By nearly every measure, California quarterback Jared Goff is having a transcendent season. His 22 touchdown passes to just three interceptions is among the nation’s best ratios (he had 18 and 10 last season). He’s thrown for 1,875 yards – seventh in the nation. His passer efficiency rating is third in the country (188.5). Most importantly for Goff, his team is 4-1 heading into Saturday’s clash with 4-1 Washington.
“I could throw for zero yards, but as long as we win,” Goff says, “I’m happy.”
On any team that hadn’t gone 1-11 last season, Goff would be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Goff’s teammates extoll his talent and his virtues.
“He’s been a great leader on this offense, and he will continue to be a great leader and a great captain,” says tailback Daniel Lasco. “In tough situations, he’s very calm, especially in the pocket. He tells me what he’s seeing, what works, what doesn’t work, what I need to do differently just to help protection-wise, and he’s very, very under-control, and knows what to do. Going back and watching on film, him staying in the pocket when it’s collapsing, or him working out of the pocket and having hot feet, just going back to fundamentals that he’s been taught ever since he got here, it just shows that he’s becoming a great quarterback.”
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Between his two newest weapons – a deadly pump-fake and an indefensible back-shoulder fade – Goff has upped his yards-per-attempt from 6.6 as a freshman in 2013 to 10.4 – the fifth-highest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
But even the league’s defensive backs have no idea how fearsome Goff can be … if someone takes his food.
“If you take any food from him, don’t do the dishes, water balloons in his room, he doesn’t like that,” smiles Ray Hudson, who’s hit Goff with plenty of aquatic artillery. “I filled up a real big one, he was walking home, and we tracked his phone. I just typed the number in, and one of our roommates figured out how to track him. We saw he was on his way home, and one of our windows is right over the entry way into the house, so I sat in the second story, and right as he was walking up, we had a couple guys on the roof, and I had one big one, and we just pelted him. He wasn’t too happy about that one.”
The bench for every athletic team – college, professional, semi-professional, amateur – is slanted. Ever so slightly. It’s slanted just enough that all the stories – all the anecdotes, dirty jokes, stories, incriminating photos and other such blackmail materiel – all rolls down and accumulates in one spot. For this Cal football team – well, mainly just for Goff -- that spot is Hudson, who just so happens to be Goff’s roommate for the past two years.
Ray – a blue-collar name for a blue-collar, lunch-pail worker – belongs on the name tag of an auto shop jumpsuit as much as it does on the back of a football jersey. Hudson has never been one to take to the star’s life. He relishes blocking when the Bears go into an attached tight end set. He’s always been the aw-shucks roughneck proletarian: Work is his work.
Hudson went from a 6-foot-2, 210-pound wide receiver for Pleasanton (Calif.) Foothill with no offers, to a 6-foot-3, 235-pound pro-style tight end who got his dream offer from Jeff Tedford and the Golden Bears, then, before he signed, Tedford was ousted, a new offense was installed and he had to change, yet again.
“I was at 210, then I was up to about 240, and then I was playing, a couple weeks ago, around 235, and now, I’m 226, so I’m actually just fluctuating,” says Hudson. “The past couple weeks, I’ve been dropping my weight a little bit, trying to tack on a little bit of speed. I was able to make the blocks, but I felt like I was falling over and not able to control myself as I picked up the speed and had to settle down to make the blocks, and I noticed the difference in kick return, last week. I was able to settle more and kind of get my feet under me.”
That work resulted in two key blocks on back-to-back kick return touchdowns by Trevor Davis, meaning that, though Hudson hasn’t caught a touchdown pass yet this season, he owns part of those 14 points.
“I just wanted to get them to the ground; when I get on the guy that I’m blocking, It’s always fun to get their face in the turf,” Hudson says. “Once I know, once I heard the crowd going, then I looked up and saw him, and I figured, ‘Maybe I’ll see if I can catch him,’ try to go celebrate with him. I was able to go down and celebrate a little, because I had to get back to PAT, too.”
So, when there’s someone you need to find who knows how to bust the chops of the team’s pretty boy, naturally, it’s Hudson -- who just so happens to be that pretty boy’s roommate. The two aren’t roommates on the road, though, as Hudson admits, “that’s too much time together.”
But, as with any good work wife, Hudson has a hard time leaving Goff alone. During Goff’s Q&A on Facebook, Hudson hijacked the procedings, asking who was Goff’s favorite Ray on the team (there are two, and the answer was “Not you,” so congrats, Ray Davison), among other queries.
And no, it wasn’t just Hudson, sitting alone, back at their house thinking, “I’m bored. Time to screw with McLovin.”
“We have a little group chat with all the eight other athletes we live with, and I sent in our group chat that Jared had a little Q&A going on, so we all went home, sat in the living room, with everyone on their laptops, saying ‘What should we ask?’” Hudson beams. “We put him on the spot. We were just ruthless about it.”
When Goff caught wind of the angle of this piece, he said that I should speak with his other roommates, if I wanted real dirt, because Hudson would sugar-coat things. Not so, Jared, not so.
“I like to get him once or twice a day, at least,” Hudson said of his chop-busting. “He’ll get upset. He’ll get mad, at times, occasionally. We like to pick on him.”
And, apparently, it’s pretty easy. When Hudson was ordering Goff a #Drop50 t-shirt earlier this week for his birthday, he asked what Goff’s shirt size was. The thinly-built quarterback replied, “2XL.”
Hudson did a double-take.
“I was confused, though. I asked him what his shirt size was, and he said ‘2XL.’ Hmm. I don’t know about that,” says Hudson. “Ehhhhh, that’s a little bold. I don’t know about that. He throws that in the wash four times before he puts it on.”
Maybe Goff is just planning for the future. One of his favorite pastimes, according to Hudson, is eating.
“He likes to go out to eat a lot,” Hudson says. “He doesn’t like to cook. We don’t think he knows how to. We make fun of him, where he always goes out and grabs food from somewhere, no matter what. We’re trying to work on that.”
On the docket: Kraft Mac and Cheese 101.
When he is out for food, though, Goff is a regular man about town.
“He’s a great dude,” says Lasco. “He’s a great dude, all around. He’s a smart kid. He’s funny. I still just see him as a young little freshman when he first walked in, but I still give him little tips about little things, on and off the field. I always mess with him and things like that. But, he’s fun. He’s a great locker room guy. He always has a lot of energy. He just brings the whole team together.”
Goff, though, is a long way from that freshman who took over 30 sacks last season.
“During the offseason, I worked as hard as I could to try to improve everything, physically and mentally and emotionally,” Goff says. “Coming into the year, it has a lot more to do with the people around me. The linemen are just so much more improved this year. Everyone knows about the receivers, how good they are, and the running game that we’ve been able to produce this year is just so helpful. It takes a lot of pressure off me. It makes it a lot easier to get a lot more people in the box and stuff like that. I think the mixture of everything has allowed me to become more comfortable and find the open guy and let them make plays.”
Of course, it’s Hudson who keeps Goff grounded. The worst (best?), though, is when Hudson and Goff team up, as they have five times for 95 yards this season on the field.
“After games, no matter what time, like this one, we were home at 5:30 (a.m.), we went into our house, and we have a huge sound system in our living room that can easily get noise complaints, every time,” Hudson says. “He’ll plug in his phone, put on some song – usually Born in the USA -- crank it up all the way and wake up everybody in our house, no matter what, just to know that we’re home, just because, to liven up the mood.”
What was the reaction when the conquering heroes came home at 5:30 in the morning and started jamming to The Boss?
“They know it’s coming, at this point,” says Hudson. “They all knew that we were home, so they came down to congratulate us. They were up watching the game.”
Hudson will readily admit to being an instigator, but also says, “we both have our flaws,” as roommates.
For instance, as perfect as Goff can be on the field – his 64.6 completion percentage is a sore spot, since he’s set a goal of 70% -- he’s messy as a roomie, says Hudson.
“He’ll definitely fight that back, if he sees this,” Hudson says. “We’ve actually taken a vote in the house, and he’s definitely below me on it. He likes to say that I leave the dishes, but I’m pretty lazy, and I do the paper plate route.”
Oh, and the billboard. Don’t forget about the billboard. And the television ads.
“We have several, several different pictures,” Hudson says. “We have a group chat for any time we see a picture of him, and we make fun of him. We definitely make fun of him a lot for his faces. The best is, up here (points to the video board), when they do the ‘Make some noise!’ and he’s up there, it’s the best one. I can’t stop laughing any time I see it, even in the most serious part of the game. I’ll look up and see that and I start cracking up. It’s priceless. The best is when everyone’s trying to make a serious face, his serious face is just, not at all. He just has to understand that there’s not any intimidating factor, not an intimidating bone in his body. He’s got to just accept it, sit there and smile.”
Well, no intimidating bone in his body, but as for that arm? It’s at the head of one of the nation’s most productive offenses. The Bears are third in the nation in passing offense, 11th in total offense and second in scoring offense.
Sometimes, Hudson will just pop his square head into Goff’s room and remind him that, on Saturday, they’ll #Drop50.
“Every time when we’re sitting there and watching film, even outside watching film, on our own, I’ll go into Jared’s room and be like, ‘We’re dropping 50,’” says Hudson. “We’ll watch games on TV, and we’ll see other Pac-12 games and we’ll watch teams, and we’ll just be like, ‘We can just destroy those defenses.’ We’ll see that, and it’s something that we get excited for. We’re looking forward to playing these games, and some of it is just that confidence.”
“It’s fun, huh?” Goff says of the offense. “It’s a lot of fun to score a lot of points. But, if we score 21 and the defense holds them to seven, that’s just as fun. All we have to do is score more than the other team. Right now, it’s taking a lot of points, but we’re just trying to get better every week, as an offense. We know we have a lot to improve on. That’s the best thing about our offense. We know we haven’t reached our peak. We’re really not even close to reaching our peak.”
Still, though, once the helmet’s off, “he’s not intimidating,” Hudson smiles. “He’s got to understand that, but we’ll try to get that across.”
Hearing all of the plaudits that Goff’s received of late, Hudson and the other roommates have one reaction: Yeah, but he’s kind of a dork.
“Just look at him,” Hudson says. “Just look at what he wears in his interviews: That white little Hawaiian shirt, almost. He likes to say it’s ‘Frat,’ so we make fun of him for that.
“He likes the frat outfits. He’ll wear the Sperrys, the bro tank, the Patagonia hat. We had a full week of Very Mad Jared, because he lost his Patagonia hat. He blamed everyone in the house until he figured out that he lost it. This was about a week ago.”
And what did Goff do when he couldn’t find that Patagonia hat? He set a career high in passing, with 527 passing yards against Washington State. Lesson: Don’t take Goff’s stuff.
“He was so mad,” Hudson says. “He was not talking to anyone.”
When Goff’s not mad at the world for losing his hat, Hudson says, “he’s the life of the party at the house, that’s for sure.”
“He always brings a funny side to it,” Hudson says. “We had the band come to our house after the game. They were just walking down the street, and they came into our house. They knew that it was our house. We actually started a tradition to start doing that after games. After wins, they’re going to come by, come into the house and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of. Jared was the first to jump up, on the table, in our living room, and start directing the whole band. You do you, Jared, you do you. He has a good time.”
Usually, at the other team’s expense.