Just about nothing went right on offense for California on Saturday. The Bears didn’t #Drop50, they didn’t complete a pass for more than 20 yards for the first time this season, they rushed for less than 100 yards for the second week in a row, they fumbled the ball a season-high five times and lost three of those (they had only fumbled the ball eight times in five games, and lost none) and they allowed 21 points off of turnovers (they had allowed 28 in the previous five games, total).
Of Cal’s seven penalties, three came on the offensive line – all on right guard Alejandro Crosthwaite. Quarterback Jared Goff was hurried often, and was sacked four times, though he attributed the lack of a downfield passing game to Washington’s scheme.
“They got to me a couple of times, but that wasn’t the reason why we couldn’t get over the top,” said Goff, who came in averaging 10.6 yards per passing attempt. “It was their coverage techniques, and what they were doing with their linebackers and safeties and corners.”
Is an offensive line shake-up in order? Matt Cochran did come into the game in the fourth quarter to relieve Crosthwaite, a move head coach Sonny Dykes said was due to normal rotation to get fresh bodies on the line.
“We’ve just got to play better,” Dykes said on Sunday. “I just didn’t think we played with the same kind of intensity and toughness and effort that we’ve played with. Those positions, there’s always competition for those spots. That’s kind of the way we do our whole football team. If you have a bad week of practice, and the guy behind you has a good week of practice, then, more than likely, he’s going to get some playing time. That’s the way that deal goes. I don’t anticipate that happening, but we’ll see how it plays out.”
Of great concern to Dykes was the lack of maturity that the young Cal team showed on Saturday, after a week of being built up as one of the most explosive offenses in the country. On Saturday, tailback Daniel Lasco said it best.
“It was us; absolutely, it was us,” Lasco said. “Throughout the last couple weeks, we’ve had so much notoriety throwing the ball and running the ball, and so much success on offense, that I believe it kind of got to our heads. Going into this week, we should have had a better week of practice, and it’s just a lesson learned. We’re just going to play an even tougher team than Washington this coming week with UCLA. We messed up. Offensively, we didn’t hold on. We started off rough, and the defense did spectacular. They played a well enough game for us to win. We just had too many turnovers. It’s just unacceptable.”
Turnovers, penalties, a slow start – all indicative of the young offense Cal had last season. Even more illustrative were the two things the Bears have done exceedingly well this season on offense. They came into the game with a red zone success rate over 90%. On Saturday, Cal went 1-for-4 in the red zone. On third down, the Bears were just 7-for-17, after coming in with a 50.7% conversion rate.
“That’s what I talked to them about after the game,” Dykes said. “I think we all did [read their own clippings]. It starts with me. Those guys have got to understand that none of that matters. Scoring points is not easy. Moving the football is not easy. That is all a result of hard work, and a lot of intensity. Sometimes, when you have a little bit of success and things start going your way, you take that for granted a little bit, and that’s part of growing up as a program. You’ve got to learn how to win and you’ve got to learn how to battle through some things, and I think you’ve got to learn how to handle some success. It’s all part of the learning process and growing up as a program right now. It starts with me.”
Running the ball on Saturday was also a dicey proposition. Cal averaged just 1.9 yards per carry, after coming in averaging 4.1 yards per attempt.
“We probably should have run it more,” said Dykes, who’s offense ran the ball 33 times to 51 passing attempts. Before Saturday, the Bears had a 183 run to 193 pass play ratio. “That would have taken a little bit of heat off of Goff. It’s one of those things, when you get down, we had some bad things happen to us early, and it’s tough to do that some times. I thought Lasco ran hard, and continues to run hard and be effective.”
Not being able to run the ball effectively played into the lack of downfield passes open for Goff.
“They did a great job this week of game planning for us,” Goff said after the game. “Washington, I tip my hat to them. They did a great job defensively with everything they were doing. They weren’t letting us get over the top on them too much, so we had to do some underneath stuff, had to run the ball, and dug ourselves into a hole early, and weren’t able to get out of it with the defense that they were running.
“Nothing I didn’t see on film. They did exactly what we were expecting them to do. We didn’t get what we wanted all day. We shot ourselves in the foot early, and with the stuff they were doing defensively, we just weren’t able to get out of it.”
On Sunday, Dykes also gave updates on injuries, including on injured safety Griffin Piatt, who went down with an apparent knee injury one play after sacking Cyler Miles.
“We don't know yet. We’ll see. We’ll know a little bit more about him tomorrow,” Dykes said.
Starting safety Michael Lowe was unavailable for the game due to a concussion, but he should play against the Bruins.
“He’s fully cleared,” Dykes said. “He’ll have a non-contact practice on Tuesday, and then a contact practice on Wednesday.”
Starting defensive end Brennan Scarlett was out with a sprained knee, and he’s questionable at the moment for UCLA. He will not practice for a day or so, Dykes said.
“Had a sprained knee against Washington State, came back and played on it. He just didn’t react well this week, so he’ll kind of be week-to-week,” Dykes said. “We’ll see how he responds this week and make a determination later in the week whether he’ll play.”
Starting safety Stefan McClure once again was on the shelf due to a calf injury.
“Stefan McClure practiced tonight in a limited role. He’ll do a little bit more on Tuesday, and we anticipate him coming back.”
McClure will play against UCLA, Dykes said, , “unless he has a setback during the week.”
Running back Khalfani Muhammad wore a cast on his injured thumb, and did not play. He will have to continue wearing the cast for a month.
“He’s just in a cast. The biggest thing for us is just getting used to it,” Dykes said. “He could have played Saturday. It’s just going to be about him getting used to carrying the football, with his thumb in a cast, and I think the size of the cast will get smaller and smaller and smaller as time passes.”