Got reservations tomorrow night at 7. #PartyInTheEndZone— Trigga (@%%MATCH_5%%) September 19, 2014
California (2-0) vs. Arizona (3-0)
Last Time Out: Arizona 33 at Cal 28, Nov. 2, 2013
Last Time in Arizona: Arizona 10, Cal 9 (Sept. 25, 2010)
The Line: Opened at Arizona -14, but as of Friday, the Wildcats were giving 7.5 points.
Betting: Cal is 2-0 against the spread; Arizona is 1-2 against the spread
When: Sept. 20, 7:00 PM Pacific
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
Watch: Pac-12 Networks – Kevin Calabro (play-by-play), Glenn Parker (analyst), Jill Savage (sideline)
Listen: KALX 90.7 FM Berkeley; KGO 810 AM – Joe Starkey (play-by-play), Mike Pawlawski (analyst), Todd McKimm (sideline)
Live Audio: TuneIn – CalBears.com/tunein
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: Sirius (139) and XM (197)
Arizona Injury Report: Jacob Alsadek (foot) probable; Samajie Grant (concussion) and DeAndre Miller (shoulder) are questionable.
California Injury Report: Joel Willis (shin) out; Darius White (shoulder) probable
Fun Fact: In 360 snaps, Cal and Arizona have combined for one snap out of 21 personnel. (2 backs,1 tight end)
Cal Game Notes
Arizona Game Notes
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FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. Luke Rubenzer attempts at least 8 passes.
2. Cal will have at least one, 100-yard receiver.
3. The Bears will serve up Anu Solomon’s second interception of the season. (BONUS PICK: The interception will come from *puts envelope to head* Avery Sebastian).
4. IF Cal has a 100-yard rusher, the Bears come out on top.
5. Rubenzer will have a run of at least 17 yards.
What to Watch for on Offense:
• Treggs Set to Pop? Bryce Treggs led the Bears in receptions last season with 77 for 751 yards and one touchdown. This season, he has a measly 5 grabs for 43 yards. Yes, Goff has spread the ball around to seven different receivers, and three running backs, with five players owning at least five receptions over the first two games, but he's got to start going to Treggs at some point, and what better time than the present? Consider this a bonus prediction: Treggs finally breaks out for at least five catches. The veteran route-runner and down field threat is too good of a match-up against Arizona’s young linebacking corps (all three starters are sophomores) for Goff not to find.
The match-up that could be very interesting to watch will be if Treggs goes up against redshirt senior safety Jared Tevis. The 5-foot-11, 202-pounder has a lot of NFL buzz, and is currently second on the team with 31 tackles in three games. He had 83 tackles in 11 games last season.
• Cal’s passing offense against the Wildcats’ defensive backs. A lot of factors have played into Arizona’s less-than-desirable secondary numbers. First: The Wildcats sold out to stop the run against Pistol-powered Nevada last week. Second: In late-game shootouts (like the one with the Wolf Pack and a 26-23 contest the week before against UTSA) and blowouts (like the opener against UNLV which ended at 58-13) tend to fuel big passing numbers for the opposition, looking to catch up. What was of most concern against Nevada a week ago, though, was the absence of a pass rush, which forced Arizona’s defensive backs to have to cover for longer.
“Teams have attacked us through the air a little bit, and had some success, and a lot of times, people will point at it as a secondary problem,” says Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez. “It’s a total problem. Sometimes, we don’t have a good pass rush on, and sometimes, when you’re a little bit ahead, too, teams are going to throw more on you, but there’s no question we’ve got to shore some things up in a hurry, because we’ve got some great throwing teams coming up, including one coming in this weekend.”
As we’ve seen with starting quarterback Jared Goff, the longer he has, the more deadly he can be, ranking third in the league in passer efficiency.
“There’s nothing too much that’s jumped out at us that’s going to deter us from doing anything that we would normally do and game plan,” Goff says.
Head coach Sonny Dykes cautions not to look at the numbers, which show that the Wildcats are 10th in the Pac-12 in passing defense.
“They’re actually good athletes. They’re good players. I think people have tried to run the ball against them, and really haven’t had a lot of success doing it, so they’ve resorted to throwing the football,” says Dykes. “I don’t know that you can gain that much by looking at the statistics. I think they’re a better pass defense than their statistics show. They’ve got better players and they’re better than they show. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that people have been behind in games. I think they’ve tried to match Arizona’s scoring, and I think that, as a result, people have thrown the ball a lot against them, probably more than they wanted to. I don’t know that they’re necessarily susceptible to that. I think their corners are good players. They’re athletic. They play the ball well. Contested balls, they do a good job playing those. They can run.”
Last season, Goff went 34-for-56 for 289 yards and two picks, but also had four touchdowns in a 33-28 loss to the Wildcats. This season, with a renewed commitment to the run game, the Bears will throw less, but perhaps, they’ll be more effective.
“He threw it around on us pretty good, last year,” Rodriguez says. “He’s a year older, and I think he’s probably even stronger. Certainly, the second year in a system, I think that’s been a big deal, too, because your first year, to play as a freshman, as well as he did, is remarkable. Now, he’s a seasoned veteran in the deal, and you can see it, because he sees the whole field. He’ll do run plays and he’ll have a quick out away from the run play, and he’ll take it every time. He’s definitely playing with a lot of confidence; that’s for sure.”
[VIDEO: WR-DB One-On-Ones]
• Rubenzer’s Role. So far this season, Rubenzer has led the team in rushing (48 yards against Northwestern), scored through the air and scored on the ground. What he hasn’t done yet is really show off his arm on a consistent basis. Now, he’ll come back to his home state, where he set the career completion percentage record, among others.
“I think he’s completing a high-enough percentage of his throws, and looked good doing it, but people, when he comes in the game, people are going to assume he’s going to run the football,” says Dykes.
Rubenzer went 2-for-5 with a pick for 76 passing yards against Northwestern, and in Week Two, went 3-for-4 with one touchdown and no picks for 84 yards against Sacramento State. In the opener, Rubenzer rushed for 48 yards, and two weeks ago, he carried the ball six times for 34 yards and one touchdown.
“You get into all this ‘What if’ and what it really does is take attention away from the sure things, and so we think that’s as valuable as anything, any element of surprise that it gives us, or just the fact that people have to prepare for it and spend time working on it, because there’s only so many hours in a day, and only so many plays you get to replicate during practice,” says Dykes. “If you’re having to replicate almost two different offenses, that makes it hard.”
Almost all of Rubenzer’s runs have been up the middle, which is exactly where the Wildcats are strongest. Could we see him bounce outside to make runs at the corner? It’s difficult to say. The offensive line has had a lot of trouble getting out to block for screens, so asking them to get out to block on the perimeter to block a run may be a stretch. That said, Arizona’s 3-3 alignment may not be conducive to shutting down the runs to the outside, particularly if the Wildcats re-focus on getting a good rush up front.
“It just depends,” says Dykes. “A lot of it depends on the action that we’re having, as far as the blocking action and what we’re seeing and that type of thing. There’ll be some perimeter runs that’ll happen at some point during the season. All that’s just waiting to play out.”
One thing is for certain: Rubenzer’s first two games have given Arizona a lot to think about.
“That’s the one thing that doing something that’s a little bit different gives you: I think they have to say, ‘What are they going to do with this guy, this week?’” Dykes says. “That’s good. I think that any time that coaches have questions and players have questions, I think that works in your advantage.”
[READ MORE: Keys to the Game]
What to Watch for on Defense
• The Back End. Freshman quarterback Anu Solomon could be without one of his biggest weapons on Saturday in Samajie Grant, but he’s got plenty of other options that haven’t been used a ton this year, like Notre Dame transfer DaVonte’ Neal and Texas transfer Cayleb Jones.
“They look good. They’re a little bit bigger on the outside – 6-3-plus type bodies – than on the inside – more true, slot-type bodies, the 5-9 guys. They’re shifty-quick on the inside; long, strong and fast on the outside,” says Bears defensive backs coach Greg Burns.
Defensive coordinator Art Kaufman also noted Jones during his weekly address.
“He’s got such body position,” Kaufman said. “He understands how to play the ball, where he’s going, where the ball’s going to be thrown. He shields people off it, and that’s a tremendous asset.”
Bodying up on Cal’s relatively undersized corners could prove to be very important, as Solomon continues to get more comfortable throwing on the run and being more accurate with his across-the-body throws – or, better yet, not trying to make those throws.
“That’s part of the traits to execute the offense, not just mentally – that’s part of it – but being able to make the throws – the traditional throw in the pocket or the awkward throw on the run, and being able to run when they present themselves and extend plays,” says Rodriguez. “All of those traits are part of the execution of the offense, and it starts with making the right decision about where to go with the ball. After that, the physical ability has to be part of it, too – making throws from different launch points is a big part of our quarterback play, and Anu’s been pretty good at that.”
Playing those big receivers will get a bit easier with the addition of 6-foot-1 Darius White, who both Dykes and Kaufman have said will play, helping out a DB corps that rarely gets over 5-foot-11.
“I don’t necessarily worry about the size issue. It is what it is. It’s not like I can stretch my guys out or anything,” smiles Burns. “[White is] still working his way in. That’s the biggest issue. He missed so much time in two-a-days that he just has some catch-up work to do, in regards to understanding. It’s one thing to get it mentally, but it’s another thing to actually get on the field, see it visually and react.”
Safety Avery Sebastian is also looking more and more like his old self, which bolsters the safety group.
“He’s doing good. He’s had a really good week – two weeks, actually – and I think the slight time off and the extra days have helped him,” Burns says. “He’s as good as I’ve seen him, so I’m expecting him to play, and we’ll just see how this thing goes.”
• Bringing the Heat on Anu S. Solomon has shown a tendency to make bad decisions when he’s on the run, and that’s resulted in a 62.7 completion percentage, the lowest among Pac-12 quarterbacks who have started at least two games this season.
“If I’m not mistaken, he’s only thrown one interception,” says Kaufman. “His completion percentage may not be good, but he’s either completing it for good yardage, or he’s not completing it. The big thing is, and it’s kind of part of their offense, that he gets a lot of yardage in incompletions off of the runs he makes with his feet, and that, to me, kind of makes up for it. The thing we have to do is to take care of ourselves.”
Solomon, a true freshman, has rushed for 121 yards on 23 attempts, while his counterpart Rubenzer has rushed for 82 yards on 17 attempts.
“I think any time you’re playing a young quarterback, you don’t want to let him get too comfortable,” says Dykes. “That’s always the key. You want to try to pressure him a little bit, and force him into making some bad decisions. I think that’s true of all young quarterbacks.
“Now, the thing I’ve been impressed about with him, in particular, has been his maturity. I think, to me, it doesn’t look like he gets rattled. He makes a mistake and moves on and comes and plays and doesn’t seem to let it bother him. If you watch the games on television – that’s the one good thing about watching the games on television, you get to see the players when the film is off, and you get to see kind of how the kid responds when something doesn’t go well, or doesn’t go his way – I’ve been really impressed with the way he handles himself. He makes a mistake, he learns from it and he moves on. That’s what you want to see young quarterbacks do, and I think that’s why he’s got the makings of being a very good quarterback.”
• Hey Mister Wiiiiiiiilsooooon! Nick Wilson has three games of over 100 yards rushing in his first three collegiate contests. We went way in-depth on what he means to the game earlier this week.