BERKELEY – On Tuesday, California offensive tackle Mustafa Jalil characterized the last three games as three successive punches to the face for the Golden Bears. After starting 5-0, Cal has dropped each of its last three contests, and fallen out of the national rankings.
"It's about how many punches you can take to the face and still get back up," Jalil said. "We started 5-0, lost three tough ones, a lot of people think we're going to tank, but we're ready to win this one."
Two years ago, against Oregon – who Cal faces on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. – quarterback Jared Goff took more than just a punch. He took a bucket after bucket after bucket of ice water in monsoon conditions.
After one quarter, the Ducks led 27-0. Goff had coughed up two fumbles, and gone just 3-of-6 passing for 11 yards. Cal lost, 55-16.
"That was a fun one," he says facetiously in his Tuesday press conference. "It obviously didn't go the way we wanted it to, and didn't go the way I wanted it to. It was pouring rain, they said the worst rain they'd ever seen, and the worst rain I've ever seen.”
Tight end Stephen Anderson recalls the game with a weary laugh.
“Yeah, it was just a little wet,” he says. “I actually remember going in at halftime, and changing my cleats. When we ran out, it only took about five minutes, and it was back to where it was. I had to throw out gear after that game.”
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1331062-fifth-quarter-all-... Goff recalls feeling like he’d jumped into a pool after spending just minutes on the field.
"I remember people switching cleats at halftime, stuff like that,” he says. “I remember feeling like I was in a swimming pool, like I had just jumped in a pool and then got out, within two minutes of being out there.”
Goff – then a true freshman in the midst of what would be a 1-11 season – was drowning.
“I just remember standing on the sideline, really cold, and being pretty miserable,” says Goff.
To come out on top this time around, Goff has to be able to move on from the past three games. He has to be Aut-Zen.
Up until his five-interception game against Utah, it could be argued that the monsoon game in Eugene was the worst game he’d ever played.
Laughing, Goff says, "Yeah, and I probably had some games in Pop Warner that were pretty bad, too, but yeah, it wasn't fun, but t don't think I played enough for it to be my worst game. I was out pretty quickly."
Before the game against the Utes, Goff had just three games -- in his career -- of two or more interceptions.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1607598-key-match-up-orego... "I don't think there's a pinpoint to it,” Goff says of his plethora of picks. “The Utah game, I think, was kind of an anomaly. It was probably the worst game I've played in my life, and things didn't go my way, didn't go our way, on offense, and I forced some stuff in that game that I probably shouldn't have. This last game, a ball got tipped out of my hands, then the cornerback moved Kenny [Lawler] out of the way and picked it off. Stuff is going to happen, and that's not to make excuses or anything, but I'm not going to change anything because of what my numbers are right now. I'm just going to keep playing and doing what I've been doing for three years, and be the best player I can be, and not adjust anything because balls aren't going my way."
Before Utah, Goff was 125-for-178 (70.2%) for 1,630 yards, with 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions. In the last three games, Goff is 80-for-131 (61.1%) for 907 yards, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“We’ve got to figure out where our edge is,” says tailback Daniel Lasco. “We had it at the beginning of the season, and we kind of lost it. I hate trying to be stuck in a hole, and having to climb up, out of the hole, late. We’ve got to make plays.”
That begins and ends with Goff, who’s older now, more mature and more experienced. As far under water as he was last time at Autzen, he’s moved on, and he’ll have to do that this week.
"I just really took it in stride,” he says. “A lot of stuff's going to happen in your football career that you don't want, and it's not always going to go your way. I've experienced some of that, and it's made me the player I am today. It's made me the person I am today. It's definitely been an overall positive experience, I think, and has had a positive impact on me."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1606558-what-s-wrong-with-... Last week, the addition of more attached-tight-end sets and two-back formations created better pass protection, confusion for the run defense and certainly had a positive impact on Goff, who turned in a 23-for-31, 272-yard outing. The 74.2 completion percentage was his highest this season since the opener against Grambling State, and was the first time he’d completed over 61% of his balls since Washington State.
That said, Cal, as a team, took a big hit last week against the Trojans, who now own 12 straight wins over the Bears.
“It’s bad, man. It’s bad,” Lasco said at the time. “It hurts. I wanted this game, and I know all the seniors wanted this game. This is a huge game for the community, for Berkeley, for all the Cal alumni. They want, everybody, to beat ‘SC. It hurts. It hurts, to say the least. It really does hurt. Being here for five years, and I can’t find a way to ever beat ‘SC, it’s not a good feeling.”
Cal’s losing streak against Oregon isn’t nearly as lengthy, but the Bears haven’t beaten the Ducks since 2008 (a 26-16 win in Berkeley). Since that game, Oregon has outscored the Bears 273-105. Cal has been close twice – a 15-13 squeaker in 2010 at Memorial Stadium, and last year’s 59-41 tilt at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
In that game, Cal piled up 560 yards of total offense that night, more than any team tallied the entire season against the Ducks, and the Bears’ 41 points were the most points scored against Oregon on their way to the national title game.
Anderson thinks that’s enough to build on, particularly against a passing defense that’s third-worst in the nation.
“I believe, if I remember correctly, we threw a lot of things that got Oregon out of position,” Anderson says. “We had Luke [Rubenzer] in there a lot. I believe Lasco was our leading receiver that game. He had a lot of yards out of the backfield, so that was definitely a big part, which I expect this week, since he’s healthy, and he was looking really good against USC.”
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1606833-behind-enemy-lines... Indeed, Lasco was Cal's leading receiver, hauling in eight passes for 101 yards. Rubenzer -- who rushed 10 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns last season -- has spent the entire season on defense, so that particular wrinkle won't be on tap.
One wrinkle that could be seen again this week – and, if Dykes’s comments earlier in his weekly press conference are any indication, it will be – is the two-back set that helped give Goff more time in the pocket against USC.
"Jared loved it a lot," Lasco says. "I enjoyed it. Me and Khalfani [Muhammad], we blocked all night. I don't think we let anybody penetrate. We did our job. There's still some stuff that we want to work on, get cleared up and fixed, but it was a good deviation from what we've been doing. Hopefully, this week, we can incorporate it more and do some more things off of it."
That will be crucial, given that the Ducks are second in the conference with 26 sacks.
"It's been a good set for us, and I really liked it, I think he (Lasco) really liked it, I think all the running backs like it,” Goff says. “It's a chance to have a little bit more protection, run some misdirection stuff there with two backs, let them get out a little bit, and it just mixes it up a little bit for us. It's just another set that we can use that's been productive."
Looking back on his last visit to Eugene, Goff sees it as one of many learning experiences he had during his moribund freshman campaign.
"It's not easy but you go to the next day and just put it behind you,” Goff says. “If it's in the past, it's in the past. You can't do anything about it. It happened, and all you can do is try to get better and move forward from there. That's all I really focus on, is getting better every day I'm out here and just trying to be the best player I can be, every week, and going out there and having the confidence that I'm the best player on the field every week, and knowing that and being confident."
“We’re ready to turn the page on October football, and start off November football with a win,” says Anderson.
With just three more games left after this weekend (against teams that are a combined 13-11) to win their sixth game and become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011, the Bears – and Goff – need to turn the page, as well.
“This is the end of the season,” says Lasco. “We have to grind through it.”
“To become a top-tier team, you’ve got to beat top-tier teams,” says Dykes. “We’ve been close, but that doesn’t get us where we want to go.”
And Goff and the Bears will have to do it, once again, in the rain.