THREE AND OUT: Cal vs. Oregon State

BERKELEY -- Mike Vernon and I break down Cal's clash against Oregon State, as Daniel Lasco talks about the impact of a bowl game and Jared Goff compliments his offensive line.



BERKELEY -- What follows is a transcript of the first half of California’s weekly press conference, featuring Bears leading tackler Michael Barton, leading rusher Daniel Lasco and quarterback Jared Goff.

[TUESDAY PRACTICE: Live Thread]

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INJURY UPDATES:
Brennan Scarlett (knee) did not practice. Head coach Sonny Dykes said that the Bears will know more about the condition of his sprained knee on Wednesday. We will next speak with Dykes on Thursday.
• Wide receiver Kenny Lawler did very little in practice. His status for Saturday is unknown.
Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper participated in much of practice, though Drake Whitehurst and Jack Austin got many first-team reps on the outside.

TRANSCRIPT
Barton:
Stats don’t show week-to-week improvement in defense; are they seeing progress, and in what ways: “Week-to-week, I think we’re making small improvements, which is all that matters, but with every team, problems arise, as well. We’ve been playing great offenses, back to back to back, so there’s always going to be some type of issues. As far as improvement, I think improvements have been there. I think, individually, players have been getting better, as well, not making the same mistakes. That’s what coach really emphasizes week-to-week: Don’t make the same mistakes from the week before; learn from your mistakes. I think that’s something we’ve been doing really well.”

Offenses they’ve faced made it tricky to keep improving: “Yeah. It’s just a lot of different looks, too. Like I always say, we have new, really young guys playing, so we’ve got to get them up to speed pretty quickly. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why we’ve been struggling, but, we’ve been playing great offenses, too, and hat’s off to their coaching staffs and how they’ve been playing. They’ve been playing well. I think we’ve been improving as a defense, and I think that’s the thing that I’m concerned about the most, and it’s got to all come together very soon.”

TE bodies gave them problems against Oregon: “We have to be physical at the point of attack, especially the outside linebackers. We have to be able to handle those guys. That’s going to be all on us, the SAM’s and the WILL’s. We have to be able to dominate those guys at the line of scrimmage, if it’s a run, and being able to cover those guys in the flat if it’s a pass.”

Four weeks left, need two wins to be bowl eligible: “It’s going to be a very tough game. Oregon State is known for being very good at home, and they get better as the season goes on, especially towards the end of the year. They’re a veteran team, too, but I think we can go up there and get this win. We just have to come and play our best game, and that’s the expectation every week: Play our best game. If we do that this week, we’ll come out with a win. I’m sure of it.”

Extra day of rest: “I think that extra day was much needed. A lot of guys were tired. I was tired. Just having that day to kind of relax and get our bodies back, refresh ourselves, I think we’ll come with a new focus at practice. We’ll see a lot of guys with more energy at practice, as well. It’s been a long span of weeks, just non-stop, game after game after game. That Saturday helped a lot, for everybody, for coaches and players.”

What did he do on Saturday, how’d he feel on Sunday: “Saturday, I just slept in and hung out with some family. I think that’s what a lot of guys did. We took it easy, got our minds off football for a little bit. That’s what takes our mind up, most of the time, is school and football, and having that day off to just relax, spend time with those you love and with your teammates, I think that’s the most important.”

“When we came back Sunday, I think guys were just ready to get back to work, and that’s just the mindset we’ve had all year. We’ve been working hard. That’s what we want to do when we get out here: We want to get our business done and do it well.”

Last year, OSU was very effective throwing: “I think they had one of the best receivers in the country last year; I think the best receiver in the country. That’s going to hurt any program when they don’t have one of their best players back. They like to be physical at the beginning of the game. It looks like they want to run some power runs, try to get you physically, and then they want to open you up, after that, maybe put more guys in the box and they want to throw. Mannion’s a veteran guy. He’s been there for four years, and he knows what he’s doing with that rock. It’s going to be very important that we get to him early, rattle him in the pocket, and stop that run, because they’re a run-first team and they have a pro-style offense.”

Lasco
Where Oregon State fits with four games left: “Every single game is big, but sitting at 4-4, it’s basically a whole new season. In my mind, we’re 0-0, looking for our first win.”

“We have to clean up some of the descriptive stuff that we need to do offensively, defensively and special teams to be able to go into Corvallis and get a nice win.”

“It’s going to be a tough-fought game.”

Whole new season: “Coach Dykes kind of touched on it the day after the game, and said that it was a new season to focus on, and he’s absolutely right. We’re two-thirds of the way through it, everybody’s trying to play five more games, and we only have four on the schedule, so we have to find a way to get two more, and it starts week-by-week, day-by-day. Oregon State’s next on the list, so we’re going to keep focusing on them and not look into the future, who our next opponents are.”

What would a bowl mean for this group: “A bowl is … is … is … big. A lot of the freshmen and some of the underclassmen don’t realize what type of experience that it gives this program. Everybody around it – the alumni base – is happy around here. My freshman year, we went to a bowl – we went to the Holiday Bowl – so I kind of got to experience a little bit of the treats and things like that that come with that. I know what the experience is like, and a lot of people hear about things, and everybody wants to go to a bowl game, but it comes down to doing the little things right, and making sure that we get all those details down, and pursue them in the right direction to make it to a bowl game.”

“It’s day-by-day and game-by-game.”

“At the end of these next four weeks, we’ll count ‘em up and see where we stand. Right now, we really need it. We need it for this team, for this program and for this university. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that happens.”

Has he told younger guys and had conversations with them about what it’s like to go to a bowl game: "Absolutely. We have conversations about it all the time. It feels like each year, the class that I came in with just gets smaller and smaller, and it’s crazy looking around the locker room and seeing who you came in with and how old I truly am on this team. For the most part, they come up – especially the freshmen – they just hear stories and see Instagram pics and things like that on social media of gifts and things that come with going to a bowl, and when you whip out that ring and show them that, it’s a whole different conversation: ‘Everybody gets this for going. I want one of those.’ It just comes down to everybody wanting to get there, especially the freshmen and underclassmen that haven’t been to a bowl game. You go to college and you expect to play on a great team and go to bowl games and things like that, and it's in our grasp. It's nice sitting here saying that it's there. It’s there. It’s up for the taking. It's not impossible.”

What does it do for them to see the comparison from one year ago “I honestly believe every single game is just as important as the last, and as the next. It really doesn’t change our focus or our mentality, too much, thinking about later on, in the season, and awards and prizes and things like that. That doesn’t really get us motivated. It’s just going out there and winning as a team. That’s what we keep fighting for. Everybody has had that taste of success, and knows what that feels like, going back in the locker room and singing our songs and rallying it up and jumping around. Things like that, that’s what gets everybody motivated to go out there and play their best.”

On his health: “I feel great. I feel really good. It’s a grind, as everybody says, especially at the running back position. It’s a grind. It’s a grind. But, I’m very blessed to say that I’m healthy, and I’ll be able to play next week and prepare and get ready for a big game and do all the little things right and get my body to game shape and game speed.”

“I hope to have a better game than what I had last game.” (tough to do that, as he had nearly 200 all-purpose yards)

“It’s about improving, about making sure that, week by week, I get better than I was the previous week. That’s the only thing I’m focused on.”

Running game against Oregon: “Our offensive linemen played the game of their life. Going back on film, and watching it, we had our center – Chris Adcock -- going against their best defensive lineman, head-up, one-on-one, and barely coming off for double teams and things like that, and still being able to move the pile. Up front, they stepped it up, and they really played the game of their life. It’s exciting to see all of them step up as a group, especially being back there, and seeing the holes and things like that just open up and being able to run. It’s better when everybody’s playing well, and all the gears are clicking. I really don’t give any success to us as a running back corps, as Luke was running the ball – Luke was running the ball great, too – but honestly, if you look on film, it was the offensive linemen opening up some big gaps for us, and we were just able to plunge it through. We’re going to continue to build on that. Everybody can get better. This week is a big-time week for us, and we just have to take it one practice at a time, and make sure that everybody gets their assignments down and we get the little things corrected.”

Seven OL formation: “It gave us a different look, defensively, for the defense. We were able to line up with seven up front and go – our big sets, we call them 2000 and 3000 – It’s just all of our big linemen up front, doing their jobs. It’s good knowing that we have depth at lineman, being a pass spread offense. It shows that we can have up to seven, eight, nine offensive linemen on the field, rotating at one time. I think all the offensive linemen played great on Friday night. They opened up some big lanes for everybody, and protected Goff tremendously and gave him a lot of time in the pocket to scramble around and make some throws down deep. For the most part, it just adds to this offense. It gives us more versatility, and we’re able to do a lot of things out of the big sets. If it’s having seven offensive linemen or having five and two fullbacks and a running back or having a tight end and a fullback, it shows that it’s not just a five-wide one-quarterback throwing offense. We can mix it up a little bit, so we can go against these teams that we’re going to see in the Pac.”

“We still need to build on it. We performed well on Friday, but we left a lot out there. I feel like we can definitely improve, and definitely get better, as a group.”

Remember about last Corvallis trip: “It was very cold. It was rainy. I remember, specifically, because I was just playing special teams at that point -- we had C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele here, so I was just playing special teams -- I remember going down on kickoff one time, and one of their linebackers came and blindsided me and knocked me out. It was a tremendous hit. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was an adventure. The hotel room, the fire alarm went off at two, three o’clock in the morning, and everybody having to evacuate. There are a lot of memories from that trip. We didn’t get that win, but it just sticks in your stomach and your gut, and you know that you need to go out there and you have to set a statement and play like it’s your last play, every single play. It’s coming down to that point in the season, where everybody’s banged up across the nation, and it’s one of those things that you have to fight through, and continue to go on and play against a great football team. I’m excited to go back there and see what kind of defense they have, face-to-face.”

Fire alarm seemed suspicious in its timing: "Absolutely. That was very suspicious. I didn’t understand what was going on at that point. I think someone said that someone threw a smoke bomb down the stairwell, and a lot of people were freaking out, because once a fire alarm goes off, you’re supposed to take the stairs to evacuate, and once you open the stairwell door, there’s a bunch of smoke coming up, so you didn't’ want to take the stairs. It was very odd. There was some smoke downstairs. I don’t know if it was a fire extinguisher or a smoke bomb or something. I remember it being very late, and I was the only one freaking out, telling everybody to evacuate, but a lot of people were saying that it was just a precaution. I didn’t want to stay in a burning building, so I was trying to be the superhero and pull everybody out and make sure everybody was safe. That happened in the middle of the night, and nobody got any sleep. We played the following night, so we had the whole day to recover and get rested up.”

“We need to make sure that everybody’s watching those switches pretty guarded.”

Jared Goff:
His take on the offensive line: “I thought they did a good job. They’ve been really getting better throughout the year, and like Daniel said, they just played really hard on Friday. They played really hard, and when it comes to O-line, that’s one of the biggest factors. If they play hard, they’re going to be alright most of the time. They’re a hard-working group, and there’s not another five guys in the country I think I want in front of me.”

How much better does the run game make the offense: “It definitely makes it a little bit easier for me when we’re able to do some good things in the run game, when Lasco and Khalfani [Muhammad] and all the other backs are able to do stuff. It allows the pass to open up more, as we’ve seen throughout the year, and it makes the linebackers honor the run and makes the safeties honor the run. They’ve done a really good job so far.”

WR corps injuries: “It’s not going to be too much of a difference because of how much we rotate. Guys like Jack Austin and Drake Whitehurst are in there with the one’s all the time, and they’re probably going to have to play a little bit this weekend, as well, and that’s going to be fine, because we’re already on the same page with most of the stuff. That’s the best thing about our team: Everyone’s ready, whenever their time is going to be called. This weekend, we might have a few guys out, but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference with me.”

Has he asked the older guys what it’s like to play in a bowl game: “Sure. I’ve talked to some of them about it throughout my time here, and they’ve said it’s a great experience, and it’s definitely one you want to have every year. They just say how much fun it is to end a season – regardless, win or lose – just end a season going to a bowl game and going to something fun and getting a company or whatever it is to put on a show for you guys and everything that goes along with going to a bowl game.”

Do you look at the schedule and look at two wins in the back of his mind: “I’d like to win all four of ‘em, really. That’s the thing. Even more importantly than that, I’d like to win this one, this weekend. You can’t really think about the future that much. It’s a one-week-at-a-time thing, and at the end of the year, you’re rewarded by how many games you win, and you can’t really try to add them up – I think we can win this one, I don’t think we can win this one – you can’t do that at all. You have to go one week at a time, really, one day at a time, and try to get better every day.”

What has he seen from Oregon State’s secondary: “They’re a good team, a good defense. Good secondary, as well, like most of the teams in the Pac-12. They’ve got good athletes back there – guys who can cover, guys who can tackle. They’re aggressive. They’re a good defense, a good secondary.”

How healthy is he after getting popped a few times on Friday: “I was sore, but I’m fine. There’s no real injuries. It’s pretty much every weekend, now. You get a little bit sore and, at this point in the season, I think everyone’s a little bit sore, but you’ve got to push through it, and I think that’s what separates teams from each other – who can battle through the dog days, the last four games of the year.”


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