SEATTLE -- It was ugly. It was uneven. It was incomplete. But, when all is said and done, California moved to 4-0 for the first time since 2007 with a 30-24 win over Washington on Saturday, marking the first time that Cal had beaten the Huskies since 2008, and the first time the Bears had beaten Washington in Seattle since 2005.
On Monday, the Bears moved to No. 24 in both the Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press poll -- ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2010.
"I'm not a big poll guy. Those are things that really have no meaning, no significance at all, but, having said that, our players have worked incredibly hard to be part of a program that's recognized and appreciated, and that other people respect. I think the poll's a part of that. There's a certain level of respect that comes with that. It's important at the same time to know that you can get out of the poll just as quickly as you get in." -- Cal head coach Sonny Dykes
The Bears tallied five turnovers – the most they’d tallied in a game since 2013 – and added 5.0 sacks – a career-high 2.5 by Kyle Kragen. The five turnovers and five sacks were the most since Cal forced six turnovers and 5.0 sacks in a 43-17 win over UCLA on Oct. 6, 2012.
"Huge, huge job by the defense," said Jared Goff. "It's a stat that, if you look at the turnover margin, most of the time, the team with more turnovers wins, most times. If they continue to do that, we're going to be tough to beat, and I couldn't be prouder of the progress they've made over the offseason, making big plays when it matters."
In fact, Cal's 14 turnovers gained is tops in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Bears are tied for the FBS lead in picks, with nine, and fumble recoveries, with five.
"Turnovers are really a byproduct of guys playing hard," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We're running to the football well, we're chasing the ball better than we have in the past, and when you play hard, you're in the right place. Our guys have gotten in the right place, and when they get an opportunity to make a play, they've made it. I was really proud of Damariay Drew to get that interception at the end. I thought the guys on the back end of our defense have really played well for us, up to this point. Right now, we're just making plays. When we need to make a play, somebody's making it. It's somebody different. It's pretty fun when those guys play that way."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1591893-goff-turnovers-key... Dykes said that turnovers were "certainly talked about in the offseason," and have been emphasized more this year, with more turnover circuits during practice, and it's paying off. Dykes said that there has been a "renewed focus" this year on creating turnovers.
"A big part of the nine interceptions is getting pressure up front," said Dykes, and Cal certainly did that on Saturday, with five sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss. "The way the games have been, we've been able to get some leads in some ballgames, and when you do that, you force people to get out of their comfort zone a little bit, offensively, and they're more apt to turn the ball over at those times."
Cal dominated time of possession – an oddity for an offense that’s able to score so quickly – by the count of 39:49 to 20:11, running 92 offensive plays to Washington’s 55. The Bears kept freshman quarterback Jake Browning rattled all day, as the first-year signal-caller didn’t complete his first pass until there was just 5:34 left in the first half.
On the flip side, after his second TD pass of the day to Kenny Lawler, Goff was 17 for 24 for 253 yards & two TDs against a Washington defense that had not allowed a touchdown pass in first three games.
"It's huge. It's a turning point win, I think, to get the first conference win, come back 4-0 and get to play a game at home next week against Washington State, and it's a big one. It's big coming into next week 4-0 rather than 3-1, I think." -- Jared Goff
But, for the second time in two games, Cal let a three-score lead slip away, and it’s not gone unnoticed.
“Obviously, the fumble return for a touchdown was the big turning point,” Dykes said of the 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Sidney Jones. "That got Washington back in the game, and got them some momentum."
The Bears had held opponents scoreless in the third quarter for the first three weeks of the year, but after halftime, Browning -- who had gone just 5-of-10 for 50 yards and an interception -- went 12-of-18 for 102 yards, as the Huskies outscored Cal 14-7 in the penultimate stanza.
"We're not going to hold a team meeting and say, 'Well, guys, we've arrived.' That's not the way we do things." -- Sonny Dykes
The Bears had issues in the red zone (though they went 5-of-6, three of those scores were field goals), and while their third-down conversion rate was better (10 of 20, compared to 5-of-13 last week), they still had issues running on third down, particularly late in the game.
"Going on the road, winning a close Pac-12 game like that, you don't think about that stuff, but there's 10s or 100s of things that we could have done better," said Goff, who with his two touchdown passes, tied former NFL quarterback Kyle Boller for the program’s all-time passing touchdown record (64). "You know that, we know that we should have done those now, but we'll look at it on film."
So, with that, we get to the analysis …
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1592016-postgame-video-jar... Third Down Conundrums
Dykes has lamented Cal's inability to convert on third downs each of the past two games, and, breaking down what happened on third down each of the last two games -- notably, without Daniel Lasco -- the Bears have been better when passing on third down than going to their big, 6-foot-1, 230-pound tailback Vic Enwere in Lasco's stead. Here's a brief look at third downs over the past two games against Texas and Washington.
The Bears were 2-for-3 running the ball on third-and-short (less than four yards), which is something to be lauded, but with six of those situations coming up in the game, and big Enwere running for a career-high 83 yards, it's perhaps a bit troublesome that Cal didn't have enough faith to run the ball more in those situations (Enwere did cough up a fumble, after all).
The Bears didn't much need to run the ball on third down against Grambling State and San Diego State, but the fact that they didn't against Texas and Washington (running the ball with a tailback on third-and-short two times out of six against the Longhorns, as well) suggests that, as much faith as offensive coordinator Tony Franklin has boasted about having in his running backs, when it comes to crucial third-and-short, move-the-sticks situations, he elects to pass. With a quarterback like Goff, he has that luxury, but overall, Cal is 57th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in third-down conversion rate.
|Distance||Running Back or Pass||Outcome|
|7||pass to Anderson||22|
|6||pass to Harris||6-yd TD|
|5||pass to Anderson||7|
|2||pass to Anderson||1|
|3||INC to Lawler (penalty on UT)||15|
|8||pass to Davis||11|
|5||pass to Powe||21|
|1||at goal line, pass INC||0|
|1||Trevor Davis reverse||(-10)|
|7||pass to Davis||8|
|8||pass to Lawler||8-yd TD|
|10||Pass to Powe||13|
|5||pass to Lawler||20|
|10||pass to Anderson||13|
|15||INC to Treggs||0|
|8||pass to Treggs||27|
Cal running backs have successfully converted third downs twice in nine attempts. The Bears rushed just three times on third down against Grambling State (one being Chase Forrest), and did not convert on any of those attempts. They did convert six of nine passing against the Tigers. Against San Diego State, Cal was just 2-for-10 on third downs, with one of those conversions (on third-and-two) being a Lasco 12-yard run, and the other a 10-yard pass on third-and-seven by Goff to Darius Powe. The Bears attempted two other rush on third down. The first was a third-and-one in the fourth quarter against the Aztecs, with Lasco rushing for no gain. The other was a one-yard Watson run on third-and-two.
Even in short-yardage situations, Cal has not been able to move the sticks consistently with their running backs. That becomes even more concerning when the Bears need to run the ball late in games to seal off a win. We saw that against Washington. It took a heroic fourth-and-four five-yard run by Goff to keep the clock moving on the final drive of the game to keep the ball out of the Huskies' hands on Saturday.
"I wasn't planning on it," Goff said. "At first, I wanted to throw it to Stephen [Anderson]. We had a nice little play call set up. Their defense was the best defense I've played in a long time, and scouted us very well, played very well. They switched off what we were trying to do, exactly how they should do it, and so then I just instinctively ran."
"Man, he showed courage," said Lawler. "Skinny Jared, he had to get the first, and he did. He's a leader. That's what leaders do. We were pretty happy, because the play didn't go as we expected it to. We still have to play on, and that's what Jared did. He made something out of nothing, and that won us the game."
The fact of the matter is, Goff shouldn't have to do that. Like Aaron Rodgers, Goff isn't truly a mobile, dual-threat quarterback, but he can certainly move when he has to -- and he's shown that ability, much to the delight of NFL scouts -- but he shouldn't be forced to run on third-and-short, especially when the Bears have a hammer like Enwere, who was stood up three times at the one-yard line in the second quarter.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1592003-postgame-video-cal... "We wanted to go for the touchdown down there. We felt like it was going to be a win-win, either way, because if we didn't get it, they were going to have to put their offense out there at the one," Dykes said. "Luckily, we got a turnover at that point, which again helped us, but that would have been a big scoring opportunity for us."
Is some of that on the running back? Certainly. Enwere is 1-for-6 on third-down runs over the last two games. But the more troubling prospect is that the offensive line isn't getting push off the ball in third-and-short, which they are getting on first and second downs. The Bears did, after all, run for 280 yards against the Longhorns.
If the line is the issue, or if Franklin doesn't have faith in the running backs on third down, that's not a recipe for success, and it should be a concern going forward as the Bears enter the meat of the Pac-12 schedule. Following Washington State, Cal will face Utah, UCLA, USC and Oregon in successive weeks.
"I thought Jared played well, making that play down the stretch there, on the fourth down, is indicative of what he's done for us this year," Dykes said. "He does what he needs to do to give us the chance to win. It was a great play. He just gutted it out, made the first down, and I thought he played very well. His completion percentage probably wasn't what it needs to be, because we dropped four, five, six balls today, which was a little bit out-of-character for us."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1592008-postgame-video-kra... Release the Kragen
In the span of 20 minutes, Cal defensive end Kyle Kragen had 2.5 sacks and a pass deflection, nearly equalling Devante Downs -- last year's sack leader, with three -- and the sacks leaders from 2013 (Jalen Jefferson, Todd Barr, Puka Lopa and Kragen himself, all with 3.0).
Kragen also led off the second half with strong pressure, twisting on the outside along with Lopa, making room for a sack by Jake Kearney.
"That's a tough team to defend because they show you so many different things, with shifts and motions and moving people around, and I thought our team adjusted well," Dykes said. "I was proud of the way we played. We created five turnovers, and that was the difference in the ballgame.
"I thought we rushed the passer incredibly well. We needed to get pressure. Jake Browning's going to be a really good, young quarterback, and when he has an opportunity to sit in the pocket, he's very effective, throwing the football, so we needed to get pressure. I feel like that was key, early in the ballgame to pressure him the way that we did, and we got some pressure down the stretch, as well, and was really proud that we got some pressure rushing three guys at times in some criticial situations."
Kragen was particularly strong early, setting the tone for the defense, with two sacks, a pressure and a pass deflection on each of Washington's first two drives.
Next Bear Up
Cal was able to beat Washington without some of their best weapons -- defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil did not play, defensive end DeVante Wilson did not play, and Lasco was on the shelf. The Bears were still able to apply pressure on Browning and a young Huskies offensive line, and came out with a win.
"He's a little bit banged up," Dykes said of Jalil. "His knee's been bothering him some, and we think we'll get him back. He could have played some today, but we felt like it was probably toing to be better to hold him out, same thing with Lasco. He's just not 100 percent, and we don't want to put somebody at further risk."
The fact that Cal was able to be as effective as it was without some of its best bullets is all well and good, but what should be of major concern was how many times Goff was hit, and, beyond that, the fact that the Bears are still uncertain about how long left tackle Brian Farley will be out with an ankle injury suffered at the end of the first quarter.
"Whether it's a series or two series, a week or two weeks, you've got to have guys who can go out there, continue to pass protect and move the football, and luckily, we've got a lot of good, young offensive linemen that are developing, and give us a chance to win." -- Sonny Dykes
Aaron Cochran was a mixed bag at left tackle, occasionally showing good feet and very good punch, but more often than not losing control of his defender and allowing them to take the edge with speed rushes around the outside. Vince Johnson wasn't much better when he had to take over for Moore on the right side.
"I think it was good for them to get reps against good pass rushers," Dykes said. "Washington's got some pretty elite type pass rushers, and those guys, that's a very good defensive football team. We knew they would be, and they were everything that they were advertised to be. I thought Aaron played well at times. He made a couple of mistakes. He over-extended once or twice, got beat inside, but overall, I thought he competed pretty hard, and played well. Vinnie didn't get as many snaps as Aaron got, but when he was in there, I thought he competed well. He got bull-rushed once or twice, which is a good learning experience for him, but overlal, I thought they both came in and played pretty well, did some good things, and allowed us to win the football game, and that's what you've got to have. You've got to have quality depth."
One player who was routinely in the backfield was nose tackle Elijah Qualls, Goff's former seven-on-seven teammate. Goff had said before the game that he'd make sure to greet Qualls after all was said and done on the field, but Qualls and Goff had more than a few meetings of the minds.
"He was after me," Goff said. "In the middle of the game, I said, 'Hey, stay off my knees,' just joking around. He's a hell of a player, too. Their whole D-line is good. Elijah's a good friend of mine, and I expect him to have a good year this year. I talked to him after the game, said 'Good luck.' He's a good player."
The fact that in Washington's spread-out, three-down defensive line was able to get to Goff so readily (sacking him five times and dealing out three or four more hits) should be a concern, especially in light of the fact that Cal may be digging deeper into its tackle depth. Dykes said on Sunday that having Patrick Mekari and Semisi Uluave rep at tackle is being considered. Mekari and Uluave have both played mostly guard, and Dykes said that he didn't think the Bears would get to the point where those two would have to play tackle in games.
"He got pressured more than we wanted him to," Dykes said of Goff. "Washington's got a good pass rush."
Special Teams Still a Concern
After Matt Anderson kicked the first two kickoffs into the end zone, the Bears squib kicked and kicked short on every other kickoff throughout the game. That was a combination of kicking into the wind, as well as some lingering concerns with kickoff coverage.
"We were kicking into the wind. When we were kicking into the wind, he wasn't going to be able to kick it into the end zone, so we've got to get better," Dykes said. "Our kickoff team is not doing very good right now. We've got to improve there. It's been something that's been an issue for us all year. We've tried to address it. It's something we've got to get fixed."
Cal averaged 46.4 yards per kickoff, and allowed an average of 14 yards per kickoff return.
"We didn't want to kick to Daje Johnson against Texas, and we didn't feel great about kicking into the wind the other night," Dykes said. "Obviously, we tried to kick it deep when we had the wind, and we didn't when we didn't. Those are always things that just depend on who you're playing against, what the situation is. It's not something that we've done particularly well. I don't think we've covered kicks well. I don't think we've kicked off well. It's obviously an area that we have to improve in, dramatically. We'll keep working towards that."
Red Zone, Dead Zone
Where this type of offense typically struggles is in the red zone, because the condensed space makes it difficult to pass, and the Bear Raid did struggle down deep on Saturday. The Bears were 5-of-6 in the red zone, but three of those scores were field goals.
It may be nitpicking, especially when just a few sections ago, I bemoaned the lack of true running plays on third down, but on third down in the red zone, with as indefensible a pass as Goff's pattented back-shoulder fade at their disposal, Cal decided to run the ball twice on third-and-goal. Both tries failed. Enwere did run in for a 12-yard scoring rumble to lead off the second quarter, but the next time the Bears were down deep, on third-and-one at the Washington 14, Franklin called a reverse to receiver Trevor Davis that cost Cal 10 yards.
"We did, we certainly did," Dykes said when asked about the red zone struggles. "You've got to give Washington credit. They're a very good defensive football team, particularly, the closer you get to the goal line, the better they are, defensively ... We have to execute down better down there."
Now, on third-and-nine on Cal's second drive at the Washington 13, Goff did drop back to pass, but he was sacked. On third-and-goal at the Washington 1 in the second quarter, Goff did pass, but it fell incomplete to Lawler. Goff completed an eight-yard TD pass to Lawler on third-and-goal at the start of the third quarter, showing how effective he can be down deep, when he's given protection.
The next time the Bears was in the red zone (in the fourth quarter), Goff hit a five-yard pass to Lawler at the Huskies 12, but a holding call on Cochran called that back. The play before that, a false start on the veteran Moore pulled Cal back five yards, as well.
"Their defense was just really good, and for us to score 30 points on them is pretty good, I think. They're really well coached, very sound players, and they make plays on the ball," Goff said. "They're just a good defense, and they're going to be one of the best defenses in the Pac-12."
Against some of the other top defenses in the conference -- and, believe me, the best is yet to come -- execution down deep is going to be crucial, because field goals aren't going to cut it.
"They're just a good defense," Lawler said. "They came out and played lights-out defense. We were in the red zone, had to kick a couple of field goals, but it's cool. As long as we execute on those field goals and get points on the board, it's a good day. I tip my hat to their defense. They were pretty good."
The Bears are now 74th in the FBS in red zone efficiency.
"I think that's something we've got to improve on," Dykes said. "The good thing about it is, we've moved the ball and we've scored some points this year, but we haven't played as well as we're capable of playing, by any stretch of the imagination, and we haven't been as good as we need to be on third down. I think we were 10-out-of-20 today, so a bit better, but we've got to get better on third downs, and we've got to get better in the red zone."