Game Day Central: Cal at UCLA

A healthy Jared Goff, a focused wide receiving corps and a drought in Los Angeles that stretches back to 2009 are all on the table for Thursday night in Pasadena ...

No. 19/20 Cal (5-1, 2-1 in Pac-12) at UCLA (4-2, 1-2)


When: 6:00 p.m. Pacific, Thurs., Oct. 22
Where: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Weekly Preview Presser: Message Board Thread
TV: ESPN - Joe Tessitore (Play-by-Play), Jesse Palmer (Analyst), David Pollack (Analyst), Kaylee Hartung (sideline reporter)
Radio: KGO 810 AM - Joe Starkey (Play-by-Play), former Cal QB Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (Sideline)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: Sirius (84) and XM (84)
Series History: UCLA leads, 52-32-1
First Meeting: at UCLA 0, Cal 0 (Nov. 4, 1933)
Last Meeting: UCLA 36, at Cal 24 (Oct. 18, 2014)
Last Cal Win: at Cal 43, UCLA 17 (Oct. 6, 2012)
Current Win Streak: UCLA, 2

Injuries: CB Jaylinn Hawkins (out-season; shoulder), LB Aisea Tongilava (out; toe); WR Trevor Davis (questionable; ankle), OT Brian Farley (questionable; foot)

Notes: Cal has not won at either UCLA or USC since 2009, and has just one win in the Southland since beating USC on the road in 2000 ... With one more win, Cal becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

Key Quote: "He's looked better this week than he has in a month." -- Cal OC Tony Franklin on Jared Goff's health 

Happy Homecoming? California wide receiver Bryce Treggs has finally passed his father’s mark for career catches, well in advance of Brian Treggs’s enshrinement in the Cal Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 31. “It only took me half of my senior season,” the younger Treggs smiles.

The senior out of Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco now has 168 catches to his father’s 167, but he’s still behind the Old Man in yards (1,827 to 2,335 ) and touchdowns (10 to 15). While Bryce admits that “it’ll take an unbelievable second half” to surpass his father’s other marks, it’s within striking distance. Now, so is another achievement that’s eluded the younger Bears wide out: Winning in Los Angeles.

The SoCal native will have a chance to do that at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Rose Bowl, against now-unranked UCLA, as part of a Bears team that’s ranked No. 19/20 – the highest Cal has been ranked since 2009.

“He never beat Stanford, so I still have a chance to do that, but he has beaten the L.A. schools,” says Bryce, who's competed his entire life with his father, from running patterns to running a foot race (he first beat him, he says, when he was 12).

The Bruins were in the thick of things at the end of Bryce’s recruitment back in 2012, and he went on Fox Sports West television on Signing Day, with both a Bruins cap, and a Cal cap. He stuck with his commitment to the Bears.

“They have a great progam over there, coach Mora’s a great coach, and a lot of my friends from high school are currently playing for the team – Ishmael AdamsRandall GoforthJaleel Wadood, Jordan Payton – all guys that I played on 7-on-7 teams with,” Treggs says. “They sort of all went there together. I know those guys are going to come up, and we’re going to have to play a good game to win.”

Payton (6-foot-1, 215), Eldridge Massington (6-3, 210, R. So.) and Alex Van Dyke (6-4, 205, So.) each provide some big targets on the outside for Rosen, and that will test the Bears' corners.

"The biggest thing is, they're big, but they're physical guys, they're strength-level guys," says Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. "That's where we've got to make sure, when we're there, we're not getting knocked around, we're keeping our pads down, and making sure when we go after the ball, and we're tackling. Some of those guys are running back-big, as far as being hard to tackle."

Brave New World

A fellow Bosco alum of Treggs's – Josh Rosen – is at the helm of UCLA’s offense, but when it comes to that particular match-up, the man of the moment is Kaufman.

“He’s only been sacked four times,” Kaufman says. “He knows where he’s going with the ball. When he gets pressured, he knows where to go with it, and he may have somebody hanging on him and he’s still able to get rid of it.”

When asked about the similarities of Rosen to Jared Goff, head coach Sonny Dykes – who recruited Rosen – said that both are possessed of a lot of confidence (Goff quieter in his), and that Rosen is a bit broader and thicker, while Goff is taller and leaner. That extra stoutness to Rosen has helped him shrug off some hits and stay strong in the pocket.

“He’s very poised for a freshman quarterback,” Kaufman says. Rosen will have to be poised, with the uncertainty surrounding starting left tackle Conor McDermott, who missed all of the second half against Stanford with a knee injury.

“We’ll find out what the match-ups are when we get into the game, but we’ve just got to play our game,” Kaufman says. “We tell our guys: When a play comes your way – be it up front with the pressure, get the sack – we’ve got to make our plays.”

The Bears certainly have done that this season, with a national-best 21 turnovers gained, with a pass rush spearheaded by Kyle Kragen, who leads the Pac-12 in sacks.

Kragen and the defensive front will be of vital importance in shutting down the UCLA run, which is led by Paul Perkins, who's averaging 6.0 yards per carry on the season.

"Their running back, to me, is as good as we've seen," says Kaufman. "That guy we faced against Utah, this guy is just as good as him. If they're able to run the ball and take the load off of Rosen, our job is to keep the passing game hemmed up."

"Perkins is a really good back. Playing against [Devontae] Booker the week before has helped us prepare for the challenge this week," says safety Stefan McClure. "It's helped us a lot, as far as on defense, just running our feet on contact, and when you're wrapping up, grab cloth, don't dive, and always bring your feet and get your chest in on tackles. Playing that game has really prepared us for this game, and playing two exceptional backs, back-to-back weeks, both of them are kind of similar, as far as they run hard, they're fast. We saw one of those long runs that Perkins had, where he gets in the second level and he can make guys miss. He's got good vision. He'll press the hole and then cut, jump cut, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. 

After not really having defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil at full strength for the past three games with an arm injury, he’s going to be more of a factor this week, as well, playing over right guard Alex Redmond, who missed a half against the Cardinal with a hand injury.

“The biggest thing is, it’s let guys develop,” Kaufman says of Jalil’s absence. “Tony Mekari has developed, and his absence, what it does is, the next guy’s stepped up, and now, we get him back, that gives us more depth. That’s what we’re build on, up front, is depth.”

Atonement Depth has also been the watchword at wide receiver, where Treggs has moved to the outside this week, spelling the still-hobbled Trevor Davis (sprained ankle, but he’s been moving around better and better, and may play), but also giving some time off to one-handed wonder Kenny Lawler.

While Lawler’s known for making the superhuman look rather ordinary, he's been as out-of-sorts as Superman II Clark Kent post-molecule-chamber. His superpowers, it would seem, have turned into a weakness, with one tipped pass that wound up in an interception, and two drops in the end zone, plus one drop in the red zone.

"When you can make catches like that, it comes easy," says Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, extending his right arm, hand out, while looking to his left. "When you're one who has to work, and take it there to there," Franklin says, simulating a catch out in front, with his hands forming a diamond out in front of his chest, then looking an imaginary ball into the crook of his arm, "guys that don't have great hands don't drop balls, because they're focused.

"He understands he's got to be good, and he's been good, he's been focused; he gets it, he understands that he needs to produce, and he needs to produce, consistently," Franklin says. "In my life as a coach, the guys with the best hands drop the most balls. Guys with phenomenal ball skills drop balls for lack of focus. It's good to see him work at it."

Lawler understands, Franklin says, that he -- quite literally -- can't take his eye off the ball anymore.

"The biggest thing is I have to do a better job coaching him, and I haven't done as good a job coaching him as I've needed to," Franklin says. "I've effectively done a better job, I think, in getting him to focus on details. He's a guy who needs to be focused on details. He's done that, and gotten better. I expect him to play better."

Lawler put in extra work this week, off to the side, doing exactly what Franklin said -- catching those simple, easy balls out in front of him, off a JUGGS machine, off to the side, when receivers weren't otherwise occupied. He's got an extra motivation this week -- like Treggs, he'll be playing in front of a home crowd.

"That's all the motivation I really need," says Lawler. "Just going home, I want to put on a show for my family, my friends that are all going to be in the Rose Bowl, supporting me. That's a lot of motivation right there."

He's particularly itching to get the bad taste of the last two games out of his mouth.

"I'm, man, I just can't wait to get out there," he says. "You know, I've had a couple drops -- bad ones -- uncharacteristic of me. I'm just hungry. I want to go out there and prove to the world that I'm going to bounce back."

"I've noticed a re-focus from them," Goff says of his receivers. "I see that they're pushing each other again. They want to be the best, and they've done that all year, pretty well, but this past week and through this week, it's been noticeable. They're tired. They were beat during the bye week. They ran a bunch of routes, and we're working on it, but they didn't complain. They got through it and did their thing."

Franklin's coaching seems to have taken hold.

"It's lack of concentration that I had," Lawler says. "It's not looking the ball all the way through, taking my eyes off of it. Most importantly, I wasn't even thinking about catching the ball, because I was so wide open. I was thinking what I'd do after I caught the ball. I've just got to think of the task at-hand, at first."

And that's what the Bears will be doing on Thursday, starting with Goff, who's already put the Utah game -- and the five interceptions he threw -- behind him.

"I looked at the film a couple of times, dealt with it, looked at the good stuff, looked at the bad stuff; the bad stuff is never as bad as it seems, the good stuff is never as good as it seems, and there was some stuff I definitely have worked on through the bye week, and I feel pretty good," Goff says. "They made a couple really good plays. They're a really good defense, and made a couple really good plays on me. It's a game of inches, and a couple inches, I was off, and a couple inches, they were on, coupled with some really bad mistakes, mentally, on my part, that'll lead to five interceptions."

Last season, Goff was intercepted on the final play of the game on a much-dispited call on a would-be game-changing drive. Similarly, a would-be game-winning drive against the now-No. 4 Utes was halted by a deflected pass in the end zone. The key, then, would seem to be simply this: Finish.

"It's another game; it's the same as when we played at USC, and when we play in L.A. every year," Goff says. "I think the guys that are from L.A. are excited for it, and I'm from here, so it's another game for me. It's a game against a California opponent; that might be the only thing that's kind of special about it, but it's just another Pac-12 game for us."

When he's asked if he has anything to prove, Goff reflexively laughs.

"No, I don't think so; I'm just going to come in and play the same way I've played every game, let the ball fall where it may; I'm going to play my best, whatever happens, happens," Goff says. "I've prepared pretty hard this week, I'm ready to go, and I don't feel like I have to prove anybody right or wrong. I'm going to play my best game, and whatever happens, happens."

"It was a missed opportunity," Goff says of Utah. "We know that. We've watched it 100 times. We know what we did wrong, corrected it, and moved on a while ago, from that."

Missing Out

UCLA is missing one key player at each level of its defense -- defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, linebacker Myles Jack (who our David Woods of Bruin Report Online called "a Swiss Army knife" of a football player in our Bear Republic Pocket Podcast) and starting cornerback Fabian Moreau -- but are trying to play the same scheme as they did when all three were healthy. That's certainly left a big, Myles Jack-shaped hole in the Bruins' defense.

"To me, when you lose players, that's a part of college football," Franklin says. "You're at a program three or four years, just like us, we lose guys. There's guys not playing. There's guys that haven't played. I don't think about it. You do what you do, whatever it is. They've got good, talented backups. Myles Jack, the kid's one of the best in college football, and they've got other good players, but the guys they've recruited behind him are also really good players, so I don't think it changes anything. I don't know what they'll do. They might completely change their whole deal, but if they did, they did it in a quick period."

UCLA is playing in back-to-back Thursday games, while the Bears will have had 12 days to prepare for the Bruins, with 12 days for Goff to get over last week, and zero in on this Thursday.

A Healthier Goff?

Goff, of course, is notorious for his focus, his obsessive film analysis and his football nerdiness, and it's been at full-tilt over the past dozen days.

"He does that on his own; I'm a big believer in, you give them something, and you let them work," Franklin says. "He's always done that. He's never not done it. He did that against Utah, and he'll do it for the rest of his career. I think the biggest thing, with him, I see, is he's healthy."

Franklin says that last bit unprompted. Goff has never been on the injury report this season, but Franklin intimates that the Golden Boy may not have been so golden over the last several weeks, but instead, chose to tough it out and not say much.

"His body feels good, his legs feel good, his feet feel good, so he's going to be different," Franklin says. "He's going to be more in the pocket with the feet that he used to have, because his body's healed. There was some stuff [against Utah], but he's a lot better. I think that people will see that he's much more active in the pocket with his feet. You know how I work really, really hard on that, and they haven't been that as well because of some stuff that he's struggled with, but that stuff is gone."

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