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BERKELEY -- California returned to practice on Tuesday following a day off on Monday, given by head coach Sonny Dykes in order to change things up in the wake of five straight losses.
"Part of it is just we were just worn out," said Dykes. "We had a lot of late-night games and travel. This is the time of year where typically you back off a little bit, in terms of what you do in practice. What we decided to do was try to give them a little time off to rest and recuperate a little bit."
That trend of late-night games will continue on Saturday, when the Bears travel to Seattle, Wash., for an 8 p.m. tilt against the Huskies, losers of their last three straight games.
"They kind of went through the rough spot in their schedule, where they played Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State – three good football teams -- back-to-back-to-back," Dykes said. "I think Washington is a top-25 team. I really do. I believe that. I think they've just played other very good football teams. They've got that kind of talent, have that kind of team."
On Tuesday, the coaching staff split the quarterback reps between redshirt freshman Zach Kline and incumbent starter Jared Goff, who was relieved by Kline in the third quarter of last Saturday's game after an interception and two fumbles.
"We'll let the guys practice this week and kind of see what we think. We don't really have any kind of preconceived notion, at this point," Dykes said, as to who the starter would be on Saturday. "We'll let them both practice and then try to get a feel for where they are and how they are and what's going on."
The decision, Dykes said, would rest on the week of practice performance, and would not so much be made just for this Saturday, but with an eye towards the future, as well.
"We need to try to win some football games," Dykes said. "You want to do that, but also, you never want to lose sight of your overall program, and where you're headed. Those are decisions that are tough, and we have to make them all the time. It's what we think gives us the chance to not only win this week, but a year from now."
Goff has had a rough go of things since his 15-snap abortive effort at Oregon. Including that game, Goff is 83-for-140 for 950 yards, with two interceptions, four fumbles (all lost), two touchdown passes and eight sacks, for a QB rating of 118.14. His passer rating before the past four games? 134.357.
"He's taken a little shot to his confidence, and I think we have, as a football team," Dykes said. "There's been a number of reasons why, but they're not all his fault. Some of the things that have happened haven't been his fault, entirely, and we share in it collectively. But, I think his psyche's good, and that's kind of what we'll see this week, is who we think is practicing with the most confidence."
On Tuesday, both Goff and Kline had their moments, but against a full defense, neither really distinguished himself, though Goff did complete a nifty pass over the top to a streaking Kenny Lawler for a long touchdown in seven-on-seven work. Kline delivered sharp bullets in the mid-range with his arm strength, and showed off his arm down field several times, but was picked twice trying to fit the ball into tight windows, something he'll face on Saturday against the Huskies, which boast the No. 1 passing defense in the Pac-12.
"They've played just good, team defense," Dykes said. "They run to the ball well, they've got a lot of good athletes, they've got length. It's a long defense, in terms of guys with big wingspans and they can cover a lot of ground. They're athletic enough where the windows are pretty small, so they're good at what they do."
Washington has only tallied 19 sacks (fourth in the Pac-12) and have only picked off eight passes (eighth in the league), so what makes their pass defense so tough?
"They do their share [of blitzing]. Most of the time, it's guys winning one-on-one match-ups," said Dykes. "They've gotten some pressure from the defensive end positions, the tackles are both big guys that have done a good job pushing the pile, pushing protection back to the quarterback's face, and then, when they blitz, they've gotten there. Their linebackers are good guys in the blitz game. They're long and athletic and do a good job getting off blocks and defeating blocks."
Winning one-on-one match-ups has not been a major of the Cal offensive line, particularly as of late, against the likes of Scott Crichton and Anthony Barr. Not only have the Bears' big uglies blocked for a rushing game that's 10th in the conference in yards per game (106.4), but they've allowed a conference-worst 22 sacks.
"We feel almost all of it's on us," said left guard Jordan Rigsbee. "We feel like, for the most part, the offense struggling a lot of the time is on us, because everyone else gets all the credit for a lot of things, but it comes down to, it doesn't matter how good your guys are; if you don't have a good O-line, people can't play. I've definitely taken a lot of the blame for it, and we have, because we've got to be able to do it."
The offensive line looked quite a bit different on Tuesday, with Jordan Rigsbee sliding over to center, true freshman Chris Borrayo moving up to first-team left guard, Freddie Tagaloa moving from left tackle to right guard, Steven Moore at right tackle and Christian Okafor at left tackle.
Another line showed Aaron Cochran at left tackle, Bill Tyndall at left guard, Mark Brazinski at center, Okafor at right guard and Brian Farley at right tackle.
The offensive line did get a bit of a boost on Tuesday, as former starting right guard Matt Cochran returned to practice for the first time since going down a month ago with a high ankle sprain that had him in crutches as late as last week.
Injuries to Cochran and starting center Chris Adcock have shaken the already-thin line to its core, and their absence (Adcock's for the rest of the season) has certainly been felt.
"Adcock was a huge part of our O-line. He's the oldest guy on the O-line and he was real smart, knew all the calls, pretty much ran the O-line for us," Rigsbee said. "It was definitely a bummer when he went down, and Mark [Brazinski]'s come in and Mark's done the best that he can do, and it's hard, especially you have new guys coming. I think the center's probably the hardest to replace, as far as O-line continuity. That's who runs the show. It definitely hurt us when we lost Chris."
Though Cochran may not be available this week, he did travel to the team hotel last week, and could be a viable option to back up Brazinski at center, once he's back in the swing of things.
Tailback Daniel Lasco could also be back sooner rather than later, though he did not practice on Tuesday.
Dykes said that Lasco is in "wait and see" mode, but he will be progressed during the week.
It bears mentioning, if only for the fact that linebacker Jalen Jefferson turned back to the stands and made a point of saying the play would be on BearTerritory tonight, that converted inside receiver Maximo Espitia turned in a sideline-pleasing, one-handed interception on Kline during seven-on-seven work, causing the linebackers to erupt in cheers.
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