BERKELEY -- California held an opponent without points on their first possession for the first time all season. The Bears also scored their first touchdown in eight quarters. That's about all the positives that Cal can take away from Saturday's 49-17 loss to Oregon State, which earned itself some In-N-Out with 570 total yards of offense, as the Bear Raid under freshman Jared Goff once again shuffled and sputtered.
"Not a good night tonight," sighed head coach Sonny Dykes. "We got our tail kicked. Didn't play well. Didn't coach well. I'd like to be able to say something other than what actually happened, but you've got to give Oregon State credit. They played better than we did. You guys saw what happened. I don't need to say much about it.
"We didn't play well. That's our job, to get them ready to play, and obviously we didn't do a very good job of it. They scored a lot of points, they held us to very few points and they pretty much lined up and kicked our tail."
1. Just plain Goffensive
The Bears' first three turnovers were all on the shoulders of the true freshman signal-caller, who threw a first-quarter pick to Rashaad Reynolds, then fumbled late in the first stanza to lead to a touchdown for the Beavers and then finally lost the handle while dropping back to throw, seeing the pigskin fly out of his hand and back 10 yards, where it was recovered by Dylan Wynn.
"That one just kind of slipped out," Goff said. "Not much to say about it. Early on, I felt good, and later on in the second quarter, still felt kind of good, but I just can't turn the ball over like I did."
As for the interception, Goff had three men open, but he did not see his receiver streaking down the sideline and looked away from the open Richard Rodgers in favor of Bryce Treggs.
"There was two guys kind of open, and I threw it right at the wrong guy, and that's about it," Goff said.
Goff said he did not see any different looks on defense than he did during the week of practice. "It was what I was prepared for," he said. Goff went 21-for-31 for 220 yards, and after his second fumble, was taken out in favor of redshirt freshman Zach Kline.
"I'm not really sure, right now," Goff said, when asked what he needs to do to turn yards into points. "I just need to keep throwing the ball to receivers and letting them make plays, and, hopefully, they can make some people miss and get in the end zone."
Kline proceeded to overcome a first-play flea-flicker near-interception to drive the Bears 88 yards for a touchdown, and went 11-for-16 for 71 yards and two touchdowns on the night, though he did throw one interception.
"We saw the coverage roll and it was a little bit of miscommunication," Kline said of the pick. "It's something that we definitely need to clear up in practice, but we had a lot of missed opportunities, definitely on my part, and as an offense. We've just got to keep improving. Every week, we've just got to keep improving, because every team's getting better, and we have to do that as well."
There is certainly more uncertainty as to which of the two will start next week's 8 p.m. game in Seattle, now, than there was before the game, and Kline has shown quite a bit of energy when he's come on in relief.
"Same thing we've seen a couple of times this year – the ball just came out of Jared's hand and we felt like we needed to make a switch, so we put Zach in," Dykes said.
Dykes said after the game that he felt "like we needed to make a switch," and that Kline provided "a spark of energy."
"Moving forward," Dykes said, "we'll see. I don't know what the answer is. We'll need to talk about it. We'll see where we go from here."
And, that brings us to …
2. ‘Who's Gonna Run This Thing?' Part II
Going into this week of practice, the quarterback spot has to be wide open again. Goff has wilted in adverse conditions at Oregon, was rattled against UCLA and had hot feet against Oregon State, forcing throws instead of running, throwing out of the option instead of handing the ball off and pulling the trigger too early when he heard footsteps. He's looked every bit the true freshman that he is, and frankly, it may not all be his fault, but he's the one who will get the blame.
"It's very, very high, right now," Goff said of his frustration level. "I'm extremely upset at myself, and I need to play better to give us a chance to win."
Kline, for his part, has made some iffy decisions – his near-pick on the first snap on a flea-flicker on Saturday comes to mind – but there's no doubt he's brought some energy.
"This team is starting to change," Kline said. "Coaches were saying that, and I was seeing it, as well. It's been looking good for the offense, but we had some missed opportunities, for sure, especially with that INT. Communication-wise, that's something you have to zone in [on], or it's going to be tough to win games."
On his first drive, Kline drove 88 yards on 15 plays, going 4-for-7 through the air while also rushing for 19 yards – at that point, more than the rest of the entire Cal ground attack.
"I didn't see it coming," Kline said of being called in. "When they called my number, you've just got to get ready and represent Cal and put my team in a position to score and in a position to win and do the basics, the fundamentals – move fast, complete the ball, motivate, leadership. I was pleased. Obviously, I want that interception back, but nobody's perfect and you've got to move on. As a quarterback, you have to not live too much in the future and too much in the past. You have to live in the here and now."
Kline, not known for his mobility, even tore off a 15-yard scamper on a broken play, hitting the deck at the end in a safe-at-home slide.
"I didn't want to get smacked," Kline laughed. "I saw the opening, and I don't really run too much, but when I do, I don't want to take too many hits, so I had to get down, and I felt like I slid for a good 10 yards."
Kline was energetic and verbose in the postgame, while Goff wore every one of his three turnovers on his sleeve.
As far as what next week will entail, as far as the quarterback competition, Goff was curt.
"I don't know," Goff said. "You'd have to ask coach Dykes."
Dykes said that all the spots are open for competition, and admitted that he didn't know how this particular competition would play out.
"We'll find the quarterback we feel gives us the best chance to win," Dykes said. "I was proud of Zach. I thought he came in and did a good job and it wasn't the best set of circumstances for him, and I thought he competed hard. He's a good kid, and has obviously got some talent. We'll see."
Kline was a bit more inclined to look ahead, with a start to claim the starting spot this coming weekend.
"I have no idea, but whatever opportunity presents itself, I'm going to seize it, I'm going to do my best and let the coaches be coaches," he said. "As any player that comes in and does well or thinks they do well, they obviously want to start -- I obviously want to start. Everyone who's not the starter should want to start, or think that they should be on the field. I'm just going to keep chugging away and keep giving my best. I felt like I did well, but I definitely have a lot to work on, for sure, but I wanted to go out there and show the energy I play with, really just show my leadership. That's a huge thing as a quarterback, and I wanted to show that we have to play for something more than ourselves. We have to play for something more than just the game of football. We have to play for the University. That's the biggest thing: It's pride. We have to represent Cal, because there's people that spend our Saturdays watching us. We have to give our best."
Goff's best game arguably came against Northwestern, when the Wildcats were keyed on stopping Brendan Bigelow, but since then, the run game has yet to materialize, and of Cal's first 38 plays, 33 were passes.
"We've had a hard time running the ball, and that continued tonight," Dykes said. "We didn't do a very good job at the line of scrimmage. A lot of times tonight, I didn't feel like we played very well up front. That's been an issue for us through most of the year, just some inconsistency up front and had a lot of penalties on the offensive line tonight. We're going to do everything we can to get that fixed."
As Goff has become more and more skittish, he's become more and more inconsistent and indecisive. Kline – for good or for ill – commits to whatever throw he attempts, and with his arm strength, he may be the best option going forward, as teams play more zone and discount a run game that has yet to show it's a real threat.
"It's been tough, losing," Kline said. "That's always tough, for any team, anyone. But, in the same breath, there's such big opportunity there, to step up as a leader and for guys to jump on board. When you lose, you see the guys who really care, and you see the guys who really don't. Sometimes that gets masked when you're winning, and it gets looked over, when you're winning. So, I think we have a really big opportunity, as a team and as players, to step up this leadership. There's going to be guys that are going to show that they want to be there, and I'm one of them. I want to be here. I committed here for a reason. I wake up at 5 a.m. for [strength and conditioning coach] Damon [Harrington]'s stuff over the summer for a reason, and it's adversity. Any team goes through adversity, so we have to step up and rise to the occasion."
On the topic of leadership, particularly with all of the injuries that have beset the Bears, Kline stated, unequivocally, that new leaders have to emerge.
"With any losing team, I think, it's always a question of leadership," Kline said. "I think, this year has been 10 times better than last year's leadership, but we don't need a lot of hoo-rah guys. Sometimes, you need some Indians; you don't need a bunch of chiefs. We need a few of those guys. We need a few hoo-rahs, but then, we need guys to step up and put their nose to the grindstone and work. That's the biggest thing. We need the silent leaders. We need the guys that are going to go hard every single play and that are going to stay positive. We can't take plays off. We cannot take plays off. We're not in position to take plays off. We can't do that. Every single play, it doesn't matter how tired you are, if you're injured or if you're hurt; you have to go. You have to go 100 percent the entire time. I think we're getting there.
"Our leadership is getting there. We're having more guys step up and show that we want to be here, and our cohesion as a family is definitely getting stronger, so we're on the up in the leadership category. We just have to keep progressing."
3. Brandin Cooks is really good at football
Cal cornerback Kameron Jackson said that the Bears prepared for Cooks like any other receiver, and while Cal did get good looks this week thanks to Trevor Davis on the scout team, they were woefully unprepared for Cooks's speed and agility.
"We just played our regular defense," Jackson said. "The corners, we played left and right. We didn't treat him any different than any other receiver. We played left and right with him. That was the game plan.
"They did everything we expected. We just couldn't execute as a unit … [It's] just eyes, technique and making tackles, making plays when they're there."
Cooks – who came out of the game late in the third quarter after being shaken up – caught 13 balls for 232 yards.
"Brandin Cooks is a good athlete; I know we can do way better on him," Jackson said. "We made some errors in the secondary, but I know we're going to fix it next week and worry about the next opponent."
On Oregon State's second series, Adrian Lee was stride-for-stride with Cooks, but did not look back at the ball once, allowing a 50-yard completion. Jackson did the same early on, as the Beavers took advantage of soft man coverage, when they got it.
"We tried to get our hands on him and keep him off the line of scrimmage, we rolled coverage to him, we put a safety over the top of him, we tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage, we played a linebacker out of the box more to his side," Dykes said. "We did a lot of stuff … He made a lot of plays, a lot of competitive plays on the football. We had guys in position to make some plays, and he made the plays. He's a heck of a football player. That's what good players do when they have opportunities to make plays. They do it, and he did. He did it over and over and over again."
Damariay Drew was burned several times by Cooks, including a 28-yard completion that led to an Oregon State touchdown to make it 21-3. Drew was eventually replaced by Michael Lowe, who turned in a fumble recovery in the end zone.
"We just tried to get Mike some playing time," Dykes said. "I wouldn't say that anybody performed particularly well."
That completion came after a near-pick by safety Cameron Walker, frittering away what little momentum there was behind the Cal defense at that point. Walker, for his part, certainly came to play, setting a career-high with a game-high nine tackles and two break-ups.
Cal continually played man against Cooks, putting Jackson on an island, and when the Bears weren't in man, Cooks found seams in the zone and attacked the Cal linebackers, who were just flat-out too slow to stop the fly sweeps, inside screens and end arounds.
Two pass interference calls on Jackson influenced coverage, as immediately after those flags, the Bears corners played off of Cooks and the rest of the Beavers receivers, giving them 10- and 15-yard cushions. Both times Jackson was flagged, quarterback Sean Mannion went after him down field to great success.
Mannion went 35-for-45 for 481 yards and four touchdowns, throwing no picks and taking two sacks, including one by Viliami Moala, with a second by Moala erased by a dubious roughing the passer penalty called on the junior defensive tackle, who hit Mannion while he still had the ball in his hand.
4. Turnover a new leaf
Cal came into Saturday -5 in the turnover battle in the first quarter, and -9 overall on the season. After two turnovers in the first stanza, and four overall, those numbers certainly didn't get any rosier. Only seven points were scored off of Bears turnovers, which is fairly good, especially considering that the longest field the Cal defense had off of turnovers was 46 yards. The Bears faced fields of 34, 15, 17 and 46 yards off of turnovers.
However, Oregon State scored touchdowns on a turnover-on-downs and one off of a missed field goal -- both in the second quarter on consecutive Beavers drives, making the score 28-3.
Execution was fairly abysmal once again, as Cal was 7-for-17 on third down and 1-for-3 on fourth-down tries, while Oregon State was 5-for-11 and 2-for-2, respectively.
"We need to get more three-and-outs, get the offense back on the field more," Jackson said.
Red zone efficiency was once again an issue, as the Bears came up empty once and had to settle for a field goal after driving down inside the Beavers 20 four times.
"I think, right now, our red-zone and short-yardage offense hasn't been particularly effective," Dykes said. "I think, when you sit down and look at it, I don't think we played well on defense, I don't think we played well on offense. We were looking to try and give guys opportunities and looking for some answers. We made some personnel switches, and we'll continue to do that if we think that's going to benefit us."
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