Know Your Foe: California

Washington and California aren't the only ones sharing information this week - Dawgman.com and BearTerritory.net are doing the same. Today we talk with Ryan Gorcey, Publisher of BearTerritory.net as he answers our questions about the Golden Bears heading into UW's Homecoming game Saturday night at 8 pm.

What's the overall feel for the program the way the season has gone?

Ryan Gorcey: I'd be lying if I said there were many happy campers as far as the results are concerned. After years of underachieving with Jeff Tedford at the helm, there has been loud grumbling in the fan base that this coaching staff is not an upgrade, that the offense is a gimmick offense and that defensive coordinator Andy Buh was, to put it mildly, a regrettable hire. That said, the Bears were the second-least experienced FBS team coming into the season, and they've lost almost all of what little experience they had to injury. Add to that an inexperienced offensive line and a run game that just hasn't found any kind of traction (largely due to that line), and you have an offense entirely predicated on the pass with an at-times jittery freshman quarterback at the helm, behind a line that's down two starters and has a third now moved from tackle to backup guard. While folks were singing the praises of true freshman quarterback Jared Goff earlier in the season, the fact that his youth has become very apparent has those same fans calling for redshirt freshman Zach Kline, who has come in and done a fine job in relief appearances.
What will be an acceptable finish for the program this year? What are fans looking for as a best-case scenario the final half of the season?

Obviously I think most of the fan base would want the Bears to win out, but I think many are realistic enough to realize that's pretty unlikely, especially without any semblance of a running game to take the pressure off of whoever the quarterback is. The thing we haven't seen is this team giving up. There aren't slumped shoulders or hung heads late in games, and the defense has actually started to come around a bit. I think closer games should be the order of the second half, and at least some sort of running game, by hook or by crook. I think many are excited to see what Kline can do given a start or two, especially because he's a dynamic athlete with a huge arm, and unlike Goff, his confidence hasn't been shaken. I can tell you this: If the Bears can get a win over Colorado and then Stanford (a long shot, I know, but you throw out the records in rivalry games, and Dykes spent much of his first few months on the job talking about following Stanford's example and focusing on the rivalry as a main point of emphasis), I think most Cal fans will step back from the ledge. In reality, though, I don't think anything this season can assuage the Bears faithful's bloodlust. I do think that next season will see a completely different team than what we're seeing now, but that's next year.
What is the perception of the facilities remodel and are fans happy with the progress made and what's expected?

I know you guys just had your digs re-done, and kudos for that. I can't wait to check out the new press box. As for Memorial Stadium, it's gorgeous, has modern amenities and beyond that, the new Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance is state-of-the-art not only in training, but in rehabbing injuries, and boy, do the Bears need that right about now. I think fans are thrilled with the new stadium and the new press box structure, which features the University Club, a top-deck space which gives the well-heeled an uninterrupted panoramic view of the entire Bay Area. It's definitely a hit with recruits. The problems arise when fans realize who's going to pay for all of it. The selling of the Endowment Seating Program seats is far, far, far below original projections, and that was how the school was planning on paying for the renovations. Performance on the field has played a large role in that. Now, where does the school get the money if the ESP can't come through, or if the team keeps struggling? There is certainly some concern that, in several decades, the cost may fall on students.
Do fans feel like Sonny Dykes is the right coach to move the program forward based on the results to date?

Cal fans got much less patient during the final years of Tedford's tenure, and Dykes isn't getting the kind of the benefit of the doubt that his predecessor got. As I said earlier, while the offense was lauded in the opener against Northwestern, fans have brought out their pitchforks and torches ever since the debacle against Oregon. Red zone efficiency has been a huge problem, as it usually is with this offense, but this season, it's worse than expected because of the utter lack of a running game. I keep coming back to that, and the reason is that against the Wildcats, Cal at least had the thread – and early on, the execution – of a running game, featuring Brendan Bigelow. Bigelow broke off two big runs early, and Northwestern was on its heels, opening up the soft middle and underneath to the short passing attack, which got them all of sorts, leading to the more vertical routes being open for Goff. Since then, the run game has evaporated, and teams can now sit back in coverage and wait for the freshman signal-caller to make a mistake, and blitz the house to get his feet chattering. Goff's passer efficiency rating over the first three games was 134.36. His QB rating since then? 118.14, with two picks, four fumbles, two TD passes and eight sacks. Again, this is a very young, very inexperienced team, and beyond that, it's a very injured team, so in reality, you almost have to give Dykes a pass for this season, given that he's lost two starting offensive linemen (one for the season), two veteran safeties (one for the season, the other medically retired), all three starting linebackers at times (and one who's barely played half a quarter on defense), both starting defensive ends (one has yet to play due to a hand injury, and the other was dismissed for conduct detrimental to the program), one starting corner for the season (with the other missing a game and a half due to injury), one of the top running backs for last week and this week, and a starting defensive tackle, who's done for the season.
Is a quarterback controversy brewing between Goff and Kline?

Absolutely. Goff has looked worse and worse over the past several weeks, and much of it has been due to the lack of a running game to open up the short passing game for him, which has been a big problem because his downfield accuracy has been fairly inconsistent. Kline has shown a lot of chutzpa this week and brings a lot of energy and boatloads of confidence to the position, which I think may just be what the Bears need right now. The two were dead-even throughout most of fall camp, and I think Kline's seen the fact that the door is cracked, and he's putting all his energy into kicking it down. Ironically enough, Goff is the more effective runner of the two, but it's been Kline's legs that have gained yards, while Goff has mostly gone backwards. Part of that can be attributed to Kline's physicality (he may be two to three inches shorter, but he's built more powerfully) and perhaps Goff's reluctance to gamble with his legs.
Why was Brendan Bigelow moved to receiver?

Bigelow – like the other two top backs (the injured Daniel Lasco and true freshman Khalfani Muhammad) – had trouble hitting the holes hard ever since the second half of the season opener, and he's been very reluctant on his thrice-operated-on knee since coming back from meniscus surgery this offseason. Though he leads Cal in rushing, Bigelow is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry, and has lost 42 yards on the ground, while last year he didn't have a single negative-yardage carry. He is still very dynamic and speedy in space, and getting him the ball on tunnel screens, inside screens, crosses and underneath drag routes gets him in motion before he gets the ball, allowing him to find his own holes and seams in space, rather than relying on him to hit holes made (or not made) by others.
Who have been the standout performers on defense and what should Washington expect to see from the Cal defense Saturday night?

Yeesh. That's a tough one. Who should be a standout? Washington native Deandre Coleman should, but he hasn't been. He's been just about invisible in a year where he should be taking over, as tons of NFL scouts have come to watch him. Instead, fellow defensive tackle Viliami Moala has been stellar the past several games, plugging up the middle, stopping the run and splitting the A-gaps. Cornerback Kameron Jackson has allowed single-digit catches against him this season, and he's the one consistent performer in the secondary who was expected to be just that. Freshman Cameron Walker has really taken to the move from corner to safety like a duck to water, and while he's probably the smallest free safety in the league, he hits hard and has very good instincts both against the run and in coverage. Apart from those, watch out for defensive end Puka Lopa. He came on strong last week, and has played with his hair on fire in practice this week. Beyond that, as I've said, just about everyone of consequence is hurt – Brennan Scarlett, Nick Forbes, Avery Sebastian, Mustafa Jalil and Stefan McClure.


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