Dawgman.com Game Preview - California Golden Bears

The Washington Huskies begin conference play Saturday against the California Golden Bears. This is a classic matchup of a high-powered California offense, averaging 51 points per game, battling a stingy Washington defense that has allowed only 11 points per game. However, a more intriguing matchup may be Washington’s young offense vs. California’s defense, which allowed Texas to score 44 points last weekend. However you cut it, conference play should start with a bang. Let’s take a look at some

California’s Key Players

#16 JR 6’4” 215-pound QB Jared Goff

2015 stats: 68 for 93 for 898 yards, 73.1% completion, 9.7 YPA, 9 TD, 2 INT, 5 carries for -7 yards, -1.4 YPC, 16 long

Sneak Peak: Jared Goff has received plenty of attention this offseason, being touted as a potential first-round draft selection if he decides to forego his senior year of eligibility. He deserves all the hype. The 6-foot-4 junior has a rare blend of physical and mental skills that make him very dangerous under center. Goff is a patient passer who reads defenses deftly. Although he isn’t much of a threat to run, he has excellent footwork in the pocket that allows him to evade pressure and make plays downfield. Head coach Sonny Dykes allows Goff to work in high volume; Goff has averaged 43.58 passing attempts per game as a Golden Bear. Goff also takes care of the ball, boasting a 62:19 TD:INT ratio. He is the centerpiece of a high-powered California offense that is averaging 51 points per game this season.

Husky Comparison: Jake Browning

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#4 JR 6’3’ 195-pound WR Kenny Lawler

2015 stats: 14 receptions for 182 yards, 13.0 YPC, 5 TD, 24 long, 1 carry for 5 yards

Sneak Peak: After leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2014, junior wide-out Kenny Lawler is off to a good start in 2015. With his 6-foot-3 frame, Lawler is a weapon in the red zone. Goff has already shown he intends to give Lawler red zone targets, as they have connected five times already for touchdowns. He’s quick for his size and can create separation with sharp route running. He also can elevate over corners to haul in passes. Lawler is a big, sure-handed receiver who generates a lot of mismatches.

Husky Comparison: A more experienced and more frequently used Brayden Lenius

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#2 SR 6’1” 205-pound RB Daniel Lasco

2015 stats: 24 carries for 137 yards, 5.7 YPC, 19 long, 2 TD, 2 receptions for 20 yards, 10.0 YPC, 20 long

Sneak Peak: After a breakout junior season, Daniel Lasco became the first Golden Bear to surpass 1,000 yards on the ground since Isi Sofele in 2011. He did not suit up last week against Texas, but there is optimism surrounding his status for this weekend's matchup at Washington. However, if Lasco is unable to go this weekend, California has a deep committee of backs behind him, including Vic Enwere, Tre Watson, and Khalfani Muhammad that are capable of filling in. Lasco has nice size and is slippery in space. He also is a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. Lasco adds a nice ground element to a prolific California offense.

Husky Comparison: A more consistent Dwayne Washington

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#1 SR 6’0” 185-pound WR Bryce Treggs

2015 stats: 8 receptions for 124 yards, 15.5 YPC, 51 long, 0 TD

Sneak Peak: The senior receiver from St. John Bosco has caught 158 balls for 1674 yards and eight touchdowns in his California career. Since he's only caught eight passes so far in 2015, expect Goff to target Treggs more often this week and for the rest of the season.

Husky Comparison: Dante Pettis

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#7 SR 6’2” 240-pound LB Jalen Jefferson

2015 stats: 13 total tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT

Sneak Peak: With 27 starts under his belt, the most of any player on the California defense, Jalen Jefferson is a leader for the Golden Bears defense; Jefferson is California’s active leader in tackles, tackle for loss yards, and sacks. He his one of seven Cal defenders with an interception this year, and his 22-yard return is the longest on the team. Jefferson is an experienced linebacker who can play in coverage and get in the backfield.

Husky Comparison: Cory Littleton

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#27 JR 5’11” 200-pound S Damariay Drew

2015 stats: 18 total tackles, 0.5 TFL

Sneak Peak: After missing the entire 2014 season, Demariay Drew has shown no signs of rust through his first three games in 2015. He leads the Golden Bears with 18 tackles, even after seeing limited action with a foot injury against Texas. The junior safety uses his speed and ability to tackle in space to prevent explosive plays and set a solid back line for the California defense.

Husky Comparison: Brian Clay

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#21 JR 5’10” 185-pound DB Cameron Walker

2015 stats: 5 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 pass breakup

Sneak Peak: Although he is not listed as one of the starters at corner, Cameron Walker has had a huge impact for the Cal defense. The junior defensive back’s biggest strength might be his versatility. He has played outside at corner, inside as a nickel or dime back, and has also played safety during his time as a Golden Bear. Walker has started 19 of the 25 games he’s played in and is Cal's active leader in pass breakups, but has only started one game this year. He has made an impact in 2015, however, making a play in the backfield in each of the first three games this season. Whether Walker starts at corner or gets snaps at nickel or dime, he has a nose for the ball and is sure to make an impact this week.

Husky Comparison: A shorter Kevin King

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What the California offense looks like

While Jared Goff is undoubtedly the centerpiece of an incredibly potent offense, the Golden Bears are much more balanced than they have been in years' past. In fact, California has ran the ball five more times than they’ve passed it, something they haven’t done during Jared Goff’s college career. The Golden Bears' up-tempo spread offense is at its best when Goff has time to go through his progressions and find open receivers downfield. The new run game can burn defenses that focus too much on getting after Goff or covering the surplus of California’s weapons in their passing attack. Cal's 51 points per game is good for seventh in the country, and only five teams have scored more touchdowns than they have. It’s hard to keep them off the board and they’re a team the Huskies do not want to get in a shootout with.

What the California defense looks like

The Golden Bears’ base 4-3 defense is allowing a solid 21.7 points per game. That number, however, might be a little misleading. After allowing only 21 points total in their first two games against Grambling State and San Diego State, California allowed 44 points and 548 total yards in a thrilling win over Texas. In their toughest game of the year, the Golden Bears showed an inclination to give up points.

One of California’s defensive strengths, however, is their ability to force turnovers. The Golden Bears have intercepted seven passes and have forced seven fumbles as well. While only two of the seven forced fumbled were recovered by California, their three turnovers per game is an impressive statistic. Taking care of the ball against a defense that has trouble getting off the field otherwise will be essential for any team that squares off against the Golden Bears.

Keys to the game

California

  • Take advantage of Washington’s young offensive line: The Huskies struggled to establish any ground attack behind the new-look offensive line last week against Utah State. Texas’ 286 yards and six touchdowns on the ground helped them climb back to just fall short by one point. If the Golden Bears can prevent Washington from having a good day on the ground, it would but a lot of pressure on freshman QB Jake Browning to keep up with California’s high-scoring offense.
  • Get off to a hot start: Washington has scored a total of three points in the first quarter this year. Getting to a hot start offensively could give Cal a solid lead after the first 15 minutes of play. It’s never easy to come from behind against an offense as potent as California, so building that early lead would put the Huskies in a tough position.
  • Break the Huskies' confidence: Washington’s defense has been outstanding through their first three games. In fact, the Huskies have yet to allow a passing touchdown and are giving up less than 200 passing yards per game. They haven’t yet played a quarterback anywhere near as talented as Goff, but the Huskies still have a lot of confidence in their defense. However, if Goff can start moving the ball at will and complete a couple touchdown passes early, it would put the Washington defense in uncharted territory. Saturday will be a great battle between a great California offense and a great Washington defense. Whichever unit throws the first punch will get a crucial upper hand.

Washington

  • Pressure Goff: Jared Goff is a unique and talented quarterback. But like any other quarterback, Goff is at his best when he has time to set his feet, go through his progressions, and deliver a strike downfield. Joe Mathis and the Husky defense front need to disrupt Goff’s timing and force him to move around in the pocket if they want to make life difficult for the California quarterback.
  • Run the ball: Whether it’s Myles Gaskin, Dwayne Washington or anybody else, the Huskies are in desperate need of a consistent threat in the backfield. If the Huskies can’t move the ball on the ground, immense pressure would be placed on the shoulders of Jake Browning. While Browning is a talented quarterback, it is in the best interest for the Huskies to make his first Pac-12 game as easy as possible - and that starts with a competant run game.
  • Keep the score low: This sounds really obvious, but it’s the truth. It’s hard for me to imagine Washington winning this game if both teams are scoring 40 or more points. California’s offense is averaging 20 more points per game than the Huskies, and it would be difficult for Jake Browning, a young offensive line, and an inconsistent run game to keep up with the Golden Bears if it turned into a shootout.

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