Last week, Cal quarterback Kevin Riley was 17 of 24 for 202 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. Running backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen both rushed for 100 yards last week. Best had 24 carries and Vereen had nine carries.
Both backs will be involved in the passing game. They combined for nine catches and 79 yards against the Spartans. The running backs should remain a big part of the Bears passing game even when players begin to emerge at the receiver position. Receiver Sean Young is averaging 20.3 yards per catch. Tight end Cameron Morrah is hard to contain in the middle of the field. Morrah is averaging 18.6 yards per catch. Even if a true number one threat does not emerge, it will be difficult for the Cougars to stay with the multiple players at different positions that the Bears involve in their passing game.
Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers is in his first year as a starter. In their game against Oklahoma State, Rogers completed 50% of his passes with one touchdown and one interception. The Cougars head coach Paul Wulff attempted to run the ball to take the pressure off Rogers, but running back Dwight Tardy only averaged 3.3 yards per carry and gained a total of 59 yards.
Look for the Cougars to try and get wide receiver Brandon Gibson involved early and often. Last season, Gibson had 67 receptions for 1,180 yards. Against Oklahoma State, Gibson was held to only 53 yards receiving and the next leading receiver only had nine total receiving yards. For the Cougars to be successful, Gibson must make big plays in the passing game.
The Bears defense is coming off a game in which they held Javon Ringer, who is one of the best backs in the country, to only 81 yards on the ground. If the Cougars are unable to run the ball the Bears' linebackers should be able to disrupt Gary Rogers when he drops back to pass.
The Cougars must improve on their fifteen percent third down conversion rate if they expect to have success against California's defense. The Washington State defense gave up 174 yards on the ground and 193 yards passing against Oklahoma State. The Cougars must shore up things on this side of the ball, because they will be facing another balanced offensive attack when they meet the Bears on Saturday.
The Bears want to continue to be around 50/50 with the run and the pass to keep the Cougar defense off balance. That type of run/pass ratio will open up the play action pass and the Bears will have multiple opportunities to take a shot deep down the field. Best and Morah should have big games.
The Cougars must accomplish two things, get Gibson the ball and find another receiver that can make plays in the passing game. Washington State must remain patient with their run game. Even if Dwight Tardy is not gaining big chunks of yards, the Cougars must continue to feed him the ball. The Cougars do not want this game to turn into a shootout, because they do not have the offensive weapons to win a high scoring game.
Cal has more experience and better weapons offensively and defensively. The Bears toughest opponents will be the travel and themselves. As long as they protect the football, Cal should not lose this football game.
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