it. My philosophy is whatever our head coach's philosophy is: If other guys get to play, then play hard, and they need to do the best they can to be successful."

INJURY NOTE
WR Kenny Lawler will be out on Saturday with concussion-like symptoms.

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