Game Day Central: No. 24 California vs. Washington State
When: 1:00 p.m. Pacific, Sat., Oct. 3
Where: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
Weekly Preview Presser: Message Board Thread
TV: Pac-12 Networks - Kevin Calabro (Play-by-Play), Yogi Roth (Analyst), Lewis Johnson (Sideline)
Radio: KGO 810 AM - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), former Cal QB Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (Sideline)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: Sirius (137) and XM (197)
Series History: California leads, 42-26-5
Last Meeting: Cal 60 at Washington State 59 (Oct. 4, 2014)
Last Meeting at Cal: Washington State 44, Cal 22 (Oct. 5, 2013)
First Meeting: Washington State 14 at Cal 0 (Oct. 25, 1919)
Among the Leaders: Cal leads the nation with 14 turnovers gained ... Cal quarterback Jared Goff will break Kyle Boller's program record for 64 touchdown passes with his next TD toss ... Goff currently owns 22 Cal records outright, and that will be his 23rd ... Goff is 92-for-133 for 1,240 yards this season with 11 touchdowns to three interceptions ... Goff is tied for second in the Pac-12 in passing touchdowns, as well as tied for sixth nationally ... Goff is second in the Pac-12 and ninth nationally in passing yards ...Goff is second in the Pac-12 in passer rating (170.3) and 13th in the NCAA ... Goff (69.2%) is third in the conference in completion percentage and No. 16 nationally ... Goff's 64 touchdown passes rank tied for 25th in Pac-12 history ... Goff's 8,721 passing yards for his career are 26th in conference history, and his 8,600 total yards of offense are 27th ... Last season, Goff and Connor Halliday combined for 1,261 yards of passing offense in Pullman, while Halliday threw for an NCAA single-game record 734 yards ... In that game, Goff threw for five touchdowns.
"I think they've improved, defensively," Goff says. "They've got a new defensive coordinator, so I think they're going to be better, defensively. Offensively, I don't know what they've got, but I'm sure they've got a similar type of offense. We plan on going out there and playing hard on offense, and hopefully, scoring a lot of points."
Having Lasco back will certainly help take some of the heat off of Goff, who's 119th out of 130 Division I quarterbacks in time in the pocket.
"I think he's going to help a lot, just the experience, but with that being said, the guys the last two weeks have done an incredible job," Goff says. "It's almost like we didn't even notice that he's not out there, and that's not taking anything away from Daniel, but Vic, Khalfani and Jeff and Tre have done such a good job, and had two big games on the road that we needed to play well in, and they did such a great job."
Cal ran for 280 yards against Texas -- then the 90th-ranked run defense -- with Goff getting sacked just once. Against Washington -- which has the No. 21-ranked run defense -- the Bears rushed for 139 yards, and Goff was sacked five times. Washington State ranks 86th, and has nine sacks -- second in the conference to Cal's 12.
The Bears came in this week ranked No. 24 in both the AP and Coaches polls, and have not been ranked since 2010. Cal has not won back-to-back road games on consecutive weeks since 1993, and they did that with wins over the Longhorns and Huskies. The Bears are one win shy of tying their best start since 1950.
Special Attention: Two of those touchdowns went to Golden Bears receiver Trevor Davis, who tied an NCAA record with two kickoff returns for touchdowns against the Cougars last season, and combined with a missed field goal at the end of regulation, cost Washington State's special teams coordinator his job ... Davis was named a preseason second-team All-American kick returner, but the Bears have only averaged 18.6 yards per kickoff return this season, with Davis averaging 21.5.
"They kick the ball in different spots, but there's not that much you can really change up on kickoffs," Davis says. "Overall, it's a different look, so we have to find the chutes that we can hit on kickoff return."
Head coach Sonny Dykes dismissed the kickoff return -- or lack thereof -- as a result of a small sample size, as the Bears have only returned five all season.
"We haven't really had that many chances," Davis says. "Kick return's a hard thing to do. Everyone has to do their 1/11th, and it's really hard. That's why Washington State, it was such a crazy thing. We're waiting for the opportunity, really, where everything goes right, we find a chute and it works out perfectly. I don't know how to pinpoint it, but we take special teams very seriously, and that's what helped us last year."
Stopping the Air Raid
Cal and Washington State share offensive origins, in that Dykes and Franklin's Bear Raid shares philosophical roots with Mike Leach's Air Raid, which can all be traced back to Hal Mumme's days at Kentucky.
“I wouldn’t say exactly the same, but they’re very similar," says cornerback Darius Allensworth. "Coach Dykes and coach Leach have some history going back to Texas Tech. They run routes similar to our receivers, and they run concepts similar, but they do different stuff with some motions – they motion out the three and the two – so they do different motions, but as far as route running and route recognitions, it’s all the same.
“It’s refreshing. We know what we’re going to get, so when we go against one-on-one and in skelly, it’s like we’re going against Washington State, so that’s an advantage that we have, going into Saturday’s game.”
Facing his own team's offense every day gives safeties coach Greg Burns -- who was the defensive backs coach last season, until splitting those duties in 2015 with John Lovett -- at least a bit of a primer, not to mention the tape from last season.
"To be honest, it's just studying concepts," says Burns. "We see what they've done, what they've changed to, what they've grown. Every year, they're going to tweak something, so it'll be a little different. We're not necessarily studying the film from last year, so much as the actual plays that were run."
How much of a difference is there between Halliday and redshirt sophomore Luke Falk? For one, he's far more experienced than either of the two quarterbacks the Bears have faced the last two games -- with Jerrod Heard starting just his second game, and Jake Browning starting his fourth. Falk started the final three games for the Cougars last season, and played in six, in addition to his three starts this year.
"It definitely helps, to get an idea of his favorite throws, what he likes to do and what he doesn't like to do, tendencies that he may or may not have," Burns says. "Obviously, more film to study is best, and you start picking up on little details of what they do -- mannerisms -- whatever the case may be. This is a team that has a system about what they do, and it's more the system. They get the ball out really, really fast. He knows exactly what and how he wants to do things. We have to be ready to get on them."
The receivers to keep an eye on will be River Cracraft and Gabe Marks. Marks caught 74 balls for 807 yards in 2013, before sitting out last year due to legal and injury trouble. He hasn't missed a beat, catching 25 passes for 273 yards so far this year. Cracraft has 17 catches for 230 yards in three games.
"All their receivers are solid," says Burns. "They're precise route-runners, they have very good hands. They have a good understanding of spacing, knowing where to sit on a route, knowing when to keep it high. They're polished players. Obviously, Marks didn't play last year, so to watch him now, in comparison to the guys that they had last year, it simply means that they haven't slacked off one bit. He's as polished as the guys we ran against last year, and he's a good route-runner with good hands."
Last year was "a long day," Burns deadpans. "The only thing that made it good was the fact that we won. The bottom line is, you don't take this team lightly. They're a quick-strike team, and you've got to minimize the big plays and force them to work their way down field."